Pakistani president speaks in Marvin Center

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf dodged the topic of Sept. 11 at his speech on Pakistan’s development in the Marvin Center’s Betts Theatre Friday afternoon.

Musharraf’s speech comes a day after the announcement of a soon-to-air CBS program in which he alleged the U.S. threatened to bomb his country if it did not join the U.S. in the war on terror. His comments aired in a “60 Minutes” interview Sunday. Since Sept. 11, President George W. Bush has referred to Pakistan as an ally in the war on terror.

Musharraf avoided the topic when pressed by a student in the question and answer session after his speech.

“I’m launching my autobiography … so I’m not allowed to talk about it,” Musharraf said. “You’ll have to buy the book and read it.”

Musharraf said that an agreement with Simon and Schuster, the New York-based publisher of his autobiography, “In the Line of Fire,” prevented him from disclosing his interactions with Bush after Sept. 11.

“We joined the war on terror not really for the world but for ourselves,” he said. “Pakistan is a modern, progressive society. It happens to be in the interest of Pakistan. We are onboard with the free world to fight terrorism.”

Musharraf focused his address on the topic of democratizing Pakistan and his successes as its president.

“Let me assure you that I’m the greatest believer in democracy,” Musharraf said. “Unfortunately …there was no democracy. I have introduced democracy in Pakistan.”

“Democracy means empowerment of the people … I have empowered the people at a grassroots level,” Musharraf continued.

He noted that in his government, minorities and women have been empowered politically and financially, and that the press has also been “liberated” with more than 40 independent television stations now in the country.

Musharraf demonstrated his success through the economic growth he said his country has experienced.

“We have converted a deficit into a surplus,” he said.

A 150 percent increase in tax revenue, as well as strengthened telecommunications and information technology industries, were some of the economic improvements he mentioned.

Musharraf named government projects that have benefited his people, including a new port, railway system, road infrastructure and water projects. Additionally, nine new science and technology universities are under development, including expanded Ph.D. programs.

Musharraf also discussed what he called “universalizing education” at the primary and secondary level of public schools, by improving literacy and increasing funding. He added that another government initiative is to increase the number of health facilities at a “grassroots level,” especially in the remote, rural areas of the country.

Media relations specialist Adela de la Torre said the University invited Musharraf to speak at the school after learning of Musharraf’s intent to visit D.C.

“GW has a history of bringing in world leaders like Musharraf,” de la Torre said. “It’s a good opportunity for our students to give them exposure to international issues and cultures.”

Freshman Sasha Frankel, an attendee, said she learned of the event through an e-mail and immediately RSVP’d.

“I’m really lucky, because everyone I know in my classes wanted to (come),” she said.

Frankel said she was impressed with Musharraf’s speech on campus.

“It really gives the school some authority that we get these amazing speakers,” she said. “I hope the U.S. relations with Pakistan will continue to improve to fight more in the war on terror.”

Musharraf’s speech was broadcast on C-SPAN and Channel 11.

His visit to GW was just one stop on a two-week tour in the United States, which began last week. Musharraf attended the U.N. General Assembly in New York earlier this week.

Musharraf met with President Bush in the White House earlier Friday. Next week, Musharraf is scheduled to meet Bush again, along with Afghani President Hamid Karzai at the White House. Karzai is scheduled to speak at GW on Tuesday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Jack Morton Auditorium in the Media and Public Affairs building.

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