Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Harlan Ullman discusses the fragile situation -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Somebody who's a keen observer of Pakistan is Harlan Ullman, from the
Centre for Strategic and independent studies.

He was close to Benazir Bhutto, and her husband Asif Ali Zardari, and is an informal advisor to the
Coalition Government, of which Asif Ali Zardari is a leader.

Harlan Ullman joins me tonight live from the Washington studio.

As we've just heard Pakistan is facing multiple crises at the moment, so let's start with the
political side of it, and the current Government's plans to impeach President Pervez Musharraf,
which they announced last week.

Do you think they'll follow through with that?

HARLAN ULLMAN: Yes, I do. And I hope President Pervez Musharraf will take the high ground and
resign, because it looks like the impeachment movement is gaining strength and likely to work.

Three of four of the provinces voted for no confidence or impeachment. And when the National
Assembly, Pakistan's parliament, convenes it requires two thirds of the votes to impeach the
President. I believe they have two thirds of the vote.

And I think that President Musharraf's speech on National day, in which he urged reconciliation, is
the way that Mr Zardari, and Nawaz Sharif, the other Opposition leader, will ultimately go.

I think Mr Pervez Musharraf, if he chooses to resign needs to do so with dignity and with honour,
and I think that can preserve the Coalition, and allow Pakistan to take on, as President Musharraf
said, its challenges of security and its economy, which I would only criticise your introductory
report by saying the situation is worse than you are suggesting.

There's less electricity at times in Karachi than there is in Baghdad, inflation is over 30 per
cent, and the balance of payments problem is acute by September Pakistan is threatening to run out
of money.

So the situation is dire in the North West provinces; the insurgency is getting worse and worse and
worse. So political stability is imperative. The United States has to play a role to help Pakistan;
but ultimately this is a problem that only Pakistan and the Pakistani's can solve.

LEIGH SALES: You mentioned you hope it will be done in a conciliatory manner. But how will that be
done if President Musharraf is impeached? Is that going to be possible to have both those things

HARLAN ULLMAN: It is, if during the impeachment there's legislation to absolve or grant President
Pervez Musharraf for immunity from all alleged crimes.

Nawaz Sharif, the leader of PLM, that's the Pakistani Muslim League, has not only argued for
impeachment, but he's argues to try and hang Pervez Musharraf for treason.

And it's up to Mr Zardari, leader of the PPP, to rein Mr Sharif in. Because proceeding with that I
think will alienate certainly the army; it will certainly alienate the public; and it will really
turn Pakistan from being a democracy into something a state more akin to an autocracy, in which
reprisals rather than reason takes charge.

So I'm hopeful, and somewhat optimistic that reconciliation can indeed be worked out. But that's by
no means certain; the situation is both fragile and volatile; and quite frankly almost anything
could happen.

LEIGH SALES: And also I don't think, if my reading is correct, that Pakistan has seen an
impeachment before, so it's very unclear as to how that would actually unfold.

HARLAN ULLMAN: Well, no, there are constitutional means for impeachment; and it requires basically
a two thirds vote of the National Assembly to impeach the President.

But you're correct, that's never happened before. And it's really the consequence - the ultimate
political stability or instability that arises.

And finally when will the Government really have a comprehensive plan to take on the economic
issues; and regarding the security issues a lot more needs to be done, because as you pointed out
the fighting is more intense; 120,000 or so Pakistanis are deployed on the border.

There are huge tensions with India. The view of the Pakistan army has been towards India, rather
than the insurgency. So all the things are huge impediments for Pakistan progress.

Having said that this is a strategic centre of gravity for the West right now. If Pakistan fails,
so does Afghanistan. It could spread to the Middle East; it could spread to India.

And whatever happens there it's going to affect Australia, it's going to effect the West, and it's
going to affect the United States. So it's imperative for the allies and friends of Pakistan to
rally together and bring as much support as possible realising that only the Pakistanis can solve
their own problems.

