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Musharraf interview – Mahreen Khan

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Mahreen Khan interviews Musharraf in London on the questions of the day – those accusations being flung in desperation by such “journalists” as Talat Hussain, Hamid Mir, Ansar Abbasi, Dr. Shahid Masood, and the even more “jahil” anchors like the “Bolta Pakistan” folks on AAJ TV (one of them didn’t even know who Pinochet was – which he should have had as a journalist commenting on foreign and world affairs).

– flat bought in London
– Chak Shahzad farm house
– electricity rates low for Chak Shahzad (always were)
– buying official gifts (govt. officials are entitled to “buy” the gifts at reduced rates)
– NRO
– being judged by Iftikhar Chaudhry who was removed by Musharraf for corruption
– validity of the case in the Supreme Judicial Council against Iftikhar Chaudhry

Mahreen Khan takes a few subtle jabs at the comparison between Musharraf’s property and the properties held by Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto in London.

However, even she knows to be careful about mentioning property of political leaders. How often have you heard of “Surrey Palace” in the media the last 9 years ? A few times at most.

How many times have you heard of Nawaz Sharif’s acquisition of huge tracts of land in Raiwind ? Admittedly he is a “businessman” (and thus potentially with greater means), however have they examined how profitable his enterprises have been ? And the network of business interests and factories that are linked to him around the world, and if that compromises his independence. For example if he is given a government contract in India, or a factory concession, that would be news, right ?

Most anti-Musharraf media personalities have been taking great “taqviat” from the Supreme Court notice to Musharraf to give testimony on the imposition of emergency on Nov 3, 2007.

They see it as evidence that finally the “tainted” judges get their chance to hit back at Musharraf, and they are relishing the prospect.

This interview is timely because it is devoid of bullshit (as with Najam Sethi type of sleazy, hee-hee type of journalists – and he is one of the better ones), and gets straight to the points.

Finally we hear SOMEONE point out what is apparent to us all – that many of these “journalists” are veering way off the course of Pakistani interests – by lamenting the “shaheed” of Lal Masjid (they are referring to the ones inside !) and to the “murder” of “Nawab” Bugti. For a group of people purportedly supporting “democracy” they seem to regard Bugti’s proclivity to murder (he had by his own accounts murder a number of people) as quite acceptable, something they would not accept in their fellow journalists or even in their own behavoiur. Where is these people’s sense of balance ?

The reality is many of these “journalists” are cretins. Many are the dregs of society who gravitated to the “journalism” sector (as happened with “lawyers” in Pakistan). There WERE some good journalists but they were few in number. It was not until Musharraf’s fillip to media expansion that salary structures and job alternatives improved greatly for this field.

Most “journalists” are feeble in mental scope and intellect. You only have to read the “editorials” in Dawn newspaper (which represents the pinnacle of journalism in Pakistan) to understand the quality (lack of) talent among journalists and other contributors to the newspapers.

These people understandably fall victim to emotion and affiliation. So they are quite likely to “like” a feudal, because NOT liking him and saying so could mean their murder at their hands.

How many journalists ever challenged Bugti when he came to Karachi about his misbehaviour ?

Prominent journalists “ghattia” – camoflaging of cowardice

This is EXACTLY the aspect of “journalists” behaviour which is the most blatantly “ghattia” in recent years. In that they have chosen to criticize the person who says nothing to them (Musharraf) because they CAN. They are unwilling to criticize the Taliban for fear of their lives. And they cannot criticize Bugti for similar reasons. However for some reason they seem to “forget” what is the real reason for their silence. It is as if they WANT TO BELIEVE that they are principled and their ACTIONS are actually BECAUSE Musharraf is bad and Bugti and the other feudals are good !

So it is either a case of self-delusion (for journalists who want to sustain a feeling within themselves that they ARE trying to do good). And it maybe understood as a cynical double-game by those who ARE intelligent to know what/why they are doing what they are doing. I would class Hamid Mir in this category. He KNOWS he is pro-Taliban and he knows he has to press that point.

To be fair, the journalist community takes great pains and is exposed to usually the worst of society on our streets (and among our corrupt politicians). So a degree of slack should be given.

