Sunday, August 5, 2007

INTERVIEW - Nawaz Sharif/India Today-August 13, 2007

"I can't be Musharraf's dummy"
Duke Street in London is a long way from the Pakistan prime minister's official residence in Islamabad but the three-room apartment, just off tony Oxford Street, in the heart of the British capital has all the trappings of being home to a man who considers himself a premier-in-exile. The flag of Pakistan flutters on the table in the office room where Nawaz Sharif holds court. There is an unending stream of visitors who are attended to by an army of officials, most of whom served Sharif during his two stints as the head of the government until he was deposed by his handpicked army chief General Pervez Musharraf in a coup in 1999. Last week, he spoke with INDIA TODAY Group Editor PRABHU CHAWLA for Aaj Tak and Headlines Today on his plans and Pakistan's future. Excerpts.
Q. You have been in London for a long time now and seem to be enjoying it here.
A. I miss Islamabad, I miss Pakistan, but London is not a bad place either.
Q. So are you plotting Musharraf's ouster from here?
A. I'm struggling to restore democracy and the rule of law in Pakistan, to restore the Constitution to its position as on October 12, 1999 when a military coup toppled my government.

Q. But nobody supported you when you were ousted. How do you expect people to support you now?
A. I think the nation was in a state of shock at that time. They never thought this could happen to a prime minister, who had a two-third majority.
Q. Musharraf has now survived nearly eight years.
A. I won't call it survival. He's a man whose foundation is wrong, who came to power at gunpoint, who subverted the Constitution.
Q. What do you think is the future of General Musharraf?
A. What can be the future of a man who doesn't have a proper past? A man who doesn't believe in the rule of law and in the Constitution; who goes back on the oath he took as an army officer.
Q. But he is the darling of the West.
A. He's not a darling of the West. He is hoodwinking them. He's

giving them an impression of being a friend but back home he's doing exactly the opposite. He was responsible for extremist parties gaining power, for sidelining liberal parties like ours and creating a vacuum which was then filled up by the extremist forces.
Q. He attacked the Lal Masjid to prove to the West that he's fighting terrorism at home.
A. I think he created the issue of the Lal Masjid himself. What was he doing for the past six months? Why did he allow ammunition build-up inside the masjid?
Q. What will he gain by creating this kind of monster?
A. He's hoodwinking the West. Dictatorship serves as a breeding ground for extremism and terrorism. Such things never surface in a democracy.
Q. You colluded with the dictator and got out of the country.
A. I never compromised on principles. I had to take action against a chief of army staff General Jehangir Karamat who was a very good man. But he gave a political statement which forced me to act against him.
Q. Musharraf was your appointee. And then he threw you out.
A. He is someone who can never be trusted. He said he would retire as army general before December 31, 2004. He has never fulfilled that commitment.
Q. As a General, he kept you, the elected prime minister, in the dark about the Kargil War.
A. He let me and my government down. He stabbed me in the back. I cut a sorry figure before Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Q. So you did not know he was planning the attacks?
A. Not all the details.
Q. Do you mean he never shared anything with you?
A. No, not in the manner that should have been.
Q. Was the ceasefire due to American pressure? Or did you realise something had gone wrong?
A. I was never in favour of a war with India. The Indian prime minister had undertaken a state visit to Pakistan only a few months earlier. I have great regards for Vajpayee. I never wanted to let him down. And this man here committed a blunder and embarrassed me.
"I don't want to serve under Musharraf. I am not interested in becoming another Shaukat Aziz. I have no desire to be Musharraf's dummy prime minister."
Q. You announced ceasefire only after going to America. Can you tell us what happened there?
A. I had a three-hour-long meeting with president Bill Clinton. Then he called up Vajpayee in the middle of the night. We felt the conflict in Kargil could lead to a full-fledged war between the two countries which could ultimately turn into a nuclear conflict. We did our best. We are also thankful to Vajpayee for his cooperation which made the ceasefire possible.
Q. As prime minister in the early 1990s, you ushered in economic liberalisation in your country.
A. Yes, I recall your then prime minister Narasimha Rao had spoken to me personally and had said he wanted to send a team across to study our reforms process. We also launched a privatisation programme in Pakistan. Many state-owned industries and banks were privatised.
Q. Would you agree if I say that the Pakistani politicians have failed their people?
A. No. It is the intervention of the military generals. Every now and then, there is a coup. Elected governments are toppled, ex-prime ministers are jailed or worse, hanged. That is a constant reminder to us that demo-cracy is the only way out.
Q. Pakistan is often referred to as a failed state.
A. It's not a failed state. Frequent army takeovers and the interventions of generals have led to that impression. We can turn Pakistan back into a very successful state if the army is confined to the barracks.
Q. Musharraf has been trying to divide your party. Benazir Bhutto, who was your ally a couple of months ago, is now in talks with him.
A. Musharraf has not been able to divide or create any dent in our votebank. We have won elections twice with thumping majority-once with two-third majority. Now we have signed a charter of democracy with Benazir Bhutto sahiba. It's clearly written in that charter that we would not enter into any parleys or deals with the Government. I stand by that.
Q. But Bhutto is in talks with the General.
A. If any party, which has put its signature on the document, is engaged in a dialogue with the Government, it's a matter of concern.
"What can be the future of a man who doesn't have a past? A man who doesn't believe in the rule of law, who doesn't believe in the Constitution and the oath he took."
Q. Do you think the deal between Musharraf and Bhutto will last?
A. I don't know. But I think no party or person who believes in democracy should get into any dialogue with military dictators. They ruined our system. They have violated the Constitution. They are usurpers, traitors.
Q. But there is a certain bonhomie between them.
A. I don't think any such an arrangement will last.
Q. Were you ever approached on Musharraf's behalf?
A. He sent emissaries three times but I refused to meet them. I'm not interested in becoming another Shaukat Aziz. I don't want to serve under Musharraf. I don't want to be a dummy prime minister.
Q. But didn't you cut a deal with him when you were allowed to go to Saudi Arabia and that you will not interfere in Pakistan politics?
A. I never signed any agreement with Musharraf. His three army generals came to see me on the first day of the coup. They brought two papers with them and wanted me to sign them. One was about the dissolution of the National Assembly and the second paper was my resignation as prime minister. I refused to sign the papers and sent them away.
Q. How did you land up in Jeddah?
A. I'm grateful to the King and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who thought of me in my difficult times.
Q. In the 60 years of Independent Pakistan, generals have ruled it for nearly 35 years. What hope is there for your country?
A. That is why we insist that the Constitution be taken back to its position of October 12, 1999. I think this should be done because you can't let these people go scot free. They have to be punished. This can be done only with the people's support.
Q. When you go back to Pakistan you'll have to give up your ties and jackets? You can't do politics in Pakistan in this dress.
A."Musharraf let me down. He stabbed me in the back. I cut a sorry figure before Atal Bihari Vajpayee and that's why I was very keen on bringing about an honourable ceasefire."
A. (Laughs) Don't I look good in this?
Q. You are looking good. You can be a great politician indeed if the people of Pakistan accept you.
A. I have been wearing salwar kameez and waistcoat for a long time. I'll try to wear both dresses this time if I get a chance.
Q. When do you plan to return to Pakistan?
A. I intend to go back before the elections.
Q. When will that be?
A. Things are very unpredictable at the moment. Even Musharraf doesn't know whether he is going to get elected in the current assembly or the next assembly. He doesn't know where the country is heading. I don't know where we are heading. But I believe I have a role to play and I'm playing that role.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

