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'It seems Musharraf is taken seriously only in India'

Last updated on: April 8, 2013 11:56 IST

'It seems Musharraf is taken seriously only in India'



General Pervez Musharraf hardly received the hero's welcome on his return to Pakistan in March after four years in exile. Instead he was welcomed with threats from the Taliban and pending appearances in courts across the country. 

Rajiv Dogra, former ambassador and India's last Consul General to Karachi, talks to Avantika Bhuyan about the reigning mood in Pakistan and people's perception of Musharraf.

Will Musharraf's homecoming have an impact on the upcoming general elections in Pakistan?

Pakistan has moved on in the last four years. While it hasn't changed for the better, it doesn't want a rejected dictator to run its affairs again.

Musharraf's return is hardly a homecoming. There were no cheering crowds to greet him on arrival. That adulation was reserved for a politician like Benazir Bhutto.

People do not associate him with any good deeds that he claims to have done. They remember him for the assassination of Bhutto, the repression in Balochistan and the murder of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti.

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'Musharraf is not even considered newsworthy anymore'

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What are the challenges that he and his party will face in the coming elections?

All Pakistan Muslim League has no recognisable names except for Musharraf. So the first challenge APML faces is that of credibility.

Two, no political party seems to be willing to ally with APML.

And three, Musharraf is facing charges in various courts, including in the Supreme Court. Whether he will be able to legally contest elections or not also seems to be a question mark.

What is the popular mood in Pakistan and what is people's perception of him?

Let's look at the mental makeup of Musharraf. He is essentially a commando at heart and this impacts every action in his political life, including his relations with India.

He thought he could bluff his way through to power once again. But his bluster has failed as he has received a cold response. Musharraf is not even considered newsworthy anymore. He is hardly written about in the Pakistani media.

It seems he is taken seriously only in India. We continue to call him a leader who could have delivered peace and consider him integral to Indo-Pak relations.

In fact, we need to relook at his time in power. Some of the worst terror strikes in India happened during his tenure. People in Pakistan regard him as a troublemaker. Isn't it time we rewrote our slate too?

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'Why can't we do a post-mortem of the Kargil operation in the light of Musharraf's revelations?'

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It is interesting that you say this because he has been talking about how proud he is of the Kargil operation.

It is a pity that even after one-and-a-half decades, we don't know what actually happened in Kargil.

For long, we kept wondering if it was a mujahid operation or were the military forces involved.

Recently, Lt General (retd) Shahid Aziz wrote in his book, Putting our Children in Line of Fire, that Musharraf had spent a night inside the Indian territory. That should have jolted us into reviewing the Kargil operation all over again.

The point is that no army chief just crosses the LoC, spends a night there and goes back.

There must have been enough reconnaissance by Pakistani officers to ensure that their chief was not in any kind of danger on Indian territory.

This heavy activity must have gone on for a month, yet we remained clueless. But now that the book is out, why can't we do a post-mortem of the Kargil operation in the light of these new revelations?

Musharraf has publicly said that Kargil was a brilliant military operation and that he would have cut off Siachen. Isn't it possible that some other Pakistani general might take inspiration from Musharraf? There needs to be a public debate about the risks that India faced before and during the operation.

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'The fact is that Musharraf rode to power on a combination of bluster and luck'

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Does Musharraf seem like a better alternative to the ruling PPP?

There is no doubt that when a military dictator takes over, a reasonable amount of law and order is enforced.

That's what happened when Musharraf came to power. People were disillusioned with the Bhutto and Sharif regimes.

Therefore, initially, there was a feeling of relief that the country was emerging from that corrupt phase. But that was only temporary.

In the second half of his regime, the Pakistani economy started to stagnate. However, post 9/11, US kept pumping in money in massive proportions to keep the Pakistani economy artificially afloat. But Pakistan was living on rented favours.

Towards the end of his tenure, the foreign exchange reserves were low and growth close to nothing. The confidence of the international community also went down. The fact is that Musharraf rode to power on a combination of bluster and luck.

Now, he seems to have run out of both. He looks defeated, almost embarrassed to be back. He is hardly an alternative to parties like PML (N) or PPP.

Tags: Musharraf , PPP , Sharif , Bhutto , PML

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