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Tuesday, September 26, 2006


When did you last hear of a ghost-written, oops sorry that's supposed to be a co-written account receiving a million dollar advance? Well, Pakistan's military chief scored a coup by doing that. He has also become the first serving Pakistani Army Chief and President to publish his autobiography.

While thousands of copies have been spotted in Pakistan, no one's entirely certain about its worldwide sales. Though I bet with an advance like that, publishers Simon & Schuster aren't tearing their hair about it.

'In The Line of Fire' chronicles President Musharraf's journey from a middle-class Delhi family through the partition of India, the creation of Pakistan and his ascent to power.

Among other things, the Kargil War, the 1999 military coup ousting then premier Nawaz Sharif, 9/11 and the events after that have been discussed in the memoir - the title of which interestingly has been inspired by the famous Clint Eastwood flick - 'In Line With Fire'.

Expectedly, the rumblings have begun. Some points raised include:
- The CIA paid Pakistan millions of dollars for for catching al Qaeda fighters during the five years since 9/11
- How the US administration persuaded him with threats to join the global war on terror

The quotes are as colourful as the charges. The General recalls watching the aftermath of the terror attacks on television:
"America was sure to react violently, like a wounded bear. If the perpetrator turned out to be Al-Qaeda, then that wounded bear would come
charging straight towards us."

In another part Colin Powell is said to have told President Musharraf "you are either with us or against us."

Though the most damaging comments are reserved for Richard Armitage:
"In what was to be the most undiplomatic statement ever made, deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage added to what Colin Powell had said to me
and told the (Pakistani intelligence) director general... that if we chose the terrorists, then we should be prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age."

It's a charge that Armitage has denied. While the verbal duels are about to take off, what's clearly emerged is the fact that when it comes to President Musharraf there is a very thin line between friends and foes. What his friends make of his account, would be indeed interesting to see. Now, if only someone would sign up US President Bush for his interpretation of the events that clearly changed the world as we know it.