The Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and the Yale School of Management hosted Pervez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan, for a talk on Monday in which the controversial statesman spoke candidly about his political career and his country.
“I think I gave confidence to the people of Pakistan and raised the state of Pakistan in the world,” Musharraf said before an audience of roughly 350 at the School of Management.
Musharraf led the country for nearly a decade, rising to power in a 1999 military coup and serving as president until 2008. In 2007, Musharraf suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, citing corruption, and the ensuing backlash led to impeachment charges and Musharraf’s resignation in 2008.
The talk covered a broad range of topics, including India, Afghanistan, terrorism, nuclear weapons and the future of U.S.-Pakistan relations. Award-winning journalist Bob Woodward ’65 moderated the discussion of U.S.-Pakistan relations, and pressed Musharraf on many issues stemming from his controversial rule, including claims that the government harbored Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, who was killed at a compound north of the Pakistani capital in 2011.
“I don’t think it was complicity, it was negligence,” Musharraf said. “I am sure of the fact that I did not know [bin Laden] was there.”
The event was pre-empted by controversy after a 182-signature petition called on University President Peter Salovey and Jackson Institute Director James Levinsohn to call off Musharraf’s talk, citing his government’s military operations during the insurgency in Balochistan, a province of southwestern Pakistan.
The discussion also touched upon the longstanding conflict between Pakistan and India. Musharraf said that in order to improve U.S.-Pakistan relations, the United States should become involved to resolve the dispute.
He added that President Donald Trump’s inexperience may prove advantageous to Pakistan.
“[Trump] is starting with an absolutely clean slate,” Musharraf said. “I think here is an opportunity where he can be molded into action or a better understanding.”
When asked whether he will run for office again, Musharraf said he had not completely decided, adding that he will run if he feels he can contribute something to Pakistan.
The talk concluded with a question-and-answer session from the audience, where Musharraf faced tough criticism from many of the attendees. When one audience member specifically asked about Balochistan, Musharraf went on the defensive.
“Let us be clear what is Balochistan and what is happening,” Musharraf said. “Please understand that this is a vastly exaggerated thing, but when you rise against the government, you have to be dealt with.”
Attendee Mahrukh Shahid ’18 said she wished there was more time for the audience to challenge Musharraf on his comments. The talk only underscored Musharraf’s perspective, she said.
Other attendees, including Farabi Hassan SOM ’17, who is from Pakistan, voiced similar concerns.
“[Musharraf] reconfirmed what I already believed — that he should never have derailed democracy in Pakistan,” Hassan said. “He kept us from progressing as a democracy for nine years.”
Noor El-Edroos SOM ’17 was less critical of the discussion, saying that it was beneficial to hear a retelling of world events from Musharraf’s perspective. She added that the talk was an opportunity to “finally hand the microphone” to Pakistan.
Pakistan’s current president, Mamnoon Hussain, took office in 2013.