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Interview: Thomas R. Harkin
"Helping America Better Appreciate Pakistan"

By: Tashbih Sayyed
If there is one thing, positive, that can be attributed to the spate of nuclear explosions in South Asia, it is the re-emergence of the Kashmir dispute on the international scene and the realization by the world powers that Pakistan, as a nuclear power, is more than competent and deserving to represent the Islamic world, in the UN, as a permanent member of its Security Council. Pakistan has obviously shown that, it has the military power to defend itself and bargain on an equal level with its neighbors, declared Senator Thomas R. Harkin. He was replying to an exclusive question put to him by Pakistan Today, (partly reported in the local newspaper without giving credit to Pakistan Today) during a fund raiser in his honor by Attiazaz and Naureen Din and Ahmed and Parveen Ali at latter’s residence.

Senator Harkin is one of those very few US legislators who have not only equipped themselves with the knowledge and information about Pakistan, a country that is, because of its strategic station, going to be the focus of attention of the world powers for a long time to come, but uses his influence to defend it, wherever and whenever a need arises. Talking to Pakistan Today, he dwelt on the possibilities of Pakistan being a member of the UN Security Council, he advocated the case of Pakistan on the basis that Muslim states are emerging as an important group of nations contributing toward peace and stability of the world, and Pakistan being a Muslim state, having established itself as a responsible military power, should be considered for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, “I would like to raise the level of thinking. Why not think of Pakistan?”

Senator Thomas Harkin, discussed at length, the role, Pakistan can play among the comity of nations. He said that now that the immediate concern, regarding one’s national security interests have been taken care of by matching India’s atomic explosions, Pakistan can move ahead positively and more aggressively than India by working for non-proliferation and other objectives of world peace and stability. He emphasized that if Pakistan acts responsibly, in accordance with its stature, it can take the lead in South Asia, “Pakistan has obviously shown that it has the military power to defend itself and bargain on an equal level with its neighbors. I would hope that it’s role might be one of moving ahead more aggressively than what India has been doing. While they felt, it was in their best national security interests, that phase is over and they are ready to move on to a new level. I think, if they do that, Pakistan can then take the lead in South Asia. It would be looked upon as a leader in the region, in non-proliferation, CTBT etc. It could move Pakistan ahead.

Replying to another exclusive question by Pakistan Today, that, is the US is ready to help and assist Pakistan in fulfilling this role? The Senator replied, that before the US could extend its hand of assistance, sanctions would have to be lifted and for that, it would like Pakistan to do certain things. What the senator meant was that Pakistan would have to sign the CTBT and other treaties that the US feels are essential to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Aware of the fact that the US president has the authority to lift the sanctions, Pakistan Today wanted to know if there was a standard by which the US would judge the conduct of these two new nuclear powers? Will this judgment be based on any norm of justice and fair play or would it be guided by national expediencies only. How far would the US go to use sanctions as a leverage to realize its policy objectives? The Senator’s reply was not surprising. He pointed out that the world powers act in line with their national interests, just like Pakistan when it felt that it was in its best national security interests to respond to the Indian atomic explosions in the same terms. And the US feels that unless Pakistan signs the NPT , CTBT etc, it will not lift the sanctions, “Well, as you know, the President has the power to lift sanctions. I think the administration would like to lift the sanctions, at least partially. But just as Pakistan felt it had to do certain things in its national security interests, the US government cannot now lift sanctions unilaterally without something being done.

We again wanted to be clear as to how the US was going to distinguish between India and Pakistan, when it comes to punishing the violators of US laws? So this scribe asked, I know, under this nuclear cloud, it is difficult for the US to distinguish between two countries like India and Pakistan, but if it has to, then will it be on the basis of justice or expediency? Senator Harkin was very forthcoming, he said that the US has to make sure that the countries of South Asia are not working or acting in a manner that jeopardizes US national interests. The US cannot help any country at the cost of its own national interests. Reflecting on the explosive situation on the LoC in Kashmir, he warned that if, “tensions increase in south Asia, we would be drawn into it. Our military would be drawn into it. We are the only ones that could do it.” This is the first time that someone from the US legislature, for that matter, someone who serves on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, has been so open about the extent, to which the US is ready to go in order to prevent the two countries from going to an all out war. He said, “Well, I operate from the premise that countries always act in their national self-interest. They have to. All executives, leaders take an oath saying so. Looking at South Asia, the US will look in terms of their own self-interest first. Then it will see which developments enhance that along with regional stability. It is in the US best interest to have regional stability in South Asia. to promote economic growth, to promote education in South Asia. I say that because as the only superpower left, if trouble happens, if tensions increase in South Asia, we would be drawn into it. Our military would be drawn into it. We are the only one that could do it.” It was clear that the US could not afford to let this region slip into an abyss of instability. Again, the Senator, without mincing any words, let everyone know that Pakistan and India will have to find a way to coincide their interests with US interests. He made it abundantly clear that if the policies and actions of these countries continue to be on a collision course with US policies, then there will be no relaxation in the sanctions. He seemed very clear regarding the Indian hegemonic ambitions when he said, “I see no reason why both sides need to continue nuclear testing. India did theirs in 1974, and today the same things holds true. India wants to be considered a nuclear power. Now Pakistan Today thought it a perfect stage to ask the Senator of his views on India’s ambitions to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council. “Do you see India sitting on the Security a permanent member?

