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Musharraf conquered Washington, but not Pakistan

By Hamid Mir
Last updated on: September 29, 2006 17:49 IST
Four years ago, General Pervez Musharraf was the first head of State to announce the death of Osama bin Laden.

In an interview to CNN on January 18, 2002, he said bin Laden had died because of his kidney disease. It was General Musharraf again who told CNN on March 18, 2004 that Pakistani forces have surrounded a high value target in south Wazirastan.

The whole American media was jubilant about that claim and speculated that this target was none other than top Al Qaeda leader Dr Ayman al-Zawahri. Once again Musharraf was proved wrong. There was no high value target in south Wazirastan.

Who was pushing Musharraf into an embarrassing position again and again by feeding him wrong information? There is no answer to this important question in the book, In the Line of Fire, written by General Musharraf.

There are lots of other questions that have not been answered in the book. He claims, 'the fact that so many Saudis are in the Konar (Afghanistan) area perhaps suggests that this is where Osama bin Laden has his hideout, but we cannot be sure.'

If he had some idea about Osama's hideout then why did he alert the most wanted man by mentioning Konar in his book? Maybe he is just taunting Afghan President Hamid Karzai that bin Laden is actually hiding in his eastern province.

The author has tried to answer one important question on why he changed his policy towards the Taliban after 9/11, but former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage rejected his claims. On page 201 of his book, Musharraf says, 'our director general of the ISI, who happened to be in Washington, told me on the phone about his meeting with US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage. In what has to be the most undiplomatic statement ever made, Armitage said that not only we had to decide whether we were with America or with the terrorists, but that if we chose the terrorists, then we should be prepared to be bombed back to the stone age."

President Bush expressed ignorance on that alleged threat and Armitage accused the then director general of ISI of misreporting his meeting to Musharraf. He never used threatening language with the ISI chief. His denial generated a big controversy in Pakistan.

General Musharraf is still not able to prove whether he is right and Armitage is wrong. The former director general of ISI, Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmad (retd) is not ready to say anything in support of his former boss.

It is also not mentioned why Mahmood was sent home within few weeks of his coming from Washington. General Musharraf must realise that his book has created many questions about his post 9/11 decisions and also about the ISI's credibility.

It is also notable that Musharraf, who is still in uniform, has not used the word 'General' before his name on the cover of his book. Maybe he is aware that a serving General cannot write a book on national and international politics; it is merely a violation of service rules.

He can say that the book is written by 'President' Musharraf and not 'General' Musharraf, so that no other general dare write a book on politics.

It is not the first time that a sitting army chief in Pakistan has violated service rules by writing a book without taking permission from the cabinet division. The first one to do the same was General Ayub Khan who wrote Friends not Masters with the help of bureaucrat, Altaf Gauhar.

And now General Pervez Musharraf has written In the Line of Fire with the help of Humayun Gauhar, the son of the late Altaf Gauhar. The book is being talked about from the east to west and its impact is spreading like real fire. This fire will burn many hearts not only in Pakistan but also in Afghanistan, Iran and in the Arab world where the masses are not ready to hear anything good about the only Jewish state in the world.

This fire may also burn the peace process between India and Pakistan.

The president of Pakistan has doubted the Indian prime minister's sincerity in pursuing the peace process between the two neighbours. He also describes the Kargil operation as a military success and admits for the first time that Pakistani troops were involved but maintained that they did not cross the Line of Control. He writes that Kargil forced India to start talks on Kashmir.

Many Pakistanis are asking some simple questions. If Kargil was a military success then why did Musharraf not inform his nation about this great success in the last seven years? Why did he always claim that freedom fighters were involved in the Kargil operation? How can Pakistanis and Indians now trust Musharraf after his 'changed opinions' in the book?

Despite all these valid questions, I personally believe that Musharraf is right at least on one account. That then prime minister Nawaz Sharif was on board with him in the Kargil operation.

Nawaz Sharif was briefed not once but thrice about the Kargil operation and one can see the three pictures in Musharraf's book where the prime minister can be seen getting briefed by the army high command.

Sharif was happy that soon he would become the hero of Kashmir, but when he sensed that the Kargil operation was going to fail, he immediately distanced himself from Musharraf on this issue.

Part II: Pakistan needs democracy, not a military president

Hamid Mir is the executive editor, northern region for Geo TV in Pakistan. He can be reached at

Hamid Mir