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Campus prepares for visit from controversial strongman Musharraf

Pervez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan who resigned last year as opposition parties threatened to impeach him, is set to deliver a lecture tonight to what may be a skeptical American audience.

Musharraf, who took power in the South Asian nation in a nonviolent military coup in 1999, will speak at 7 p.m. in the De Ciccio Family Auditorium at the Salomon Center.

The former leader, whose controversial policies on fighting terrorism and attempts to maintain his hold on power in the unstable country led to his ouster, has already attracted enormous interest. Tickets for the lecture, distributed last week, ran out, though those without passes can try to grab a seat at a simulcast in Sayles Hall.

The Brown Lecture Board, which is sponsoring the address, hopes Musharraf's appearance will be "enriching to the Brown experience," said Andrew Chapin '10, one of the presidents of the board. "Bringing him isn't any political statement, and it isn't trying to send a message by any means," he said.

"We aren't trying to get him to talk about some specific issues. He has a unique perspective and interesting experiences," Chapin said.

Musharraf's talk will be followed by a question-and-answer moderated by Nina Tannenwald, associate professor of international relations.

Security is one of the main concerns with hosting a high-profile political figure on campus. The Department of Public Safety, the U.S. State Department and Musharraf's own security detail from Pakistan are working together to make sure the event runs safely, according to Chapin.

Unlike with most major speakers who come to campus, a recording of the event will not be made available online because of the terms of the contract with Musharraf. Moreover, the Lecture Board will not allow media into Salomon.

Before Musharraf gives his lecture, he will attend a small reception with members of the Pakistani Students Association, which was cleared by the former president several days ago, according to Chapin. "Once things were all approved, it wasn't a big deal, and they're meeting with him for a few minutes prior to the lecture," he said.

Members of the organization said they met last night to discuss the logistics of the reception and how they wanted to present themselves to the former president. Arsalan Ali Faheem GS, the group's president, said the members were grateful for the opportunity to meet privately with Musharraf. He said he hopes Musharraf's presence on campus will foster further discussion about Pakistan.

"We look forward to hearing about what in his opinion are the most pressing needs of Pakistan today," Faheem said. "And what he thinks young Pakistanis, or any young person, can do to improve the situation."

Faheem emphasized that the organization is a "nonpartisan and apolitical student group" and said it did not have a formal position toward Musharraf or his policies.

Farrukh Malik '11, a member of the organization, said, "Our objective is to better understand the events that happened in Pakistan during his time in power."

"He's obviously not popular these days in Pakistan, but there was a time when he was," Malik said. "Political figures rise and fall in terms of popularity — that doesn't make them more or less important. We as an organization are happy that he is coming because it spreads awareness about Pakistan."

"We want to see what Musharraf thinks about Pakistan today," Malik added.

Chapin said the Lecture Board had not been considering inviting anyone else to speak this fall after an agency representing Musharraf successfully pitched him to the board last spring.

"The opportunity arose and we saw that this was something pretty unique that we hadn't done before," Chapin said.



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