- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s just-released memoir, “In the Line of Fire,” breaks sharply with the political tradition of publishing only pablum while still in office.

Gen. Musharraf’s tell-all, released yesterday as the Pakistani leader was in the midst of a U.S. visit, has exposed U.S. blustering after September 11, revealed bounties paid for capturing al Qaeda terrorists, and angered India with its account of a still-contested 1999 clash over the disputed Kashmir region.

It has also earned a unique televised endorsement from President Bush at his joint press conference with the general last week and generated a pre-release buzz that a publicist for a rival publishing house called “priceless.”

“It’s a highly unusual thing for a sitting head of state to do, but it isn’t totally out of character for Musharraf,” said Walter Andersen, a former top South Asia specialist at the State Department who now teaches at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

“He’s cultivated a reputation for blunt talk, for being a military man who’s not afraid to be frank,” said Mr. Andersen. “I’m sure his publishers are loving it, although I imagine there are some people in his own foreign ministry and intelligence service who are staying up late these days.”

Mr. Bush made his semi-serious endorsement at a press briefing in which Gen. Musharraf deflected reporters’ questions by saying he was pledged to New York publisher Simon & Schuster not to reveal details of the manuscript before yesterday’s official release date.

A senior publicist for another New York publishing house said the exchange amounted to an advertising mother lode for the book.

“I’m listening to this stuff and thinking, ‘This kind of talk is priceless,’” she said, speaking on the condition her name not be used.

Gen. Musharraf’s account of how U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage issued a threat to bomb Pakistan “back to the Stone Age” if it did not join the post-September 11 U.S. war on terror — a threat Mr. Armitage has denied making — has been followed by other revelations as the book has hit the bookstores and has been serialized in the London Times.

According to the book:

• Gen. Musharraf “war-gamed” a confrontation with the United States if he refused to fight the fundamentalist Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan, concluding neither the country’s military nor its economy would survive the fight.

• Five units of Pakistani troops — despite continued denials by Islamabad — took part in the 1999 clash with Indian troops in Kargil district of Kashmir, a divided land claimed by both nations. Mr. Andersen said Pakistan’s official position has long been that only Kashmiri “freedom fighters” took part in the strike.

Indian military officials, meanwhile, were sharply denying Gen. Musharraf’s contention in the book that the battle was a “victory” for Pakistan. The Indian officials said Pakistan-backed forces took heavier casualties and were forced to sue for peace.

• The CIA secretly paid Pakistan “hundreds of millions of dollars in bounties” for the capture of over 350 al Qaeda figures after September 11, according to the London Times’ excerpt. The U.S. Justice Department denied any knowledge of the payments, saying such bounties were intended as rewards for individuals, not foreign governments.

• Indian scientists may have used equipment and technology bought from the black-market nuclear network set up by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani engineer considered the father of Pakistan’s own nuclear bomb.

Mr. Andersen said the book’s contents would probably prove “irritating” for the governments involved, including Pakistan itself, but said it was unlikely to have a major impact on the Musharraf government’s relations with its key partners, including the United States, India and Afghanistan.

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