US treats Pakistan with suspicion: Musharraf

* More US troops needed in Afghanistan
* Former president says Pakistan’s nuclear assets are in ‘safe hands’

LAHORE: Although Pakistan has been touted as America’s most important ally in the fight against terrorism, “this most important ally is being treated with suspicion”, former President Pervez Musharraf said on Friday.

Appearing on National Public Radio’s ‘Talk of the Nation’, the former president said he supported Gen Stanley McChrystal in his call for additional US troops for Afghanistan. Musharraf said the US counter-terrorism approach, which calls for drone attacks on terrorist hideouts, and the strategy calling for additional troops could not be separated because of the linkages between the terrorist groups, Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Musharraf stood by Pakistan’s military, and said he would need the support of the country’s people to return to politics.

Safety guaranteed: When asked about US concerns on the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, Musharraf said the country’s nuclear weapons were in safe hands and were well guarded by an army force of up to 18,000 troops, adding the nukes were controlled by a command authority led by the country’s president, prime minister and top military officials.

“Politically, Pakistan cannot in the foreseeable future be ruled by an extremist group that sympathises with the terrorists,” Musharraf said. The former president said he sided with the Pakistani military in its anger over the conditions that could be attached to the Kerry-Lugar bill.

Military officials have complained that the bill contains “humiliating” conditions. The bill stipulates, for instance, that the money could dry up if Pakistan fails to fight militants, including Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters in the tribal regions along the Pak-Afghan border.

Musharraf defended his country’s preoccupation with what he called “an existential threat to Pakistan” from neighbouring India. Although he said that he believed peace with India was “a requirement, a compulsion” for both sides, he said the US should not grudge Pakistan the right to take “essential measures” in response to the threat of an attack from India.

That right, he said, would extend to any use Pakistan might make of US drone aircrafts. The former president said he did not approve of US drone attacks inside Pakistan. “It has had tremendous negative fallout on the public of Pakistan, because it is considered a violation of our sovereignty,” he said.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\10\10\story_10-10-2009_pg7_44

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