By Senator Rehman Malik
Mr. Bashir Riaz, Mr Wajid Sham-ul-Hassan and few other PPP leaders in UK are the witness to it that how I made the “Tape Scandal” public through some prominent newspapers and by strategy in USA while she was on tour there. Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, as per plan, made it public through her presser. I will not forget Mr Rahim who had done this mission impossible to have the conversation recorded and I also remember that how I managed visa for him for Austria through the local Royal family member. I got the original tapes and Mr Rahim to Austria and got him accommodated with one of my nephews.
I flew with Dy Editor of Sunday Times to Austria for interview of Mr Rahim and original tapes were analysed with the expensive voice sample comparison which were in fact done from a voice forensic laboratory in London. This job was entrusted to one of our old workers, Mr Mohsin Bari.
I managed the broadcast of speech of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto from London to Yaadgar-e-Pakistan through my Satellite DM TV via Thailand. The speech was prepared by Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in the presence of Mr. Bashir Riaz, Wajid Shams-ul-Hassan and me in Urdu. I got the tapes flown through Mr Bari and the logistic in Lahore were done by the president PPP Punjab, Mr. Qasim Zia. Mr. Qasim Zia had rendered great services for PPP during difficult times. I coordinated the entire tape scandal mission in most secret and well-coordinated manner keeping MBB informed. This was the time when Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Aseffa were small children and were living in Dubai who used to visit UK during holidays.
The Tape Scandal through European largest newspaper Sunday Times came as shocking surprise for Gen. Pervez Musharraf and his team. The next step was to present the tapes before the Supreme Court which we made as additional evidence in the court and as per my designed plan the tapes were got delivered with Walkman to the judges at their residences, in the Bench and were also submitted to the court.
my strategy showed effective results and the video speech of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and hype in the media worked like a fire in the country and the tape scandal did wonders and the judges after hearing the taps and seeing the transcript prepared by me did the magic and the judges whose voice including the then CJ Punjab, Justice Rashid Aziz, who was by then elevated as a Judge of the Supreme Court had to resign and my promise to my leader got fulfilled when we heard the suspension of the earlier judgment by Justice Abdul Qayyum against Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari. It was declared an illegal conviction by the Supreme Court.
My hard work and planning and the assistance of my staff and colleagues did the miracle. Our team in Punjab and Baba-e-law Latif Khosa demonstrated his professionalism and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was restored back in the politics. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was in London and he shared her joyful moments with her family.
The struggle did not stop here as Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Assefa continued to live without their father who was in jail in Pakistan in another fake case and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was struggling to get the democracy restored. She made number of visits to various countries in the world to meet the world leadership and she created a successful roadmap to give tough time to Gen. Musharraf.
I once again came under cloud after the Tape Scandal and red notice was repeated on me and Gen. Pervez Musharraf team got me detained in New York airports on the basis of red notice. I was treated like terrorist because of the serious request for a man wanted by Gen Musharraf. I remained in shackles and tied with iron chair for twenty four hours and I was given treatment like a terrorist including my eyes were blind folded. I was the officer who hunted the most wanted terrorists like Yousef Ramzi, but I was hunted down as terrorist under mistaken identity. There was one to listen to my innocence but after 24 hours a senior officer came and interviewed me and based on my profile, he apologised and informed you have been formally detailed as terrorist by mistake and now only the President of USA can release you and it will be done at 9Am when he would reach the office.
The American found out later that I am not a dangerous terrorist, but it was matter of political vendetta. I was release and despite the apology from the Deputy Secretary of State I refused to enter USA as a protest and flew back to London on first return flight. The readers will see more details in my forthcoming book next month on this ordeal and my 24 in agony being treated as terrorist sitting with real hard core terrorists detained in the said detention centre. Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was informed as well while I was tied with iron chair which I managed through a tinny mobile hidden in my socks from the washroom when permitted after lunch two hours to use the bathroom. She was a great sister and real kind soul and she was above than a normal human being.
I did not travel to USA after this incident and I finally entered USA as Interior Minister and I could see the place where I was blind folded & handcuffed and forced in a vehicle. It was divine vindication that I was being escorted the same airport police which one day mistakenly treated me as terrorist.
Circle of time continued, and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto continued to gain International support and extra powerful and well strategized support started pouring in to Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto after the arrival of President Asif Ali Zardari to New York and effectiveness increased manifolds.
The struggle of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto with international pressure forced Gen. Pervez Musharraf to talk to her. She accordingly deputed me eventually to talk to the military leadership on one point agenda of elections allowing all the parties to participate in the elections. Charter of democracy was already signed at my residence in London with Nawaz Sharif which played a vital role to create communication between both the exiled leaders, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
She had built so much pressure on the mind of Gen. Musharraf that he eventually sought the help of Americans and this is how I met also Ms. Condoleezza Rice and one of her senior diplomat Mr. Richard Boucher, the Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs. Ms. Rice, in her book, has quoted as: “Mr. Richard Boucher became the point man for the US in exploring a deal. Shuttling back and forth between the parties — usually meeting Bhutto in London — Richard got them close enough to make a face-to-face meeting possible”. I was dealing with Mr. Richard Boucher, but the Americans could not make the way as Gen. Pervez Musharraf was not prepared to take out his uniform.
It was true that the Americans were also convinced that Gen. Musharraf was losing grip on his power. There were couple of meetings between the senior Generals under Gen. Musharraf with me in Dubai and London include Mr Tariq Aziz and subsequently with Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto wherein transition of democracy was discussed. Mr Tariq Aziz had played major role in these negotiations who is a great friend and highly intelligent. I had more meetings with him as compare to the senior Generals.
