In The Line of Fire: Pervez Musharraf

September 25, 2006

I took a ruthless decision for the sake of my people

In his first extract from his memoir In the Line of Fire the President of Pakistan writes of the anger that he felt at threats made by America after the 9/11 attacks

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, was an uneventful day in Pakistan, at least while the sun was high. That evening I was in Karachi, inspecting work at the beautiful gardens of the mausoleum of our founder Quaide-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. I was happy to be in the city I love.

Little did I know that we were about to be thrust into the front line of yet another war, a war against shadows.

My military secretary came up to me and whispered: an aircraft had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City. At first, I dismissed the news report as an accident involving what I thought must have been a light private aircraft. But at the back of my mind there was the nagging thought that this had to be a most peculiar accident. Either the pilot had to be utterly inept to have hit such a tall building, or the plane had to be so totally out of control that it couldn’t be prevented from hitting the tower.

When I returned home, I went directly into a meeting with Karachi’s corps commander. We were deep in discussion when my military secretary slipped into the room and started fiddling with the television set.

I could not believe what I saw. Smoke was billowing out of both towers of the World Trade Centre. People were jumping out of windows. There was sheer panic, utter chaos. Two fuel-laden Boeings full of passengers had been hijacked and deliberately crashed into the twin towers. This could hardly be an accident — it had to be a deliberate, brazen act of terrorism. Two other aircraft had also been hijacked — one had hit the Pentagon; another had gone down in a field in Pennsylvania. Commentators at the time said that second one had been heading for the White House. This was war.

The enormity of the event was palpable. The world’s most powerful country had been attacked on its own soil, with its own aircraft used as missiles. This was a great tragedy, and a great blow to the ego of the superpower. America was sure to react violently, like a wounded bear. If the perpetrator turned out to be al-Qaeda, then that wounded bear would come charging straight toward us.

Al-Qaeda was based in neighbouring Afghanistan under the protection of those international pariahs, the Taleban. Not only that: we were the only country maintaining diplomatic relations with the Taleban and their leader, Mullah Omar. September 11 marked an irrevocable turn from the past into an unknown future. The world would never be the same.

I went to the Governor House. The foreign office advised me to give a statement. I wrote one quickly and said on national television that we condemned this vile act, that we were against all forms of terrorism and stood with America at this appalling time. The next morning I was chairing an important meeting at the Governor’s House when my military secretary told me that the US secretary of state, General Colin Powell, was on the phone. I said I would call back later, but he insisted that I come out of the meeting. Powell was quite candid: “You are either with us or against us.”

I took this as a blatant ultimatum. However, contrary to some reports, that conversation did not get into specifics. I told him that we were with the United States against terrorism, having suffered from it for years, and would fight along with his country against it.

When I was back in Islamabad the next day, our director-general of Inter Services Intelligence, who happened to be in Washington, told me on the phone about his meeting with the US deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage. In what has to be the most undiplomatic statement ever made, Armitage added to what Colin Powell had said to me and told the director-general not only that we had to decide whether we were with America or with the terrorists, but that if we chose the terrorists, then we should be prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age.

This was a shockingly barefaced threat, but it was obvious that the United States had decided to hit back, and hit back hard.

I made a dispassionate, military-style analysis of our options, weighing the pros and cons.

My decision was based on the wellbeing of my people and the best interests of my country — Pakistan always comes first. I war-gamed the United States as an adversary. There would be a violent and angry reaction if we didn’t support the United States. Thus the question was: if we do not join them, can we confront them and withstand the onslaught? The answer was no, we could not, on three counts.

First was our military weakness as compared with the strength of the United States. Second was our economic weakness. We had no oil, and we did not have the capacity to sustain our economy in the face of an attack. Third, and worst of all, was our social weakness. We lack the homogeneity to galvanise the entire nation into an active confrontation. We could not endure a military confrontation with the United States from any point of view. The ultimate question that confronted me was whether it was in our national interest to destroy ourselves for the Taleban. Were they worth committing suicide over? The answer was a resounding no.

