Bush misjudged Musharraf as a democratic reformer, say critics

November 19th, 2007 - 1:32 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Nov 19 (ANI): Critics feel that US President George W. Bush misjudged his Pakistani counterpart General Pervez Musharraf, whom he once called a man of “courage and vision,” and now he is backing away from the military leader.
They said that Bush was taken in by Musharraf with his fluent English and his promises to hold elections and relinquish military power in Pakistan.
The New York Times quoted them as saying that when Bush looked at General Musharraf six years ago, he saw a democratic reformer when he should have seen a dictator instead.
“He didn’t ask the hard questions, and frankly, neither did the people working for him,” said Husain Haqqani, an expert on Pakistan at Boston University, who has advised two previous Pakistani prime ministers, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto. “They bought the PR image of Musharraf as the reasonable general. Bush bought the line - hook, line and sinker.”
According to White House aides, Bush is clear-eyed about his pact with the general, which was sealed in November 2001 over an intimate dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.
“It was a lovely dinner, very sociable,” said Wendy J. Chamberlin, the former ambassador to Pakistan, who attended. “I wasn’t nervous, because I knew Musharraf and I knew how charming he is, and I could see that they would get along fine. And besides, the mood was exuberant. Musharraf was like a conquering hero, Musharraf had done the right thing. He was the man of the day.”
Today, the general is hardly the man of the day, the daily said.
The “Bush-Mush relationship,” as some American scholars call it, has always been complicated, more a bond of convenience than a genuine friendship, some experts said.
“When he was running for office in 2000, Bush didn’t even know General Musharraf’s name; he couldn’t identify the leader of Pakistan for a reporter’s pop quiz during an interview that was widely replayed on late-night television,” the paper said.
After 9/11 attacks, Bush demanded Musharraf’s allegiance in pursuing al Qaeda - and got it. General Musharraf demanded military aid that could help him maintain power - and got it.
Experts said that Musharraf has played the union masterfully, by convincing Bush that he alone can keep Pakistan stable. Kamran Bokhari, an analyst for Stratfor, who met with General Musharraf in January, said the general viewed Bush with some condescension.
“Musharraf thinks that Bush has certain weaknesses that can be manipulated,” Bokhari said, adding, “I would say that President Musharraf doesn’t think highly of President Bush, but his interests force him to do business with the US president.”
While Bush was “favourably impressed” with Musharraf, according to Ari Fleischer, the president’s former press secretary.
Recounted one session where the General had been warned in advance not to ask the President for F-16 fighter jets, because the answer would be no, Fleischer said: “Musharraf brought it up anyway.”
“And Bush told him the answer is no. But I think Bush liked the fact that he does what he wants to do, and says what’s on his mind,” Fleischer added.
Richard C. Holbrooke, the Ambassador to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton, said one of Bush’s biggest mistakes was not pressing Musharraf to turn over A Q Khan, the former chief of Pakistan’s nuclear program, to American interrogators.
“I don’t see that the Bush administration was wrong in 2001 to put its chips on Musharraf, who promised democracy and who promised to take off his uniform, but something has gone very badly wrong,” Holbrooke said, adding, “The question is, is this because Bush was soft on Musharraf the way he was soft on Putin?”
But with the imposition of emergency in Pakistan, the Bush administration has begun thinking about alternatives to Musharraf, and is reaching out to generals who might replace him, the paper said. (ANI)

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