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Mad about Musharraf


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If you were an outsider watching Indian television channels on Friday morning, you could well have thought they were Pakistani channels. You would not have been wrong because the drama around former Army Chief Pervez Musharraf’s arrest was playing live on most channels.

In fact, the Boston shootout happening around the same time took a backseat on these channels. Musharraf’s arrest was receiving carpet coverage. So, why is the architect of Kargil, abused and reviled in India, getting so much air time?

The everyday attacks on secular-inclined politicians in the run-up to Pakistan’s elections is getting no coverage, but the Musharraf escape-and-arrest shows again that the military man can still make media waves in India.

The images of the commando in the khaki uniform, the macho man handling a pistol and holding up a cigarette, the straight talking dictator that seems to have tickled the imagination of many here.

By and large, Indians are poorly informed about developments in Pakistan even though social media is trimming the borders between the two countries.

The key to the social media discourse is that it’s unregulated. Undiluted views of both Indians and Pakistanis are available in real time.

The debate about what Musharraf did or did not do for Pakistan after his October 1999 coup doesn't exist in India. It’s the strong man image that is all enduring.

It needs to be said that Pakistan has had a civilian government for the past five years, the first ever to have completed its term. And, the electorate of Pakistan now has the first-ever opportunity in its history to vote out a government if it so chooses.For these people, Musharraf equals Pakistan. Even though he’s been out of power for the past five years and had to live in self-exile in London and Dubai, his importance, for some Indians, remains intact.

This “strong man” image of Musharraf, of a person who can get the job done, who is unfettered by bureaucrats and red tape also appeals to Indians.

I grew up with many middle-class Indians admiring Indira Gandhi’s emergency (at least the trains run on time!) and now see the authoritarian Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as their saviour.

Though India has mercifully escaped rule by khaki or olive green uniforms, admiration for “strong leaders” remains on display among an influential class of Indians.

This category of Indians believes that democracy exists to be manipulated, that the poor must pay for their wealth and that politicians exist to allow corporate interests free run of land and water resources to help them become richer.

There’s little space or thought for the poor or the downtrodden and little belief that the poor are also equal citizens.

So, it is this body of Indians who believe that Musharraf, divorced of his Pakistani persona, is worthy of emulation in India.

You see, Modi is loved by corporate India, which believes that this messiah equals more profit, people and regulations be damned.

Modi is also loved by another category of Indians – many among them Gujaratis who believe that he rightly “taught a lesson” to Muslims in his home state in 2002 – and communalists who believe that the country must reflect their bigoted views.

In my mind, there’s no contest between authoritarianism and democracy. It’s democracy each time — both in India and in Pakistan.

enter image description here Amit Baruah is an independent, Delhi-based journalist. He is the author of Dateline Islamabad and reported for The Hindu newspaper from Pakistan.

Author Image

Amit Baruah is an independent, Delhi-based journalist. He is the author of Dateline Islamabad and reported for The Hindu newspaper from Pakistan. He tweets @abaruah64.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (40) Closed

