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Life of an ex-dictator: A documentary on Musharraf throws some uncomfortable questions

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Washington :“Ye Mo saab hain,” former Pakistan prime minister Pervez Musharraf says to his mother Zarin, sipping tea and gesturing towards a 38-year-old at his breakfast table. “I used to call my younger brother Mo. He was mo-ta (fat),” he adds. Both men laugh.

Filmmaker Mohammed Ali Naqvi, or Mo, is known to use his work to explore perilous subjects. His last film, Among the Believers, was about Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi, head of the Lal Masjid mujahideen training base; a Special Emmy-winning project before that was on the international human rights icon and gang-rape survivor Mukhtaran Mai.

For his documentary on Musharraf, Insha’Allah Democracy, Naqvi shadowed the former dictator and Army general for five years, as the man readied for a political comeback while living in Dubai and London.

 

So you see Musharraf as a stodgy, middle-aged man in black trunks and swimming goggles at his pool. Look over his shoulder as he logs into Facebook every morning, celebrates New Year’s Eve in the Middle-East, breakfasts with his mother.

“I shot the film myself, most of it with a handheld. I wanted my time with Musharraf to feel deeply personal and intimate – as if the audience were voyeurs,” says Naqvi.

He turns the camera on himself too, revealing why this is as much a political as a personal mission. In the 1990s, his uncle, Dr Nadeemul Hasan, was killed in his Karachi home, during a spate of violence against Shias. As an insecure teenager, Musharraf became Naqvi’s idol, a champion of minorities.

He admits that he started on his project in 2010 with a sense of awe. The two men exchanged jokes, hung out at the beach. “Musharraf came into my life at a time when I had a strong sense of disillusionment at the state of affairs in Pakistan. He had helped shaped contemporary history. Now, he was licking his wounds in self-imposed exile, trying to run for election in a country that had still not forgiven him,” Naqvi says.

In the film, there is a dramatic build-up to the scene where Musharraf finally sets foot on Pakistani soil again, and is anti-climactically placed under house arrest, in 2013.

Facing him is a unique election — the first civilian transfer of power in Pakistan. Every head of state before this, all the way back to 1947, has either been assassinated, unseated in a coup, or impeached.

By the time the votes are cast (the winner was Nawaz Sharif, the man Musharaff unseated in his coup in 2001), Naqvi had already lost most of his illusions about the latter. It starts when you see Musharaff claim ignorance about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts during his time as head of state.

“When he talked about militancy as a means of fighting a proxy war with our enemies, I realised that he didn’t think he owed his people the truth. Not on terror, the war on terror, nor his own conduct during his rule. He was still a dictator at heart – a dangerous flaw in a leader,” Naqvi says.

Is democracy possible, Naqvi ends up asking himself, when you have the right to vote but your only options are “an ex-dictator, a Taliban sympathiser and a crook” (his take on Musharraf, Imran Khan and Sharif?).

“Mo’s amazing access to General Musharraf over the years reveals a refreshingly informal man, albeit one afflicted with an inflated ego,” says documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan. “My only criticism of the film — it does not examine the double game played by the US in both fomenting and fighting terror. Despite this, for Indians this film is a rare and valuable insight into a political scenario we have so far avoided.”


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National

‘Mahagathbandhan’ club of ‘nawabs of negativity’: Jaitley

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Mumbai: The opposition “mahagathbandhan” (grand alliance) is a club of “nawabs of negativity” and the only glue of this diverse grouping is its opposition to one man (Narendra Modi), Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said.

People of an aspirational society which is politically conscious will not buy into this “suicidal” alternative, the senior BJP leader said.

“The nawabs of negativity may come together but that is not something that will carry credibility as far as people are concerned,” Jaitley said, speaking via video link at the CNBC-TV18 India Business Leadership Awards event. During the video call, Jaitley also spoke about the Union Budget.

 

This was the first time Jaitley, now in the US for medical treatment, addressed a gathering since leaving the country on Tuesday.

The setback the ruling BJP suffered in Assembly elections in three heartland states recently (Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan) has enthused some opposition leaders about the likely electoral success of such an alternative.

The “mahagathbandhan” has neither the ideological cohesiveness nor a common programme aimed at building the country or an individual leader, Jaitley said.

As against the BJP’s strengths of leadership, decisiveness, performance and potential, the point being put forward by the opposition is of arithmetic, Jaitley highlighted.

In politics, it is not the arithmetic but chemistry which succeeds, he added.

“The premise is that we have politics which is negative in character and the negative politics is we want one man (Narendra Modi) out. On that negativity of wanting one man out, they (Opposition) have come together,” Jaitley said.

Arun Jaitley also said there is a need to elevate the political debate in the run up to the elections and stressed that we cannot afford a “sloganised political debate” where emotional cries take over sound policy.

Without mentioning the promise of farm loan waivers, which the opposition Congress is pitching for, the minister said “sloganised policies” never help the larger interest of the economy and it is the country’s aspirations which will receive a setback in the process.

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Govt compromising national security, why 36 Rafale jets instead of 126: Chidambaram

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New Delhi: Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Friday accused the government of compromising national security and asked why it bought only 36 Rafale fighter jets instead of 126 required by the Air Force.

His comments come in the wake of fresh revelations on the Rafale deal in a media report which claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to but 36 aircraft instead of the 126 asked for by the Air Force pushed the price of each jet up by 41.42 per cent.

“In the light of new facts and revelations in THE HINDU, the question gains greater urgency: why did the government buy only 36 Rafale aircraft instead of 126 aircraft required by the Air Force?,” Chidambaram asked in a tweet.

 

“The Government has compromised national security by denying to the Air Force the 7 squadrons (126 aircraft) that it desperately needs,” he said.

Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia also took to Twitter to demand answers from Modi on the increased cost of aircraft. “The PM’s unilateral decision to buy 36 Rafales resulted in a price escalation of 41.42 per cent per jet. When will the prime minister answer? he asked.

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No war, but soldiers are dying on borders: Bhagwat

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Nagpur: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said requisite steps need to combat killings on the border, as soldiers are being martyred sans a war-like situation in the country.

“In our country, there is no war at the moment, still people (soldiers) are getting martyred…Because we are not doing our jobs properly. We need to make efforts in this regard. If we want our country to reach the top, then we all should learn to sacrifice,” he said at a gathering here on Thursday.

Furthermore, Bhagwat said the responsibility of safeguarding the country should not be solely shouldered by the Forces.

 

“Everybody has to make efforts in this regard. This is not something for which we can give a contract to somebody. We keep thinking that the government will do it or the army will do it, the police will do it, but it’s not like that, the entire society has to make efforts,” he opined.

Citing the example of Israel, Bhagwat noted: “If one looks closely, after 70 long years, those countries in comparison with India have done better in terms of growth and development. Israel is a classic example. The natives were weed out before the 19 c. But citizens there gradually came back to their country and started their businesses, trade etc. Finally, in 1948 they got independence.”

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