SINCE his departure from the political stage, General (retd) Musharraf has had the unenviable task of explaining the finer points of South Asia's politics to the Western audience. His lecture tours are both a source of income and publicity. As of now he is the darling of the Western intelligentsia. And indeed, more and more universities are looking forward to listening to what he has to say. Indeed, he looks like a soothsayer with a crystal ball, peeping into the future. But his zeal to portray himself as a saviour, often distorts his sense of proportion. His recent statement in which he warned that the Taliban are in cahoots with the Islamic Movement of India and that both are trying to provoke a nuclear war between Pakistan and India appears to be a figment of his unbridled imagination. The reality is that it is not the Taliban but the Hindu hardliners at the helm of decision-making in New Delhi who can start a nuclear conflagration between the two sides. The General should be informing his audience that it is precisely this menace that is out there to create enmity and tension in the region. Saying that the Taliban could do so, is like making a mountain of a molehill. This testifies to his proclivity for playing to the Western gallery. In particular, it smacks of the Bush regime that was striking fear in the hearts of the politically unaware happy-go-lucky American public. For Pakistan, such schizophrenic utterances hardly serve any useful purpose. Indeed, watching him talk in this manner abroad is what the hawks in Western capitals want. Not long ago, General Musharraf while holding the reins of power confessed that Pakistan had an image problem. Now, it should dawn on him that the hypothetical and flawed premises he presents in his lectures are further plaguing the image. Admittedly, far from being the self-confessed icon, he is part of the problem.