Coffee House was recently sent the following letter from Wajid Shamsul Hasan, the former Pakistan High Commissioner to London:
Your report by Rani Singh made quite a jolly read, referring to Musharraf's ‘feminine side’, his liking for the arts’ and, as you put it, doing cuddly’. Does one detect the influence of Musharraf’s well-oiled PR machine at work here?
But for those of us who live with the reality of Musharraf’s regime, things are far from cuddly. He is quite right to say Pakistan ‘needs a softer image, based around heritage, culture and sport rather than guns and violence’, but it’s a bit rich coming from him.
I wonder if he was showing his ‘feminine side’, when he had 60 of the most senior judiciary rounded up and arrested, for not complying with his demand to suspend the constitution – so he could anoint himself president? Or when 25 million voters went ‘missing’ from the electoral roll while organising the Feb 18 elections; or when thousands of opposition party workers were imprisoned on trumped-up charges for ‘security’ reasons? The Spectator editor will also understand that if Pakistan’s media can now go to prison and do time for being too ‘critical’ of the great man’s regime, they do not see this as being feminine, cuddly or soft. Words like criminal, fraudulent, deceitful and untrustworthy spring more readily to mind.
So good luck with your exploration of Pakistan’s more attractive and beguiling nature – but perhaps you could leave Musharraf out of the picture. He is now hugely unpopular in his own country, and as you reported yourselves, his own PML-Q party is no longer sure if he’s ‘an asset or a liability’. The reality is, he is past his sell-by date.
WAJID SHAMSUL HASAN
Former Pakistan High Commissioner to London