An indomitable man
Part – IV
This is the fourth and last part on that great patriot, the late Ghulam Ishaq Khan, to whom this country owes much. Before writing about the unpleasant events of the last days of his presidency, I would first like to throw light on some of his habits.
When he became chairman Senate, the GIK Institute (GIKI) meetings were held at the KRL guest house next to our residence in E-7. Governor Amir Gulistan Janjua, H U Beg, Mr Imtiazi, A R Khan, Gen Anis, Mr Marwat and others also attended. Khan Sahib always showed great affection to my wife and would first drop in at our house and invariably thank her for giving her all out support to me in my work.
He was very fond of good food, though he was not a big eater. Our cook, Younus, would prepare special dishes for him and I would see to it that guavas were always available. He had a particular fondness for these, probably because of his background in Kohat. My dear and able colleague, Eng Ahad Khan, hailed from Kohat and often sent us crates of delicious guavas, which I would share with Khan Sahib.
Before his becoming president, our monthly meetings were held at Kahuta. There was also a guest house there and both Gen Zia and GIK were full of praise for it. We had a good cook there too and Khan Sahib would have lunch with us. He always made it a point to go around the plant and visit every section, all the while wearing a proud smile and with his eyes shining. After all, he was supervising the country’s most important project which was meant to ensure its existence and sovereignty. He was on particularly cordial terms with my colleague, Dr F H Hashmi, who did not hesitate to take liberties with him.
One day Khan Sahib was not looking well when he arrived for a meeting. After enquiring about his health, I jokingly said: “Sir, don’t worry. A Pathan either goes before 60 or after 90”. He laughed and retorted that, in that case, he had nothing to worry about. Mashallah, he was almost 92 when he expired in 2006. He lived a very fruitful, highly successful but simple, incorruptible life.
The 8th Amendment to the constitution gave the president the power to send the PM and the government packing if they were found to have indulged in corruption, maladministration and/or anti-state activities. Gen Zia had used it to sack Muhammad Khan Junejo. The real reason for his sacking was because he was after the big brass over the Ojhri Camp explosion. After Gen Zia’s death on August 17, 1988 in a plane crash atBahawalpur, elections were held and the PPP won a majority, with Benazir Bhutto becoming the PM.
It was commonly known that corruption had become even more rampant, with Asif Ali Zardari earning himself the epithet of ‘Mr Ten Percent’. How he became a billionaire didn’t seem to concern Benazir. There was also widespread maladministration and people were demanding her government be sacked.
Meanwhile the COAS, Gen Baig, and the DG ISI, Gen Hamid Gul, were briefing the president on the dangers to the country’s economy and safety. There came a point where Khan Sahib had little choice but to sack the government. Elections were once again held and the Muslim League won, with Nawaz Sharif forming government. The same malpractices continued with Nawaz Sharif ignoring GIK’s advice and acting arrogantly. He even went on TV rudely rejecting GIK’s ‘interference’.
The result was obvious. His government too was sent home. He took the case to the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Dr Naseem Hassan Shah rehabilitated his government. Politics became polarised and the then Army Chief Gen Abdul Waheed Kakar ‘requested’ both the PM and the president to resign to allow new elections to be held. This was the background to the decisions and problems that GIK faced in his last days as president.
Benazir once again came to power and this time she got her loyal colleague, Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari installed as president. Corruption reached new heights. The Swiss cases, the Surrey Palace scandal, the submarine scandal, all were public secrets. Leghari could not accept it all and once again her government was dismissed. The court did not rehabilitate her and Nawaz Sharif was re-elected as PM.
This time he lost all modicum of moderation. People started calling him a ‘Moghul king’ and he was said to aspire to have himself declared amirul momineen. He sacked the then army chief Gen Musharraf, while the latter was on his way back from Sri Lanka, which led to a big drama. Musharraf had already planned to stage a coup and was just waiting for an opportunity. This was his golden chance – and his colleagues, Gen Aziz, Gen Mahmood and Gen Usmani struck.
Both Nawaz and Shahbaz were imprisoned and Nawaz was awarded a long prison sentence for ‘hijacking’ the plane – his own, handpicked DG CAA Chowdhry giving evidence against him. Many of his cronies were imprisoned too. Ishaq Dar gave a scathing statement against him for money laundering, etc. Nawaz and Shahbaz both signed an undertaking of non-participation in politics and to remain out of Pakistan for 10 years instead of jail, all thanks to Saudi intervention. When they tried to break this undertaking, the Chief of the Saudi Intelligence, Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, together with Mr Hariri from Lebanon, had to fly to Rawalpindi and talk to the press. The Saudis were patronising Musharraf because he was killing and handing over Saudi dissidents to them and to the US.
When Nawaz Sharif had sidelined the thoroughly gentleman-like and highly professional Gen Ali Khan, on the advice of his cronies, I had told his father and him at Jatti Umra, Raiwind that he had blundered and that Musharraf was ambitious and would stage a coup. Unfortunately, my fears came true and the damage done to Pakistan is visible even today.
Much later, when GIK, some other friends and I were at the Marriott Hotel for dinner, we met former chief justice Dr Naseem Hassan Shah. He came straight to GIK and said: “Sir, it was a big mistake to rehabilitate Nawaz Sharif. You were right in sacking him. I am sorry for it”. Some journalist overheard this and put it in the paper the next day.
At GIKI I had had a lovely granite sitting area built on a hillock. I had imagined it to be the perfect, befitting place for Khan Sahib to be buried there with students offering regular fateha. However, his family decided that they wanted him buried in a graveyard in Peshawar. I wonder if anyone goes there to pray for his soul and a place in Jannah? May Almighty Allah rest this great, indomitable patriot’s soul in eternal peace – Ameen.