Three Musharraf interviews

Heat, smoke and a little light

The General took three major interviews last week. In his interview with the Daily Times, a Pakistani newspaper, he spoke on behalf of the Indian government and announced that India will allow separatist politicians to travel to Pakistan. He also equivocated against the mixing of marathons.

The Economist, astute as usual, noticed that Pakistanis themselves do not love Musharraf as much as foreigners do, noting that Musharraf is popular even in India. Despite conveying an impression of fragility, the newspaper found the General ‘at home’ in Army House, ‘unlikely to move unless he has to’.

…a man who presents himself, with charming affability, as a straight-talking soldier with no patience for artifice. What you see, his bearing insists, is what you get. Yet what you get is an enigma: a deft politician, who claims to stay aloof from the political fray; an exponent of a moderate, liberal Islam, who panders to extremists; a professed democrat, who at the end of last year broke a promise to shed his uniform and rule as a civilian; one, moreover, who now seems to want to hang on to power after his presidential term expires in 2007.

The general refuses comment, but nor does he deny it. Asked elsewhere whether he would remain president but stand down as army chief, he replied: “Yes and no”—which is either an answer, or a refusal to provide one.

Yet for all his bluff disparagement of political wheeler-dealing, this appears to be General Musharraf’s favourite game, and he is skilled at it.

Foreign admirers swallow General Musharraf’s self-portrayal as a bastion of “enlightened moderation” in a country at risk of a lurch into Islamic fundamentalism. Liberals in his own country are not so sure.[Excerpts from The Economist]

But it was the interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel that got the General into trouble — those Iranians were not impressed when he spoke on their behalf.

SPIEGEL: What would you suggest for keeping the Iranians from producing the bomb?

Musharraf: I can’t say. They are very keen on building the bomb.

SPIEGEL: As Pakistan was.

Musharraf: Yes, we were keen. Nobody can accept a threat to its existence. Therefore we are very proud to have nuclear weapons.

SPIEGEL: Did Pakistan help Iran and North Korea to go nuclear?

Musharraf: An individual from Pakistan did. [Der Spiegel]

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