Musharraf Beginning to Lose His Balance
September 26: If a picture is worth a thousand words, a single
cannon shot as fired by Pakistan’s soldier-president on
the subject of rape and Canadian visas is worth a thousand images.
next time he waxes eloquent about enlightenment and moderation
his own words as spoken to the Washington Post will come
back to mock him: “You must understand the environment in
Pakistan. This has become a money-making concern. A lot of people
say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship
and be a millionaire, get yourself raped.”
was during his New York visit hailed by official trumpeters —
no shortage of the kind in Pakistan — as a huge success.
(How does this breed define success?) Worse was to follow. Realizing
his blunder, Gen. Musharraf went on the defensive, saying he had
said no such thing. Indeed that he would have been stupid to say
it. (“True,” as Nicholas Kristoff of the New York
Washington Post, careful in such matters, checked its
tapes and confirmed Gen Musharraf made the remarks and was accurately
It also quoted his remarks about
Dr Shazia Khalid (the lady raped in Sui allegedly by an army officer):
“It is the easiest way of doing it. Every second person
now wants to come up and get all the [pause] because there is
so much of finances. Dr. Shazia, I don’t know. But maybe
she’s a case of money (too), that she wants to make money.
She is again talking all against Pakistan, against whatever we’ve
done. But I know what the realities are.” Phew. You’ve
got to be really tacky to talk like this.
Gen Musharraf wants to project
a ‘soft’ image of Pakistan. But he’s almost
suggesting that Pakistan is the quintessential land of the purpose-built
rape (Canada should be flattered). And when questioned, he gets
angry, very angry, losing his cool before a gathering of Pakistanis
in New York.
to a Dawn report: “Provoked by a single question,
the president allowed an event held to promote his government’s
pro-woman policies to degenerate into a bout between himself and
part of the invited audience... ‘I am a fighter, I will
fight you. I do not give up and if you can shout, I can shout
louder’...Responding to (a) woman’s charge that he
had retracted his interview to The Washington Post, (he)
said: ‘Lady, you are used to people who tell lies. I am
not one of them.’ When a woman raised her voice to ask a
question, the president said: ‘Are you a Benazir supporter?’”
How does Benazir come into this?
the altercation began to get uglier,” Dawn added,
“Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Jehangir Karamat,
who was Gen Musharraf’s senior in the army, approached the
podium and moved the president away by gently patting his shoulders.”
Not to worry, however. Condi Rice
has just issued another certificate of excellence to the general,
saying that while Pakistan is not a complete democracy, Musharraf
is an extraordinary man. Indeed he is.
though it may be to say so, Gen Musharraf’s remarks are
not typical of any standard Pakistani male mind set. Pakistani
men, even those lacking a staff college education, don’t
go around suggesting that Pakistani women invite rape for financial
or travel benefits. The general’s remarks are his own and
they reflect the mind of a person who (1) is answerable to no
one for his thoughts and actions; and (2) speaks too much and
When you are overly fond of giving
interviews, when the notion of brevity being the soul of wit is
almost alien to you and when you regularly display a penchant
for unscripted dialogue, don’t be surprised if you sometimes
get it wrong.
In fact, the unscripted or unrehearsed
remark has been the bane of Pakistan under Gen Musharraf. At Agra
for his famous breakfast meeting with Indian newspaper editors
Musharraf went in unprepared and since the one subject all Pakistanis
can talk about eloquently even without any preparation is Kashmir,
it was about Kashmir that he spoke. There were many reasons why
the Agra summit collapsed but one reason lay in that early morning
only that tough stance had lasted. It didn’t. During the
course of a Reuters’ interview, Musharraf made
the startling proposal that for the sake of flexibility Pakistan
could go beyond the UN resolutions on Kashmir. The wages of one-man
rule: the entire basis of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir ditched
or diluted through this single off-the-cuff remark.
One man says ‘yes’
to Colin Powell on the telephone post-Sep 11 without any institutional
discussion of what Pakistan’s negotiating position should
be. When the Americans are preparing to invade Iraq they ask for
Turkish cooperation, but the Turks, even though staunch American
allies, put a stiff price on cooperation (eventually too steep
for the Americans to accept).
Not so Pakistan which thanks to
military rule can afford to leap first and look afterwards. Gen
Musharraf’s uniform is his body-armour. But it’s also
a great convenience for the Americans. As long as Afghanistan
is on the boil and they want Pakistan to deliver more, they wouldn’t
be too concerned about the finer points of democracy.
Remember the time when a Pakistan
aviation team was in Delhi negotiating the resumption of air links
between the two countries. The Pakistani side was looking for
some assurance that India would not summarily sever air links
as it had done in 1970 and again in 2001 after the terrorist attack
on the Indian parliament. While discussions were yet to be concluded,
Musharraf, addressing a gathering of Indian businessmen in Islamabad,
announced Pakistan’s readiness to resume air flights. Our
aviation team wouldn’t have been amused.
This adhocism is evident elsewhere
too in dealings with India. India shows no flexibility on concrete
issues — Siachen, Baglihar, Sir Creek, etc. The Musharraf-Manmohan
Singh meeting in New York is, for the most part, an exercise in
futility. Yet, as a measure of the tight fix Pakistan has got
itself into, it is Musharraf, rather than anyone from India, who
is at pains to suggest that India is showing flexibility. What
a curious reversal of roles.
And what evidence does Gen Musharraf
cite in support of his contention that India is being flexible?
That the Indian prime minister has accepted his invitation to
visit Pakistan. Should one laugh or cry at this revelation? This
was the fourth time in the past one year that the Indian prime
minister was being ‘requested’ to visit Pakistan.
Each time the invitation is graciously accepted but no dates are
set. Pakistan has never lowered itself so much to please India,
a string of unilateral concessions — from the Jan 4, 2004,
joint statement to the misguided offer of bypassing the UN resolutions
— for little in return.
there’s a reason for all this. Irfan Siddiqui in Nawa-i
Waqt puts it well: “From Agra to New York, a single
story is being repeated. Five years ago Vajpayee got upset because
we spoke of Kashmir as the ‘core issue’. Today Manmohan
Singh is upset because Gen Musharraf mentioned Kashmir in his
address to the UN General Assembly. The basic fact is that whether
it is Vajpayee or Manmohan Singh, no Indian prime minister dare
show any flexibility on Kashmir. In India democracy is supreme
and about democracies the worst thing is that no matter however
powerful an individual, whatever high office he holds, he cannot
ignore state institutions or stray even a hair’s breadth
from established national positions. This is only possible where,
instead of institutions, there is one-man rule, where the opinions
of an individual become national policy and where every kind of
U-turn and somersault becomes a part of everyday existence.”
Musharraf’s thoughts on rape, therefore, are not an aberration.
Nor can they be attributed solely to the male chauvinism prevalent
in our society. They reveal a problem of psychology: The helmsman
in a dictatorship, [especially of the tin pot variety] beginning
to lose balance. This should come as no surprise, six years of
unchecked power being enough to turn anyone’s head.- Courtesy
Daily Dawn, Karachi