However it is intolerable when they “forget” that they are fallible and what the REAL reasons for their inability to criticize Bugti is, and they instead choose to self-delude themselves into thinking Musharraf was an “Aamir” and the “greatest dictator in Pakistan” and nothing worse than him. And that he “destroyed” the media.

These claims just tax credulity to such an incredible level that people who CAN analyze the situation just tune them off, and those who CANNOT analyze the situation just fall for it because television (like Musharraf’s position of authority) lends them a “bully pulpit” which makes their comments more visible and impactful.

It is the almost deliberate, what can only be called demagoguery, that leads questioning people to suspect other reasons for the journalists activism.

It is not like they do not know that the Taliban killed people for sectarian reasons as well, and that much of the motivation used for recruitment was based on sectarian arguments. Do these journalists think this is acceptable for the state of Pakistan ? Do these journalists think ? Do they know they cannot behave like Saudi Arabia in the environment of Pakistan (right next to Iran and India).

It is not like they CAN’T see that the Lal Masjid folks are related to the Tehreek-e-Taliban. Or that they kill our soldiers and security personnel. No matter how much the journalists hate our police and other forces, the reality is not everyone is corrupt and these people kill a lot of honest hard working people of Pakistan.

Media ownership metrics

Although it is fantastical to assume that Talat Hussain gets money from India, or that Hamid Mir still has links to Osama. Or that Dr. Shahid Masood has a life-ambition to depress the Pakistani people with stories of “End of Times” (much of it derived from non-Islamic sources). The reality is that Geo and AAJ TV are recipients of foreign money – the running of VOA programs is a perfect “cover” for receiving overinflated funds. And is similar to the behaviour of the USIS (U.S. Information Service) in the 1960s, when they got material published in the Jamaat-e-Islami’s printing presses and then proceeded to burn it on their premises. If true, this would be a “legal” way to “overpay” to sustain an organization which may not have survived without external financing in an environment of low public interest in the JI.

With channels like Geo doing EXTENSIVE joint programming with Indian channels, it is no surprise if they do not go all out in criticizing India for fear of destroying potential for joint deal with some Indian parties later on. However could this “influence” extend to saying things which please India just a little bit as well ? That is, cultivate an anti-Pakistan sensibility in order to remain palatable to Indian tastes ?

When Musharraf/Sheikh Rasheed let the media loose, they (esp. Sheikh Rashid says that was his intent to NOT impose restriction on joint newspaper/TV ownership – and there IS some validity to that given that newspaper business is anaemic in an illiterate country) did not impose restrictions. And rightly so, because any restrictions would be usable by governments (including the PML-Q and later the PPP/PML-N) to restrict free enquiry of government actions.

However one thing they CAN impose is to prohibit foreign content beyond 1% programming (or something like that) on local channels. If they do more, they are to be called “foreign channels”. This way they do not surreptitiously crawl in under the radar of Pakistani people’s sensibilities – all the time thinking “it is Geo, a Pakistani TV channel”.

This would prevent the VOA (Voice of America) injected programs which are indistinguishable from Geo and AAJ TV programs for the average illiterate viewer and even some literate ones.

The VOA programming is a perfect “under the radar” programming by the U.S. and it raises alarm bells for the thinking people in Pakistan – that is there is something “not right” about it.

If the VOA wants to push programming they should create their own channel, and then compete with the other channels on the cable TV lineup (though then they will then wind up paying the cable-companies for channel placement – as happens now with Geo and other channels making sure they are placed at the short numbered channel numbers). Some of this is probably for accessibility, but perhaps also because on most cable systems in Pakistan the higher channels (higher frequency) channels experience greater noise pollution as they go through the wire – as any Pakistani will attest to.

When the VOA pushes programming on a VOA channel, people will know it is a VOA channel and it will be easily identifiable and isolatable by common folk as well, if nothing else by word of mouth within a month of launch.

This way a regulator can get around the tricky problem of “how do you prevent foreign program injection” into local channels, without preventing the other more explicitly foreign channels like National Geographic and the Indian channels.

By enforcing a limit to the amount of foreign programming, and by imposing a local headquarters, and by carrying out an audit of the TV channels on a regular basis, they MAY be able to prevent the worst excesses.

