By Hassan Naqvi
Interview of Ambassador Wajid Shamsul Hasan about his book, ‘Life with the Bhuttos’.
At long last much awaited book by one of the remaining journalistic icons—call you what you may— ‘Last of Mohicans’ has come out and because of my contacts managed to secure first of the copies from the publisher Zanobia Ilyas/Mujahid Barelvi in Karachi. I promised them that my review of the book would be my first. I took it as an opportunity to know the views of the ailing veteran journalist under the cover of the review of the book “His life with the Bhuttos”.
Known as longest serving High Commissioner of Pakistan to the Court of St. James WSH remembered his release in late 1997 by the Sindh High Court after many legal battles, long periods of intermittent third degree torture and his final release in late 1997 by the Sindh High Court that ordered hisrelease for lack of evidence and failure of Ehtesab Bureau and FIA to establish any charge against him unscrupulously fabricated Nawaz’s main hatchet man Senator Saifur Rehman after nearly a year long incarceration his orders. Senator Saif-ur- Rehman had singled out Wajid for his long association with Mohatarma Benazir Bhutto, Asif Zardari and her father President/Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Senator Saifur Rehman pitched him to be tortured and prosecuted to force him to commit perjury against his enemy number one Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari. Wajid did not surrender to fascist prosecution and as a result, like Asif Ali Zardari, WSH got afflicted with various endangering ailments to his life including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and irreversibly damaged kidneys that are now functioning only 15 pc.
Senator Sauif-ur- Rehman believed that Wajid’s torture would lead him to confess his fabricated allegations against Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari which he did not and remained resilient of his loyalty. It was in June 1997 Benazir Bhutto called on him to know of his deteriorating health in the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC), Rawalpindi. She expressed her profound concern to Brigadier Ashur, AFIC’s head Cardialogist, to look after Wajid as he was a national asset. Later presenting him a lap top computer she advised him to pen his memoirs to save for posterity his reminiscences of the excruciating experiences under oppressive dictators both as a journalist as well as a political activist.
His tell-tale memoirs of a life full of hardships, challenges, relentless struggle for democracy and being a die-hard Bhuttoiite– would be worth reading and be a source of emulation among the young journalists now facing Gestapo-like victimisation including pick-n-drop persecution by the regime.
Indeed, the following note by Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for the book –Wajid’s life with Bhuttos– reveals succinctly
In the words of Bilawal: “many cops that Wajid Shamsul Hasan has worn through-out his life, journalist, political activist, prisoner of conscience, diplomat; but the one that has meant most to me has been his role as a member of my family. I have had the pleasure of knowing him my entire life, and I have always been taken by his humility, loyalty and kindness.
“He was a source of support for my mother, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and has continued to be one for us. “From imprisonment, to having to go into exile, Wajid Shamsul Hasan has paid a great cost for his principles and beliefs. But not once has his commitment to the people of Pakistan and the Pakistan’s People’s Party wavered. There are few who have served democracy and Pakistan as Wajid Shamsul Hasan has.”
Wajid Shamsul Hasan joined journalism in 1962, became editor of largest circulated English evening Daily News and editor of Jang group’s largest circulated English Magazine MAG. He later served as Chairman National Press Trust—biggest conglomerate of newspapers assigned by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to liquidate it and release over a dozen media outlets of government’s stranglehold. In 1994 Benazir Bhutto appointed him as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to UK followed by his appointment by President Zardari as Pakistan’s longest serving High Commissioner to UK. Throughout he remained a most trusted adviser to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Zardari. He also had the distinction of travelling to nearly 50 countries with Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and later Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto as member of their official entourage that including his meetings with HRH The Queen, Chairman Mao of People’s Republic of China, Premier Chou En-Lai, Supreme Leader Deng Pio, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister John Major, Prime Minister David Cameroon, Prime Minister Theresa May, Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Yasser Arafat, President George Bush, President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and President Nelson Mandela, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, President Hosni Mobarak– to name a few. Incidentally President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto introduced his 19-year-old Daughter Benazir Bhutto to journalist Wajid at the time of signing of the historic Simla peace agreement in 1972 bringing on record the longest serving peace treaty between the two warring nations.
Introducing him to late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1989 in Islamabad, Ms Bhutto emphasised to him that WSH was a ‘special friend’ who was well-regarded by her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Very few in Pakistan would have the singular distinction of having travelled with Bhutto Sahib and Bibi as to more than many countries in the world. On most of the vital discussions WSH was kept at hand to be available to the Prime Minister for advice and consultation. Often, he was envied and subject of jealousy to the extent that when President Farooq Leghari dismissed her government WSH was second only to be arrested after Asif Zardari. Just then Benazir Bhutto advised him to leave Pakistan, go to London or Dubai for his safety since she feared that President Farooq would not spare him. And, indeed, President Farooq Leghari got him arrested soon after AAZ, subjected him to worst possible torture
(The writer is an investigative journalist who can be reached on twitter @hassannaqvi5)