President Musharraf Delights Seattle Audience
By Owais Jafrey
Glimpses of the scintillating address of former President General Pervaiz Musharraf in Seattle
Invited by the Seattle Chapter of the Friends of Pakistan First, former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf addressed about 400+ people at the Bellevue Westin on the evening of March 14, 2010. The event got more publicity by the barrage of emails protesting his visit. There were 50+ demonstrators with placards on the sidewalks, but the protest didn’t deter the enthusiasts.
Is there a charisma about him? At present he is a much sought-after speaker. He is invited to speak by the most prestigious universities, globally recognized forums and learned societies. People of intellect value his opinion and he is paid handsomely. I wonder why?
At the outset, Mr. Rizwan Nasr explained: “FOPF’s mission is to provide a platform for better understanding between the United States and Pakistan, to foster goodwill, and support democratic institutions within Pakistan.”
It was followed by Mr. Kamran Salahuddin’s welcome address. He cited statistics to document the progress Pakistan made during General Musharraf’s presidency. “Pakistan under his leadership achieved political stability, economic prosperity, good governance, improved communications, independent media, domestic and foreign investment, country’s successful integration on the global stage, and revival of Kashmir problem” said Mr. Kamran.
Addressing the gathering, President Musharraf spoke on a wide range of subjects, and on his vision of a modern, progressive, and an ideological Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Addressing “the upward mobile Pakistani community”, he said that it is “a dull moment in Pakistan ’s history”. He traced roots of terrorism in the late Soviet Union ’s quest for warm waters and consequent attack and occupation of Afghanistan . Pakistan joined the free world to defeat the Soviets. The jihad drew more than 30,000 mujahideen from across the Islamic world. The blunder was to leave Afghanistan’s well-trained, armed-to-the-teeth fighting force without any plan of resettlement and rehabilitation after the Soviet defeat. The fabric of unity between tribal societies withered in the absence of the king, who had kept the tribes together under the national covenant.
People like Osama and Zuwahairi filled the void and the situation kept on deteriorating. Whatever happens in Afghanistan and Kashmir , Pakistan suffers the fallout. Credit goes to Pakistan for the fall of Soviet Union, independence of the Central Asian states, and last but not the least, fall of the Berlin Wall culminating in the unification of Germany. Pakistan was given due recognition by Germany as “…the one, who struck the first blow.”
“ Pakistan has suffered for the greater causes of the world”, said President Musharraf. He highlighted another flaw in the policy to achieve peace in Afghanistan . “The majority of Afghans are Pushtoons, and they were not consulted in negotiations until now”, said Mr. Musharraf. He said that there are four menaces facing Pakistan : Taliban in Afghanistan, Pakistani Taliban, Talibanization and spread of their ideology and culture, and extremism in our society. Suicides, killing of the innocents, spreading lawlessness and anarchy, all are repugnant to Islam, he added. There is extremism in Algeria , East Turkistan, India, Somalia and Yemen , and success lies in defeating it at its center of gravity,” he emphasized.
Talking about the thaw in Pakistan-India relations, which he brought about to resolve the Kashmir problem, President Musharraf said that he had told the Indian leaders that good leadership should have sincerity, determination, boldness, and flexibility. He had advised the Indian leaders to grasp the fleeting opportunity as it doesn’t come very often. Peace in the subcontinent and the region depends on the resolution of the Kashmir problem. SAARC is important but impotent due to confrontation between India and Pakistan, said General Musharraf.
The former President spoke for about an hour. He said that he empowered women, reserved seats for them at the local, provincial and national tiers. He empowered the minorities as their protection and freedom is guaranteed by Islam. Pakistan had surplus electricity in 2001; his government injected funds in education, revived the economy, improved irrigation schemes by building dams and canals, introduced the very essence of democracy by empowering the people at the grassroots level, liberated the media and tried peace with India with great sincerity.
The retired General fielded a variety of questions from his audience for 45 minutes. He said that corruption is a world-wide problem. In Pakistan , patwaris, constables and the like can’t afford to live within their means, but corruption and nepotism travels down from the top, and failure of leadership is to be blamed for Pakistan ’s ills. On importing teachers from abroad, he said Pakistan has no dearth of qualified and brilliant teachers. Due to corrupt practices, there are schools which exist only on paper. On the question of strict screening of Pakistanis in Canada and the West, he said that it is due to deficiency of trust caused by the 9/11 tragedy, and the linkage between terrorism and Pakistan . We should set our house in order before we ask for respect from others. On feudalism, he said tribalism and feudalism are problems and provincial and national assemblies have people from feudal and tribal backgrounds.
A leader of the Sikh community admiring President Musharraf’s statesmanship invited his attention to the brutal killings of Sikhs in Kashmir. Thanking him, President Musharraf drew his attention to the genocide of 3000 Muslims in Gujrat due to Modi’s communalistic policies and said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, for whom he had great respect, should pay due attention to such problems.
People enjoyed the spontaneity of President Musharraf’s answers, enthusiasm and humor. The Q-A session was followed by a sumptuous dinner catered by the Garam Masalah Restaurant for $100 a plate and more if one sits in the front. It was to defray the expenses of his visit, which was a friendly gesture towards the FOPF. I heard mixed comments. “I accepted him in spite of his many faults because so far, he has been the best leader Pakistan has had since the civilian government was first overthrown in 1956,” said Mr. Jafar Siddiqui, a human activist. “He was candid, frank, honest and straight forward. Can anyone from the current or already tried leaders speak with such confidence, articulation and eloquence?” questioned Mr. Eijaz Samad. “I am not satisfied by his answers on NRO and Judges, but happy to learn that he didn’t accept all the demands of the Bush Administration, consulted his cabinet for a week, and displayed wisdom and foresight,” observed Syed Jamil Ahmad. “He was upright, upfront, and truthful, and using such phrases as ‘having said that, on the hindsight, I should have handled the issues differently,’ shows his honesty and integrity,” commented Mrs. Fozia Hakim. “He is the most patriotic leader and a great statesman, who thinks of Pakistan first,” opined Mr. Tariq Zahoor. “Did he buy mansions, steal items from the National Museum, or save money in foreign banks?” chuckled a youth. People in general lauded and gave President Musharraf a hearty send off as the program concluded late after 10 PM.