Former Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi asked the returning officer about our party’s ballot box. He pointed towards a nearby pond of sewage and said, “Look, it is still floating,” writes former Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain in his recently released memoir.
In his book Sach To Yeah Hai (The Reality Is This), the veteran politician has laid bare the dynamics and hypocritical politics of Pakistan in the last three decades in a simple and humorous way. He must have hidden many facts or avoided others for many reasons, but still the book offers enough to learn about Pakistan politics and its recent history. The Sharif family, his contemporary in politics, first as allies and later as rivals, is a central part of his memoir. He tells us former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif betrayed him eight times. The betrayals also prove his gullibility, but he has not attempted to hide it. He specifically mentions an incident when Nawaz Sharif nominated his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif as the chief minister of the Punjab in 1997, despite an assurance by his father Mian Sharif that Pervaiz Elahi would be given the position.
The 328-page book also details Shujaat’s brief tenure as the prime minister of Pakistan and his interaction with political leaders during the period. “Nawaz Sharif asked me to frame a fake narcotics case against his archrival, Asif Ali Zardari, but I refused, for which I earned the praise of Zardari, who stated in 2015 that he had become the president because of Shujaat,” he recounts. The government of Nawaz Sharif could have been saved in 1999, if he had avoided ordering the diversion of the plane of the then Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf. The army was not willing to stage a coup against the Nawaz government. Hamza Shahbaz, son of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, was in constant contact with the PML-Q leadership when his family had left for Saudi Arabia.
Writing about the situation after the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, he says the 2008 general elections were rigged, categorically mentioning that America wanted its party to come to power. He blames Pervez Musharraf and Principal Secretary Tariq Aziz for his party’s defeat in the elections. “The US did not want our party to win the elections. When I asked America’s Richard Hoagland as to why the US managed our defeat, he said that it was not America but my close friends (Pervez Musharraf and Tariq Aziz),” he claims.
“President General Ziaul Haq said he was not satisfied with the performance of the then Punjab Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif and he had also lost the trust of the assembly. Bring a no-trust motion against him and I will support Pervaiz Elahi as the chief minister,” he quotes General Zia as saying. However, Nawaz Sharif reconciled with General Zia through former ISI Chief General Hameed Gul. “Nawaz Sharif lodged fake cases against my brothers Wajahat Hussain and Shafaat Hussain to punish me for siding with former Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo. When we all won, he called me to warn that if I did not reconcile with him, the PPP will form the government in the Punjab,” he wrote. Narrating another incident, he says former President Ghulam Ishaq Khan phoned Benazir Bhutto to inform her he was dismissing her government. She said, “You had denied it in the morning.” He quipped, “I decided it only in the afternoon.”
Reminiscing on an attack on the Supreme Court of Pakistan by Pakistan Muslim League activists, he writes, “In 1997, Mian Munir, Tariq Aziz, Mian Miraj and Akhtar Rasool were scapegoated for the incident while Shahbaz Sharif was making announcements on a loudspeaker, asking the workers, who had stormed the Supreme Court building, not to leave without having qeemaywalay (meat-filled) naan at Punjab House.” On the tussle of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with the then Chief Justice of Pakistan Sajjad Ali Shah, he recounts, “One day Nawaz Sharif asked his close aide and Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub if Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah could be arrested and put in jail even for a night.”
Shujaat also narrates an interesting incident about former Punjab IG Police Rana Maqbool, who had reached Karachi to arrest the then Army Chief Pervez Musharraf at Karachi Airport after Nawaz Sharif sacked him. Rana Maqbool asked the then PML-N Sindh President Ghous Ali Shah to accompany him to the airport. “If we succeeded in arresting Musharraf, well and good, but if we fail we will tell him we came here to receive him,” Rana Maqbool told Ghous Ali Shah. “When the Sharif family was going to Jeddah to live in exile, Ghous Ali Shah asked Shahbaz Sharif about where they were going. Shahbaz informed him they were going to meet somebody and would return in two weeks,” he narrates.
The PML-Q leader also lifts the lid on the issue of nuclear proliferation and scientist Dr. Qadeer. “When Pakistan was under the radar of international players and was being subjected to intense foreign pressure, Musharraf sent barrister SM Zafar and me to Dr. Qadeer, convincing him to apologize to the nation.” He reveals that he was asked to meet Qadeer alone. When he met him, the scientist rejected the allegations of nuclear materials theft and took him to his house and showed him the furniture of his wife had brought as dowry, arguing that he even could not afford to buy new furniture. “Qadeer’s apology enhanced his dignity in my eyes,” he notes.
At one point, he writes that former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz complained about the then Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to Pervez Musharraf, who removed him. After the unanimous reinstatement of Iftikhar Chaudhry on July 20, 2007, Shujaat says he had advised Musharraf to resolve differences with him. “Musharraf accepted it, however, his aides did not allow him.” He also reveals the observation of Pervez Musharraf about Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, whom he labelled “extremely lazy” as Musharraf used to complain that he woke up at noon. “I advised Jamali to resign after his relationship with Musharraf deteriorated.” On the Lal Masjid incident, he says Abdur Rashid Ghazi trusted him and before his death he had handed over his two adopted daughters to him, which are still under his guardianship.
The book offers significant insight into Pakistan politics in a light manner. It was launched two months ahead of the general elections. Elections in Pakistan have always been rigged and influenced by international forces. It should serve as a timely warning to take steps to ensure fair and free elections for the better future of Pakistan.