Abhijit Dutta, India Apr 23, 2013 07:27am
Could not agree more.
P.Mishra Apr 23, 2013 07:30am
khalidmurad1 Apr 23, 2013 06:09pm
Faryal ! I think he is either an Indian Hindu with cover name or Indian paid agent. Actually Indian hindus are celebrating Musharraf's arrest and humiliation as he had attacked their Kargil. Suprisingly our politicians and judges are also enjoying disgracing their Army chief, who recently booted Indian TV. They should ask their Indian friends to give Maha Veer Chakkar to our CJ and his team of Khilji and Khawaja.
Khan Apr 23, 2013 05:20am
What do you expect from an article written by an Indian? Intellectual in nature?
Salman Apr 23, 2013 10:11am
ANY TIME WASTED IS TIME LOST ANY TIME LOST IS INDEED FOLLY. I don't know why but it seems that the indian media is much inclined towards sensationalism. As far as i have read indian columns, i see a level preoccupation with respect to Pakistan that some would call crazy. others would say they need to mind their own business. I would say deal with your own problems and let us deal with ours. Try to maintain your stability and let us maintain ours. And let both countries allow humanity to progress.
Dilip Apr 23, 2013 03:03am
"So, it is this body of Indians who believe that Musharraf, divorced of his Pakistani persona, is worthy of emulation in India" . Utter nonsense! No such 'body of Indians exist' - the writer is only indulging in intellectual gum-chewing. The article is all aimless chew-chew and no nutrition. Musharraf is seen in India as a feckless, duplicitous creature, turning himself according to the direction the wind blowed, unable to stand up to the US, unable to stand-up to the Mullahs, just spouting statements that suit a given moment but ready to reverse if the situation changes. That is the Indian perception of Musharraf.
anil tiwari Apr 23, 2013 06:17am
I wonder why DAWN patronizes 3rd rate Journalists such as Amit Baruah who have no following in their own country. His views are incorrect. The Indian public watched the mirth of a ex-general running away from a court. The captions on most channels were 'bhaga bhaga Gidar bhaga'. Mr Baruah will of course continue to write what the Pakistani public would like to read otherwise, he's gonna loose his bread & butter.
Rajesh Apr 23, 2013 05:55am
After reading this article people forgot about Musharraf,Modi, Boston and started worrying about the standards of journalism (especially from the Indian journalists). I have read articles on Musharraf and Modi with constructive criticism or consent from both sides.But,what is this? Is it wrong if people are interested about happing
Swaran Singh Apr 23, 2013 10:04am
Dawn is anti Pakistan; a paper completely pretentious and sans vision. It only publishes softy comments which suit its master's conenience. Swaran SIngh
ASIF KHAN Apr 23, 2013 01:21am
Indian does not want to see a strong Pakistan or a strong Pakistani leader like Mr. Musharraf, who talks straight in their eyes, always interested in a fair outcome of their all disputes. If you are a positive person, you cannot deny the fact of what Mr. Musharraf did for Pakistan, he was progressive and brought Pakistan out of catastrophe and on the road of success. But some fabrics in Pakistan and India was not happy with him. India certainly don
Avik Ray Apr 22, 2013 11:49pm
Amit Baruah is either intellectually challenged or a confused man. If there is a section of Indians who are mad about Musharraf they are a small negligible faction based in Delhi. By and large Indians display a significant dislike for the dictator. He is so pathetic about his remark on Narendra Modi. According to him Modi is liked by the corporate bigwigs and the communal elements! Nothing can be further from the truth. Time and again even prominent muslim intellectuals and leaders have praised him for the good governance and leadership he showed. Narendra Modi today is a popular political leader throughout India for good reasons. Amit Baruah needs to do his homework unless he belongs to the group that has a lot to lose if Modi becomes the Prime Minister. He may not be an 'independent' journalist as he wants to portray himself. India has a large number of these.
shahid Apr 23, 2013 10:33am
One may not agree with all the points made by the writer but one thing I'll agree common Indians have very much interest/good image of Musharraf. Why I can't say. As for bizarre/ cruel comments on the article by Indian readers are concerned; these are because common line taken by the majority in India is 'National interest/prestige' rather than truth. Luckily on the other hand common Pakistanis can express absorb broader thoughts, except on religion, courtesy another dictator. Well done Amit keep up talking what you think is right, not like others who can chant only 'establishment's mantras'.
hi Apr 22, 2013 10:55pm
Yes, yes, Dawn, we know, just say it - everybody loves Musharraf, even Indians love Musharraf. Heck he's a man of the people, he's just a great person. As much as you try to convince us otherwise it's just not going to work. All it does is convince us even more of how shamelessly scoundrel you are.
Mohammad Shafiq Apr 22, 2013 10:57pm
