Dubbed as a shrewd and skilful manipulator by his political opponents, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has achieved the dubious distinction of being ranked one of the world's top 10 dictators.
Kim Jong-iI of North Korea, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea's alleged cannibalistic ruler Teodoro Obiang Nguema also figure in the dictator's list compiled by the New Statesman weekly in its latest issue.
"Our top 10 is a selection of men — there are currently no women dictators — who combine a high level of personal power with repressive practices, ranging from press censorship to fixing elections and, in the case of Equatorial Guinea's Teodor Obiang Nguema, allegedly cannibalising political opponents," the report said.
According to the magazine, the top five worst Dictators (for freedom of speech) are Kim Jong-il, North Korea, Isaias Afewerki, Eritrea, Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran and Senior General Than Shwe, Burma.
Fidel Castro of Cuba figures in the list along with Hu Jintao of China as the most corrupt dictators.
"There is plenty of kitsch excess - bouffant hairstyles, super-sized yachts and a fondness of khaki - and also plenty of suffering: despite a global fear of dictators running amok, the only people they tend to harm are their own," the magazine said.
"Their misdemeanours, however, are often ignored. While North Korea's Kim Jong-il, possibly the world's most cruel autocrat, remains beyond the diplomatic pale, the west has long-standing marriages of convenience with undemocratic rulers such as Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia," it said.
Since he came to power in 1999 after ousting the civilian government of Nawaz Sharif, Musharraf has ruled Pakistan with as much cunning as brute power, the report said.
"Musharraf is the third of the great military dictators who have ruled Pakistan, on and off, for more than 30 years. Like his predecessor, General Muhammad Zia-ul Haq, he is a shrewd operator, skilful at manipulating his political opponents, congenial, is fond of lecturing his nation, and has a short fuse," it said.
Like Ayyub Khan, the first military dictator of Pakistan, he believes in 'guided democracy', a historically established euphemism for army rule," the weekly said.
"Oil, money and information, as these leaders know, are enough to gloss-over human-rights violations - even Turkmenistan's personality cult leader Saparmurat Niyazov has found European friends with the promise of cheap gas.
But even without these sweeteners, the anti-dictator tide may be turning. With the results increasingly unpalatable to western powers, "friendly" dictators can safely anticipate a welcome in from the political cold, the report stated.
According to the report, the longest in power (in years) are Fidel Castro of Cuba, Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya, Omar Bongo of Gabon, Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial guinea and Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola.
Admitting that there is little doubt that the "war on terror" has given Musharraf added respectability, the report said "Washington loves him because he is just the kind of authoritarian leader they like to do business with.
Musharraf is not only a vital ally, but someone with deep inside knowledge of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and the 'jihadi' movements - indeed, his army and intelligence services helped to create them in the first place.
Musharraf has used his privileged position to gain considerable benefits. He had sanctions against Pakistan imposed because of its nuclear programme, lifted; secured a one billion dollar aid package; and negotiated the purchase of new weapons, the weekly said.
"But Musharraf is aware that his supporters in Washington and London are embarrassed by the fact that he is, after all is said and done, an un-elected, military ruler.
"He is about to put that right too, by holding presidential elections when his current term ends next year.
Given the makeup of national and regional assemblies, he is assured of re-election; and he can then announce his democratic credentials to the world," it said.
The champion of 'enlightened moderation' is determined to be around for some time," the report said.