Shrewsbury School

Third Former interviews the former President of Pakistan

Monday 2 July 2012

As part of his history project 'Oral History and the Twentieth Century', Zakee Afsar (SH 3) was lucky enough to be granted an interview with the former Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf, and has written up his experience for the school website.

I could not sleep the night before my interview was due to take place. I had done my research and prepared my interview questions for the morning, but I was nervous about meeting an army general and president. The last interview I had done was at prep school! That was interviewing the Headmaster in year three and that was good fun. This was a bit more serious.

Zakee Asfar and General Pervez MusharrafIt was an early start and I was up at 5.30am as my dad was driving me to London to meet the president at his apartment in London, which was close to Hyde Park. After breakfast and before we left for London my dad presented me with a recording device for the interview.  That was good thinking as I had not considered how I would note the interview accurately.

On the journey to London I spent some time learning how to use the recording device and reconsidering my interview notes and questions. I ran through my questions with my dad. He was a good listener but he gave no real indication of what he thought! He gave his standard response “I’m sure you will be fine so just relax!” I still remember this was the same advice before the Year 4 play at prep school! I played a leading role as chief of one of the tribes in “Peace Child”. That was the peak of my acting career.

Anyhow, the drive to London was rapid as I had lots to do and think about. Eventually we arrived in London and we had tea at a friend’s house before moving on to meet the president.

We got to our location about 10.45am and parked up outside what looked to be a very nice, say 10 storey building. I stayed in the car initially and my father went to meet the concierge.  Parking had been arranged for us and we waited whilst security telephoned the president's apartment and informed him of our arrival. Apparently there was 24 hour monitoring by MI5 for security reasons! I was due to meet the president at 11am.

The waiting seemed forever (really it was only 5 minutes!) when a man came down to meet us and spoke to my dad. That was not the president, as I had seen him on the TV and I had seen pictures of him in his book “In the Line of Fire” which I had read and had with me for reference purposes.

We went up to the 10th floor and I think there was a code to the lift to get to that level as I remember the man punching a code into the control panel. I later found out this man was one of four permanent security people that were responsible for the safety and welfare of the president.

Finally, I got to meet the president/general. He was a very welcoming host but there was an air of  authority around this man. He was wearing casual clothes but seemed to be very tidy and perfectly groomed as you would expect of an army general.

We had tea again and then the president asked me a few questions about my age, my interests and about my school. I explained why I needed to interview him. He seemed very happy to help and then invited me into his study where I conducted the interview.

I was amazed at the seriousness in which the president conducted the interview and the respect he gave me! I was nervous to start with, but after a few questions I settled down and got on with the job. I asked some very sensitive questions and I believe the president responded frankly and gave answers without trying to avoid the questions! He never once made me feel like a school boy and I enjoyed the experience. Towards the end I ran out of questions but I was creative and managed a 56 minute interview with no disturbance. That was a long time for a one-to-one with an army general and president!

I asked the president a question about personal qualities and traits? I think his answer was helpful guidance to me and could be to all us. In short, he said to succeed in life you need a “wholesome personality” and to be in tune with your “physical, moral and social development.” He gave examples: honesty, truthfulness, compassion for others and said  “..... I think 50% of success in life is social development and in social development you need to know how to behave, how to interact with your subordinates, with your peers, with your equals, friends and with your superiors.” The actual answer was very long and I have picked out bits that I need to think about again and which I think would help all of us boys at school.

That was it. I was on cloud nine and my confidence levels were at an all time high after the interview! I persuaded the old man to take me into town (with the “you should be a proud father” talk) and do some shopping afterwards.

Zakee Afsar (SH 3)

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