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Jemima, journalist, meets Musharraf

The PML-Q party would "certainly have the majority" after Monday's vote, the Pak President tells Jemina Khan. All set for polls | Pics'Elections a fraud' | VideoBig Idea | Amit Baruah
By Vijay Dutt | Hindustan Times, London
UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2008 02:18 AM IST

That she wanted to meet him at all was a surprise. That he agreed to the interaction was an even bigger one. But Jemima Khan, ex wife of cricketer turned politician Imran Khan, who — toeing wholly her ex husband’s political line — has lambasted President Pervez Musharraf in the past, and led demonstrations against him, sought an interview with Musharraf for The Independent on Sunday. He in turn, not only granted it, but also spoke to her for over half an hour with unusual candour.

In the interview, published on Sunday, Musharraf makes his political sympathies clear well before the polling. “The Pakistan Muslim League (Q) will certainly win the largest number of seats,” he declares. “Whether they'll be able to form a government is a question mark,” he conceded.

He not only dismissed the opinion polls published in the Pakistani media, but the media itself. “The media has been abusing me right from the beginning and you will never get good results from them,” he states. “The media have let me down.., the NGOs are against me, I don’t know why. I think I have been the strongest proponent of human rights.”

In his view, the only people who have supported him have been leaders of Western countries. “The have expressed total solidarity,” he claims.

In her introduction to the interview Jemima reveals that she sought and obtained the meeting despite Imran’s opposition. “It was a terrible idea,” he said. “It will be misinterpreted in Pakistan. Besides, you’ll be too soft on him.” But she went ahead.

Jemima conveys her impressions. “Clearly, he is not a man afraid of confrontation,” she says. But she adds that he was less intimidating than she had expected. “Somehow his civilian clothes have diminished him. I find his brown business suit and dainty penny loafers which have replaced the sturdy army boots almost unsettling,” she notes. “He seems to have lost both height and swagger. And his body language seems just a touch defensive. The immaculate hair also troubles me. Boot-polish black, artfully grey at the temples, it shows signs of some work.”

When she told him she was disappointed— with the corrupt politicians in Pakistan whom Musharraf had vowed to render irrelevant getting away scot-free and indeed returning to the political process, he disarmingly agreed. Asked why be guaranteed lifelong immunity from prosecution to corrupt politicians such as Benazir Bhutto, he said, “Yes, I agree with you. But then Benazir has good contacts abroad in your country, who thought she was the future of the country.”

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