If I was an easily excitable octogenarian news junkie, this is the sort of stuff that would send me licking my chops and saying “Oh boy!” As it is, I just get excited and start twitching under the left eye. Why? Because the upcoming Karzai-Musharraf meeting in Ankara is shaping up to be even more interesting than I had predicted. Even the American president failed to have the two shake hands at a White House dinner aimed exclusively at conciliation; perhaps Prime Minister Erdogan should opt for plastic cutlery instead of silverware.
While Karzai has yet to find the platform and the choice words to give his own steamy retort to Musharraf’s comments earlier this month that he is “indeed very angry” at his Afghan partner, and that Karzai’s claims that the Taliban are in Pakistan are “absolute nonesense”, Musharraf scores yet again with yet another western audience.
In an interview published by the Spanish newspaper El Pais today, Musharraf said: “The ones who do nothing against terrorism, like Karzai, are those who criticize those who fight, like us.”
Correct me if I am wrong, but sometimes I get the feeling that having a Western audience who feel oh, all so honored to recieve such dignitaries and who gawk and gloat at the two, just invigorates these men and makes them say things that are not really in their interests, and that they invariably regret later on.
Speaking to an audience of students about Islam and the West, the self-styled enlightened tyrant and benevolent dictator also claimed that both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban “were imported from Afganistan…We in Pakistan are victims.” While I would like to think of myself as separate from the horde that is Musharraf-bashing Afghans, and while I do think that Musharraf is concerned about the ill effects of Islamism of Pakistani society and politics and sincerely wants to tackle it, these claims by the General are factually wrong, and outrageous. Enough evidence exists to show that former Pakistani governments (especially that of the other enligthened Pakistani democrat, Benazir Bhutto) all but gave birth to the Taliban phenomenon.
Now the proverbial ball is in president Karzai’s court. I hope that he refrains from the norm and remains aloof -thus capturing the moral high ground and keeping a modicum of civility at least for the upcoming Ankara meeting. But a devious part of me also wants him to let out in a big way, again. Dammit, it has been so long since the two men’s fall tour of the US news studios.
(For a more detailed commentary and some backdrop about the upcoming meeting in Ankara on April 29, and how Turkey is best placed to host it -owing to historical ties to both Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as the US- read Looking for Love in Ankara)