A final meeting was held in Abu Dhabi in a Palace where Gen. Musharraf arrived with his team and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir and I met for the first time with Gen. Musharraf. The first span of meeting was held in presence of myself and Military Secretary of Gen. Musharraf and thereafter one to one meeting between Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Gen. Pervez Musharraf. This one to one meeting between Gen. Musharraf did not progress as per the expectation of Gen. Pervez Musharraf as it did not last for long time.
A dialogue which even Gen. Pervez Musharraf cannot deny was as under:-
Gen. Pervez Musharraf: Mohtarma you should come Pakistan after the elections on 31st December 2007 and we will celebrate the new year together.
Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto: It is not up to you General, as it is for me to choose my time lines to return who had to decide about my return to Pakistan but it is me who is going to decide when I am going back to Pakistan and I have decided to go back to Pakistan as per my plan.
In the meantime, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir went to washroom and in the presence of his Military Secretary, Gen. Musharraf asked me Malik Sb why didn’t you ask Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto to change her mind to return to Pakistan before election. I responded to Gen. Musharraf that it is her prerogative and she had made up her mind to return to Pakistan hence she is not going to change. The meeting ended inconclusive with the last note that we would continue to remain engaged.
The PPP leadership was waiting for MBB in London for the second meeting for the second meeting for the distribution of the tickets etc., and as desired by Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, her visit to UAE was kept highly secret which was managed accordingly and return back to London from Dubai was made within 22 hours. She decided in the party meeting to return on 18th October 2007 despite some of the leaders advised her not to go back in view of security alerts against her, but she refused and told that she has decided to return to Pakistan and will take part in the elections.
The last telephone call between Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Gen. Musharraf was arranged by me at my residence and it was carried out by Gen. Hamid, his Chief of Staff whom I found very professional and intelligent person.
The first round of the discussions was a disaster as the talking points placed before Gen. Musharraf were the old one and not agreed points with his team. Gen. Musharraf was not in favour of return of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto to take part in the elections. The second round within one hour turned out to be fruitful where mainly four points decided were agreed that her return will not be hindered, she will take part in elections, no rigging in election shall take place and all parties will be allowed to participate in the elections. We as party will face our cases in Pakistan. She refused to take any favour and the NRO prepared by Mr Hamid advocate sent through Gen Hamid via fax was declined and hence it was decision of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto for not accepting any NRO.
Finally, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto arrived in UAE and as a part of return plan I also reached UAE where a delegation from Saudi Arabia also reached and asked her if she had any objection on the return of Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan but she very graciously informed that she would not contest elections unless Nawaz Sharif is allowed to take part in the elections.
Mr. Asif Ali Zardari had arranged a bullet proof truck and Maj. Gen. Ehsan was appointed as overall security In-charge of the security including some senior leaders of PPP from Sindh including Shahbaz Mirani. The choice of Maj. Imtiaz, as Chief Security Officer was done by Ms. Naheed Khan against A.D. Khawaja whose name was proposed by Gen. Musharraf through Tariq Aziz.
PPP workers were fully jubilant, a good situation was created but the then Chief Minister of Sindh announced not to allow Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto to pay homage at the Quaid’s Mazar and through the then Mayor of Karachi, the roads were blocked. She asked me to talk to the leaders of MQM and accordingly the directions were given from 90 Azizabad and the road were opened within no time and last hurdle for her arrival was cleared.
Landing in Karachi is now part of the history of Pakistan & was a great experience after 09 years in exile. However, the blast at Karsaz took away all the happiness of the workers of PPP which was designed to sabotage the return of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. In fact, UAE intelligence through the Ruler of Dubai had earlier informed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto that attack on her return is reportedly eminent, but she decided to take the risk.
She returned back to Dubai after few days and I travelled with her and the last journey was through Air Blue which was taken off on 26th morning arriving at 11 o’ clock at Islamabad. We then proceeded to Peshawar for a Jalsa where she experienced yet an unsuccessful attack on her.
She was determined to take her nation out of the crises, and she was the voice of masses which was muted by the enemies through a planned terrorist attack where the then Government failed to provide her security as per the Blue Book. The criminals snatched a great leader from her masses and her lovely children Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Assefa.
While driving her and he three children to Oxford and then for picnic layer and then on way to the designer village we never thought it was her last drive with us. I remember her giving children number of small lessons of life. She loved her children and her husband. She was God fearing person and 5 times prayers and all the time TUSBI in her hand praying to Allah.
I was very sad when I addressed the student union this year at the same building which reminded me the happy family. I pray for long life and my best wishes to the children and who knows as to how life treats us on this journey of life. Who could have imagined as to how Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto will slip away from her nears and dears including her three children and beloved husband Asif Ali Zardari.
I remember there were many in my party who considered me an alien in the party and came like skylab straight as Interior Minister. This propaganda is still on against me by some opponents who do not know my services to the party. I am grateful to the President Zardari to clear in one of the party meetings stating that it was Rehman Malik who looked after the party and assisted Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto when may close friends left us, but he stood with us from his jail to other ordeals.
I must say party has given me lot of respect and my services will continue in the same spirit. I will write on those close PPP associates who ditched the party in the most difficult times.
In the end I will say my PPP family is great. Pakistan Paindabad – PPP Zindabad.
(The writer is former Interior Minister of Pakistan, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Chairman of Think Tank “Global Eye”. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter)