Ex-Minister: 'Grave Damage' To Pakistan's Ethos Former Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that U.S. accusations against his country after the death of Osama bin Laden have changed its psyche. He says Pakistanis are the victims of homegrown terrorism, giving them ample room for introspection.
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Ex-Minister: 'Grave Damage' To Pakistan's Ethos

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Ex-Minister: 'Grave Damage' To Pakistan's Ethos

Ex-Minister: 'Grave Damage' To Pakistan's Ethos

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And among the biggest challenges the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs will face is Pakistan, where an already touchy relationship got more difficult recently.

My co-host, Steve Inskeep, is in Pakistan this week talking with people there. For many Americans, the death of Osama bin Laden was the end of a long and painful story. For Pakistan, where bin Laden was found, Steve says it could be a painful beginning.

STEVE INSKEEP: The raid that killed bin Laden was a huge embarrassment for Pakistan's powerful army. And in Lahore we talked about the consequences with Khurshid Kasuri, a former foreign minister. He met us dressed in black, and ushered us into his vast home office, from which he follows the news with dismay.

Mr. KHURSHID KASURI (Former Pakistani Foreign Minister): In Urdu language there is a saying - (foreign language spoken) - that if you inflict wound with a sword, it will get healed. But when you inflict wound with your tongue, it takes much longer, if at all, to get healed.

INSKEEP: Kasuri is unhappy about both kinds of wounds, from the sword and the tongue. He says it's insulting that the U.S. didn't tell Pakistan about the bin Laden raid, suggesting Pakistan was untrustworthy, and he doesn't like constant references to the billions the U.S. spends on Pakistan. As a servant carried over a tea tray, he said U.S.-backed wars going back to the 1980s have damaged the Pakistani mind.

Mr. KASURI: Our psyche has changed. The country has changed beyond recognition after, you know, our alliance with the United States. And I'm not blaming the United States for that. We ourselves are responsible for a large number of things that are happening in Pakistan. But it's become very common in America to say, oh, they're taking our money, as if it's charity. It's not charity.

As far as we are concerned, we have suffered much more for that. So you know, what makes people feel bad is we're talking about money all the time. It doesn't go down well. And then people are constrained to say that you have done nothing. That is a natural reaction - when you accuse people of taking your money and not doing anything, then even if people mean it or not, this anger, they're not thinking with their mind. They're thinking with their heart.

INSKEEP: You said, quote, "our psyche has changed."

Mr. KASURI: In Pakistan, what has happened is the ordinary people, the psyche's changing. They begin to ask, is it a relationship worth having when you are told all the time you are taking our money? And they don't say in the same breath that they have lost - Pakistan has lost 35,000 people - 10 times what you lost. We can't run away from our local terrorists who are killing our men, women, children. They're attacking our military bases. They're our enemies. They're enemies within.

In terms of culture, ethos, psyche, it has caused such grave damage.

INSKEEP: I have one more area to ask you about, but I've been keeping you from your tea. If you want to take a sip of that...

Mr. KASURI: That's all right. That's all right.

INSKEEP: You mentioned that in the American media there's been a lot of criticism of Pakistan.

Mr. KASURI: A lot of criticism.

INSKEEP: In the Pakistani...

Mr. KASURI: I want to ask one question. Could they in their wildest dreams believe that Pakistani army would hide Osama bin Laden half a mile from the Pakistan military academy? If they wanted to hide him, surely there are places they could have provided him with an air-conditioned underground bunker, which would be as comfortable as they wanted Osama to be in.

INSKEEP: So there have been many negative stories in the American press about Pakistan.

Mr. KASURI: Very many. I read them every day.

INSKEEP: And at the same time, in the Pakistani media, there have been many strands of coverage, but one of them has been the conspiracy theory, if I might call it this, that what is really happening is that America is secretly trying to get Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

Mr. KASURI: I know. This is very unfortunate, you know. There are people who don't believe 9/11 took place.

INSKEEP: You said several times that the psyche of this country has been damaged. Metaphorically speaking, does this country need counseling?

Mr. KASURI: No. That sort of counseling can only come from within. It does not come from outside. It comes from introspection that is being provided amply to Pakistan by the attacks launched on Pakistan by Pakistanis. You need an open debate in Pakistan about who are Pakistan's enemies. There are people in Pakistan now beginning to say that these terrorists are our enemies, even if they are Muslim names. It doesn't matter. They are our enemies.

INSKEEP: Mr. Kasuri, thank you very much.

Mr. KASURI: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Khurshid Kasuri was Pakistan's foreign minister from 2002 to 2007. Tomorrow we'll hear some of the criticism of Pakistan's army from within Pakistan itself.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: And that's Steve Inskeep from Lahore, Pakistan.

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