LEIGH SALES: I want to explore issues around the border regions later. But if I can ask first of
all President Pervez Musharraf gave up control of the military last year, which I of course...

HARLAN ULLMAN: Last November.

LEIGH SALES: Last November. Which of course installed him to the leadership in a coup in 1999.
Where does the military's loyalty lie at the moment?

HARLAN ULLMAN: Right now the head of the military is General Kiani, who is a professional soldier.
While I have not met General Kiani, I have met many of his colleagues. He is held in high esteem.

And I think that his view is very much that the army has got to be independent. He has said on many
occasions that the army has got to be removed from all this.

I would note that in the past military leaders, such as Ayub Khan, who was the first Pakistani
chief of the army back in 1951, promised to do the same. And in 1955 he took over in a military
coup. And General Zia likewise did the same in1978.

But I think in this case General Kiani wants to keep the army neutral; he is hoping and hopeful
that the politician's are able to work things out.

The good news is that if everything fails, if there is complete chaos, the army can step in. That's
a step nobody wants anybody to take that would result in a public relations disaster, certainly in
the United States.

I know general Kiani is well aware of that. So for the moment political leaders are going to have
to work things out; and the army is going to maintain its neutrality for as long as possible.

LEIGH SALES: You mentioned the insurgency in the Pakistan Afghanistan boarder as another of the
crises facing the nation. The US currently thinks the Pakistani Government is not doing enough
about the insurgents there. What's your view on that?

HARLAN ULLMAN: The good news is when Prime Minister Gilani visited the United States late last
month we broke down many of the barriers, I should say many of the barriers were broke down.

The Pakistanis had not been forthright with us. Their objective was to go after Pakistani Taliban
in the form of Batula Masood. The American objective was to go after Al-Qaeda, who were obviously
operating on the cross border area.

And in some cases ISI, the intelligence services agency for Pakistan, had been supporting other
militants in the hunt for Masood and really weren't always candid with us.

Well I think those barriers have been broken down. The Pakistani army is interested in turning on
the insurgency, they lack the capacity and capability and the United States is trying to support
them in that regard.

LEIGH SALES: This week the US made a missile attack into Pakistan's territory across the border.
How will the Pakistan Government react if that campaign continues?

HARLAN ULLMAN: Provided that there are no Pakistanis or innocent civilians killed, this will be
something the Pakistani government will be able to ignore and, indeed, support.

I think there have been agreements reached between the United States and Pakistan about the
targeting of high value suspects, not only Al-Qaeda, but Afghan and Pakistani Taliban.

But the point is that if there are Pakistani innocents who are killed, or civilians are killed,
then this redounds very badly against the United States and against the Government.

So this has to be done with discretion. But I think for the time being as long as there is
discretion high value targeting will continue, but it's a very, very narrow tight rope, and if
civilians are killed it will have a huge impact, a negative impact, on the Pakistani public.

LEIGH SALES: Now speaking of the Pakistani public, the other crisis we mentioned it the economy
with inflation running rampant, and the balance of payments deficit. What effect does that have on
the population?

HARLAN ULLMAN: Oh a very, very negative effect. Unfortunately the new Government, and in fairness
it's only been in office for 4 and a half months, when you think about the United States, rarely do
any of our governments when they're new have things up and running within a year or so.

So in 4 or 5 months it's unreasonable to think that a government's going to be fully functional.
But in this case the Government has been very slow in producing a comprehensive economic plan.

I am told reliably they should have one by the end of the month. They need to produce a vision for
the Pakistani public, so the people anticipate that in a year or two years things will be getting

I hope they embrace the slogan PPP, the ruling party, peace and prosperity through partnership. And
I think if they can come up with a comprehensive plan to deal with these efforts, that's going to
go a long way in mollifying public support and public opinion, which is against the Government
because it doesn't see the Government providing them what they need for peace for prosperity.

LEIGH SALES: If you combine the things we talked about, it paints a gloomy picture.

