Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari has been in Brussels for the first summit between the European Union and Islamabad. The EU pledged millions of euros in humanitarian aid to help people displaced by fighting between Pakistan’s army and the Taliban. Zardari said he is certain Pakistan will win the struggle against Islamist militancy with the help of the world but that it needs trade concessions more than aid. euronews spoke to him on a range of issues.
Sergio Cantone, euronews: “Azif Ali Zardari, president of Pakistan, welcome to euronews. There are a lot of preoccupations in the West about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Are they secure?” Asif Ali Zardari: “I don’t think there is any preoccupation in the West with the nuclear power I think there’s always a concern. And a lot of journalists like yourself bring it up onto the horizon. I think everybody who needs to know in the world knows that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are safe and in safe hands.” euronews: “So the political leaders in the US or in Europe are not worried about it?” Asif Ali Zardari: “No, I think the think-tanks (are) and that bad news is good news as far as journalism goes. So that brings it up and then draws attention to it.” euronews: “Are you afraid now about a possible coup of the Taliban against your own power?” Asif Ali Zardari: “If the situation goes unattended, if I look the other way and we do not confront this cancer of Talibanisation of course it’s going to spread and not only is it going to spread in Pakistan, but it is going to spread all around the world, so that is a very genuine threat and one should be aware of it.” euronews: “Do you share the preoccupation of the European Union about the Islamic religious schools, the Madrassass in the tribal area that are spreading Taliban ideology?” Asif Ali Zardari: “Yes, I shared my concerns on that situation with the European Union and then I’ve asked for some help, because according to the last count there were about 20,000 of them. To my view this is a new phenomena, this was not there, for instance, till the West did come there to fight the old war (in Afghanistan against the Soviets). When they came to fight the old war they created this format of recruitment of Madrassas and now it’s got out of proportion. So we need the world to come forward and support us in order to fight these Madrassas? euronews: “What kind of support do you need?” Asif Ali Zardari: “I need financial support to be able to offer the same kind of services with modern schools, which the Madrassas are offering. They are offering to take in the children and pay the parents to send the kids to the madrassas. I need to (be able to) do the same.” euronews: “What do you think about the strategy of NATO in South-Asia, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan?” Asif Ali Zardari: “They need to be more responsible, they need to be more understanding and they need to understand that this is not Vietnam or Korea; that this war has to be fought where it is, otherwise the terrorists are going to follow them home.” euronews: “Do you still consider India as a sort of military threat?” Asif Ali Zardari: “I think it’s not that I consider India a military threat; the question is that India has the capability. Capability is what matters. (with regard to) Intention I think we have both have our good intentions. India is a reality, Pakistan is a reality, but Taliban is a threat, Taliban is an international threat to the world to our way of life. And at the moment I’m focused on Taliban. It’s something that have been going on for a long time and of course went unchecked under the dictatorial rule of the last president.” euronews: “The Indians are very worried about some terrorist organisations that are based in your country, in Pakistan, one of these terrorist organization was responsible for the attack in Mumbai of last autumn. Do you think it’s a real preoccupation?” Asif Ali Zardari: “No, I think any state would be concerned and I would not take it away from them, there has been a bombing, there has been an attack, so you can’t write it off, of course there’s a concern, but these are non state actors, which have taken the super powers to war.” euronews: “An organisation such as Lashkar-e-Tayyaba has been sheltered for many years by Pakistan. Don’t you think that such a kind of relationship in some way gives more strength to the Taliban? They share the same ideology.” Asif Ali Zardari: “I think that all extreme forces in the world, whether they be Christians, whether they be some other religion, whether they be Muslim in faith, that extreme mind-sets need to be watched out for and are always a threat to the world.” euronews: “But in this case Pakistan offered protection during some years to these organizations because of the conflict in Kashmir.” Asif Ali Zardari: “There have always been counter allegations from each other in the past and I wouldn’t want to point fingers to anybody.” euronews: “But was this allegation true or not?” Asif Ali Zardari: “I think this allegation has some merit to it, but it definitely is not true of the political government of today and we have no intention to support such an organisation, it has been banned in Pakistan, it’s a banned organisation.”