In The Line of Fire

Book review

In The Line of Fire

by Pervez Musharraf

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, Pakistan’s military dictator in presidential clothing, is unlikely to survive in his post much longer. He is trying to sack one of the Supreme Court judges who is not following his wishes in the run-up to the general elections later this year. There are wide divisions within the ruling elite. Police have smashed up a television station that showed anti-government protests.

Kevin Simpson

The Pakistani media reported that a senior CIA representative visited the country last month. According to unsubstantiated rumours, he let it be known that the US would not oppose another general taking over.

The massive instability in Pakistan makes Musharraf’s autobiography, which is an attempted whitewash of what his military rule means, even more ridiculous than when it was first published. His memoirs are an account of the events that lead to the military coup against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in October 1999, which saw Musharraf seizing power as Chief Executive. It also covers the aftermath of 9/11.

Pakistani capitalism is weak and crisis-ridden and the army has used this situation to intervene many times in the country’s history. It is incapable of competing economically on a regional or world scale and is tied to the interests of the feudal landlords by a million threads.

There has been nothing democratic about Musharraf’s rule. He has shamelessly rigged elections to stay in power, broken his promise to give up his general’s position and brutally attacked the minimal democratic rights of the working class.

Like many dictators, Musharraf is infatuated with himself and how people see him. Without a blush he says of his physical prowess as a student, “I …was third in the ‘Mr FC College’ bodybuilding competition … Muhammad Iqbal Butt, who had competed creditably in the Mr Universe competition, told me at the time that I had a most muscular physique”!

Fanciful stories aside, Musharraf does try to explain his political philosophy. He is an admirer of Attaturk, the army officer and creator of modern-day Turkey, particularly since his family lived there for five years when he was young.

Musharraf describes his ideas as “enlightened moderation”. For him this means the Muslim world fighting terrorism to concentrate on social and economic development. Alongside this is the necessity for the West to solve the political injustices faced by the Muslim world, particularly the Palestinian conflict.

The only economic development in Pakistan has been in the huge profits made by the capitalist elite. These were mainly a result of the implementation of brutal neo-liberal policies introduced by Musharraf’s regime including the widespread privatisation of state industry. Basic foodstuffs have increased in price by 300% – measures like these explain the hatred and disgust towards the army that exists right across Pakistan today.


However, the part of the book that will be of most interest to socialists is that dealing with the 9/11 attacks on the US. This had huge affects on the world situation and on Pakistan.

Musharraf clearly states that US imperialism and the Pakistani military were responsible for the creation, training and funding of the Taliban and al-Qa’ida.

The Taliban was the reactionary Islamic organisation, linked to al-Qa’ida that fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet backed regime, and who ruled the country up until 2001. What is incredible is that Musharraf implies that the Pakistani military and the US only fully realised the true nature of the Taliban and al-Qa’ida after 9/11.

Musharraf explains how the head of Pakistan’s secret service was told by Richard Armitage, US Deputy Secretary of State, in the days following 9/11 that if Pakistan did not support the US, they should “Be prepared to be bombed. Back to the stone age”. Even Colin Powell said: “You are either with us or against us”.

In the face of these threats, and with the added carrot of huge aid, Musharraf explains that the military took a cold, calculating decision. They dumped their previous allies in Afghanistan and became some of the most ardent supporters of the ‘war on terror’.

This section of the book is definitely worth reading. The rest gives a distorted view of the thinking of the military in one of the most populous Muslim countries in the world. The working class, its mood and daily experience are hardly mentioned, but it is only this section of society that offer a way out for Pakistan; not the corrupt elite who have blighted the country’s existence ever since its formation.

In the Line of Fire by Pervez Musharraf, Simon & Schuster (£8.99 paperback)