An unnecessary outburst

Published January 30, 2008

AS the army chief and the country's self-styled chief executive, General Pervez Musharraf may have lacked legitimacy, but he rarely lacked charm and aplomb when appearing before the media. Over the years, particularly as the military ruler, he was seen as handling the toughest of questions with great panache, and on many occasions, with a smile. It was perhaps because of this that here and more so abroad the media often seemed to forget that he was a military ruler. But of late his personality seems to have undergone a transformation. He has taken to snapping at journalists at news conferences and is irritable and ready to explode at the slightest perceived provocation. But, as if this were not enough, the way he asked a gathering of his supporters to teach a lesson (

do, teen tika do) to this newspaper's London correspondent because he had asked him a tough question was a bit too much. The president, it appears, has journeyed from the sublime to the ridiculous.

One runs into a dead-end in explaining how one question can trigger such anger, and can only speculate about the reasons. The first and foremost appears to be the widening gulf between how the president assesses his performance in office and how others see it, particularly in terms of his handling of militancy in the country. Although his advisers may tell him he may have weathered the storm over the judiciary, he may be unsure what the next parliament's view on the issue will be. A greater issue could be how pressure is increasing on him to hold free and fair elections, even from allies who have stood solidly behind him through thick and thin over the past several years. For one who described his uniform as his second skin, retiring as the all-powerful army chief may have left him feeling vulnerable. But, regardless of the cause, one would advise the president to keep his cool, his composure. For such outbursts do not inspire confidence in his ability to steer the country out of the troubled waters it finds itself in today.

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