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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 September 2006, 05:18 GMT 06:18 UK
Will Musharraf's book reopen old wounds?
By Shahzeb Jillani
BBC News, Washington

The cover of President Pervez Musharraf's memoirs
The book has generated a lot of controversy
Not surprisingly, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's memoirs have generated a strong reaction.

Now he must respond to some of the strongest criticism and denials about his sensational claims made in In The Line of Fire.

In an interview with an American TV network before the book launch, Gen Musharraf said that the US had threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the Stone Age" if it did not cooperate in the war on terror.

In a joint press briefing after meeting President Bush at the White House on Friday, he refused to clarify the comments saying "he was honour-bound" to the publishers not to discuss the book before the launch.

For his part, President Bush said he is not aware of his country making such a threat to Pakistan.

Startling claims

Moreover, Richard Armitage, the former US official Gen Musharraf names as having delivered the threat to his intelligence chief, has denied the remarks attributed to him.

Mr Armitage, however, admits that soon after 9/11 he did deliver "a strong message" to the Pakistanis that either they were with the US or against it in the US-led war on terror.

In his book, Gen Musharraf has also made some startling claims about the 1999 Kargil conflict with India.

He lauds Pakistan army's "landmark" performance during the Kargil conflict and claims that it was the Indian army which wanted to capture Pakistani territory in 1999 that finally led to the Kargil war.

For many Indians, Kargil is a painful episode of betrayal and military adventure by Pakistan.

Indian soldiers load a 155mm Bofors gun during the Kargil conflict in 1999
Gen Musharraf says Indian army's moves sparked off the Kargil war
No wonder then, that President Musharraf's latest claims have drawn bitter reaction from Indian politicians and the media.

"All that he is saying is a pack of lies. He attacked us and then lost. That's the reality," is how India's former national security advisor, Brajesh Mishra, sums up the popular Indian sentiment.

The renewed controversy over what led to the Kargil conflict and who was responsible for it comes at a time when nearly more than a week ago the two countries decided to resume the suspended peace talks.

During the recent meeting in Havana, Gen Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged to work together to resolve all their disputes, including Kashmir.

'Trust deficit'

For the first time, they also decided to set up a joint mechanism to fight terrorism, something Mr Singh's government is still facing a lot of criticism for from the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

According to Indian officials, in Havana, the two sides made significant progress in improving the "trust deficit" between the two South Asian rivals.

Now, analysts worry that Gen Musharraf's candid views about the Kargil conflict threaten to reopen old wounds and spoil the prevailing positive mood for dialogue between the two nations.

In Pakistan, Gen Musharraf's critics have taken strong exception to the way he is seen to be promoting his book during his official US visit.

The opposition has accused him as a self promoting military ruler seeking to make a fortune in the name of Pakistan.

Gen Musharraf reading out excerpts from his book
Gen Musharraf says the US threatened to bomb Pakistan
But, say his supporters, like him or not, through his controversial disclosures, he has managed to sell the book as a must read on contemporary Pakistan.

Meanwhile, In The Line Of Fire, out at the book stands in the US and Pakistan since early Monday morning, is said to be selling fairly well.

The book ranked 17th and 18th on online book retailer Amazon.com and Barnes & Nobles best sellers list respectively just before its launch. Within hours, it jumped to 14th on Amazon list and 12th on Barnes & Nobles site.

Given the controversies it seems to have triggered, the book is expected to climb further on the best sellers list.




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