Senator Harkin: I spoke last week about Pakistan sitting on the Security Council. The Muslim world encompasses about half of the world’s population, yet it has no representation in the council. If India keeps pushing for it, they have to know what is at stake. China will never let India join. I would like to raise the level of thinking. Why not think of Pakistan?

Senator Harkin was sure that if there is any chance for Pakistan, then it is through educating the masses. He said that Pakistan needs a great leap forward in the field of education. Because it is the education that will create honesty in the society and kill the demon of corruption. He was very concerned that over 50 years of its existence, education in Pakistan, instead of advancing, has in fact, retarded to a level that is even backward than it was at the time of independence.

Giving his understanding on the reasons for such a sorry state of education in Pakistan, the Senator said that most people he spoke to told him that the education system is centrally controlled. There is no local control of what is happening in their local schools. Lack of local control causes all kinds of problems. There are ghost schools, people getting paid but no one is going there. He said that in his view more teachers were needed, but Pakistani authorities told him that they have already tried that once. But it didn’t work because it is all politically controlled. Senator Harkin, said that in Pakistan, the people kept on asking him as to how the education system is so good and they kept asking him as to how the US handles lower and primary education. He said that they were surprised to find out that here in the US the federal government does nothing. It is handled at the local level. Local school boards, etc.. People who are most affected control the education system directly. How can they let the education system go down when the their own children’s future depends on it? No discussion about Pakistan is complete without a reference to the rampant corruption in the country. And the Senator had some very positive ideas on the subject too. He said that the banks in Pakistan will have to be in private hands. Private control resists abuse of its charge. Government control is susceptible to corruption and misuse use. He said that Pakistan will have to have people from foreign countries to invest and help make sure that the banks are being run honestly.

Curtsy By:

               Exclusive Interview:
        Justice ( R ) Sajjad Ali Shah

             "The Light At The End Of The Tunnel"
"Our problems are peculiar to us, and we need to handle it our way. The only solution is accountability."

By: Tashbih Sayyed

According to independent observers, Mian Nawaz Sharif has an autocratic streak in his character that is maintained by his vengeful mentality. When Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah ordered the release of some civil servants who were arrested by order of the Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif, they automatically assumed that the Chief Justice was his rival. This became the starting point of a long tussle that culminated in an attack on the Supreme Court on November 28, 1997. Mian Nawaz Sharif took it upon himself to punish Justice Sajjad Ali Shah for his just and principled stand. This led to the establishment of special Courts, which were established in contravention of the Chief Justices judicious advice. These special courts, which were established to benefit the PM’s allies and supporters, eventually proved to be a humiliating blot on the face of justice in Pakistan. Later on when the Chief Justice wanted to fill the five vacant positions of judges to be able to carry out the business of dispensing justice in a speedy manner, the Prime Minister not only refused to grant the request but went ahead and abolished those vacancies altogether. He had to restore the positions under pressure but refused to fill them up.

The heavy mandate that Nawaz Sharif received from the people of Pakistan became his undoing. Thinking that because of an absolute majority in the assembly, he could get away with murder, he showed his true colors. One of the weapons that he employed extensively to disadvantage those he felt threatened by was creating rifts and dissension in their camps. In his self-imposed war against the Chief Justice he succeeded in dividing the judges into two camps. The group of judges that sided with the Prime Minister said openly that if Justice Sajjad Ali Shah give up trying cases against Mian Nawaz Sharif, they will accept him as the Chief Justice.

During this whole crisis, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah came out not only to be an extraordinary judicious mind but also a man of character that refused to compromise on principals in the face of extreme state pressures. He did not allow himself to be blackmailed by these moves. Justice Sajjad Ali Shah is credited for starting Judicial Activism in Pakistan. The legal experts are of the opinion that during this whole period when the Prime Minister was trying to humiliate him professionally, he remained within the framework of law. He did not lose his cool even when the government started trying to amend the constitution just to favor Nawaz Sharif. Mian Nawaz Sharif is not the only one who misunderstood him, but the other corrupt Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto was also misguided by his sense of duty and responsibility, thinking that he was partially in her favor. Her misguidance is explained by factors that led to the appointment of Mr. Justice Sajjad as chief justice by her, as narrated by a political commentator, “ The main reason appears to be the short-sighted, narrow-minded and parochial approach of Benazir and her government. She was perhaps carried away by his two dissents, every time apparently in favor of the PPP. In Ahmad Tariq Rahim's case, in which the dismissal of the Benazir government by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1990 was challenged, Justice Sajjad was one of the two dissenting judges who held in his dissenting opinion that the order of the President to dissolve the National Assembly was invalid. He observed that the purpose of dissolution was to get rid of the government of the PPP.

In the Nawaz Sharif case, when the dismissal of his government by President Ishaq came under challenge, Justice Sajjad was the lone dissenter out of eleven judges on the bench. He, in his dissenting opinion, upheld Ishaq's order as valid and expressed disapproval of the way the then CJ (Dr. Shah) had announced at the very beginning of the proceedings that the nation would hear good news. He also made a very pungent remark at the end of his judgment saying that when two PMs from Sindh were removed under the discretionary powers of the president, the Supreme Court did not restore them but when the turn of a PM from Punjab came, the tables had been turned. These remarks/observations of Justice Sajjad in these cases must have rankled Benazir's mind while she was deciding on his appointment. She might have thought that he, being a Sindhi and a sympathizer of the PPP (as it appeared to her from these judgments), would go along and protect the interests of her government.

