Blair made Musharraf fall in line after 9/11
By By Rauf Klasra: The News, July 25, 2007
LONDON: Alastair Campbell, press secretary and official spokesman of Britain’s ex-prime Minister Tony Blair for 12 years, in his diaries published here has revealed after six years that Blair was dispatched to Islamabad immediately after 9/11 by a George W Bush to get a “proper fix” on General Pervez Musharraf to stop his support to Taliban and terrorism in Indian held Kashmir and how the uniformed general was “convinced” to fall in line on both the issues.
Campbell’s diaries published in London after the departure of Blair from his office on June 27 which is selling like hot cakes, also reveal how Musharraf was “convinced” by Blair not to talk about Kashmir as a “freedom struggle” and instead use the word “indigenous” struggle”, in his future speeches on the subject.
It is also disclosed that under pressure from the Indian leadership, Musharraf was made to change his line on Kashmir to accommodate the concerns of Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee.Campbell writes that the decision to get a “proper fix” on Musharraf was taken by Bush and Blair on October 1, 2001.
The book which is a best seller here as it contains many startling revelations not only about the internal politics of Britain but about the world leaders particularly about Pakistan and India.
The disclosures may not be a good news for Musahrraf as he is already taunted by his critics thatjut one phone call from Colin Powell on the night following 9/11 event had made him fall in line.
This might give fresh stuff against him to his critics and opposition parties particularly when he is already under mounting pressure to quit after Supreme Court verdict in favour of chief justice of Pakistan.
Alastair Campbell, a journalist by profession, was working with Daily Mirror group when Blair asked him in 1994 to become his press secretary. He also acted as advisor to PM Blair and Labour party.
Campbell says that once it was decided that US would attack Afghanistan as a tit for tat attack on Taliban, Blair and Bush had decided that Blair should go to see Russian president Putin to secure bases and then to Pakistan to try to get a “proper fix” on Musharraf.
Campbell who was present in this meeting between Musharraf and Blair in Islamabad says that it was a friendly meeting with the usual josh and laughter amid the “heavy stuff”. After getting required cooperation Tony Blair (whom he always calls TB in the book) was constantly thinking of rewarding Pakistan and in this connection solution of Kashmir was prominent in his mind. What followed was a forceful diplomacy by TB on Kashmir over which tensions were running high those days.
He writes that it was thought that the Kathmandu Saarc summit should at least be a chance to calm down things but the tensions were pretty strong. Therefore TB first went to India where he met Vajpayee. During his talks, TB pushed hard but got very little change out of Vajpayee. He was holding out for a lot more from the Pakistanis. “He was pretty shrewd and his total lack of embarrassment at long silence was a real strength”, he observes in his diaries.
After visiting India, next stop of TB was Islamabad where his first task was to persuade Musharraf to get tougher with terror groups and use that to engage India. TB wanted Musharraf to have an absolute break with Taliban and any of the groups they supported. Musharraf was not easy to be convinced and at one stage he even baulked on TB on the plea that it suggested that Pakistan and its government supported terrorism.
“We persuaded him (Musharraf) that the best thing to do then was for him to stay right at the top (saying) that he opposed terrorism in all of its forms”, Campbell writes. He claims that we also persuaded him (Musharraf) not to talk about Kashmir as a “freedom struggle” but an “indigenous struggle”, because that would be better understood by public opinion in UK and US, Campbell discloses. “We spent an awful lot of time but eventually he (Musharraf) agreed.”
“It was funny too how both sides (Pakistan and India) seemed to talk of the other as equals even though India was so much bigger and more powerful”, Campbell makes a satirical comment on the insistence of Musharraf that his country should be treated on equal footing with India.