INTERVIEW: Rakhi Sawant/Aajtak-Seedhi Baat, July 01,2007

“Manmohan Singh is very cool”
Rakhi Sawant, Aajtak-Seedhi Baat

ACTOR AND SINGER RAKHI SAWANT spoke to me about marriage, movies and her childhood for Aajtak. Excerpts:
Q. There’s only one superwoman in India, Sonia Gandhi. Manmohan Singh and Baba Ramdev are supermen.

A. Our prime minister is not a superman because he’s very cool. I like Baba Ramdev for his yoga teachings.

Q. I heard you’ve got married.
A. The media has nothing else to do except publish rumours. I’ll never marry secretly.

Q.Will you marry your boyfriend Abhishek?
A. I can’t marry now because I am a manglik. I may marry in 2011-12. Even Amitabh Bachchan and Himesh Reshammiya wear many stones. I’m young and beautiful. After marriage, a romance may change to stress.

Q. You’re not getting films because you do not have film background.
A. But people love me. I work in reality shows and in item numbers. I’m doing the film Budha Mar Gaya.

Q. You act well, sing and dance well. But you don’t get a film with a good director like Karan Johar.
A. I’m doing small roles. Karan Johar will give me an opportunity one day.

Q. Big stars like Kareena Kapoor, Bipasha Basu also do item numbers.
A. I’m an item girl. My style has its own magic. I dance like acid.

Q. These days stars use plastic surgery.
A. Everyone wants to look glamorous. If science can change our incompleteness then why
shouldn’t we try it?

Q. Who is your competitor? Mallika Sherawat or Shilpa Shetty?
A. No one is my competitor. Why do you compare Mallika Sherawat with me?

Q. How will you get big roles without a godfather?
A. The media is my godfather. People love me. I am different from Rani Mukherjee, Kareena, Vidya Balan.

Q.Was your childhood full of problems.
A. My childhood was full of sorrow. My family was very conservative. I tried to commit suicide once. My parents wanted a traditional girl but I wanted my freedom.

Q. What is your dream?
A. To be a celebrity. I want to earn for the poor child. I studied in a municipal school so I know the problems.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ulti Baat / Aajtak / Shekhar Suman