It has famously been said that “short-term gain for long-term pain” is foolhardy, but this is exactly what happened to the allies in the jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, not least the United States, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

We helped to create the Mujahidin, fired them with religious zeal in seminaries, armed them, paid them, fed them, and sent them to a jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. We did not stop to think how we would divert them to productive life after the jihad was won. This mistake cost Afghanistan and Pakistan more dearly than any other country. Neither did the United States realise what a rich, educated person like Osama bin Laden might later do with the organisation that we all had enabled him to establish.

Worse, the United States didn’t even consider the rebuilding and development of Afghanistan after the Soviets departed.

America simply abandoned Afghanistan to its fate, ignoring the fact that a wretchedly poor and unstable country, armed to the teeth with the most sophisticated weapons and torn apart by warlords, could become an ideal haven for terrorists.

Our greatest oversight was to forget that when you help to organise and use people fired by extraordinary religious or ideological zeal to achieve your objectives, you must consider that they might be using you to achieve their objectives and are only temporarily on your side for tactical reasons. In Mullah Omar’s case the objective was to gain power in Afghanistan. In the case of Osama bin Laden it was perhaps to get help from America, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia to create al-Qaeda, obtain funding and arms, and finally secure a base from which to operate. In such situations, who is using whom becomes murky. We — the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia — created our own Frankenstein’s monster.

It is true that we had assisted in the rise of the Taleban after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, which was then callously abandoned by the United States. For a while, at the embryonic stage, even the United States had approved of the Taleban. We had hoped that the Taleban, driven by religious zeal based on the true principles of Islam, would bring unity and peace to a devastated country. But they were fired by a misplaced messianic zeal inculcated in them by half-baked, obscurantist clerics, a zeal that was contrary to the moderate, tolerant, progressive spirit of Islam of the majority of the Pakistani people.

After the Taleban came to power, we lost much of the leverage we had. The peace that they brought to Afghanistan was the peace of the graveyard. Nevertheless, we still supported them, for geostrategic reasons. If we had broken with them, that would have created a new enemy on our western border, or a vacuum of power there into which might have stepped the Northern Alliance, comprising anti-Pakistan elements. Now, after September 11, we were no longer constrained by these concerns. We had new, more deadly ones. Now we could detach from the Taleban. In any case, they did not stand a chance. Why should we put our national interest on the line for a primitive regime that would be defeated?

On the other hand, the benefits of supporting the United States were many. First, we would be able to eliminate extremism from our society and flush out the foreign terrorists in our midst. We could not do this alone; we needed the technical and financial support of the United States to be able to find and defeat these terrorists. We had been victims of terrorism by the Taleban and al-Qaeda for years. Earlier Pakistani governments had been hesitant about taking on the militant religious groups that were spreading extremism and fanaticism in our country.

Second, even though being a frontline state fighting terrorism would deter foreign investment, there were certain obvious economic advantages, like loosening the stranglehold of our debt and lifting economic sanctions. Third, after being an outcast nation following our nuclear tests, we would come to centre stage.

This was a ruthless analysis which I made for the sake of my country. Richard Armitage’s undiplomatic language, regrettable as it was, had nothing to do with my decision. The United States would do what it had to do in its national interest, and we would do what we had to in ours. Self-interest and self-preservation were the basis of this decision. Needless to say, though, I felt very frustrated by Armitage’s remarks. It goes against the grain of a soldier not to be able to tell anyone giving him an ultimatum to go forth and multiply, or words to that effect.

On September 13, 2001, the US ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlain, brought me a set of seven demands. Some of these were ludicrous. We just could not accept demands for “blanket overflight and landing rights” without jeopardising our strategic assets. I offered only a narrow flight corridor that was far from any sensitive areas. Neither could we give the United States “use of Pakistan’s naval ports, air bases, and strategic locations on borders”. We refused to give any naval ports or fighter aircraft bases. We gave no “blanket permission” for anything.