Because it is a great “tazaad” that the most vociferous channels against Musharraf and the U.S. are the very channels that are showing VOA “under the radar” programs (AAJ TV and Geo TV).

Strategy for Musharraf

At this stage, it plays in favour of Musharraf’s hand, if the progression of events are delayed slightly. A few months here would make a huge difference in terms of support for alternatives to “these politicians”. Already things are reaching critical levels, however there is still a degree of antipathy to Musharraf (and the “media” outlets mentioned above have not let up either – it is as if “Musharraf” is to them also as much of a bogey man as to the corrupt politicians).

A few more months here will give Musharraf further leg room.

Although it is hard to believe now, but Musharraf supposedly enjoyed a 75% popularity rating prior to the media blitz (first arguing for attack against Lal Masjid, and then chastising for the crimes against the “shaheed” criminals inside Lal Masjid !). Talat Hussain of AAJ was a poster boy for this action – I wonder if he remembers his behaviour from that time ?

The changing demographics of Musharraf’s support

In a Gallup poll taken around the time of Musharraf’s resignation (which was used to demonstrate lack of support for him), there were some interesting statistics.

About 15% of people STILL supported Musharraf. This is a crucial and most important group of Pakistan. At a time when the full force of the media conglomerates (Geo TV and AAJ TV) and the money of the political groups were arrayed against Musharraf, and the war drums were at their peak, there were still people who kept their cool.

Since Musharraf is not a political figure and there is very little of the emotional attachment which typifies the Benazir/Nawaz Sharif constituencies, there were STILL people who felt that despite all the negatives, “on balance” Musharraf was still slightly better.

This 15% segment is most likely one of the most pragmatic and straight-thinking. And it is probably why Pakistan is still intact today.

A further 30-35% of the group were ambivalent towards Musharraf. In that they were initially supporters a few months back, but were disappointed by the complexities which had arisen, and saw his respectful exit as the “only solution”. It is this group of people which will flip-flop back to Musharraf as conditions change. However, this is a group which is UNABLE to see exactly what Musharraf was aiming for, and are easily moved by what appears on TV. I would classify them as the wishy-washy types, who will vote, but cannot be expected to understand complex situations and to look through them at the overall direction of movement for the country.

The rest of the people were either dead set against Musharraf or undecided etc.

These are ballpark figures, but they are representative of the percentages quoted in the Gallup poll.

What is likely is that the 15% still understands what Musharraf wants – and they probably realize he is the most honest and earnest leader in Pakistan’s history. It is this group which is probably also the most aware. However this group may not be the type which descends on the streets (but who knows).

With a favourable turn of events, Musharraf could EASILY command a 15% plus 30% following among the populace.

This may sound fantastic to some of the media “journalists” (the more idiotic of the pair in “Bolta Pakistan” on AAJ TV was confused when he heard that some people were meeting Musharraf in London – to him it was INCONCEIVABLE that anyone would meet Musharraf, such is the near-sightedness and lack of exposure of these “journalists” to the “other side” or the other points of view in our society !).

However, it is not that much of a stretch when you compare it to the widely circulated poll figure of 75% favourable rating for Musharraf just prior to the 2007 complexities.

Perhaps the political parties have not analyzed the figures that closely, but they may know this intuitively – which would explain their near-manic obsession with “Musharraf”.

On the other hand it might just be lack of thought – when no other thought comes to mind, maybe Nawaz Sharif is compelled to repeat the most rehearsed speech in his mind.

Pitfalls and threats for Musharraf

The most serious threat to Musharraf (and to the Pakistani public who by next year will be wailing for him to come back) is of assassination. And the political parties and the “media” outlets mentioned above will spare no effort to remove security protections from him so he is conveniently assassinated (sometimes it is shocking to hear the language of some of these “journalists” – and their behaviour should be remembered for their swift veering away from the norms of journalism and humanity).

Musharraf needs to make sure his security is iron-tight in Pakistan. Because a lot of vultures await him.

It is for this reason perhaps that those who support him (if not for his personality than for the fact that even if he is “not the best”, he is the “only game in town” i.e. from among potential leadership, we have very few real leaders in Pakistan).

