Musharraf Defends Osama bin Laden Presence in Pakistan on Jon Stewart

Photo: Comedy Central

Photo: Comedy Central

Last week former president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. After a few comedic pleasantries, host Jon Stewart got right down to the point.

Referring to an interview he conducted with Musharraf in 2006, Stewart mentioned that Musharraf previously stated he did not know where Osama bin Laden was hiding. Stewart went on: “Funny story. As it turns out…he was there. In a town called Abbottabad.” The political comedian proceeded to ask Musharraf how it was possible for someone such as bin Laden to reside unnoticed in a town of 800,000 people. Musharraf’s response was an interesting one, to say the least.

The former leader asserted that it was indeed possible that he could have been there without anyone knowing. He even elaborated that if the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan) had known of bin Laden’s presence and were complicit with Al-Qaeda, then they would have let him escape, or even used him as leverage against the United States. He then explained that it was merely an intelligence failure, equating it with the CIA’s failure in preventing 9/11. According to him, the existence of a walled compound that had no telephone lines and that burned its trash was not at all suspicious. If Musharraf really does believe that, I wonder what he would consider suspicious.

When asked about possible ISI links to militant groups, Musharraf again defended the organization, saying that it was wrong to characterize the entire organization as having terrorist links. According to him, the ISI followed Pakistani government policy and did not, on the whole, deviate from it. And when probed on India consistently criticizing the ISI for having such links, Musharraf shrugged it off, saying that the ISI’s position towards India is irrelevant in the war against terror. However, Musharraf knows as well as anyone that Indo-Pak relations are as relevant to the war on terror as suppressing militant groups.

Furthermore, he failed to discuss the recent arrest of Syed Fai, an unregistered agent of the ISI living in the United States who has attempted to influence U.S. policy against India’s control of its portion of Kashmir. Fai has served as the director of the Kashmiri American Council, an organization that has been lobbying for U.S. position on Kashmir favoring Pakistan. The FBI composed an affidavit that accuses the group of being funded in large part by the ISI and further asserts that both the ISI and the KAC donated money to politicians and campaigns to further its influence (by federal law, foreign institutions are prohibited from making political contributions to political candidates in the United States).

Musharraf’s only moment of validity was in reference to the U.S. exit strategy from Afghanistan – he perhaps correctly cautioned that a timeline would be unwise, since the Taliban would simply lie low and rise up after an American departure. He recommended an effects-based strategy to pacify Afghanistan and noted the increased need of mending relations between the ethnic groups in order to ensure stability. In addition, Musharraf advised that Afghanistan have a democracy tailored to Afghani customs rather than American traditions in an effort to more firmly implement democracy in the region.

Musharraf plans to run for president of Pakistan in 2013.

Nikhil Bafna is a contributing writer for Divanee.com.