Having made my decision, I took it to the Cabinet. As expected, there was some concern from the ministers that they had not been consulted. Doubts were also expressed in the corps commanders’ meeting that followed. In both meetings I went over my analysis in detail and explained how and why I had come to this decision. I answered every question until all doubts were removed and everyone was on board. I then went on national radio and television on September 19 to explain my decision to the people.



  1. “(Laughter.)” — yeah, great. A peculiar sense of honour the guy has ….. The book is In the Line of Fire (see the Simon & Schuster publicity page), and the jr. Bush’s comments — “In other words, buy the book, is what he’s saying. (Laughter.)” —

    Is it a novel way of image booasting?. Is it all required particularly when he is in office ?. I believe he is not retired yet? or has enough time to revel on such thing?.

    Comment by Moorthy — September 28, 2006 @ 7:52 am

  2. This book is nothing but eternal source of comedy, Thank u Mushey uncle for make us laugh.. 😀

    Comment by Anurag — September 28, 2006 @ 11:13 am

  3. An excellent pieace of work which is a slap on India’s face and a reality check for the whole world on what has happened on the “war on terror” from first hand experiences and views.

    Comment by Asad — September 28, 2006 @ 11:10 pm

  4. It is not too often that a sitting head of state pens his memoirs while still in office. Both Indian and Pakistani readers should keep this in mind. It is extremely naive of Indian readers to expect a Pakistani President and incumbent Army Chief to actually criticize the Pakistani midadventure of Kargil or be completely honest about it. Isn’t it also equally naive of Pakistani readers to expect anything but a flummoxed reaction from Indians given the fact that the Pakistani leader is pushing for peace with India? Coming to the book itself – is it engaging? Yes, it is. Is it honest? Depends on your definition of “honest”. This book is obviously ghost-written with a fair bit of input from Mush. If “honesty” means facts, than the book is a bit lacking – because Musharraf comes across as an extremely opinionated man. He castigates everyone from Z.A. Bhutto, his daughter to Nawaz Sharif and his family and potrays himself as the saviour of Pakistan – on opinions, not facts. He also credits himself with the alleged turnaround of the Pakistani economy. I would have been more impressed if the book had stated facts and let the reader decide what he/she thought of the General. One thing I can tell is that the man is intensely patriotic and definitely not a religious zealot. He sure has a tendency to make rather sensationalist remarks; even insinuating (he does not say it flat out) that India may have actually stolen centrifuge designs from – ahem – discarded Pakistani ones. Does he provide proof of that? No – but then, it is an insinuation and not an assertion. Nor do I think many Pakistani readers would be happy with his potrayal of disgraced scientist A Q Khan. Do I think it is worth a buy? Sure, if nothing else, it is definitely worth a read. It gives you an insight into the mind of a leader who thinks he is great. I have reservations about that but I do believe he is in a unique position in the world. How is that? Well, he is the current Islamic poster boy of Bush – a moderate, liberal-minded leader of a nation whose population (major part of) is not necessarily moderate in its views toward the USA. What’s more – he is fighting for the American line of thought at personal risk to life and limb. 9/11 gave him the chance to reverse the trend of him being treated as an international pariah who overthrew a democractically elected government. Remember Clinton refusing to shake hands with him? He reversed the trend by supporting the US and abandoning support of the Taliban. It was a smart move – he did not have much of a choice in the matter. As of writing this review, the book is #6 on Amazon sales. Thanks to its controversial views, it may just hit #1. Who gets the last laugh? The General of course 🙂

    I find it a touch amusing that many Indians are giving the book 1 star and Pakistanis are giving it 5 stars (probably without reading it). I hope both sides see this as a book. Is it being used for propoganda? Only if you let the author and publisher use you. I am sure you are smart enough to come to your own conclusions without having to beat the drums of war at the drop of a hat.

    Comment by Jvalant N. Sampat — September 29, 2006 @ 8:17 am

  5. As rightly pointed out by Sampat it is an insight into the mind of a leader who thinks he is great and that Musharraf is a man who is intensely patriotic and definitely not a religious zealot. The books is engaging if you looked at it objectively but if you read it as an Indian or a Pakistani then sure to get carried away by a patriotic ‘feel’ that would make you either trust or not to beleive everything written in it.

