Letter to The General
While General Pervez Musharraf is still figuring out how the maps in his book escaped being rubber-stamped by the Indian Foreign Ministry wonks with the warning ‘neither correct nor authentic’ legend, here are tips to help cure the embarrassing Irony-deficiency evident in his memoir In The Line of Fire (Free Press, Simon & Schuster, Pages 352, Price Rs 950)
Dear General Saab,
Here are some words that do not appear to be part of your, or your ghost writer’s, vocabulary which are so vital for a head a real democracy (we’ll explain that in a moment). Then there are words which you seem to have used in a very ironic sense without realising it. You know, funny thing is that the most embarrassing thing at times is that one is not embarrassed enough.
Acquired Taste: Don’t tell us commandos have democracy on their mind. A typical action hero, you found your guerilla style wanting once the coup you staged from the PIA flight PK 805 was fait accompli. So, instead of the wine-tasting courses you’d planned for your superannuation, you’re wrestling with abstracts like ‘institutions,’ ‘constitution,’ and ‘development.’ Neophytes are always initially more anxious of getting it right. But give your new taste some time, you might end up as a connoisseur. Thumbs up, General.
Application: Your tutor in Turkey Madame Kudret, taught you mental mathematics, geography and English. Your one-track, K-on-my-mind (see K) mindset crippled your English vocabulary. But Madame’s other lessons you applied diligently to plan the logistics and tactics of the Kargil operation. And remember your ‘romantic’ uncle Ghazi Gulam Haider who, in jest, not just slapped an innocent stranger once on his bald head and then apologised feigning mistaken identity, but did it again? You were quick to absorb a lesson you never forgot -- of getting away with a crime or a misdemeanour by repeating it and apologising for it every time. Smart boy, Pervez!
Banana Republic: Tropical countries mostly, with ludicrously frequent regime changes. General, you’re right. Pakistan is not one. It is indeed ‘a stable nation,’ as you proclaimed in New York recently, where you had gone to launch and plug your book… sorry... to attend the UN General Assembly’s 61st session. As you (nervously?) dismissed the rumours of coup in the non-banana republic of Pakistan, did you for a second think who could be behind these canards? The Baluchis, the army, the ISI, the jihadis, Al Qaeda? Sounds more like a banana-split republic scenario to us?
Brinkmanship: As a major in the Special Security group (SSG), Pakistan’s elite commando outfit, ‘world’s best,’ you ran your own ‘Pervez Musharraf Confidence-building and Nerve-testing Centre’ making men under your command hold ‘self-made grenades’ which they were expected to throw three seconds before they exploded. Hmm. That explains Siachin, Kargil and the near-war in 2001 which ended when India blinked. Conan O’Brian, please give the General a chance on your show’s staring matches.
Barkha Dutt: Dutt was sent to Kargil along with Bofors guns to get you, and get you they did. She, along with the other famous General-molester Karan Thapar, are the muses who inspire you to sort-of free your own media to wage war by other means.
Candour: Cynical glibness and devious charm help you appear more candid and transparent than you can ever really be. As a student in Lahore’s FC College, you exploded serial bombs around the principal Dr Dutta’s residence. You confessed. Said sorry. And he let you go. You write: “That is when I learnt the power of truth, a lesson that has never left me.” Baloney! You learnt that phoney sincerity and calculated candour can save ass. You’re openness personified while spilling state secrets, but when it comes to showing us a bit more of Pervez the man, you’re as silent as Osama’s mobile. But for all your Freudian slips, you’d still be a total puzzle to your readers.
Democracy: On your edgy Agra visit, just out of the cantonment life back home, you found everything about Indian democracy strange. Can’t blame you, you’ve hardly ever lived in one! (Irony, General! See?) When the final draft of the joint declaration was also binned by the backroom boys and the cabinet, you were shocked at the way we do things here. An authority above you and Vajpayeeji? That’s ‘sham’ democracy, where there are no checks and balances. And, no, the ISI and the army don’t count.
Discretion: Did you have someone from the home and foreign office vet the book for inadvertent indiscretions or disclosures of sensitive information? Don’t unlock your Glock, General, it was just a suggestion.
