Who said What to Whom, Did What, When and Why?

Posted on September 25, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Books, Foreign Relations, People, Politics
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Adil Najam

Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s much anticipated autobiography, In the Line of Fire, will officially be released in a few hours. It will be launched at a signing ceremony at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. [Earlier ATP posts here, here and here].

The build-up – whether intended by the publisher, Simon and Schuster, or not – has been quite phenomenal. Even US President George Bush got into the act by suggesting (even if jokingly) that people should buy the book. Meanwhile, all sorts of controversies – ranging from debates about what Richad Armitage did or did not say, to the possibility to President Musharraf having health problems, the frenzy about a coup in Pakistan that ran amock Sunday, to speculations about India’s reactions – have all helped fuel the chatter (as have discussions like this one!).

The result is that as of this writing, the book has now climbed to No. 28 on the Amazon.com best-selling list, where it is selling now for $16.80 (market price $28). One expects that it will rise further on this and other lists in the coming days.

Anticipated as the book is, the chatter around the book is now getting to be as interesting as anything that may be in the book. Here is a sampling…
Writing in the Daily Times, veteran journalist Khalid Hasan provides this insight to who actually said what to whom on the Armitage Affair:

Richard Armitage, Daily Times can confirm, did not use the words attributed to him by President Pervez Musharraf in a CBS 60 Minutes interview, namely that unless Pakistan did American bidding, it will be bombed into the “stone age”. However, neither the President of Pakistan, nor Richard Armitage, who has denied using such language, nor President Bush who said he was “taken aback” when he learnt what had been said, is being untruthful. What actually happened was that after his meeting with Richard Armitage, Lt Gen Mahmood Ahmed “who now wears a long, white beard and has reportedly gone Tableeghi” called Gen Musharraf from the Pakistan embassy in Washington. The conversation took place in Urdu and when the president asked him what the bottom line of the American message was, Gen Mahmood replied in Urdu that the Americans were intent on the removal of the Taliban regime and would not let Pakistan stand in their way and if Pakistan did not fall in line and cooperate, “wo hamari eent se eent baja dey gain” or words to that effect. That being so, President Musharraf’s recollection of the conversation with Gen Mahmood, who was then the director general of the ISI, is accurate, only he translated into English what he had been told in Urdu. It is time for Gen Mahmood to go on record and reproduce exactly the words in which he conveyed the Armitage message to Gen Musharraf on that September day five years ago.

The Daily Dawn adds this insight:

Mr Armitage who met Gen Musharraf in his hotel in Washington insisted that he had never used such a language and President Bush who met the general at the White House also expressed surprise at the revelation and asked “why now after five years and why in New York?” The answer, to quote President Bush, is: “He wants you to buy his book.”

Meanwhile, as various leaks come out, here is one with some details on the events of October 1999, again from a report in the Daily Times:

On October 12, 1999, the one hour between 6:45 and 7:45 in the evening, Pakistan’s history changed dramatically, President Pervez Musharraf writes in “In The Line of Fire”. In some exclusive excerpts from an advance manuscript of the book, Musharraf talks about the dramatic circumstances in which he became the leader of Pakistan.

“It was October 12, 1999. The time was 6:45pm. The flight was PK 805. The plane was an Airbus. There were 198 passengers on board, many of them school children. We were due to land in 10 minutes,” he writes. But then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had given explicit orders that the flight should not be allowed to land anywhere in Pakistan. “I told a crew member to ask Air Traffic Control again why they were not permitting us to land considering our precarious fuel situation. The reply, “Climb to 21,000 feet and just get out of Pakistan and go anywhere.”

Air Traffic Control suggested we head to Bombay, Oman, Abu Dhabi, or Bandar Abbas in Iran, just about anywhere except (for some reason) Dubai. They also informed our pilot that they had directed all airports not to let our plane land anywhere in Pakistan. No one below the prime minister could give such a drastic order. Sacking an army chief is one thing, but hijacking his plane and sending it to India is diabolical. As the news of a political coup dawned on him, Musharraf said his army rallied behind him. They were launching a counter coup.

Maj Gen Malik Iftikhar Ali Khan, the commander of an army division in Karachi, made radio contact with the aircraft. “Tell the chief to come back and land in Karachi,” he told the pilot. “Everything is alright now.” By 7:45pm, the counter coup had defeated Nawaz Sharif’s coup throughout the country. My plane landed in Karachi by 7:48pm,” said Musharraf. “Back in corps headquarters in Karachi, we were somewhat dazed. We decided not to do anything precipitate. What was needed first and foremost was to reassure a bewildered nation, but without making any rash promises until we had understood what we got into.”