Subsequent events have repelled this impression and established Justice Sajjad as a man of his own. His remarks in those judgments reflected his own thinking and not a bias in favor of the PPP, as was perhaps assumed. The assumption must have been based on myopic thinking that has lately developed in Pakistan's political circles that if someone disagrees or opposes one major political party, even out of his honest belief, he is believed to belong to the opposite camp. It was in such mistaken belief that the PPP government took the fateful decision of appointing Justice Sajjad on June 5, 1994.” Today, when it is so difficult for the masses to find even one person in whom they can put their trust in, Justice Sajjad’s personality seems a life-saver. Pakistan Today, in this exclusive interview with him, tried to assess his views on the current situation in Pakistan after the proclamation of the state of emergency by Chief Of Army Staff, General Pervez Musharraf.

Q: The present military chief executive is under a lot of pressure by the US especially to restore the civilian government, what is your comment?

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah: We have internal problems in the country, and they are of such a nature, that they have to be treated and solved first. Our main problem is corruption. Our economy has gone down because of deep rooted corruption in society. ..from bureaucrats and others. Eliminating corruption is crucial...any change to be brought about in the country, it must address corruption and accountability. Some time should be given to address these issues in great detail, so a recovery could be made to allow Pakistan to stand on its own two feet.

Q: Are you in favor of a caretaker government?

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah: Yes, a caretaker government is very essential right now. A caretaker government or whatever they (Chief Executive) have in mind, and they have announced now will continue until all corruption is eliminated.

Q: Even in caretaker governments, the same faces (corruption) seem to arise again. How can you prevent that?

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah: This is the main purpose of accountability. If accountability is done, and their is proof of corruption, then on that charge they can be disqualified, room will be made for new faces. This can only happen when accountability process is taken and applied to all without any discrimination. So, some time is required. We need to be able to stand on our own two feet. We have to be self-reliant. We need time for that. We need sympathy and support from other countries that are our friends. So we can be in a position to do something for our country. Our problems are peculiar to us, and we need to handle it our way. The only solution is accountability.

Q: Do you feel that the actions of General Musharruf are justified?

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah: He is justified because this is the need of the hour. Otherwise, this country would disintegrate. The system needs to be reformed, without reform I do not think the country can survive.

Q: Do you think that the Supreme Court can justify the General’s action?

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah: On the principle of doctrine of necessity, I think the changes in government can be justified. If there is no other alternative, no other way out, and this is the only solution available, then I think it is better to save the country, save the system then not.

Q: If you are offered a position in the new government, will you take it?

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah: I am prepared to make any contribution or sacrifice that is offered to me to help save my country.

Q: Can Pakistan withstand all the external pressures, if the IMF and the World Bank withhold money for example?

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah: I think if there is unity, and the intentions before us are lofty and noble, and we want an economic revival on the basis of self-reliance, there will be difficulties which we must withstand through coordination within our ranks, cooperation and good understanding.

Q: What kind of ideas do you have for the new government?

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah: I hope that this government has good intentions in their reforms. If there is rule of law in the system, and people are treated without discrimination, and corruption is also eliminated through accountability, I think we will be able to succeed in our objective and we can attain self-respect in the community of nations. Pakistanis abroad should help their homeland by molding opinion abroad to support us. They need to foster help, and understanding, otherwise the country is going to break up. The time has come to reform our system. This malady can be cured only through cooperation from all others who are our friends.

Q: Now, I would like to divert your attentions to comments to made by Benazir Bhutto, who has asked that elections be held within the next 90 days. What are your feelings on that?

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah: If elections are held within the next 90 days, then the reforms cannot be put into effect. Corruption cannot be eliminated. Real reforms can only take root through accountability which requires a longer period than 90 days. Naturally, politicians would not like to support accountability, because most of them will be found guilty. So, they want elections in the shortest amount of time so reforms cannot take place.

Q: When you were the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and it came under attack by the Muslim League, there were at least three or four references against Nawaz Sharif pending in your court. Do you have any comments about their credibility?

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah: Yes, my anxiety at that time was, that the complaints contained allegations of corruption, and the cases should be looked into according to the law. Nawaz Sharif thought, because he was Prime Minister, the cases should not proceed against him. And, you see, the anxiety was that all should be treated equally under the law. He did not want those cases to be heard. That is because he did not believe in the rule of law. If there is no rule of law, then the system would collapse. This is what has happened in the country. there is no rule of law, no respect for it.

Q: Your removal was illegitimate, do you think they should offer you your position back?

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah: It is too late. Unless they amend the constitution. And the constitution should not be amended for one person. I want my country to be saved. Pakistan is a great country. I want the country to survive. For that I am prepared to offer my services in any capacity because I want the system to be saved.

Q: What problems do you foresee in the way for General Pervez Musharruf ?

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah: I think a lot of pressure will be placed from other countries to return to democratic government in the shortest amount of time. Some more time will be required though, so they should be patient, because we want to solve our problems first with their cooperation.