    C’mon this is written by a person in office covering most of the sensitive issues and you definitely do not expect him to portray a negative image of himself or his decisions. From Musharraf’s point of view this just a marketing brochure on him to the US and allies.

    Comment by Gerard Sylvester — September 29, 2006 @ 8:49 am

  6. p.musharraf you are the great man and u have a great courage to wrote such a truthful book to show that who u are in my ssight u are the first and the last presdient of pakistan who is brave intelligent and outstanding thanks

    Comment by shahid mabood — October 3, 2006 @ 8:18 pm

  7. Musharraf is a big DOG and big EVIL in the world.

    Comment by unknown — October 4, 2006 @ 3:10 am


    Comment by Asad — October 13, 2006 @ 5:25 pm

  9. he did wht was better for the people….yet pople like this…” UNKNOWN ” dont know of own standings yet they are so much concerned abt others.

    America whtever!

    Pakistan ( the general) made the right decision

    do u think if we left the decision to the people of pakistan half of the population of pakistan wud be alive??

    he did the rite thing

    especially for u mister ” UNKNOWN”

    cuz u cud be in trouble today
    remember the iraqi slaughters…MISTER!

    yeah…now ur concerned abt the right thingy son

    Comment by roshaan — November 12, 2006 @ 11:24 am

  10. Nice piece of fiction 🙂

    Comment by Invincible — December 26, 2006 @ 9:35 am

  11. Thanks, always good posts on your blog!

    Comment by Desktopjunk — April 22, 2007 @ 2:35 pm

  12. What rubish book, just waste of time. It is just a self extracted story….

    Comment by Nawaz — July 3, 2007 @ 9:23 am

  13. Musharraf is a big DOG and big EVIL in the world.

    Comment by unknown — October 4, 2006 @ 3:10 am
    one who sent dis comment is a motha fka . wa mushahraf did 2 u u fkn son of bitch

    Comment by tony — September 27, 2007 @ 9:55 am

  14. On behalf of the people of people and being a true patriot I hereby solemnly declare that what ever Musharraf has written in his book, of his making the kind of decisions he made and whatever efforts he did for the sake of his country were in the best interest of Pakistan and the peop0le of Pakistan. Musharraf is more popular in Pakistan than any politician has ever been. Long live Musharraf and keep whatever you are doing up!!!
    All of us Pakistanis are with you heart and soul.

    Comment by M Ramzan Cheema — October 9, 2007 @ 7:46 pm

  15. Death, Tarantulas, and Byrds and

    Death, Tarantulas, and Byrds and BeesCanton Repository (subscription),OH-Apr 11, 2007His latest CDs, though, chart a course different from his

    Trackback by chart piano scale — December 23, 2007 @ 3:03 pm

  16. the great hero of pakistan

    Comment by fahad khalid — May 30, 2008 @ 2:54 am

  17. all of us pakistantani whith u dont worry .

    Comment by fahad khalid — May 30, 2008 @ 2:56 am

  18. LONG LIVE MUSHARRAF. You are a true patroit, Brave & Intelligent leader of Pakistan. All of us are with you. Malik

    Comment by Tariq Malik — January 1, 2009 @ 7:52 pm

  19. Well,what i believe after reading his book is that he has tried to justify whatever he has done, being an army chief and later on , the President of Pakistan.The facts does not support his claim of being patriotic and taking Pakistani interests as his top priority rather than his own for that matter.Infact,he did try get to gain some srt of recognition from the west and especialy, from the US, which he did gain when he unconditionally supported the war against terrorism.I don’t see anything wrong in supporting the US in their war which eventually became ours too,my regrets are to the fact that we lost big time by not even getting what we were supposed to but,we destablized our borders by disturbing our federally administrated areas that has a long history of serving as a natural shield against any kind of invasion.You may have every reason to disagree my point of view but to my observation,if we conclude our disscussion about Mr.Musharraf,we can easily notice that his contribusions for the nation will certainly lack far behind his blunders.

