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As Musharraf Campaign Stops on Park Ave at CFR, Coups, Cases & Debt Scoffed At, Osama Likened to Che Guevara

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 9 -- Pervez Musharraf is on a roll, or thinks he is. After launching his All Pakistan Muslim League in the UK, he has held roll out events in hotel ballrooms in Florida and New Jersey.

  Tuesday morning found him at the Council on Foreign Relations in Manhattan, fielding questions about how and why he plans to reclaim power in Islamabad.

  Musharraf sung his own praises, that after his 1999 “coming into power” -- as his CFR biography tactfully puts in it -- he grew the Pakistani economy until, he said, it had more promise that India's.

  But after things were “stirred up against” him, foreign direct investment has dried up and 50% of factories have closed, in his telling.

  Back in Pakistan other stories are told, of how Musharraf hurt the electrical power market, allowed for the first time the US to fly drones over the country, attacked the judicial system. (Click here for Inner City Press recent coverage of Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund, on power subsidies and textile taxes).

  Musharraf claimed there are no court cases against him in Pakistan, and that if any began now it would be “political.” Meanwhile, in his New Jersey appearance where he took no questions from the media, he accused Nawaz Sharif of stealing $1 billion and hiding it in London.

At CFR questions were taken, chosen by NPR's Deborah Amos from among “members,” as she put it. At least one member called on was a journalist, Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker. The last question was finally given to the back of the room, but to (at least) 32 year CIA veteran Jack Devine of the Arkin Group, who asked about Osama Bin Laden and Pakistan's seven tribal areas.

  Musharraf compared Bin Laden to Che Guevara, saying the latter was able to evade capture too.

Musharraf, 9/20/06, before the stir up

  He said that the tribal areas were left undeveloped as a buffer between Russia and India, there there is “two to three percent literacy.” Bin Laden “is viewed as their guest,” Musharraf said, recounting how on one of his visits, he traveled virtually without security because he was protected as a guest of an elder.

According to The Nation, beyond possible court cases Musharraf has been told not to return to Pakistan due to a lack of “security arrangements.” This heralds back to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto when she returned. The UN's three person investigations panel's report left open many questions as to Musharraf, but no one raised it at the CFR event.

It was unclear if Musharraf viewed his appearance as part of his campaign, or more akin to a speaking tour. He said he's spoken in Hong Kong and is going to Nigeria, that his son in Palo Alto started his Facebook page on which he has 350,000 friends. But how many enemies? Watch this site.

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Amid IMF Hardball in Pakistan on Textiles & Tax, IMF Silent, on Ukraine Taxes Too

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 4 -- After the floods in Pakistan, the International Monetary Fund said it was much concerned, was only waiting for a joint assessment mission in order to consider how to help the country.

Now an IMF team in Islamabad is back to playing hard ball, about not only the country's utilities but now its textile sector.

At the IMF's November 4 briefing, Inner City Press submitted two questions, including

Given the ongoing humanitarian situation in Pakistan, please explain report that “IMF has turned down Pakistan’s request to exempt textile sector from Reformed General Sales Tax.”

To this, spokesperson Caroline Atkinson merely said that with an IMF team in the country, she would not comment. But Pakistani officials have been speaking, off the record, about the IMF's demands.

Pakistan after floods, IMF hardball on textiles & tax not shown

Inner City Press also submitted this question, while Ms. Atkinson was still speaking:

In Ukraine, some 2000 small businesses have protested tax increases on them, which they blame on the IMF. What is the IMF's response?”

After the briefing, the following arrived:

Dear Mr. Lee: Regarding your question on Ukraine that came in after the briefing was concluded please be advised that the following can be attributed to an IMF spokesperson:

The IMF supports the modernization of the tax system in Ukraine in a manner that is consistent with medium term fiscal sustainability. An IMF mission is currently in Kyiv for the first review under the Stand-By Arrangement. The mission will be discussing with the authorities the draft tax code to ensure that is consistent with the program and promotes the rationalization of the tax system, broadens the tax base, and strengthens tax compliance”.

Tell that to the 2000 protesters. Watch this site.

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With Pakistan Blocked by IMF from Debt Relief, EU Stalls GPS+, Ripert Dodges Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 19 -- As at the UN countries jostled to give speeches about past contributions to Pakistan, Inner City Press asked UK International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell about the IMF's requirement that Pakistan not seek any relief of its $500 million a year in debt payments in exchange for a $450 million loan.

Mitchell responded that Pakistan's debt service is “only 3% of its gross national income.” He said he was sure negotiations would continue on the debt.

But a letter submitted to the IMF on September 10 by State Bank Governor Shahid Hafiz Kardar and Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh committed, at the IMF's demand

To make sure Pakistan’s international trade and financial relations continue to function normally, we will not impose any restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions nor introduce any trade restrictions or enter into any bilateral payment agreements that are inconsistent with Article VIII of the Fund’s Articles of Agreement.”

Inner City Press asked Pakistan's foreign minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi about this, and he replied that his country's finance minister is speaking with the World Bank, the IMF and Asia Development Bank and he is “sure he will take it [debt relief] up with them at the appropriate time.”

But he and the country appear precluded from taking it up, by the IMF's own demands.

Inner City Press also asked Mitchell about whether the EU will grant Pakistan GSP Plus trade benefits. Mitchell made much of his Prime Minister Cameron pushing for this, but the EU has yet to move on it, reportedly due to protectionist opposition by France, Italy, Poland and Portugal (which is seeking a UN Security Council seat). It was impossible to ask the EU, as Catherine Ashton unceremoniously canceled her scheduled stakeout.

To the side of Minister Lectureship’s stakeout, against his will, stood UN envoy Jean-Maurice Ripert. He had refused to speak to the Press outside the General Assembly's pledging session on Pakistan, and this time had to be summoned after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon left without taking questions, due to the need to swear in Michelle Bachelet at the head of UN Women.

Inner City Press asked Ripert, by name, to explain his and the UN's failure to push for humanitarian access to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas including Waziristan. Ripert tried to get OCHA's Valerie Amos to answer in his stead, but Inner City Press said Ms. Amos had already taken the question last week. (Ms. Amos later on Monday introduced and praised her previous UK colleague Andrew Mitchell in a way some correspondents found noteworthy, “like Le Roy and the French,” one said.)

Ripert came to the microphone and offered nothing but praise for the government, then referred to “security issues,” saying it is “quite normal that the UN has to discuss with the government” issues of access.

Qureshi with Ripert in a previously life, IMF and Ripert's dodges not shown

Just like UNAMID has not had access in Darfur to parts of Jebel Marra since February, the UN and NGOs have been denied access to Wazirstan. And what has the UN and Ripert done?

Footnote: Ripert has been avoiding the Press for days. On September 17, greeted by Inner City Press, he scowled and walked away, smoking a long white cigarette. Later he was seen chatting euphorically on his cell phone in the UN's Vienna Cafe. On Sunday evening he was on CNN International saying that the floods have impacted an area “as large as Italy.” Some in the Pakistani press corps have stories of Ripert in the Alps -- others say Geneva -- but everywhere but Pakistan. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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