By Senator Rehman Malik
It is very popular phrase that history always repeats itself but the fact is that history reminds us those incidents which may lead important tasks in future. Here, I am recalling the days which I spent in exile. This page is basically a fact sheet to put the record straight and apprise the nation of few happenings behind the scene.
I am pointing out some of the incidents of my exile period where I was an eyewitness of most of the developments taking place abroad. It was well before the departure of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto from UK when UK had become hub of political activities. I am referring to the initial dialogue with Gen Musharraf through his close aides including Mr. Tariq Aziz, Gen Kiyani, and Gen Hamed, where I acted on behalf of Mohtarma and these dialogues took place mostly in UK and UAE and every meeting has become a hard fact of Pak history.
While our dialogue for a political transition with Gen. Musharraf was going on, it is a matter of record that Nawaz Sharif was also engaged in negotiation with Gen. Musharraf through Brig Niaz whom Sharif brother had met to develop an understanding with Gen Musharraf to end their exile. Brig Niaz was one of the closest friends of Gen. Musharraf and he emerged as one of his political wheeler and dealer as well as known for his dealing in defense deals which he started post-PNA movements. The political activities started to take its final shape in 2007. The GPM strategy was to engage both Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in dialogue.
It was nearly mid-July of 2007 when a delegation from Saudi Arabia visited Mohtarma in Dubai with a question “if she had any objection if Nawaz Sharif returns back to Pakistan”. She responded that she had no objection to him going to Pakistan and she would like him to go back and contest forthcoming elections. She was all out for Sharif to return. Shaheed wanted to mount pressure for fair elections and transition from dictatorship to democracy. It was for this reason that Mohtarma supported the return of Sharif at every forum.
In fact, the return of Mohtarma paved the way for the return of Sharif and it was she who persuaded Sharif to contest elections, which was decided in a meeting between Sharif assisted by Ch. Nisar / Mr. Ishaq Dar/Mr. Javed Hashmi and Mohtarma assisted by Mr. Amin Fahim (Late) and myself in Zardari house in Islamabad. Her death shook the country and was a big national loss and Mr. Asif Zardari acted, thereafter, wisely and controlled the highly charged situation in Sindh.
President Musharraf was not in favour of Mohtarma and Sharif returning and tried to block them but the pressure of the USA for restoration of democracy duly endorsed by yet another country from the Middle East worked well. Admittedly, Saudi Arabia was backing the return of Sharif to Pakistan whereas Mohtarma had become the invincible force which Gen Pervez Musharraf was unable to block.
Just a reminder to refer a press conference: on 8 September 2007 by Lebanese politician Saad Hariri and Saudi intelligence Chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul-Aziz, managed by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, addressed an unprecedented joint press conference at Army General Headquarters (GHQ) to discuss how Sharif’s return would affect relations. Prince Muqrin stated that the initial agreement was for 10 years but “these little things do not affect relations.” Muqrin expressed hope that Sharif would continue with the agreement and it was a bid to block the return of Nawaz Sharif. He also urged Nawaz Sharif to respect an earlier promise to stay away until 2010 but this changed when Nawaz Sharif used his influence with Saudi King and moreover he was no more in Saudi and he could influence with his international friends. In fact, Saudi Arabia gave go head to Nawaz Sharif to return to Pakistan only subject to indemnity to Gen. Pervez Musharraf after long discussions and a visit of Gen Pervez Musharraf where he was informed about assurances. It was a silent NOR between GPM and Nawaz Sharif, which made Nawaz Sharif return where Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto played her political role to prepare the country for meaningful elections.
Let me go through the background and the history, which developed during the exile when Charter of Democracy was signed. On 14th May 2006, COD was signed between Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif in London at my residence while we all were in exile and the leadership of both parties got united just to oust Gen. Pervez Musharraf and both parties had already had experienced the real heat of exile. It did not happen in one day and it resulted after a lot of background meetings between both the sides at various level.
I remember the first meeting, which was between me, Senator Ishaq Dar and Ghous Ali Shah in hotel Pak Lane over lunch and followed by many meeting in the UK. These meetings then followed by a telephone conversation between Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif while both were in London, which was arranged by me and Mr. Ghous Ali Shah. I found Mr. Ghous Ali Shah a very sensible person and he used to be one of the most trusted aides of Nawaz Shah during that time but I still wonder why Nawaz Sharif dropped him from his team. I wish he had not dropped a sensible veteran companion and he would have benefited from his able advice.
Further meetings between me and Kh Asif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif in random places around Edgware Road continued and discussions centered on only one point agenda to forge cooperation between the two parties to oust Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Mian Shahbaz Sharif had some good suggestion but the ultimate rested with Mian Nawaz Sharif. Finally, the dialogue culminated into COD, which was basically an alliance and political road map between two bigger political parties of Pakistan. It outlined steps to end the military rule established by the 1999 coup led by General Pervez Musharraf and to restore civilian democratic rule. The main features of the COD were as under:
1) The structure of constitution of 1973 should be revived like exactly what it was till October 1999.
2) Both parties will not do any deal with the running party or mercenaries, so as to win the elections.
3) The judiciary, law and Election Commission shall be made neutral.
4) If any party win the elections then it will not torment opposition, but instead of this, it will invite opposition in offering suggestions in political social, economic, regional and international affairs. And none of the decisions shall be made that will go against the mind of the parliament. And the same liability is for the opposition that it will also not anguish government like what traditionally it is used to doing.
5) LFO shall be revoked, and the principles, which say that minimum age of voters should be 18 years, women are permissible to be the parliament members, and seats of parliament can be increased shall remain unaltered or unmodified.
6) Genuine relations shall be established between civil administration and military.
This political roadmap was to be followed in full letter and spirit. This COD had made Gen. Pervez Musharraf quite nervous but unfortunately, Mian Nawaz Sharif could not abide by to this COD and he started its violations by, inter alia, establishing direct contacts with Brig Niaz to develop his one to one understanding with Gen. Pervez Musharraf while in the UK. Shaheed Mohtarma was of the view to have a joint political strategy rather individual approach but Sharif decided to have an individual approach.
(The writer is a PPP Senator, former Interior Minister, Chairman of think tank “Global Eye” and Senate Body on Interior and Narcotics. email@example.com @senrehmanmalik)