17th October 1999
"Congrats General Musharaff"
The public relations element in him won the hearts and minds of many military top brass. Whether it was downing a scotch and soda at a cocktail party or talking business at one-on-one meetings with his local counterparts, Pakistan's military strongman, General Pervaiz Mus-haraff, exuded charm, poise and confidence.
After a hectic schedule that marked the Army's 50th anniversary celebrations, he played a game of squash last Tuesday morning at the five star hotel where he stayed. That seemed his last task.
Later that afternoon, he spoke with his Sri Lankan Liaison Officer, Brigadier Upali Ban-daratilleke, as they drove to the Bandaranaike International Airport for a return journey to Pakistan.
After an overnight stop over in Karachi, he would be in Islamabad the next day, he said.
The journey in a Pakistan International Airways flight was to make world news. Gen. Musharaff staged a coup to oust Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff.
He has appointed himself the Chief Executive of Pakistan and has introduced martial law.
Even if Pakistanis welcomed the bloodless coup, there were none to publicly commend Gen. Musharaff's actions, no world leaders nor other dignitaries.
Yet, the new Pakistani leader can take comfort that he has an exception in a retired Sri Lanka Army man, one who wore four stars, commanded many brigades and directed many an operation.
The man, who is now security boss in a five star hotel, shot off a congratulatory fax to Gen. Musharaff. It went from the hotel fax.
In his new role where he commands some six dozen security officers, he had the fortune of meeting him at the gala anniversary dinner and was most charmed by the man. Hence the "well done" message.
Who will pay for the fax message, the local strong man or the hotel management ? That's the question doing the rounds.
Home and home match
The new bureaucrat who has to keep an eye on security matters played it defensively, if one is to say it in cricketing parlance.
They talked of measures to make the City a safer place for the residents when the row about acute intelligence failures broke out.
Members of one intelligence arm, one that is service oriented, blamed the much bigger spy outfit at the national level, for the lack of hard inputs.
This was how the LTTE was getting away, they argued.
The bureaucrat asserted somewhat diplomatically that the issues involved will have to be studied and resolved.
In other words, no home and home mat-ches between spy gro-ups. That was the message.
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