ARNAB GOSWAMI: From our studios in Washington tonight I am joined by Ari Sasson as our terrorism expert at the Investigative Project on Terrorism and also tonight General Hamid Nawaz, has been a former Interior Minister in the Musharraf government. In fact he is just the right man for this subject. But before I come to you, General Nawaz, Mr. Sasson- what do you make of the Guardian report which says that you know there was this deal ten years back between Musharraf and Bush that America could conduct a unilateral raid inside Pakistan if they knew where Bin Laden was hiding?
ARI SASSON: Well I certainly believe that it's a possibility. Truth be told it was in both Pakistan's interest and the U.S. interest for Bin Laden to be dead but obviously it couldn't look like Pakistan did it for demographic reasons, for reasons of where they are situated. So it would help both sides if it seemed that the U.S. acted unilaterally.
GOSWAMI: Mr. Sasson, have you seen Pervez Musharraf's reaction? He says that this agreement should be presented in parliament if it exists. There is no such deal. There is no such discussion that has ever taken place with Bush.
SASSON: Well again, it is very plausible that his reaction was also planned as part of the initial agreement. Private diplomacy is nothing new and things like these are very important, especially with countries as different as Pakistan and the U.S., in terms of their dealings and in terms of getting things done. Additionally the War on Terror is a very new war. Bin Laden is—in terms of history, and Bin Laden is a very high profile target. Musharraf could very possible enter this agreement with Bush and right now he is just making good on the initial agreement.
GOSWAMI: Just putting a straight face to it. General Nawaz—
ANCHOR: As for this report, under the terms of the secret deal, the Pakistanis may not have been informed of the exact assault, but they had agreed to it in principle ten years back.
GENERAL HAMID NAWAZ: You see, at the time General Pervez Musharraf, a lot of understanding was at the highest level, but there was nothing in black and white definitely. So if there was any understanding, General Pervez Musharraf is the person who can say there was any understanding on this issue or not. However, since the last three years now we have a democratic government, elected government and I am sure they must have gone through all the agreements, all that are written with the United States and they must have carried out a review. If there was any understanding on this very issue, they would have confirmed or denied it. So there are only two parties who can confirm or deny it. One is General Pervez Musharraf himself and other is our present government.
GOSWAMI: But you are--- General Nawaz, you know, with all respect you are passing on the issue. You are diverting my question General Nawaz. Look at the situation in which—
NAWAZ: What is your question?
GOSWAMI: My question is this, General Nawaz—that we are talking about, you know, after September 11, Pakistan needed to appease the United States. America was very angry. Maybe it was the starting point of this agreement. There was global pressure on Pakistan, Pakistan didn't have a choice then. So it agreed, you find Osama, then you attack, you don't have to ask our permission.
NAWAZ: Yes, in one respect you are right that Osama was the top target, even in 1998, I think they had attacked Osama at first through cruise missiles that were fired from the sea, violating Pakistan's territory. And Pakistan was informed, even at the time, at the time of attack that this attack is directed at Osama in Afghanistan. So everyone in Pakistan, including General Pervez Musharraf's government knew that Osama would be hit irrespective of wherever he is in the world. But, if there was any agreement between General Pervez Musharraf and President Bush, it is all oral, it is at one level, it is at the personal level. I am just saying there is nothing in black and white and I am sure our democratically elected government must have also carried out the review of any such agreement had there been any in black and white.
GOSWAMI: But, Mr. Sasson, do such agreements happen in black and white as the former Interior Minister says or are these oral understandings.
SASSON: I happen to believe that a lot in politics isn't black and white and if there was an oral agreement between Bush and Pervez Musharraf, I believe it was in the best interest of the new democratically elected government in Pakistan to, even if they did know about it, never fully acknowledge it or review it so they could maintain a degree of plausible deniability. Like I said, it was in everyone's interest, Pakistan's and the U.S. for Bin Laden to be dead, but it was always better for Pakistan for the U.S. to take the blame for that.
GOSWAMI: Yes, but the amazing thing is, General Nawaz, Musharraf is no friend of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. Why is Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, you know if this deal does exist, then Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani should stand up and he should say, 'Pervez Musharraf agreed to it.' Maybe this is why actually, General Nawaz, there is this whole presentation which the army is doing to the parliamentarians in Pakistan, the senators is all being held in camera. So that all these deals, these secret deals, these understandings are never told to the people of Pakistan and to the world- what Musharraf agreed, what deals were there.
NAWAZ: You see, unless an agreement is in black and white, it will be one person's word against the other. If there is any agreement in black and white, all that is required to be done is just present it to the world. And President George Bush is there, General Pervez Musharraf is there, and if there is any agreement in black and white it should be brought forward. Otherwise one has to believe the word of these very gentle men.
GOSWAMI: But several, several retired and serving Pakistani and U.S. officials have told this newspaper that part of the agreement was that after this operation against Osama, whenever it happened, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion and make loud noises about how it violated Pakistani sovereignty and all. And look at what is happening General Nawaz in your own country, exactly that. It's like a rehearsed—both sides know what they have to do.
NAWAZ: No. We have handed over a very large number of these terrorists who had been nominated by the United States to be on their wanted list. So Pakistan has handed over a very large number and in the case of Osama also. If there was any agreement, that would have been carried out. But as I am saying there is a possibility that such agreement was there. But I am saying is it is only a personal understanding between these two personalities. There is nothing available in black and white. This does not mean that if the whereabouts of Osama were know, Pakistan would not have allowed the United Stated to hit him.
GOSWAMI: Well I think that is a very candid admission, isn't it Mr. Sasson? Coming from General Hamid Nawaz, the former Interior Minister because he is saying quite candidly there could have been an agreement. It's obviously not in black and white, but there well could have been an agreement.
SASSON: Well, listen. Also right now there is a lot of international attention being paid to the Pakistani government. The Pakistani people themselves are asking for more transparency from the government. They want to know if elements within the government and the ISI knew where Bin Laden was and if they knew, if they were helping him, if there were high ranking elements helping him or if it was just local officials. They want to know all these things. So right now Prime Minister Gilani probably would not come out and say Pervez Musharraf had this agreement with Bush and we knew about it because at a time when there is so much attention being focused on them and people wanting answers, admitting to another cover up being withheld from the Pakistani public would not be in his best interest as a politician.
GOSWAMI: That is a valid point, but General Nawaz, I don't want to keep needling you. But General Nawaz, you were Interior Minister, you wouldn't know? If Musharraf made an agreement, he never told you in the circumstances?
NAWZ: You see at that time when General Pervez Musharraf was the President, I was his Secretary of Defense and since he was the Defense Minister also, I had a very frequent and close interaction with him. I was made Interior Minister when elections were to be held and interim government was formed, then I was the Interior Minister. Before me General Moinuddin Haider was his Interior Minister. But even I can tell you, since most of the business was being dealt with personally between the top echelons of United States and Pakistan, Interior Minister at that time also might not be in the picture.
GOSWAMI: Ok, well we will leave it at that. Mr. Sasson and General Nawaz, it's a pleasure. Thank you very much for joining me on the news on tonight.