| Musharraf carries the gun (circled) at Chitral Valley
Islamabad, Aug. 5: At a polo match or a dance, Pervez Musharraf wears his gun on his hip. At summits with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, too' Well, we don’t know yet.
Last month, the commando-turned-President was at Chitral Valley in Pakistan’s north. Often seen at cricket matches, Musharraf had made the trip to the mountainous region to watch a game of polo.
As the rough and tough match typical to the region was played on Shandoor plateau, at an altitude of 3,734 metres, the President’s gun was visible above his right hip.
Later, he told a gathering of senior officials and close associates that he always carries it with him.
Musharraf, 63, is said to have started carrying one around after December 25, 2003, when he survived the second suicide attack in two weeks by radical militants upset with Pakistan for joining the US war on terror. Elaborate security arrangements usually precede the President’s visits and he also uses decoys — cars and helicopters — just as many heads of state do.
But few carry a gun. George W. Bush certainly doesn’t, though some might say the Texan’s mouth is enough to kill of shock. Fidel Castro, in whose well-being or otherwise Bush has been showing a great deal of interest lately, used to. But Castro was then a guerrilla leader fighting General Fulgencio Batista. He does wear the military fatigue, but a gun hasn’t been seen peeping through it yet.
On the contrary, Musharraf’s gun was conspicuous again when, wearing the traditional Chitrali cap, he joined the Chitralis as they danced to local tunes on the playground.
Part of the dancing party, he looked a different man — a President among his people and not the commando he has been most of his life. But the gun gave the General away.
That and the thoughtfully chosen gift. Musharraf presented Amir Muqqam, the federal minister for water and power, with a gun, which he said was similar to the one he carried.
“These guns are the same but the only difference is that mine is laser-guided,” Musharraf told the gathering while handing it over to Muqqam.
“Amir Muqqam is my brother and that is why he also faces the same threats as I do.”
Laser-guided weapons find the target on their own — “fire and forget, the gun does the rest”.
The make of Musharraf’s gun is a secret, but it is thought to be American. The US has provided personal security devices for him, including the “remote signal jammers” in his cars that saved his life in the December 2003 attack that killed 17.
His aircraft is equipped with state-of-the art US surveillance and security technology, a personal gift from Bush.
Within weeks, Musharraf’s autobiography, being published by Simon and Schuster, UK, will be on shopshelves and reveal more about the man, possibly even the place of guns in his life. In the Line of Fire — A Memoir traces his journey from his childhood to becoming President.
Once it’s out, we will know whether the General shoots from his hip or not.