Kargil is not the only sin he committed. He deserves hanging for multiple crimes he committed against Pakistan. His macho image was just an image which crumbled the day he ran out of the court to avoid arrest. He is a disgrace for the country. If Indians like him so much, may we should send him there for the rest of his shameful life.
umar Apr 23, 2013 09:16am
Why to make Musharraf a escape goat when every Pakistani is corrupt. Just go through the list of journalists charged with taking money from the government illegally. One is surprised to see that it includes almost every journalist starting from editors of well known papers to media reporters. If this is the character of people whose articles we read and discussions we listen to, who criticize the politicians and help make peoples opinions then what do we expect, ALLAH's divine help??? Instead of criticizing Musharraf, every single Pakistani should look into his own deeds. At least the man had the courage and love for his country that he returned back. He's not like Altaf bhai or like nawaz sharif.
justice Apr 24, 2013 06:05am
Anytime we would welcome back Musharraf !At that time a dollar was worth sixty Rs Now its worth Rs 98 That's the difference!
IndiaUSA Apr 22, 2013 09:59pm
here come's the communist
Brendon Apr 22, 2013 01:46pm
Indians are rightly interested in Musharraf for what he did, not for what he can do.he derailed democracy and judiciary. Indians want to know if he can get away with all this or not.whether judiciary has guts to punish him? If he is punished for all what he did that will have huge implication for democracy in Pakistan and India also. It will deter any future general to do the same thing. Democratically elected govt will be more interested in making peace with India then military.that is why Indians are interested in musharaf drama.
Somu Apr 22, 2013 08:58pm
Opinion columns from Pak journalists in Dawn are gems. NFP, Irfan Hussain, Zubeida and more. What makes the editors choose journos from India with convoluted logic or no logic? Like Amit Baruha, Javed Naqvi?
Voice of Pakistan Apr 22, 2013 08:30pm
Good Stuff!
Sridhar Apr 22, 2013 07:31pm
The article is somewhat befuddled in its premise. Yes. Both Pakistan and India are high power distance cultures where authoritarianism prevails and people prefer the certainty of the authoritarian leaders if the alternative is chaos. That much is clear. However, Musharraf is no more admired in India than Indira Gandhi is admired in Pakistan. People acknowledge that they had guts in whatever they did whether it was Kargil or Bangladesh. However, beyond that admiration is purely reserved for leaders under whose regime one benefitted more. Business people (mostly Gujaratis) and BJP-loving Hinduvaadis admire Narendra Modi. Indira still commands admiration from the poor and those who bear grudge against Pakistan. However, this admiration is not transferred across the border to another authoritarian figure, namely, Musharraf. The only reason the drama in Pakistan commands attention among Indians, and NRIs like me is that we are concerned for the stability next door. We have seen this movie before: the collusion of the military, the demagogues and the mullahs. Most Indians do want Pakistan to explode and hand the terrorists with the killing fields. They look forward to a day when Pakistan can live as a democracy, preferably a secular democracy. Of course, one can dream can't they?
Yahya Apr 22, 2013 03:02pm
I am still unable to grasp the whole matter discussed here.
Ram Krishan Sharma Apr 22, 2013 07:02pm
Musharaff is an Indian national by birth . Born in Delhi.
skeptic Apr 22, 2013 07:01pm
The Indians are absolutely loving seeing this, Pakistani institutions biting at each others neck and making a mockery of themselves. As a humble student of history and as an urban Pakistani i have no confusion in my mind saying that India has always aspired the disintegration of Pakistan as they see this as the only way to counter an irritant but a very real military threat from Pakistan.These are great days for our friends from across the border and they want to see Gen Musharaf bite the dusta",the upstart migrator who had the guts to dared them". A recent article by Anatol Lieven" a mutiny great grows in Punjab" is a great read and highly recommended to gain overall perpective on Pakistan's situation.
sanju Apr 23, 2013 02:23pm
its no surprise that he was arrested. its was just his foolhardiness to return. he should have relaxed abroad and made his comments in media about the state of Pakistan. Yes, lets hope democracy wins in the subcontinent and prevails.
naseem Apr 22, 2013 05:57pm
LOL. Loved, you are dreaming, wake up and smell the coffee.
P. Joseph Raju Apr 22, 2013 03:15pm
Great article. I don't think Indians do care to elect any leaders in Pakistan. The media loves the sensation. It is simply news for them. They don't care for Musharraf or Asharraf. Like any media in the world, the Indian media do not represent the voice of India. They are there to make news and report news. India will be much benefitted of a strong and stable Pakistan. I think it is the Army desperately wants Musharraf back for their hegemony and supremacy. Gen. Kayani doesn't have much backbones as demonstrated by him during the last few years. Poor Musharraf believed too much himself and at the behest ofhis cronies in the army he came back hoping for another Army (controlled) rule in Pakistan. It is the Army in the Pakistan wants an unstable Pakistan for their own supremacy and control. As long as the army controls Pakistan there is no hope ever to build a strong Pakistan. Gen. Kayani knows well now that their credibility and supremacy is under attack, and therefore he is willing to do anything and say anything to get someone elected next month whether a Musharraf or a radical islamist to suit their continuous domination of Pakistan.
