Musharraf's Book Tour
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's promotion of his new memoir, "In the Line of Fire," has to be among the most unusual and successful book tours ever.
While visiting Washington and London, Musharraf managed to get a plug from President Bush and cracked wise on Jon Stewart's "Daily Show." The round of appearances ahead of the book's Sept. 25 release generated a steady stream of headlines that has yet to abate, but the reviews have not always been kind.
"The book reveals that he's a military dictator, a mediocre man, and intellectually of low calibre," Mohammed Ziauddin, Islamabad editor for the Dawn newspaper, told the BBC. One reviewer for Outlook, the Indian newsweekly, likened Musharraf's book to "Mein Kampf," Adolf Hitler's autobiography.
But sales are strong -- "In the Line of Fire" is already a best-seller in the U.S., Pakistan and India.
Musharraf's book, says the Financial Times in London, "is a manifesto for 2007, when he will need to renew such legitimacy as he currently enjoys through the ballot box. Its publication marks the start of his twin-track campaign: to the domestic audience he plays up his ambivalence over US foreign policy, while to the White House he stresses his commitment, as a target of two breathlessly described assassination attempts, to rooting out terror."
In the United States, Musharraf's claim that then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage told him the U.S. would bomb Pakistan "back to the Stone Age" if it didn't cooperate in the war on terror after 9/11. Armitage denies making the threat.
But in the international online media, Musharraf's revelations about alleged CIA payments in exchange for al-Qaeda suspects, the India-Pakistan mini-war of 1999 and Pakistani nuclear scientist and alleged spy A.Q. Kahn have attracted as much, if not more, coverage.
"We've captured 689 [suspected terrorists] and handed over 369 to the United States. We've earned bounties totalling millions of dollars," wrote the president. "Those who habitually accuse us of 'not doing enough' in the war on terror should simply ask the CIA how much prize money it has paid to the government of Pakistan."
The U.K. daily The Times headlined the CIA story, noting that "the US government has strict rules banning such reward payments to foreign powers involved in the war on terror. General Musharraf does not say how much the CIA gave in return for the 369 al-Qaeda figures that he ordered should be passed to the US."
The newspaper quotes a U.S. Departmenf of Justice official as saying, "We didn't know about this. It should not happen. These bounty payments are for private individuals who help to trace terrorists on the FBI's most wanted list, not foreign governments." From the CIA: "Our relationships with international leaders is not something we are prepared to talk about."
Another of Musharraf's claims garnered more attention from Pakistan's neighbor. National security observers in India took issue with Musharraf's depiction of the two-month conflict in the Kargil region in 1999. In an AFP report, picked up by Pakistan's Daily Times, former Indian National Security Advisory Brajesh Mishra is quoted calling Musharraf a liar. "India did not cross the Line of Control (dividing Kashmir)," Mishra said. "The Pakistan Army did and it was defeated."
"He's rewriting history with an eye on the 2007 elections in Pakistan -- he wants to project himself and the army as entities to be counted on," veteran Indian security analyst Uday Bhaskar told the AFP.
The Hindustan Times also reported on the Indian Army's rejection of Musharraf's account, though the report is based entirely on the complaints of an anonymous Army official. "Everyone knows who got a bloody nose and the circumstances under which the fighting ended," the official said.
Musharraf's attempt to balance foreign and domestic politics was especially evident in his treatment of A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist who is now under house arrest for passing nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya.
In the book, Musharraf says Khan sent a letter to his daughter, Dina, asking her to "go public on Pakistan's nuclear secrets" through British journalists. In a statement provided to the BBC, Dina Khan described Musharraf's claim as "ludicrous," saying the letter was sent to her mother and contained no mention of nuclear information. "The letter gave his version of what actually transpired and requested my mother release those details in the event of my father being killed or made to disappear," Dina Khan said.
Musharraf's story is explosive because Khan remains, in the words of BBC, "intensely popular in parts of Pakistan thanks to his role in building Pakistan's own nuclear bomb. He also knew a lot of secrets about the country, including who at the top might have known about his illicit activities passing on technology. It has long been assumed that one of the reasons he has never been put on trial - or interrogated by the CIA - was because of who he might be able to implicate."
Even among his critics, Musharraf gets credit for his audacity.
"Never before has a head of state stoked raging controversies through a book; never before has a national leader so insouciantly made public sensitive state secrets; never before has a president embarked on a foreign tour to promote his autobiography," writes Ashish Kumar Sen in Outlook. "But then, he's General Pervez Musharraf, always irrepressible."
"The truth is that Musharraf is muddling through like most of Pakistan's previous rulers and offers little better in key areas such as domestic steadiness, reduction of corruption and external strength. If anything his regime's performance is becoming poorer with each passing day."
-- "Musharraf's rule is no better than others," Gulf News
"He is also one of the few world leaders suave enough to pull off slamming the U.S. from an American platform."
-- "Pakistan's Musharraf Markets Himself," Forbes
"Gen Musharraf has now been demonstrated to be an inveterate, compulsive and unashamed liar. This, of course, is not news to those who have watched Pakistan and its leader through the clear eye of realism over the past seven years. The Indian and global discourse has, however, been dominated by the many who have tended to grant the General extraordinary latitude, and others who were seduced into believing his every past falsehood."
-- "General Bluster," Outlook (India)
Excerpts from "In the Line of Fire"
"I fell in love with a Bengali girl" (Outlook, India)
"Suddenly there was a huge explosion." (Gulf News, UAE)
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