Kashmir poll & murder plot in Pervez bag

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By FROM K.P. NAYAR in Washington
  • Published 9.09.02

Washington, Sept. 9: Two days ahead of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s arrival in New York, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf used his son’s home turf of Boston to provide a preview of his week-long anti-India tirade, which the general hopes, will mitigate some of America’s unease against Pakistan’s farcical elections planned for next month.

Speaking at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government yesterday, Musharraf turned US secretary of state Colin Powell’s recent words about election observers in Jammu and Kashmir to his advantage.

Describing the elections in the state as a mock exercise, Musharraf said: “The very fact that international observers are being denied any oversight role proves this point beyond doubt”.

The so-called elections in Kashmir, the general said, have a long history of manipulation by New Delhi and they cannot be “free, fair, open, transparent or inclusive”.

That Musharraf was totally unfazed in criticising India’s democracy while praising his own model of representative government for Pakistan made it clear that the general, wily as ever, will do his best to make the most of his one-week stay in the US.

As Musharraf began his whirlwind schedule in the US,which many see as crucial for his political survival, police in Karachi announced the arrest of five Islamic militants for conspiring to kill the Pakistani strongman in April. The conspirators include a naval employee.

Rumours about a spate of attempts to kill Musharraf have been swirling in Pakistan and intelligence sources here give credence to some such stories.

But the timing of the arrests in the alleged Karachi plot makes it clear that Musharraf intends to exploit American fears about his vulnerability when the general meets President George W. Bush in New York this week.

America’s need for Musharraf to be in charge in Islamabad has been a pet theme in discussions between Washington’s top officials and Indian leaders who have been repeatedly cautioned against a war between India and Pakistan. But by pushing the Karachi conspiracy into headlines a day after Musharraf began his public engagements, his spin doctors are making it clear that the general’s strategy during his visit is aimed at making gains in Islamabad’s public relations war in America.

As part of this effort to win American hearts, his spin doctors announced a clear link between the assassination plot against Musharraf and the bombing of the US consulate in Karachi in June.

It was announced in Karachi today that the murder conspirators belong to the same radical organisation which bombed the US consulate. Plotters who hatched another attempt on Musharraf's life also came from the same organisation, they said.

In Boston, home to Musharraf’s son and daughter-in-law, Musharraf met the editorial board of The Christian Science Monitor. On the second leg of his trip, Musharraf will stay for a day with brother in Chicago. There, he will have a similar meeting with the editors of the Chicago Tribune and give a few TV interviews. Chicago has the biggest concentration of Pakistanis in the US. Musharraf will address to Council for Foreign Relations during his stay there.

That Musharraf is giving priority to the media is also clear from his itinerary in New York. On September 11, he will have lunch with the editors of The New York Times and go on CNN on prime time. In New York, Musharraf will have breakfast with the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal and be interviewed by two TV networks: Fox News and NBC.