Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Pakistani Review on Musharraf's book

" 'Political speech and writing,' says George Orwell is largely the 'defence of the indefensible.' So if the literary genius read General Pervez Musharraf's memoir, In The Line of Fire, What would he say? Though most of the world knows George Orwell for his book, Animal Farm, I remember him for the essay called, Politics and The English Language. It is his classic work on all political writing to date. Orwell deconstructs bad writing by politicians and fascists alike with ease, but I feel that he would be in quiet a fix with Musharraf's book, and wouldn't know what to make of it really.

"[...] Now that I have read Musharraf's Memoir, I wondered if I should go back to Orwell, or shall I put a value on the popularity that this head of state of a developing country has on, say, the Jon Stewart show. Pakistan is headed by a military dictator who can neither be dictator enough to do away with the extra-constitutional Hudood laws, nor benevolent enough to resign as army chief and stand for elections. Flip-flopping between appeasing the mullahs and the west, he plays to the theatre by walking the much acclaimed tightrope of a moderate Muslim country's leader, all on Pakistan's expense. Orwell asked readers of political literature to notice how the word 'democracy' is used in a 'consciously dishonest way' and notice that when we say that a country is democratic 'we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning.'

"When I bought the memoir, angry, I thought I was ready to unleash Orwell onto it. I thought I could circle a few embarrassing quotes from Musharraf that have 'private definitions but allow his hearer to think he means something quite different.' [...]

"I thought I could point to the images of a decapitated bomber who tried to assassinate him and say that it was in bad taste, that he was using an image of war to define urgency which reflected the decay of his political thought. I wanted him to stop condemning earlier politicians for what they did and begin by undoing their wrong if he cared enough. It wasn't that simple though, I noticed that Pervez Musharraf steers clear from George Orwell's most cautioned malaise -- lack of clarity.

"[...] Musharraf labels rot as rot, and if his story is to be believed he never would be a dictator, nor does he support the interference of the military into politics, as he explains at length, for the right reasons too. Any witness to the history that maps his last 10 years has reason to substantiate the circumstances that led to his rise as army chief and supreme leader of Pakistan. [...]

"Refreshingly though, the book isn't written for the American, as much as it resonates with the nationalist Pakistani with the Jinnahist ethic -- the secular democratic Pakistan that is successfully liberal because of its culturally Islamic background rather than despite it. Despite the clarity with which Musharraf approaches the book, he cannot be pardoned for the mistakes he's made in real governance. One only wishes he walked his text. Musharraf, as a young boy, escaping the violence of the Hindu mobs before Pakistan was created, says he cried on the day Pakistan's founder, Barrister Mohammad Ali Jinnah died. A claim no one can testify to, but the nobility of which is not lost, for it to deserve mention in this world best-seller. Yet, I find that Musharraf's understanding of the political history of Pakistan's creation is a bit shallow. [...]"

Source: The News (Pakistan), October 20, 2006