K-word/Kafka: 'K' is for...is for...Kafka! You kan say to Manmohanji, ‘First resolve the Kafka issue before we admit there is kross border terrorism.’ Read Kafka’s The Kastle to appreciate the chilling meaninglessness of set patterns of behaviour and konditioned responses. You want an ‘outside the box’ solution for the Kafka issue. But what if we tell you, the K-word is the box?
Khan Market: AQ Khan’s, ahem, ‘enterprise.’ Excellent after sales service. And yes, free home delivery. Now even the grass-eating North Koreans think they have a chance against the Yankees. All the while the Pakistani army and the ISI sniff nothing? Only their own five chalk lines, see Pakistani Exports
Media: You’re laddishly glamour-struck by the international media and believe everything they spout. And you parrot their lingo to scare the world -- ‘nuclear flashpoint’, ‘eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation.’ Free Pakistani media? For starters, no more arbitrary arrests and Tehelka-style harassment (don’t snigger, General, democracy is a work in progress) of your media persons. Look for a subbing job at NDTV when you’re finished with Pakistan, or perhaps it with you.
Obsession: KafkaKafkaKafkaKafkaKafkaKafkaKafkaKafkaKafka KafkaKafkaKafkaKafkaKafkaKafkaKafkavKafkaKafkaKafkaKafkaKafkaKafka... see Kafka.
Pakistani Exports: to fake Indian currency, jihadis, the intriguing new concept of ‘real’ democracy, packaged lies, Punjabi-accented English, pot, RDX, nuclear technology, and detainees for Guantánamo Bay. Junoon and Strings are in high demand abroad, but you feel threatened they will upstage you. Did we mention the famous Pakistani visa?
Paruresis: Don’t bother checking your book’s index, you find the word there. It’s a condition where a person cannot pee when some one is watching. Pakistan’s political class is afflicted by political paruresis. With the army watching over them, no wonder they just can’t ‘P’ (for Politics, we mean).
Rough Neighbourhood: Karachi of your childhood. But instead of fearing or loathing it, you became its dada geer after ko-ing the bully after your brother Javed’s kite. You insist you still live in one. Did Musharraf make the neighbourhood bad or it him? Tricky one, that.
Pluralism: when the General speaks in many tongues? No. It is a simple tanga, that still run on Lahore’s streets, with not one but many horses in the front. Some even at the back. Ok, seriously, just let Benazir, Nawaz, Imran, the mullahs and the fundos, all have their say and then let people decide whether they want Bollywood movies on pirated or original DVDs. That would be more like it.
Politics: Popular politics. Your biggest fear, miles outside your comfort zone (read ‘the barracks’). You keep thinking of a makeover and discarding your military fatigues, but are afraid to. For good reasons too, General. To be elected a leader and to work within the constitution (if you recall, that was the first thing you messed with after you took over the TV station, we mean Pakistan) without firepower needs more guts than shooting down a helicopter with a leftover Stinger.
Pre-Irony: you snootily deride Bollywood. But we say, look who is talking. The treacly tripe you deal out about being the best soldier, best general, best thing-that-ever-happened-to-Pakistan, ignoring Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, even Qaid-e-Azam (whom you conveniently kill so early in the book), Junoon, and Strings, is akin to the pre-ironic this-film-is-hat kar statements Ashwarya Rais, Sushmita Sens, and your own Mira make.
Sitting Ducks: At the Gol Bashi lake in Ankara, duck-shooting with your father you discovered your predilection for sitting ducks --because the flying ones were beyond you. Until Barkha Dutt and our boys arrived in Kargil, you thought you were back at Gol Bashi.
Understatement: You write AQK ‘brought some drawings of centrifuges along with him’ from Netherlands where he worked in a uranium-enrichment facility. Teehee. He nicked them.
X: the unknown. Too many in your book. You don’t even tell us what movies you watched in Lahore when you slipped away to Regal Cinema from the FC College hostel.
We had more words, like Backtrack, not the same as Track-two or Backdoor diplomacy, but we’ve heard you’re busy reading and revising your book. Hope our counsel benefits the new edition.