            "Helping the setting sun to rise again"

            Offering Pakistan an alternative

Pakistanis during their 51 years of existence, have been swinging between hope and hopelessness. Immediately after their founding fathers left the scene, the stage was taken over by time worshippers and swindlers. These spinners dealt a death blow to the confidence of the masses. Time and again the people of Pakistan reposed their trust in "leaders" who claimed to represent them and their interests, only to find out that they have been thoroughly swindled. From Field Marshal Ayub Khan's Basic Democracy to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's Islamic Socialism to General Zia ul Haq’s Islam, they were taken for the ride of their life. Even with the new generation of leaders like Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif, they did not receive a respite from the exploitation and oppression. Each leader was like an acrobat with bag full of tricks, but the country had lost the depth to accommodate any more misadventures. The last elections, according to some assessments have played the cruelest joke on democracy and the people of Pakistan. It arranged to give Mian Nawaz Sharif a mandate whose parallel is not available in the annuls of democratic history. And as a result of this amazing mandate, today, the people of Pakistan are being baptized in a river of blood. They have now reached a stage in which they are skeptical about any one who declares his intentions of delivering them from the darkest hour in their national lives. In such an hour, a sportsman, who had a long track record of pulling his people from deep troubles and leading them to success after success, came forward and offered to solve their problems. He had already proven his ability to provide relief to those who needed it the most. He had built a hospital out of nothing by sheer will power. A hospital for cancer patients. Many people of Pakistan are suffering from cancer - an ailment that is the ultimate symbol of hopelessness - and Imran Khan has given hope to the most hopeless.

Shaukat Khanum Hospital broke ground in many directions. First it presented itself as the most modern and the most technologically advanced hospital in the treatment of cancer. Secondly, it offered to treat those patients free of cost who were too poor to pay. And it just so happens to be that in this hospital, 95% patients are treated free. These patients are treated free not because that they suffer from some ailment that can be treated with the most inexpensive medicines. They are treated free because somebody believed in the value of life - a trust of God Almighty in the hands of man. And the ailment was not some simple cold but the dreadful cancer and the man who had decided to snatch the life away from the clutches of death was Imran Khan - the undefeatable > skipper of Pakistan's cricket team.

Imran Khan established Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust Hospital to serve those who had no chance to receive credible treatment for their ailments. Imran Khan took care of a setting sun of life in a society where it is a common practice to only worship the rising sun. Imran used his time, energy, resources, contacts and clout to give Pakistan something to be proud of. At a time when the country had left nothing to write home about, Shaukat Khanum Hospital provided it an opportunity to raise its standards. It is a hospital where the health dispenser does not know if he is treating a patient who is a charity case or a patient who has paid the full cost of the treatment. In Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital all are human beings - all are equal in the eyes of those who can make a difference.

Imran, after giving the dying a hope for life, is now trying to pull the masses out of the depths of despair by offering himself as a possible messiah - another kind of politician - who if given the charge will row the boat out of the storm. To a majority, Imran Khan is the only politician who has a clean and transparent history.

Today when the government in power seems to have no clue as to what is wrong with them or the system, when the leader at the helm of affairs appears not to know and not to understand the gravity of the problems and difficulties that surround him and who appears to be unconscious of the hefty contribution he and his team have made in creating and deepening the crises that stares him in the face, it is important to get to know the other mind who is trying to correct the situation. Pakistan Today, in an exclusive interview, has attempted to look into the mind of Imran Khan who, sooner or later is bound to play an important role in the lives of all Pakistanis.

Imran Khan, who is the chief of Pakistan Tehrik -I - Insaf, suggested to me that there should be a referendum in Pakistan to decide if a caretaker government can be formed to carryout the accountability. He stressed that only uncontroversial people should be allowed to participate in this setup so that the accountability process is completed with utmost legitimacy. Imran said his party believes that the first and foremost priority for the country now is ruthless accountability of those politicians who have been in power. It appeared to be very clear in his mind as to who can be in this government. As far as the Shriat Bill is concerned, Imran Khan thinks that it is useless. In his view the present constitution has all the authority to implement the Shariat. According to him, Nawaz is dividing the society through the Shariat Bill. He pointed out that the federation of Pakistan is in danger, The law and order situation in the country is out of control and the foreign policy is in shambles vis-à-vis our ties with Iran and Afghanistan. He said that the foreign policy of Nawaz Sharif has isolated Pakistan internationally and he is not capable to deal with countries like Iran and Afghanistan.

On the issue of CTBT Imran's views are very strong. He says that our security will be compromised by signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. He stated that we should have the nuclear deterrence in case India continues developing nuclear weapons. During the interview, Imran confirmed that he had been approached to join the opposition alliance to oust Nawaz Sharif. But he could not accept the offer as his party cannot join any alliance in which Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif are included.

Q: What are your thoughts on the present situation in Pakistan?

Imran Khan: Pakistan is facing the gravest crisis of its history. It is a multi crisis. It is a crisis of state, in that, most of the state institutions have collapsed. It is the crisis of the federation, three smaller provinces are feeling victimized by Punjab, thanks to the over centralization of power by Nawaz Sharif. And it is an economic crisis, a crisis where Pakistan is facing stagflation - recession and inflation - and Pakistan is now drowning in a sea of debts. It is borrowing money just to payback debts. which is called the debt trap. There is no coherent government policy to get us out of this trap. Related to this is the crisis of confidence of the government. No one has any faith left in the government. People don't believe in it. Whatever policies it makes, people feel that nothing will happen. The government hasn't succeeded in pushing through any policy so far. So there is a big crisis there.

Q: In the last 51 years in Pakistan there has never been a government that people have really approved. Governments who were welcomed by the people with the hope that they will help them in realizing their basic needs have disappointed them the most. Benazir Bhutto's government was one of them. But Nawaz Sharif's government has broken all records. It seems that their is no hope left for the people in the country. Against this backdrop, could you comment on the role of the armed forces?

Imran Khan: I feel that the armed forces, after 1988, decided to take a back seat because they came under severe criticism. There was a consensus in Pakistan, that martial law was unacceptable and people wanted democracy. Also, in America, on which Pakistan depends heavily because of its heavy reliance on debts, the public opinion didn't support military dictatorships anymore. All these things combined to give army a back seat. And Nawaz Sharif is taking full advantage of this situation. This government decided once and for all from day one, once it was given this bag mandate, and that is debatable, I feel that it was given this big mandate. From then onwards, all it has done is consolidate its power. And it has done that at the expense of other institutions. Nawaz Sharif has brought in a dictatorship in Pakistan. We can call it a Prime Minister Dictatorship.

Q: In view of the ousting of General Jahangir Karamat, there is a view that the only reason that all these senior generals could not take any action against the highhanded and anti people policies of Mian Nawaz Sharif is the fact that the armed forces of Pakistan are not as united as they were in the past. The perception is that Taliban- like elements have gained strength and are supporting Nawaz Sharif. Your thoughts?

Imran Khan: Well there are various theories floating around and I don't know really what is true. All I know is that from day one Jahangir Kramat was never the sort of man who was going to take over power. In light of his past record and the people who understood him and knew him, it was clear that the decision to take over was just too big for him. He was not capable of taking that decision and he was never going to take that decision.

Q: You hailed and supported the comments of General Jahangir Karamat, regarding the performance of Mian Nawaz Sharif's government, in his address to Naval War College. Could you give us the rationale behind your support?

Imran Khan: I supported his views, because he voiced the sentiments of the people of Pakistan. That the things were bad. That the federation was in danger. And above all the decision making process of the government was extremely poor. This weakness in making appropriate and timely decisions and inability to act correctly is pushing the country deeper and deeper in to these crisis. There was nothing in it that wasn't true. What he said was the fact. His suggestion that there is a need for a National Security Council, if so disliked by the government, could have easily been pushed aside or ignored instead of taking this drastic action of removing him, it basically shows the insecurity of the government and a desire to grasp all levers of power.

Q: What is your reaction to the increasing hold of Taliban over Afghanistan and Pakistan's relationship with them ?

Imran Khan: The reason that Taliban are gaining strength in Afghanistan is one and one reason alone and it is that they have managed to restore law and order in a country which was completely destroyed, first by the war with the Soviet Union and then the civil war. Where the whole fabric of society and the institutions had collapsed, the Taliban have incredibly succeeded in giving Afghanistan peace and order. People now can walk around and their life and property is safe. That's why they have so much support amongst the local people. Of course that is not to say that Taliban are perfect. Obviously they have flaws in the way and probably they should form a more representative government which they claim that they do. They also need to have a more enlightened version of Islam. But the point is that in context of Afghanistan and given the history of the past decade, what Taliban are providing to the population is security. The people are secure, the families are secure, their property is secure and that's why they are popular.

Q: How in your view, should Pakistan handle the fears of Iran and China regarding Taleban's growing power and Pakistan's influence over them ?

Imran Khan: This is where we have failed miserably. We have failed on the diplomatic front. Pakistan should have been in the forefront in stopping this stand off between Iran and Taleban. Also, Pakistan should have allayed the fears of China. This is where a country's foreign policy should have been working. But unfortunately like everything else Pakistan is hamstrung. The perception in Pakistan is that our foreign policy is not even independent. It lacks credibility. No one trusts Pakistan, neither Iran nor Afghanistan nor China. Which is why Pakistan stands isolated today.

Curtsy By:


             Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari

By: Tashbih Sayyed
Let there be light And there was light! Light—— the source of all life —- White, bright and powerful light! To be a ray of white, bright and powerful light, all other colors of light had to give up their identities. Red, blue, yellow, green etc. merged together to become a ray of white bright light. The Muslims of undivided India, in order to become one bright, powerful nation gave up their individual identities and became one Muslim nation. Pathans, Punjabis, Sindhis, UPs, CPs, Bangalis etc. merged together to be one bright powerful Muslim nation. And so they defeated, British colonialists, Hindu hegemonists and the evil of factionalism to create Pakistan for themselves. But this will to be one united Muslim nation of Pakistan could not survive the selfish, corrupt and unpatriotic leadership that it inherited right after the death of Quaid-e-Azam and Quaid-e-millat. And today Pakistan is not inhibited by one nation, the prism of corruption of its leaders has broken the white, bright and powerful light of a nationhood into a number of dark colors, of nationalities, sects, languages. Pakistan is almost a failed state. This has all been made possible by the leaders that came into power through democratic and undemocratic means. The people of Pakistan have experienced every kind of system and every possible brand of governance. They are at the end of their wits. Their backs are to the wall. They have been cheated and robbed, their national wealth has been plundered and they have been left to die a dog’s death in the streets of their beloved country. They do not trust anyone. All leaders to them are thieves and plunderers. In this backdrop, Former President Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari has launched his own political party. Millat Party. Mr. Leghari claims that he will make Islam the directional force for the future of Pakistan. He declares that his party will make Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of social and economic justice a cornerstone of Pakistan.