While we will all soon know much more than this, the fight over the words will not end. This from the Indian Express:

…an urgent e-mail from New York arrived on Sunday at the office of a Delhi publisher who is working overtime on the Hindi translation of the book. The email said the “author” wants to review portions on the Kargil operation in the translated version and the same should be sent to him immediately. After the uproar created by his remarks in the CBS show 60 Minutes that after 9/11, the US had threatened to “bomb” Pakistan “back to the Stone Age” if it didn’t support the war against the Taliban, its learnt that Musharraf wants to be “very careful” on what is being published and how. On this score, he wants to be sure that what goes into the Hindi translation of the book is an accurate description of the original. The Kargil chapters have been mailed back to the author and printing won’t start until his all clear comes.

By the way, in case you are wondering, yes, an Urdu version is also in the works.

20 responses to “Who said What to Whom, Did What, When and Why?”

  1. Eidee Man says:

    Jyoti,
    actually, your comments were about this site acting as a PR tool for Musharraf which it clearly is not. As for the blog, the name is ‘Pakistaniat’ which I interpret as ‘Pakistani identity.’

    I did see articles in Pakistani newspapers about how some people ‘celebrated’ at what the thought of as a coup attempt. However, I know that a random mob does not represent the Pakistani people. For example, a Canadian news channel today showed around 50-60 people in India burning an effigy of Musharraf and beating it with sticks (one wonders as to what their point was). However, I did not take that as a sign that all Indians are violent and hateful…because I know better.

    As far as Musharraf’s responses are concerned, they are targeted more towards Pakistanis at home than to Americans abroad. People who are following events carefully would note that Musharraf has said a lot of things very bluntly in a fashion that we have not seen before…yet the Bush administration is not saying anything about it. This is an effort on Musharraf’s part to convince Pakistanis that he is not being bossed around and that all of this stuff that Pakistan is going through (such as losing 500 soldiers in Waziristan, etc) is in Pakistan’s interest as well.

    Same is the case with the question of allowing U.S. forces to go inside Pakistan to hunt UBL. One has to be pretty naive to think that U.S. forces are not already in Pakistan and actively involved in that process….Bush knows it, Musharraf knows it, and each has to keep his audience happy and primed for upcoming elections in both countries.

  2. jyoti says:

    @ Eidee Man. well, maybe I was looking at the presentation as a “non-pakistani”:). Actually, I was thinking from the point of view that how much this book, its publicity and General Musharraf’s tour will help Pakistan? Maybe it’s really good to see one’s President on American newsnetworks so prominently, BUT… did it help Pakistan’s image? Did this tour present Pakistan as a developing, progressing country which is striving to make a place on the world stage through the virtues of its leaders and people? If common people start celebrating at rumors of a coup, then it’s clear that the counrty thinks otherwise than what the US media thinks…

  3. Eidee Man says:

    Jyoti, I’m not able to understand what you meant by this site doing PR for Musharraf….I mean honestly, do you really think that??!!

    In other news, did anyone see Wolf Blitzer’s interview of Musharraf on CNN? Man, it seems like they are always setting him up….delibrately bringing up prior issues and creating too much of the rift between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

  4. Yasin says:

    Dear Prof. Najam. Thank you for this really great website. This is the real picture of Pakistan and I love the topics you chose. Because most of us will not be able to afford the book, can you please provide a summary of the new information and details in the book? Thanks.

  5. Adnan Ahmad says:

    I agree with Daktar. Also, it would be a one dimensional approach to shun the book launch and the extraordinry events that are taking place for its promotion. How often do we see a pakistani leader on the daily show or meet the press or charlie rose show. To get even 5 minutes on any one of these shows and many others on the list for “any one” is a big deal and if it is for a Pakistani leader it should be discussed on this blog. Also, people are giving and getting the impression that the pakistani government is spending money to get all this time in the media; well, that’s not quite how it works here and others know it. Given the kind of coverage pakistan gets in the media all this should be considered good press for a change. We all know what chronic problems plague pakistan but perhaps in these few cinderella days we should stop short of criticising openly or at least be open for discussion.

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