Musharraf: In the Line of Fire

Pakistan's President Tells Steve Kroft U.S. Threatened His Country

Most heads of state wait until they are comfortably in retirement before sitting down to write their memoirs, but in the case of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf there are no guarantees that he will live long enough to have one.

The book is appropriately called "In the Line of Fire." It presented correspondent Steve Kroft with the opportunity to sit down with Musharraf in Islamabad and talk about things that he has never or rarely spoken about: including threats made by the United States after 9/11 to enlist his support against al Qaeda and the Taliban, and Dr. A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani hero who sold Pakistan's most sensitive nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons and Islamic militants, has been called the most dangerous country in the world, and one of the most dangerous places in it is riding in the motorcade of President Musharraf. Twice suicide bombers have tried to blow it up, killing 14 people in the process. Both times, Musharraf barely escaped.

There have been half a dozen plots on his life. Why are so many people trying to kill Pakistan's president?

"These people are extremists, terrorists, they believe in forcing their views on others. So, I'm standing in their way, frankly," Musharraf says.

"The suicide attack. You discovered that most of the plotters were from the Pakistani Air Force," Kroft remarks.

"Yes," the president replied.

Asked if that disturbs him, the president acknowledges, "It did. It's all the lower ranks. They are susceptible to such extremist, terrorist tendencies and to be indoctrinated to do these things."

That indoctrination is part of a rising tide of anti-American sentiment, aggravated by Musharraf's cooperation with the United States in the war on terror, an alliance that was forged on Sept. 11, 2001. At the time, Pakistan was one of a few countries supporting the Taliban government in Afghanistan, which harbored Osama bin Laden. The U.S. made it clear that that relationship would have to end, and Musharraf says the message was delivered by then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in the most undiplomatic terms.

"The Director of Intelligence told me that he said, 'Be prepared to be bombed.' Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age," Musharraf remembers.

What was his reaction?

"One has to think and take action in the interest of the nation and that's what I did," the president explains, adding that he thought it was a "very rude remark."

Armitage disputes the exact language, but doesn't deny that the message was strong. Musharraf says he believes his director of intelligence and says he took it as a threat.

"It was a threat, certainly," Musharraf says. "I took it that the United States, after having whatever happened to the World Trade Center, would be a wounded country – a wounded sole superpower and they are going to do anything to counter and to punish the perpetrators. Now, if we stand in the way of that, we are going to suffer."