Q: Having been responsible for running of the affairs of the government in different important capacities, how would you comment on the perception that you are also responsible for the problems that are being faced by Pakistan Today?

Leghari: I’ve been in politics for a very long time, I came into politics in Pakistan in the year 1973, after I resigned from the civil service. In 1975, I was elected to the Senate of Pakistan, and although I had a six year term, I decided still to contest the 1977 general elections. I was Minister of Production in Bhutto’s last government. I was Minister of Production for three months, it was a very important ministry in those days, most heavy industries in Pakistan stood nationalized. Then for more than a decade, I was in the opposition, we were opposing General Zia, and his martial law and his dictatorship. So for more than half of my political life, I’ve been in the opposition. And even when you are in the opposition, you can consider a person to be part of the political system, but you are also highly critical of the government in power, especially during the martial law period when we were struggling for the restoration of the constitution, we were struggling for the restoration of our fundamental rights, we were struggling for the restoration of democracy, and certainly we were very critical of the system. I think what is important is when we got a chance to be in government, what is it that we did and where did we go wrong, and what we could have done. The first time that I was in government after the martial law was with Benazir’s first government as the Minister for Water and Power. During that first government, she was in power for twenty months, I was minister with her for about seventeen months or so. For the first two or three months I was actually sent to Punjab as the leader of the opposition. Then I contested the by-elections again, and again got elected to the National Assembly, and I was appointed Minister for Water and Power. I must tell you that in that period, I did a lot of work in the Ministry of Water and Power, on basic issues, on reducing land losses and WAPDA, on extending rural electrification in a massive way throughout Pakistan. On improving the availability of power, and reducing blackouts and brownouts. We did a lot of work in planning for major hydroelectric program push for those days, and also I was responsible for checking Benazir and some of her indiscretions, while I was a member of her cabinet, I was not her President then. And I remember at least four or five occasions when I very strongly objected to some of the reports emanating from the general public about perceptions of corruption, and very few people then had the courage to talk to her about it, but I talked to her, I quarreled with her, she cried before me and denied all the charges. Once I remember, two members of Benazir’s party who were very close to her, Senator Aitezaz Ahsan and Mr. Iftikhar Elahi, who were both her ministers and my colleagues, they came to me and we discussed the situation of our cabinet and the perception of corruption that had been created about our government, and especially some Benazir’s more corrupt ministers and also about herself and her husband, and I told them that yes it was very important that we should talk to her about it, and I told them that I had talked to her. But they said that they could not go alone and talk to her, whereas I could do so. They were afraid of doing that, they asked me if I could accompany them so they could jointly talk to her. And we did talk to her, and she denied it, she denied ever indulging in corruption, and said this was all the work of enemy propaganda. Nevertheless, we did check her even as members of her cabinet, which very few cabinet members ever do. Later when she was in the opposition, after her first government’s fall, she confessed to me that she and her government had made mistakes, and that she would do her best in the future not to repeat her mistakes, etc.

But, the point is that being part of the political process, like in other countries has its flaws and shortcomings, and its only by experience and falling that you learn and improve. I was hoping that Benazir, after the fall of her government, would genuinely reform herself, and she told that she made mistakes and she would not repeat those mistakes. I remember the time when we were leading the movement against the cooperative scandal of Nawaz Sharif and his cronies, Benazir confessing this to me in the presence of one or two other people. But when we came into power the second time, I became the president and she was the prime minister. And for the first six or seven months, I did not hear of any scandals, but after that I started getting unsubstantiated reports of misdemeanors by her husband and herself, that they were indulging in the same type of corruption that Nawaz Sharif had been indulging in, that we had struggled against. I, on several occasions pointed out to her the need for making the government clean, the need for leaders not to indulge in this kind of activities. She always agreed, and she always said yes, and she always said that what is important is order and good government, so she had a lot of things to say on these issues. But unfortunately, what brought more and more reports on the increasing corruption in government, that was the time when I started to check Benazir, and I started returning some of the cabinet decisions, that indicated to me wrongdoing. There was one very important Economic Coordination Committee decision that she had taken, in which she had decided or that committee had decided to part with or to allow the sale of BPL shares and the holdings of Burma Castrol to Hashu group and subsequently to BHP of Australia, which is a multinational. And I learned about that deal, it was essentially designed to allow the acquisition by BHP of Qaderpur Gas for a song. The estimated cost of Qaderpur Gas in US dollars was something like 5 billion, and in that deal, Qaderpur would have gone to BHP for about a billion dollars, five times less than the actual market price. And there was some evidence that Benazir and Asif Zardari would be major beneficiaries of this deal almost to tune of 200 million dollars in perpetuity, until Qaderpur Gas Field continued to supply gas. This I thought was a national disaster, because the country would have been robbed of five billion dollars, and there would have been other repercussions for Baluchistan’s gas royalties, since it was a poor province, and I did not allow this deal to go through. I checked it, she sent it back and I again sent it back to her and ultimately it fell through.

