UPDATE: Watch video clip from President Musharraf on ‘Daily Show’ here.
Most readers of this blog would already know that Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s President and Chief of Army Staff, will be in the United States in the second half of this month; i.e., soon. The key stops in the trip will be a speech at the United Nations General Assembly (Sep. 21), the launch of his autobiography (Sep. 25), a meeting with US President George Bush (Sep. 21 and later), and possibly another with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (Sep. 21 or 22). There will, of course, also be various community and think tank stops across the country.
However, the stop I am looking most forward to is his appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (See here) – the late night ‘fake news’ comedy show on the cable TV channel Comedy Central, on September 26. It should be an interview to remember and I am not planning to miss it (actually, I try never to miss The Daily Show anyhow; see video clip below).
For those who are unfamiliar with the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning show (either because they do not live in the US or because they like to go to bed early) I can only say that it is a television news phenomenon like no other. Its fans call it the most (brutally) honest news show in America. Celebrities, and particularly politicians from all sides, see it as a must-do stop. And particularly in election season they fall over each other to get booked on it. All of this despite the fact that it is, by its own admission, a ‘fake’ news show, which takes great pleasure not only in making fun of politicians but also of ‘real’ news shows. The shows website describes it as being “even better than being informed… One anchor, five correspondents, zero credibility!”
Gen. Musharraf is quite savvy in dealing with the international media and his matter-of-fact way of speaking comes across well. He will, no doubt, make an interesting guest. But he may well meet his match in the blunt questioning in Jon Stewart.
Stewart is not known for polite questioning. Here, for example, is him interviewing former (and possibly future) US Presidential candidate and one of the most influential Republicans, Senator John McCain (can also be seen here):
The show is, in fact, irreverent to all sides. This is quite evident from this second video clip which relates to President Bush’s visit to India and Pakistan earlier this year (see related ATP Posts here and here). [For volatile South Asian emotions, please realize that this is a late-night comedy show, and the 'expert' being interviewed is a fake expert, making fun of self-styled 'experts' as much as anything else] (can also be seen here).
So, as you can imagine, it should be an interesting interview to watch; September 26.
The date, by the way, is not coincidental. It is the day after Gen. Musharraf’s autobiography – In the Line of Fire – will be launched. This highlights the importance of the show, as well as of this appearance. The publisher (Simon and Schuster) is keeping a very tight lid on the contents of the book until its launch and, surprisingly, not much of what is in the book has yet leaked out. So, we will have to wait till later for a review of its contents; meanwhile, see related op-ed by Hussain Haqqani, here.