SPar Apr 22, 2013 10:26am
Amit Baruah is probably expressing his own imagination. I think he is entirely wrong on this one.
Parvez Apr 22, 2013 10:27am
After reading this I realise how important perception really truly is more than reality. As you say the perception of the ' strong man ' image of Musharraf in India was and is strong, while in Pakistan we have seen this to be a myth, for in reality he was the complete opposite. On the issue of Modi you have resorted to a bit of writers jugglery and confused the narrative because whoever comes Congress or BJP it will be through a one person-one vote democratic process.
John Apr 22, 2013 03:26pm
None of the Indians I know admire Mush. They are jubilant about his arrest. He doesn't have the guts to accept his mistakes.
A. Hameed Apr 22, 2013 09:57am
What a sheer waste of time!
Tamilselvan Apr 22, 2013 09:39am
India rightly so should be more concerned in what's happening 90 miles from her border rather than what's happening 9000 miles away! So obviously things happening in Pakistan is more of a concern than what's happening in Boston. I am sure people in both countries are fedup with problems and want to see progress in their homes. Modi fulfills it as much as the liberal media is trying to keep 2002 riots alive and are blaming him for it. Who'll fulfill Pakistan's similar aspirations is yet to be seen
Irrfaan Akhtaar Apr 22, 2013 09:37am
musharaff is loved despite his sin in kargil because of his four point kashmir resolution
Shahpur Apr 22, 2013 04:11pm
Musharaff was born in Dehli, He became a Pakistani, a general and a head of state. Democracy is a Greeks Invention. Greeks called it "Rule of the Mob". Indians and Pakistanis are tribes and clans. May be dictatorship is better than this Democracy(Rule of the mob". Musharraf is important to both India and Pakistan. We are both a product of a THEORY. Who is a Traitor and who is not, is an important question. . .
MS Apr 22, 2013 04:56pm
I am surprised how the media is behaving on Musharraf Saga . This is the same media who owes their freedom to Musharraf . This is the same media who has been receiving illegal payments from the last PPP government ( see the list from SC), from businessmen and politicians how can they judge Musharraf as they are biased and influenced . So are our courts who wants to get back on Musharraf and are blidend by the rage and revenge. If Musharraf has done wrong he was not alone there were others who should be held equally accountable and answerable.
Ch Farooq Apr 24, 2013 04:00am
Though a dictator but Musharaf was an honest and patriot Pakistani. Corruption and poverty came down in his era. He was far better than most of politicians that we have.
Faryal Apr 23, 2013 01:11pm
Aren't you disgraced by saying all that crap without any proof to your ex-army chief. Any patriot should be proud of their Army for not letting them down against their enemy and same did the Musharaf. Soon the day will come when every Pakistani will realize the truth about Musharaf. Surely you will have to regret on your opinion that day.
concerned212 Apr 22, 2013 02:29pm
Right on.
Omer Apr 22, 2013 02:26pm
Musharraf command my respect and appreciation for his valour, intelligence and patriotism. He is amongst very few in Pakistan who are known in the entire world for their great leadership qualities. He is man of great attributes. Today when I see all this fuss and hatred and malice for this person I feel that our Nation probably doesn't deserve him. His critics call him a dictator, a law breaker but I tell you very honestly that dictatorship in Pakistan is not a monopoly of Army Generals alone. Its a mindset. Our political leaders are not at all democrat in nature. Our so called respected Chief Justice is a dictator of new era who has a classic gun of law in hand. A gun which can fire anyway, anywhere, anytime as he feels like. Our judiciary in the name of justice and rule of law is mostly settling past scores. Is there any remedy in the system if judiciary becomes biased and vindictive? Can today any govt/President can send a reference against any sitting Judge to supreme Judicial counsel in which their brethren sit ?? Can today in Pakistan any one can arrest a Lawyer for any criminal offense?? The answer is No. When Judiciary decides to give relief it turns out to be Asghar Khan Case and when it comes to their relatives it becomes Arsalan Iftikhar's. When Judiciary decides to try Gen Musharraf in anti terrorism court who spearheaded Global War on Terror and sets free hard core militants like Hafiz Saeed and Malik Ishaq than it is called a mockery NOT Justice!!
subhash Apr 22, 2013 01:45pm
an article with no sense of direction or perspective.