Similarly, Benazir and her husband were involved in efforts to buy Mirage jet aircraft from France. This whole deal reeked of corruption from day one, and I insured that this deal should not go through because there was some evidence of corruption involved, and subsequently the investigation carried out by the government recently has shown that there is conclusive evidence of that, that one of Benazir’s fund managers, Mr. Schlindleman has it on record, and papers have been discovered that the French company, Dussault giving the quid pro quo to Benazir and Asif Zardari and their front companies in case the deal went through. So whenever I got a chance, I tended with the matter, I checked Benazir, I publicly spoke against the corruption in the privatization process. I sent laws to Benazir and the then leader of the opposition, Nawaz Sharif to bring in accountability laws and check corruption through Parliament. Whatever the President could do, I did, whatever the president could do to check her, to restrain her and when it went beyond that, when other unconstitutional factors crept in, then I dismissed her government, after all, her government was the government of my own political party, the party that I had worked for, struggled for and the party that had played a leading role in the restoration of democracy in Pakistan. My whole family belongs to that party, our local political opponents were in the Muslim League, and yet in the national interests I dismissed Benazir’s government and the government of our party. That is not an easy thing to do, I did not make a deal with Nawaz Sharif, he wanted to make a deal, but I refused, and I knew that the dismissal of Benazir would lead to certain victory by Nawaz Sharif, and yet I allowed the democratic process to continue working, so this by itself indicates my putting the national interests before my own personal interests and those of my party. I would like to know how many people there are who would put national interest above their party interest and their own personal interest, number one. Number two, when I dismissed Benazir’s government, there was widespread demand from all over Pakistan, that the caretaker rule should be extended to two years, that there should be accountability first, elections later, but I refused that demand. I not only refused it, but thwarted all intrigues and attempts to postpone the elections, I had elections in accordance with the Constitution, on time. When somebody asks me, who is responsible for or what about this period when you were in the government, well it is for history to judge what mistakes I’ve made. There are people who criticize me today, they say that because you dismissed Benazir, you allowed a bigger crook to come in through the election process. But I don’t see that this is proper logic, because the person who comes into the government, comes in through the electoral process, the voters right to vote and their choice. So as president it was not my duty to influence voters, it was my duty to insure that there was a caretaker setup, that was neutral between parties, that provided a level playing field for all political parties, and we did that. But the people chose Nawaz Sharif, in the hopes that he would get them out of their economic difficulties, the fact that he did not do that, or became an even bigger evil than Benazir, who had assaulted the Supreme Court, is not my fault. Because you took certain actions you ended up installing Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister, yes Nawaz Sharif ended up Prime Minister because the people of Pakistan ultimately voted for him. But the fact is that even with Nawaz Sharif I took the same principled stand that I took with Benazir, which was a stand for what is right, I did not look at my own interests. Nawaz Sharif used to beg me, he used to say, we could not have a better president than you, we hope and pray that you will agree to become president for the next term, instead I chose to resign while I still had one year more as president, because I could not cohabit with a prime minister and a team that had assaulted the Supreme Court and violated the Constitution. That was meant for establishing fascism in Pakistan, and as president I could only intrigue against them, I did not wish to intrigue against anyone, I preferred instead to resign from that office, to come out and mobilize the people, form a political party, combat and struggle against fascist regime and against a regime that was violating the constitution. And that was taking Pakistan down the hill towards self destruction. And I think I did the right thing by opposing such people, the fact is that what I did with Benazir, the caretaker government, or with Nawaz Sharif, it was to uphold the rule of law the independence of the judiciary and the Constitution. I said no to personal ambition, I said no to the people’s desires and requests to prolong the caretaker period, and which politicians would not like to prolong, a period where the president has total power, but I said no to all that because I thought it was in the national interest. Even today in the Millet party, or whatever I do for the nation it will be in the national interest. but as I said this morning, it will be for the people to judge where I have made mistakes and where I have done some good.

Q:Does this mean that you are in agreement with and approve of what Ehtesab Bureau is doing vis a vis Benazir and her family?

Leghari: No I don’t agree that they should pursue only one person, there should not be victimization in any case, but whatever they have discovered about Benazir is not victimization, whatever they have discovered is the truth. To the best of my knowledge, they have already discovered a fortune of more than a 600 million dollars that she had stashed away in Switzerland and some other accounts, and managed by front companies which are mostly headquartered in off shore islands. I think Ehtesab Bureau has done a good job as afar as ferreting out information about Benazir, Asif Zardari. But what is bad about this whole accountability process is that it is one sided, where there is plenty of evidence available against Nawaz Sharif an d his close associates, they are not moving forward, but even so it is accountability on one side, maybe when Nawaz Sharif is no longer there will be his accountability, just as there is about Benazir. But what is important is for the government to proceed quicker and not to make deals, because there is some evidence that Benazir and Sharif are talking with each other, they want to protect each other. and the public criticism about the slow pace of accountability, this needs to be speeded up.

Q: Could you educate us a little more in what way there is a liaison between Benazir and Sharif

Leghari: Messages keep coming and going between the two leader, with all sorts of different methods

Q: Benazir has said again and again that she did you a great favor by making you the President, do you think that you deserved to be President or that she did do you a favor?

