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Hoist on his own petard

President Musharraf has put all the explosives he could muster and packed them into one book titled In the Line of Fire, writes PN Khera.

india Updated: Oct 19, 2006 05:20 IST
PN Khera

Clearly, Pakistan’s President, Chief of Army Staff, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the National Security Council, Pervez Musharraf, wanted to kill many birds with one stone. So he put all the explosives he could muster into small bomblets and packed them into one book titled In the Line of Fire. Then, like the famous comedian Groucho Marx, he forgot to duck.

The serial blasts came while he was still in the US after the book’s release. The admission that the CIA was paying prize money for the capture of every Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorist captured or killed in Pakistan created a furore. Confronted by a talk-show host, he tried to wriggle out of his own claim that the Pakistan government benefited from blood money. The idea of a State accepting prize money has not gone down well anywhere, especially not in Pakistan, where the issue enjoys little public support anyway.

Back home, there were sniggers over his soulful defence of Mukhtar Mai, the woman raped on the orders of a village panchayat. Critics pointed out that earlier this year, Musharraf had declared that Pakistani women got themselves raped to get US citizenship and make millions. A little later, the Pakistan People’s Party took the issue with him for maligning the image of their founder, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Then came the Afghan bomblet. On the eve of his book tour, Musharraf made a deal with tribal militants sheltering the Taliban, so he could project himself as an anti-Taliban warrior. In the process, he annoyed President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, who refused to shake hands with him at the trilateral meeting organised by President George W. Bush at the White House in the last week of September. To top it all, Musharraf went around insulting Karzai as a person who has little control outside Kabul, even likening him to an ostrich that buries its head in the sand.

There were several bomblets aimed at India. These also imploded, hitting Musharraf himself. His account of Kargil has strained credulity not just in India, but in Pakistan too. People in his own country want to know why the remains of the Pakistani soldiers who ‘won’ the war had to be buried by the Indian forces. They also want to know why Pakistan has kept its casualty list secret.

Another bomb that has exploded in his face is the claim that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s authority to conduct a peace process was “withering away”. By making this claim, Musharraf begs the question why he is so desperate to continue the peace talks and why he wants Singh to visit Pakistan at the earliest.

President-General Pervez Musharraf claims he wrote the book to present the truth to the world, and, of course, Musharraf’s life story would not be complete without Kargil. Inadvertently, the truth has come out that the ‘freedom fighters’ who were supposed to have crossed the Line of Control and occupied 60 sq km of territory in the Mushkoh-Kargil salient  — a poor choice because they could not have found many Kashmiris to liberate up there — were actually Pakistani soldiers. Musharraf insists that if he had not executed Kargil, there would have been no dialogue with India on Kashmir. However, the fact remains that Agra bombed because of the same kind of grandstanding that Musharraf indulged in during his US tour. Musharraf has, it seems, forgotten the Lahore agreements, which were among the most far-reaching till that point of time. Musharraf was, in fact, instrumental in killing the process and displacing its Pakistani interlocutor — elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

On his way back from his leisurely US tour, Musharraf ran four-square into a British report broadcast by the BBC suggesting that the US is paying him $ 70-80 million per month. This seems to fit in well with Musharraf’s own acknowledgement that Pakistan received bounty money from the US. According to the analyst, who works on contract for the British Ministry of Defence, the real explanation for the book and the US promotion tour is that Musharraf knows that time is running out and that US support, including the money, may be withdrawn. The same report also  pointed out that the ISI “indirectly supported terrorism and extremism”. The British government side-stepped the issue by claiming that the report was not official. However, it did not deny it, nor did it say that it was wrong.

In Canada, too, Musharraf sparked off a furore by saying Canada should not whine about losing “four or five” nationals fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, when Pakistan had lost 500. Canadians are justifiably angry — not only are their nationals dying at the hands of the Taliban being sheltered by Pakistan, the number of their soldiers killed is 37.


PN Khera is Editor, Asian Defence News International