Another thing that favours Musharraf’s hand is the youth vote. If there is an election later, it will gain 4-5 years MORE of the youth vote. The youth are relatively more pro-Musharraf and more prone to seeing the real benefits of the local bodies/Nazim system as it has played out in every locality of Pakistan. It is usually THIS group of kids from the middle classes who run around doing errands, or dealing with lack of water and other such issues in our households. For them the Nazims were a blessing. And if they are too young to remember “pre-Musharraf” conditions, they will find out soon enough as the local bodies/Nazim system is slowly eviscerated by the archaic politicians (rusty after years in exile with the conditions and expections NOW on the ground in Pakistan).

Challenges ahead for Chief Justice and others

While there is much glee on many of above mentioned media outlets (and among politicians pitted against Musharraf), the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is navigating towards disaster for their own cause.

Many of these analyze Musharraf in light of their OWN view of themselves or their own world view.

They do not realize this is the WORST thing they could have done for themselves.

Right now Musharraf is keeping quiet and out of the limelight. As predicted when he resigned, Musharraf would become MORE of a problem for the politicians once OUT of office (as then there would be no bar on his language).

In a similar way, while Musharraf awaits the end of the mandatory limit on political activity for government servants (due to expire in November 2009), he has kept a low profile.

Recalling Musharraf to give testimony, OR involving Musharraf in court cases in the future (as the “media” outlets mentioned above are constantly rubbing their hands about) will give Musharraf the perfect soapbox for carrying his message far and wide in Pakistan.

Although it is true that even without this leverage, he WOULD remain in the news, because of the outrageousness/candor of his arguments at times, the process of railing against Musharraf in the court system and in the media will harm the politicians and the judges adversely. Unfortunately due to the makeup/constitution of the politicians they WILL NOT be able to foresee this.

This is because once Musharraf is in the limelight as ONE MAN being assailed by a gaggle of rabid reporters and foaming politicians like Nawaz Sharif (who just can’t help themselves because they have a PRESUMPTION that they own Pakistan and “how dare they intervene”). He will immediately be seen as a HUMAN. And an underdog.

Meanwhile the “fight against terror” will continue (because it HAD to continue – you could NOT have let these people run around Pakistan killing whomsoever they wanted).

And the public will see it as something SEPARATE from Musharraf.

In fact they may begin seeing it as a NECESSITY – and begin to see Musharraf as prescient in his insight about the real problems in Pakistan.

This trend while still immature has gained it’s first footholds as the Tehreek-e-Taliban has invaded the cities of Pakistan. And attacked moderate members of the Ulema who have dared to criticize them. Basically what went on in Afghanistan (killings and coersion, some of it sectarian) is being played out in Pakistan, thereby dispelling some of the previous idealization of the Taliban in Afghanistan as “good people” who are mainly peaceful (ignoring the atrocities committed AGAINST the Taliban by the Northern Alliance at Mazar-e-Sharif, as well as the retaliatory atrocities committed by the Taliban, esp. against the Hazara and Shia groups).

As some of that same venom falls on Pakistan, the previously naive people will begin to see the EXTENT of the violence inherent in the Taliban (even though some of it maybe understandable given the displacement that has taken place in Afghanistan over the years). In the absence of the Hazara, the Taliban will exact revenge on all varieties of mainstream groups in Pakistan. The old Sunni-Barelvi-Deobandi tensions will face the potent force of the Taliban, just fresh from killing some Hazaras and unhesitant to kill more.

Much of this has perhaps ALREADY happened (killing at Jamia Naeemia in Lahore and the much ignored killings of Sunni Tehreek in Karachi, and the attacks on Sufi shrines which are a backbone of historical Islam in the subcontinent). The tussle between the Saudi/Wahhabi-inspired groups and the local Sufi-inspired population has reached it’s peak.

It is for this reason that the military needs to exercise lightning fast response so the “miscreants” are frozen and eliminated in this stage of deployment.

And it is the reason why Musharraf and the Army were RIGHT. And the politicians and “media conglomerates” (AAJ, Geo) were WRONG in ascribing “shaheed” epithets to the Lal Masjid “miscreants”.

