=> LONDON (January 26 2008): President Pervez Musharr
LONDON (January 26 2008): President Pervez Musharraf cast himself as a champion of human rights and free expression on Friday – then turned on a journalist who questioned him and said rights should have limits.
Addressing a packed audience in Britain at the Royal United Services Institute, a defence think-tank, Musharraf spent 30 minutes explaining recent Pakistan history, his battle against militants and plans for national elections set for February 18. But it was while talking about rights and freedoms that he became most exercised, lauding himself as a true defender.
“I strongly am a believer in human rights and individual liberties and freedom of speech,” he said, after being ushered late into the building by a phalanx of guards and attaches. “The only thing that we would like is that this freedom should be in bounds and not lead to violence and destruction. “We cannot allow anyone to destabilise us and lead us towards anarchy in the name of human rights,” he said.
Musharraf said there were three areas in which the West misunderstood Pakistan, wrongly casting aspersions on him and denigrating his policies. The first, he said, was the conception that a judicial crisis in which he has been responsible for dismissing judges was somehow a human rights issue.
“This was not a human rights issue, it was a legal issue that was converted into a political issue and then further converted into a crisis for the nation,” he said. Other misconceptions in the foreign media were that next month’s parliamentary vote might not be free or fair and that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons arsenal was not properly secured.
“The election will be free, fair, transparent and peaceful,” he said. “Any bugs in the system that could be manipulated have been removed by me and the election officials.” On nuclear weapons, he said there was no possibility of them falling into the hands of what he called extremists – saying the only way that could happen is if somehow al Qaeda defeated the army or won elections and came to power itself. “Neither of which is remotely possible,” he said.
An audience of dignitaries, including Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth, gave him standing applause at the end of his appearance, which came just after a visit to the Davos summit in Switzerland.
But Musharraf, who denied that Pakistan’s security services had anything to do with the assassination last month of Benazir Bhutto, his chief election rival, did not leave everyone contented – particularly not the press.
He dismissed a question from Sky News about whether the election would be fair by saying: “Show me a certificate and I’ll sign it.” And when a Pakistani newspaper editor based in London asked him about the security services, he turned on him. “It’s people like you who cast aspersions,” he said, jabbing his finger. “Then the foreign media take it up… You are trying to cast aspersions by blaming the intelligence services,” he said, turning away with the question unanswered.
Source: Business Recorder