World Bulletin / News Desk
Former military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who now lives in self-imposed exile abroad and is supposedly too ill to face court cases against himself inside Pakistan, has sparked yet another controversy by resurfacing as a talk show TV host from Dubai.
The appearance on Pakistani media outlet Bol’s weekly TV show has left the country’s journalist and legal fraternity enraged, some of whom described the controversial retired general’s latest antic as a “joke”.
They note the irony in the fact that Musharraf had himself ordered a crackdown against the media during his rule between 1999 and 2008, but now was appearing in his own TV show.
Analysts wonder why the former army chief is making such a desperate move and ponder whether he thinks he could somehow become relevant following his shambolic post-rule political career, which saw his political party failing to get widespread support from any part of the country.
Weekly shows planned
Musharraf's first show was aired on Bol on Feb. 26 and was titled “Sab Se Pehle Pakistan [or Pakistan First] with President Pervez Musharraf,” totally overlooking the fact that he is now a former, not the current head of the state.
The promo of the show also beamed his picture in full army chief regalia just like he used to appear during his military rule. The channel declared that the "pride of Pakistan" will now appear every Sunday in the show.
The format of his program is also a bit different. Instead of having multiple experts with divergent views on the program, his first show was basically an extended 40-minute interview with his own self, where a female host from a studio in Pakistan's Karachi city put a set of choreographed questions to Musharraf who appeared via a video link from the U.A.E.
As expected, the ex-military ruler took the opportunity on air to repeatedly discredit the current elected government of Nawaz Sharif. On terrorism, he said the problem on that front has always been Punjab – the political base of current premier – where he alleged extremist groups were deliberately given a free rein. He called for a complete overhaul of the “system of governance” in the country and claimed the current democratic set up was a complete sham.
He also highlighted the Panama corruption scandal involving the Sharif family, urging the Pakistani judiciary to quickly give a verdict and claimed the sitting prime minister was already guilty in the eyes of the public.
The general also spoke at length about his own achievements during his reign on the television channel.
His next show this coming Sunday is expected to discuss the hottest topics of the week, according to the latest promo.
Pending court cases
Musharraf is facing a string of trials, including a high treason case for which he was indicted in March 2014.
The former army chief has been accused of being directly involved in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, veteran Baloch politician Nawab Akbar Bugti and Islamabad’s Red Mosque cleric Ghazi Abdul Rasheed. He could face the death penalty if found guilty in any of the ongoing cases in Pakistan.
Despite the court cases against him, Musharraf was allowed to leave the country, reportedly after intervention from his military backers, on the pretext of seeking medical treatment for his ailing heart and back.
In 1999, Musharraf had staged a coup against the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He forced Sharif and his family to live in Saudi Arabia under a deal while he ruled Pakistan for around nine years. In an irony of ironies, it is now Musharraf who lives in self-imposed exile in a gulf country, the United Arab Emirates, while Sharif is again running the government as premier since 2013.
Legal experts such as former Supreme Court Judge Wajihuddin Ahmed see the out-of-the-blue appearance of the “proclaimed absconder” on television as a matter “which needs to be seriously examined by the judiciary”.
Ahmed told Anadolu Agency: “This is a very serious matter. In any civilized country, if a proclaimed absconder appears on media, it raises serious questions.
“This is not only the responsibility of the media regulatory authorities but the courts of law, which are hearing cases against him, to examine this issue.”
Journalists in Pakistan dismissed the possibility of Musharraf ever becoming a successful TV host.
Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan’s most popular Islamabad-based TV hosts, said: “This is a joke! A person who is wanted in murder cases, and is not appearing before the court despite repeated summons, will now be hosting a TV show.
“What message is being conveyed to the judiciary through his show? Won’t it convey to the courts that they can act against politicians, bureaucracy and others but not against a military dictator,” Mir, who survived an assassination attempt reportedly at the behest of a Pakistani intelligence agency in 2014, said.
“He had tried to become a civilian president, but he could not. Then he tried to become a politician, but failed. Now he is trying to become a [TV] anchor, and I am sure he will fail again,” he said.
He also said it was apt the ex-military ruler was appearing in a discredited group’s media outlet. Bol is a subsidiary of the Axact group that was embroiled in massive fake degree mill scandal after a New York Times expoze in 2015. The high-ups of the group remain entangled in court cases where they have been accused of selling fake degrees from hundreds of non-existent universities to people from all over the world.
“A dictator and a channel like this will be a perfect combination,” Mir added.
Afzal Butt, senior member of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, described Musharraf’s hiring as a TV host as “unethical”.
“It is the right of any media house to hire whoever it wants. But at least, a person who is an absconder, who shut down media houses [during his rule] and is not ready to appear before the courts, should not have been provided a platform by the media,” Butt told Anadolu Agency.
Faysal Aziz Khan, a Bol TV editor, however, defended his network's decision. “He [Musharraf] is the only former head of state who is doing a TV show. He was straight forward as a statesman, and now as a politician.
“He always comes forward aggressively on issues, especially with respect to India, which is a requirement of Pakistani media and the people,” Khan told Anadolu Agency.Last Mod: 03 Mart 2017, 10:20