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APU Person of the Year -- Pervez Musharraf


For a time it looked as though would select its first woman as person of the year.

There was a tight race between two daughters of presidents who rose to the presidency themselves in their respective countries. Both did so in dramatic fashion by ousting their predecessors before the expiration of their terms.

The two dramatic heroines are President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines and President Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia.

Megawati is the daughter of the great Sukarno, still viewed as a father figure and founder of the nation among Indonesians.

Gloria is the daughter of Diosdado Macapagal known among Filipinos as an "incorruptible" politician in a land where corruption was the name of the game.

Gloria helped oust former President Joseph Estrada, while Megawati aided in the expulsion of former President Abdurrahman Wahid. Both of the former leaders were accused of corruption.

As gallantly as these two performed, the criteria for APU Person of the Year is the person who has been the most significant newsmaker of the year in and from the Asia Pacific region.

So Sept. 11 changed the situation dramatically. Now, we did not choose Usama bin Laden. When was first formed we made a questionable call in categorizing Afghanistan with the Middle East rather than Central Asia. But rather than change course in mid-stream, we decided to stay consistent.

Still, it was the events that followed Sept. 11 which brought about the clear choice for our pick. The APU Person of the Year is President Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan.

The WTC tragedy and the subsequent war in Afghanistan have influenced news in the Asia Pacific region in a way that is perhaps unprecedented. Major daily newpapers in the region have pushed their own national headlines down on the front page to make room for Sept. 11 related news. In many cases, this was still true up to the date this was written.

Suddenly, Musharraf was pushed into the limelight. He had made headlines before when he rose to power in a military coup. But never anything comparable to what happened after Sept. 11. In one instance, CNN spent almost two hours covering a long rambling press conference, Musharraf held for the international press.

If Afghanistan was not enough, now Musharraf is also in the headlines due to the India-Pakistan tensions after a suicide attack in India's parliament.

For one who seems reluctant deep down to play before the cameras, he has handled the situation quite well. In fact, he takes to the public relations game like a duck to water.

As a general he is most comfortable speaking about military strategy and the like. However, he has taken the opportunity to comment on a wide range of issues before the world press. He is not shy in stating that his nation's interests rule his decisions and he has shown that he can bend with the wind.

Musharraf's selection as person of the year was due to circumstances beyond his control. He was merely reacting to the situation that presented itself. Yet, he has often been suprisingly effective.

Although the Taliban and al-Qaeda have now submerged under attack by both U.S. and opposition Afghani forces, it may be some time before the spotlight is taken off the area. As long as bin Laden and Mullah Omar remain at large one can bet that there will be a major focus on the region. There are even reports that bin Laden may be hiding in Pakistan sheltered by fundamentalist Islamic leaders.

Between the Afghan conflict and the brewing tensions on the disputed border with India, Musharraf may find himself in the headlines for some time to come in 2002.