Pakistan and the U.S., which teamed up for the war on terror following the Sept. 11 attacks, are still allied in that effort and in the search for al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.
"The truth is nobody has a clue where he is," says Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, speaking about bin Laden, in an exclusive interview with Frank Ucciardo on CBS News' Up to the Minute. "Nobody knows whether he's alive or not."
"We have faced, since 9/11, the challenges of terrorism," said Aziz. "Pakistan early on decided to join the effort and fight terrorism out of conviction. The reason is terrorism is a scourge on the world, and is friend of nobody, so all of us have to get together, join together... fight it with all resources at our disposal. What Pakistan has done will go down in history as a very significant achievement."
Aziz, in New York as part of a panel of prime ministers set up to study the issue of United Nations reform, also commented on regional issues which – for a nation bordered by Iran, India, China and Afghanistan – include limiting the spread and use of nuclear weapons.
Here are some excerpts from the interview.
Ucciardo: "Mr. Prime Minister, some see the issue of terrorism as Islam versus the West. I don't think you share that opinion."
Aziz: "It is very much incorrect and a mistake to link Islam with terrorism. Now having said this, we owe it to ourselves to see why people behave in this extreme way. As citizens of the world, we need to address the fact - What are the root causes of terrorism, why do people go and blow themselves up? What is motivating them, what is it... a feeling of deprivation, neglect, denial of rights, denial of a voice? All these things need to be coolly and calmly analyzed."
Ucciardo: "This leads me back to January and the U.S. air strike along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. They were after another terrorist in al Qaeda at that point and a lot of civilians were killed. And you reportedly disagreed that might have violated the agreement between your country and the U.S."
Aziz: "Naturally the people of Pakistan were upset that innocent civilians were killed and there could have been people hiding there. But our forces could have handled it in a much more amenable manner without getting the emotions of the people of the area all worked up. So that's why we were disappointed and upset and reflected our feelings and views to the U.S. government."
Ucciardo: "Do you believe Osama bin Laden will ever be captured?"
Aziz: "The truth is nobody has a clue where he is. Nobody knows whether he's alive or not, and if he's alive, where he is."
The Pakistani prime minister also addressed the subject of the nuclear intentions of two of its neighbors, Iran and India.
Aziz: "Our view is that Iran should not get into production of nuclear weapons at all... They have every right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, but that should be done under supervision of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). We also feel use of force is not going to help solve the issue. Thirty days have been given to Iran to come up with a road map as to how everyone should proceed. We think that gives them an opportunity to seriously address this issue."
Ucciardo: "The deal that the U.S. just made with India might be seen as rewarding someone for having the bomb. How does Pakistan see it?"
Aziz: "We would like that all three countries, India, Pakistan and the U.S., sit together and come up collectively with a mechanism so that we can control proliferation, allow use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and prevent any situation which would promote production of nuclear weapons in the area."
Ucciardo: You are in the position, through a unique set of circumstances, people look at you and say: 'We have Musharraf, he is perceived by some factions as a military leader.' What does that leave for the prime minister?"
Aziz: "In Pakistan, the constitution is very clear as to the responsibilities of the president and prime minister. President Musharraf came in through the military but then was elected by votes of parliament. The prime minister, myself, comes through a direct election and then is elected by the house. We have a functioning parliament and vociferous opposition and we believe the voice of the people is eventually what matters."
President Pervez Musharruf and Prime Minister Aziz are up for re-election in 2007. Envoys from Pakistan say they have a strong position in the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people and fully expect Musharraf and Aziz to be returned to office.
CBS News Consultant Jere Van Dyk believes there is more to the story.
"The people in Pakistan feel, particularly along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, [that] General Musharraf and President Bush are at war with the Pakistani people," explained Dyk. "It's not quite as the Prime Minister says; it's far, far more delicate than that."
"They will be re-elected, because it's not a democracy as you and I understand democracy," Dyk added. "This is still a military dictatorship."