Typical of the confusion of the politicians (who are forever petrified of going against what they see as populist Taliban) was the reluctance to blame Baitullah Mehsud for Benazir’S assassination.

To make matters worse these idiots wind up blaming (like the media) the only person who they know will not hit back – Musharraf.

So you have the odd spectacle of the PPP accusing Musharraf for the murder !! And absolving Baitullah Mehsud.

It is only NOW that the political expediency of blaming Musharraf has diminshed that you find the PPP Minister Mukhtar announce that Baitullah Mehsud was responsible.

Imagine the naivete of the “media” who have all this while been using the “denial” by Baitullah Mehsud that he did it. Given their understanding of general attitude of Maulvis towards rule “by a woman”, it would not be inconceivable that the Taliban would want to eliminate Benazir (shades of Ahmed Shah Masood’s assassination to deprive the enemy of leadership). Recently the earlier accusations that Nawaz Sharif was offered money by Osama Bin Laden to defeat Benazir in elections has resurfaced again.

It is as if all the “media” needs to believe Baitullah Mehsud is his statement. And they are willing to blame Musharraf without proof.

What prompts such behaviour by the media ?

As the local population realizes what the Taliban actually bring with them (i.e. “the package”) they will realize they are not all that keen on that package.

And increasingly (as the Tehreek-e-Taliban are defeated and increasing stories of their uncouth behaviour emerges from Swat etc.) the public will sense that “they were not right people”.

That doesn’t mean they will love the U.S. any more, but they will understand Musharraf’s compulsions just a bit more.

Plus the sight of – what will by now be the usual group of corrupt politicians – assailing a single man as a unique THREAT to them all (!) will strike chords of “something doesn’t make sense here”.

Destruction of local bodies/Nazim and accessible/local democracy

In addition the politicians are embarking on further “axe to own foot” by destroying the local bodies/Nazim system. Not only is this system popular in Pakistan, but it WORKS. No matter what the above mentioned “media” groups say.

This will release a newly freed batch of Nazims who will only be TOO willing to form the backbone of a new party if Musharraf so chooses.

Most of these Nazims (even ones belonging to Jamaat-e-Islami like Naimatullah Khan former Nazim of Karachi) have favourable opinions on the program and of Musharraf.

In addition the distruptions to the local bodies/Nazims will start to make it’s effect felt in a few months. In some places it is ALREADY starting to have impact – as reported in the media about Multan – there is no garbage collection taking place and a general decline in local order.

So the politicians have unleashed a “perfect storm” much like the one which swept over Musharraf’s regime in 2007.

Except it will be worse this time, as local order deteriorates.

Alternatives to the local bodies have not been provided. Prolonged periods away from Pakistan (both PPP and PML-N) have immunized them from the number of changes that have ACTUALLY swept through Pakistan.

They are dismantling the local bodies/Nazim system without adequate alternative IN PLACE.

In any case, we are in for a turbulent few months ahead.

However, as long as Musharraf takes care of his security – I assume the Army and SSG will ensure that happens – then we could be seeing the beginning of the end of the judges reign as well as the politicians who have come back to the country without adequate preparation to match what Musharraf had left behind.

Links:
1/9 Musharraf interview in London – Mahreen Khan – AAJ TV – July 26, 2009
2/9 Musharraf interview in London – Mahreen Khan – AAJ TV – July 26, 2009
3/9 Musharraf interview in London – Mahreen Khan – AAJ TV – July 26, 2009
4/9 Musharraf interview in London – Mahreen Khan – AAJ TV – July 26, 2009
5/9 Musharraf interview in London – Mahreen Khan – AAJ TV – July 26, 2009
6/9 Musharraf interview in London – Mahreen Khan – AAJ TV – July 26, 2009
7/9 Musharraf interview in London – Mahreen Khan – AAJ TV – July 26, 2009
8/9 Musharraf interview in London – Mahreen Khan – AAJ TV – July 26, 2009
9/9 Musharraf interview in London – Mahreen Khan – AAJ TV – July 26, 2009

Musharraf interview in London – good news summary – AAJ TV – July 26, 2009

For another version of this video:
Conversation with Mahreen Khan 26h July 2009 [Musharaf]

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