President Pervez Musharraf Speaks to U.S. Pakistani Community

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President Pervez Musharraf Speaks to U.S. Pakistani Community

Numerous standing ovations accompanied Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's Nov. 11 address to a gathering of Pakistani professionals, students, diplomats and journalists at the Hilton Hotel in Manhattan. The visiting president opened his speech by strongly condemning the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, as well as the violent backlash against members of the Pakistani community in the United States.

Moving on to address the campaign in Afghanistan, Musharraf again stressed the importance of a "short and targeted" war, reminding his audience that "collateral damage and casualties are creating negative effects all over the world."

The Pakistani leader took care to reassure his compatriots that the majority in Pakistan did not support Osama bin Laden and the Taliban regime. "The rallies and protests we see on TV are made up of a few religious extremists, some religious political parties, and Afghan refugees themselves," he stated. "A perception has been created that all of Pakistan is participating. This could not be further from the truth."

The U.S.-led campaign is meant to be a focused operation against terrorists, he said, not a war--a fact little understood in Pakistan. He reiterated his intention to push for political pressure on the Taliban if military objectives were not achieved in a short space of time. However, he emphasized, "our national interests must be kept supreme."

On the rehabilitation front, the president suggested humanitarian assistance for refugees initially, followed by a post-operation reconstruction strategy. "We need better coordination [between agencies] and more financing," he stressed, "[The strategy] involves rehabilitation of water resources and land, reconstruction of roads and buildings, and the development of institutions."

Outlining the effects of the campaign in Afghanistan on the economic and security situation in Pakistan, he warned that his country's "economy will get a hit," citing a reduction in exports and additional expenses incurred due to the war. He told his audience, however, that he had received assurances for assistance from several heads of state in the following areas: debt relief, annual budgetary help to cover war expenditures, and access to markets through increased quotas and decreased duties. Self-reliance, however, meant far more to President Musharraf than help from abroad. …