HARLAN ULLMAN: You bet it does Leigh.

LEIGH SALES: Is there potential for there to be a civil war in Pakistan?

HARLAN ULLMAN: I don't think it will be a civil war, but there is the potential risk of partition
with teh largest province both in size and population, Punjab becoming independent. But chaos is
not out of the question. I don't think it's going to be civil war.

The one good piece of news is I believe the Pakistan army does have complete control of nuclear
weapons. And so the scenarios in which some sort of radical Government takes charge, and now has
access to Muslim nuclear weapons is exaggerated.

But that's something that the Pakistanis are going to have to prove to us that they really do have
control; in my judgment they do. But that's one of the things I would not worry about at this

LEIGH SALES: Washington's Gin Pakistan about $10 billion during the war on terror. Has that money
been spent wisely?

HARLAN ULLMAN: The answer is yes and no. I think it's been spent appropriately, because it's being
paying for operations for the Pakistan army.

I think there has obviously been some waste. But it hasn't been well accounted for, I don't think
that the criticism is not so much directed on whether it was well spent, but the failure to account
for it. We need to do a better job.

But we also need to train, prepare, and equip the Pakistanis for insurgent warfare and irregular

That's not F16's, that's not ships, that's not tanks. That's simple things like night vision
goggles, electronic warfare capacity, better command and control, and better precision munitions.

We have been reluctant to provide that for fear that those systems could be used against us; much
as the (inaudible) could have used stinger missiles in Afghanistan against us.

But I think those barriers are being broken down. And I think we will see progress. But we have to
train and equip the Pakistanis for insurgent warfare, something that the army has been loath to do.

LEIGH SALES: If we can turn briefly to Georgia before we let you go. How deep do you think the
crisis is?

HARLAN ULLMAN: I think it's serious, not critical. I think that this will resolve itself. If you
just think back to 1956, October, November, that was a really interesting crisis.

The French, Israelis, and British went into Suez, captured the Suez Canal in a short war against
Egypt and the Arabs; and then Krushev sent the red Army into Hungary in a brutal repression. Also
sent them into Poland as well.

I mean that was a time where NATO was really threatened, that was a really serious crisis. But
today's standards Georgia is important, but not nearly in that same league.

So I think that we can look with some respite that this will work itself out. It may not, but I
think that the Russians ultimately will do the right thing; and we'll see what happens in the
coming days. But at this stage I would say this is serious, but it has reached crisis proportions
yet, and I do not think it will.

LEIGH SALES: That language we heard Condoleezza Rice using before, which was fairly strong in
saying that Russia would not get away with this behaviour. What do we make of that?

HARLAN ULLMAN: I think that it's pontificating; I think that the Bush Administration initially came
up with the right position, which should be measured.

Look we don't know who is at fault, whether it was the Georgians provoking the Russians, or
Russians provoking the Georgians. So before taking a harsh stance we need to do our homework and
find out what was what.

That having been said there should be two objectives that we should be trying to achieve. First and
most importantly stop the fighting and get the Russians to withdraw and get the Georgians to stop
nay kind of resistance. And second provide as much humanitarian aid to South Ossetia, and to the
Georgian people.

That having been done we need to find out what happened before we declare Russia to be the
aggressor, or before we declare Georgia being the aggressor.

Unfortunately it's an election year, and both Senators John McCain and Barak Obama immediately took
harsh positions well to the right of George Bush, accusing Bush of being too soft.

This is a time to speak softly, and carry a big stick. And in this case we have to find out what
happens. But in the meantime we need a withdrawal; we need to speak reasonable, intelligently and
with dignity to the Russians, respecting that they have national interest.

And do the same with the Georgians. But too often we take sides and more than occasionally we pick
the wrong one.

LEIGH SALES: Harlan Ullman, thank you for sharing your insights with us, we really appreciate your

HARLAN ULLMAN: My pleasure, look forward to seeing you again.