Raising Pakistan's Flag Higher
By Air Marshal (Retd.) Ayaz Ahmed Khan
Los Angeles, CA

President Pervez Musharraf has painted the world canvas with Pakistan's distinct green and white flag by his now famous best seller "In The Line of Fire”, which has a beautiful green and white cover - the cover of our proud flag. His highly publicized foreign visit was well planned and its success is a tribute to Musharraf's leadership qualities, especially his ability to influence others.
The success of his visit to Cuba, United States, and United Kingdom is also a tribute to his public relations team, whose planning and organization did greatly contribute to the success of the three-week foreign visit.
Ambassador Mahmud Durrani revealed that there were " four pivots to Musharrf's US visit: Administration, Congress, policy influentials, and the Pakistani-American community".
With the US Administration President Musharrf reviewed the "components of strategic dialogue" between the two allies as well as the long-term bilateral strategic possibilities. The components of the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue are: counter-terrorism, economic cooperation and investment, science and technology, and cooperation in the vital field of education."
Modern-day Americans still remember Ayub Khan. They remember Benazir Bhutto draped in the Pakistani flag. She used to wear green shalwar kameez and a white dopatta. Americans will remember Musharraf for a long time for his sharp wit, incisive mind, and immense wisdom to promptly and correctly respond to difficult provocative questions and cutting remarks. He made Americans and Pakistani-Americans comfortable with his wisdom, grasp of regional and world situation and cool mannerism. His advice to Karzai to understand the ground realities in Afghanistan and in the region were well meaning. It is hoped the Afghan President realizes that the majority Pushtun population cannot be sidelined and marginalized for long. The fight against Taliban will turn into a war against the Pushtoons, if Kabul refuses to comprehend the ground realities.
President Musharrf's meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India in Havana, Cuba, and his eighteen-day US visit during which he had three meetings with President George Bush and met President Karzai along with President Bush, his two dinner meetings with the US President, one at the White House dinner, and one at the Pakistani Embassy Residence, received tremendous publicity. These were televised repeatedly and reported with detailed comments by mainstream American television networks including CNN, NBC, ABC and Comedy Central, and hundreds of other TV stations. Musharraf got tremendous coverage in the Indian media as well. Despite India having fifty lobbyists including twelve lobbying firms, Manmohan Singh’s visit went unnoticed. But Musharraf's television appearances and numerous press conferences, provided him and his country, an immense amount of publicity and positive ratings. Paid lobbyist firms, even dozens of
them, could not have achieved what Musharraf did in three weeks time. His smiling face but firm bearing and ready responses to very difficult questions, queries and remarks, left the most accomplished TV interviewer speechless.
Musharraf's appearances included "60 Minutes" and "News Hour on
CNN", but it was on the Comedy Show "Daily Show with John Stewart" which provided Musharraf with the most challenging TV interview. He became one of the first leaders of a nation-state to appear on this popular comedy-satire show. When asked by Stewart, "If Osama bin Laden and Bush contest the election for Mayor of Karachi, who in your opinion will win the election"? Musharraf promptly and without hesitation retorted, "Both will lose terribly". Millions of Americans, and TV viewers the world over laughed spontaneously. When asked, "Where is Osama bin Laden?" Musharraf's reply was: "Do you know him? If you do, let us know, and you can lead and we will follow." It was a terse remark that was highly appreciated by global viewers.
It goes to the credit of Musharraf's public relations team to have
arranged his interviews with the most-watched and important TV networks. Credit goes to Musharraf in particular, and to his publisher that his world famous autobiography "In the Line Of Fire" was launched during his visit. It became an instantaneous best-seller. Despite all my efforts I have not been able to buy a copy from book shops in Los Angeles, including Barnes and Noble, because the book has been sold out. Even the local libraries put you on the waiting list. It is for the first time that a book authored by a Pakistani has become an immediate best seller. Of course being Pakistan's head of state and "not revealing' the contents of the book while standing on the podium with Bush was a masterly tactic for the promotion of his 'memoir'.
Even President Bush jokingly mentioned it.
Musharraf has become a world celebrity, by sheer hard work and ability, and has projected himself as an outstanding diplomat and a respected world leader.
His conduct on the world scene has brought respect and recognition
for Pakistan, despite domestic problems. The agreement with tribal elders in Waziristan was suspect here in the US and was mistaken as a deal with the Taliban. Karazi's negative comments and allegations about Pakistan "not doing enough" being in cahoots with the Taliban and al- Qaeda had enraged Musharraf, who had a face-to-face confrontation with Karzai in the White House while addressing a joint press conference. In his TV and press interviews he categorically stated that the Waziristan Agreement was in Pakistan's best interests, that Karzai should visualize the ground realities of Pushtun sensibilities and do likewise. Karzai unfortunately is acting holier than the Pope, and is singing the tunes of American neo-cons and is trying to please India by his rigid and unfriendly attitude towards Pakistan.
In Pakistan opposition politicians, intellectuals, his detractors
and newspaper writers were generally critical. They alleged that Musharraf has revealed state secrets by incriminating retired ISI officials, and his remarks about Kargil were not wholly true. Rajesh Mishra, former chief of India's National Security, denounced Musharraf's remarks about Kargil being a Pakistani victory by angrily rebutting that Musharraf needs to comprehend the meaning of defeat. Musharraf does acknowledge occupation and subsequently return of vast areas back to India in Kargil and Dras sectors. It is not a victory if you are forced to return everything that you stealthily occupied. I think there is nothing wrong for a head of state to write and publish his own autobiography. The fact that "In the Line of Fire" is a best seller in Pakistan despite the negative press proves that people want to read and understand what Musharraf has to say.
Newspaper comments in India should be of interest to the Pakistani
reader. Generally the comments of Indian papers were that President Musharraf overshadowed prime minister Manmohan Singh on Indian TV news channels, getting thrice the attention on prime time bulletins. According to the survey by Media Studies India, which is widely reported in the US, "Between Sep 21-28 the week when Musharraf released his memoirs in New York, six New Delhi-based Hindi news channels devoted 378 minutes of their prime time bulletins to the Pakistani President against 114 minutes to Manmohan Singh. Of the six NDTV India devoted 164 minutes to Musharraf, against just four minutes to Manmohan Singh. The other TV channels surveyed were Doordarshan News, Zee TV News, Sahara Samay, Star News and Aaj Tak. Overall the Doordarshan news channels devoted 35 minutes to Manmohan Singh against 35 minutes to Musharraf
(Doordarshan is state-owned).
Musharraf's immense popularity in the West, especially in the US,
UK and in India is amazing. People in the West are worried that he is sitting on a dangerous chair. He has survived three attempts on his life. Despite his worldwide popularity, he is not out of the woods domestically. He has enhanced Pakistan's prestige enormously, but the situation in Baluchistan, corruption, his uniform, poor law and order, dysfunctional democratic institutions are hurdles and road blocks, which need to be addressed and overcome. A follow-up strategy is needed to pacify Balochistan. Pakistan should capitalize on its improved image in the US by a strategy for greater economic, trade and investment interaction with the United States. Indian economy is growing phenomenally. It is in Pakistan’s best interests to enhance its economic ties with India.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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