    Comment by nayyer — April 21, 2009 @ 5:11 am

  20. I like this book………..I have read it

    Comment by jamshaid — May 26, 2009 @ 5:59 am

  21. Hi mush…besides the book u marketing in western fictional book stall, and the drumless dance u did in international politics( not pak politics) is really worth of watching which is more clear in ur publication.
    U shld be shamed to publicise/internationlise urself by marketing such a rubbish which is not suit with u accrding to ur previouse ranks. As an pakistani i have 2ask u where u got the shiny gold u used to make a villa in chak shazad and buying hundreds of millions dollors worth house in london. It wld be high sale rating book if u wld mentiond such streamline rather than wat rubbish u preached in ur evil dairy..thanks to our nation to give u time in pak office..ahahahahh big lough

    Comment by khan — August 17, 2009 @ 5:55 am

  22. If you take time to READ the book then some of these Bloggers might think twice about what they write,However some people have a PRE-DATED mind set and those cannot be changed,
    The book is an interesting insight as to how Bad Pakistanis are and ONE person alone cannot change a morally corupt Nation.

    Comment by parvez — October 4, 2009 @ 11:58 pm

  23. Wel done Musharaff we are proud you.Reality does matter and you are the one who brought the facts infront of the world. Live long and serve the nation again and again. Musharaf Zindabad Pakistan Paindabad.

    Comment by Rashid Aman — October 11, 2009 @ 10:09 am

  24. Most Scared person i Have ever been to…. i haven’t seen such unpatriotic person that could do even worst then that. he knew every thing and every result that could happen after his decision but still was firm on it. the biggest lier, the biggest crime committer of country he will be responsible if country will be divided into states………..

    Comment by Abdullah — May 2, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

  25. I am actually waiting to get a position in my government, after that you will see that I will fuck every pakistani leader who has committed even a little crime in Afghanistan part, or has handed in insurgencies in Afghanistan.
    You will see insha Allah.
    I will fuck Musharaf’s younger Daughter.

    Comment by Naweed — August 13, 2010 @ 3:53 am

  26. Hay fucking pakistanies who support your fucking and criminal leaders! don’t forget that half of pakistan belongs to our country Afghanistan, We will once again own those lands insha allah and
    We would let those with us who accept the Afghan constitution.
    There would be no pakistan (dirthistan) after a 15 year from now.

    Comment by Naweed — August 13, 2010 @ 4:01 am

  27. musharaf was an intelligent and harami dog

    Comment by asad — December 30, 2010 @ 8:27 pm

  28. I am extremly soor for the person Mr. Naweed because he does not know about the history of subcontinent . My dear study the history of Afghan people and Indian people . I respect you and your country but your contury is so poor and uncivilized for the last many thousnads of the years so you people move to india ( pakistan & India) area for lotting money and food and you are doing the same now a days . Some criminal minded persons like Mahmmod gaznavi , Ahmad Shah Abdali & mughals came just for the lust of money here.
    My dear pakistani and indain people are Well educated and civilized for the thousands of the yerars and we were never be the part of Afghanistan.
    Please Study the history…

    Comment by sun — August 10, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

  29. don’t abuse musharaf 😦 i Don’t have any link with any political party but i have to say somthing …
    He was the Man ! 2 tangoo wala janwer to nhai tha kam se kam …. !

    Comment by Aamir — September 8, 2011 @ 8:47 am

  30. I have a question to all those who have negative thinking among them selves….. Do u know the truth……..? What responsibility have u taken in your house…….? If u have taken some responsibility in your home I am sure u would have felt the pain…….? Hope u are mature enough to understand what I mean……. How many mistakes have u made in your life while responsibility on yr shoulders…….if u all understand……..and last but not least before pointing any finger on someone remember four of your own fingers are pointing towards your own self…..if u have the brains to think then u all know the answers…….

    Comment by Asad — April 10, 2012 @ 11:59 pm

  31. “They take our tax money and give it to soldiers, policemen, firemen, sewage workers, trash collectors and the others we hire to keep our country func Click

    Comment by nealcruz82110 — April 9, 2016 @ 9:38 am

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