World

Musharraf defends war effort, downplays Canadian losses

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf told CBC Tuesday that Canadian casualties in Afghanistan have been insubstantial compared with those of Pakistan.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf told CBC Tuesday that the Canadian military casualties from fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan have been insubstantial compared with those suffered by Pakistan.

Musharraf brushed off the suggestion that his government was endangering Canadians and other troops in Afghanistan by not doing enough to root out the Taliban and al-Qaeda and their sympathizers.

"We have suffered 500 casualties," he said. "Canadians may have suffered four or five."

Musharraf, who assumed power in 1999, said Pakistan has been committed to stability in the region for decades, citing its support of Afghanistan in repelling the Soviet invasion.

Musharraf said any nation, such as Canada,that enters a war-torn area must be prepared to suffer casualties or get out of the operation.

"You suffer two dead and you cry and shout all around the place that there are coffins," he said. "Well, we have had 500 coffins."

Since deploying in Afghanistan in 2001, 36 Canadian troops andone diplomat have been killed.

'In the line of fire'

Musharraf made his comments in an interview from New York, wherehe was promoting hismemoir titled In the Line of Fire.

He dismissed thesuggestion that Canadiansoldiers could help alongside the Pakistanimilitary in his country, made by Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor recently.

"Nobody comes on our side," he said. "I would not like to challenge the Canadian troops, but I can assure you, our troops are more effective and we have more experience at war, and this shows a lack of trust in Pakistan."

Musharraf alleged in an interview that aired on 60 Minutes on Sunday that American officials had threatened to bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age unless it assisted with the U.S.-led war on terror after theSept. 11attacks.

President George W. Bush, during a press conference with Musharraf, said he was unaware of any such threat.

Musharraf supported the Taliban when they arose in the 1990s in Afghanistan, claiming they brought much-needed stability to a region ravaged by decades of conflict.

Earlier this month, his government signeda peace agreement with tribal leaders in the northwest region of Waziristan after years of fighting.

Critics have expressed concern that the deal would only further facilitate cross-border raidsthat the Afghan government has heavily criticized.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said later Tuesday in Washington that Pakistan should close its madrassas, the religious schools that preach a fundamentalist version of Islam.

Musharraf acknowledged to CBC News the difficulties in forging an effective partnership with Karzai.

"We should work together, but I'm afraid he's not being honest about everything," said Musharraf. "He's concerned more about himself than about Afghanistan."

Musharraf said as a Pashtun, Karzai should understand the conflicting loyalties of the people located near either side of the border.

Musharraf and Hamid Karzai will meet with Bush on Wednesday.