Leghari: How is it a favor? How is anything a favor in politics? I do not wish to stoop down to petty levels with Benazir or anyone else, but as far as my own political career is concerned, it was never depended on Benazir or even on the People’s Party. I have a very strong political base in my own area, among my own people. Our family has a strong political base. And we have never had to use the crutches of any political party to get elected. But yes I was loyal to the People’s Party and struggled for the People’s Party, in my honest opinion, it was Benazir who betrayed the People’s Party. I haven’t joined the People’s Party to come into power and exploit the Exchequer. Benazir has betrayed the ideas of the People’s Party, betrayed the trust of all those people who have kept the party’s flag high. It doesn’t behoove her to say that she did any favors to me, maybe she was afraid of me being in the direct political light standing next to her, maybe she felt if I was kicked upstairs, it would be the end of my political career. I don’t know how it was a favor, I never asked to be president, it was she and her party’s people who requested that of me, and I said that I needed time to think it over whether I wish to be a candidate or not.

Q: When you were with the Pakistan Peoples Party, was it because of the personality of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto or was it because of the manifesto that you really believed in?

Leghari: Well, I joined the Pakistan People’s Party primarily because of the message of the party, the basic foundations of the party. Which stood for improving the lot of the people and giving a new directions to our political lives. But certainly, Mr. Bhutto had a charismatic personality and very good qualities, but it was more I think the cause than the personality as such.

Q: You stayed with the Pakistan People’s Party after what Zia ul Haq did with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, does that mean that you did not find any faults with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and with the party?

Leghari: No, I don’t think that there is anyone in this world who is without fault, surely Mr. Bhutto was like any other man, he had many qualities of leadership and he made mistakes, but it doesn’t mean that we should leaving parties if the leader makes mistakes. I stayed with the party because I believed in the party’s cause and in it’s struggle against the dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq, that’s why I stayed on in the party. I resigned from the party when I became president, not because there was a compulsion for me to resign constitutionally, but I resigned the day I was sworn in as president so that I could play a more effective role in the highly polarized politics of Pakistan. In getting the two parties to work together to make success of the democratic system in Pakistan. And to heal the wounds of division of a polarized society. But my family continues to be in the party, my sons, my cousins.

Q: People had said yes to the manifesto of the People’s Party, do you think that the party leadership sincerely followed its own manifesto?

Leghari: In the initial phase Mr. Bhutto sincerely tried to follow the party’s agenda. But soon thereafter other things crept in, for instance the proclivity to control the judiciary, first few amendments were made in the constitution were unfortunate and they cost Mr. Bhutto dearly in the long run. I think within two years of Mr. Bhutto’s coming into power, the emphasis was shifted from the party to rely on the bureaucracy. So there was certainly a shift from the initial party manifesto, but some of the major reform program of the party was sincerely carried out. But this too is a debatable issue, you could certainly argue against it.

Q: Sardar Saheb, you are a sardar, a landlord and if my information is correct, you were also a part of bureaucracy at one time. Keeping all these backgrounds in mind, the perception is that there is no real and meaningful change in the rulers, only the faces change in Pakistan, whether its Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Zia ul Haq, Benazir or Mian Nawaz Sharif, the real rulers — the bureaucracy and the military are always there to dictate. Do you agree with this?

Leghari: No and Yes, it depends on the men and the era. There was a time in Zia ul Haq’s period when the military was in command. And Zia ul Haq was ruling as a martial law dictator. Similarly in the initial period of General Ayub and in the period of Yahya Khan the same thing happened. When Benazir came into power, she came into power on the basis of fair and free elections, and there was no rule of bureaucracy or military. It wasn’t just a face change, but a major power change, whether the bureaucracy or the military intrigued against her government is another question, it’s also debatable. She sometimes claims, when she is out of power that they have been intriguing against her, and when she comes into power she stops claiming that. Nawaz Sharif, certainly was nurtured by a military dictator, he was put forward as a favorite of the establishment, because they thought they could manipulate him and use him. But when Nawaz Sharif came into power this time, he came into power as a result of elections which I oversaw. I made sure that this election should be fair and free, and a level playing field had been provided to the major parties. The fact that he won by a big majority is the fault of Benazir, it’s because the Jamaat Islami boycotted the elections, Nawaz Sharif got the benefit of that. It’s because Benazir’s rule as prime minister had been marred by incompetence and corruption. Also Nawaz Sharif had the full backing of the trader’s community and the industrialists, they all felt that Nawaz Sharif would rescue Pakistan from its economic woes. It’s another story altogether that he worsened the situation when he got hold of the chance. But the fact is that all these elements helped in his victory. I don’t think that the establishment was responsible for his victory, the victory came at the polls. So the answer to your question is yes and no, there have been times when the bureaucracy and the military have played a major role, like during Ghulam Ishaq Khan’s period and the dismissal of Benazir’s government in 1990, which I think was wrong. Again, it’s varying from time to time, but the democracy is a permanent institution and is necessary for government anywhere in the world. The military has played a role which has been active in politics in some occasions, like in Ayub Khan’s days, Yayha Khan’s days and Zia ul Haq’s days, but since Zia ul Haq’s death, since the elections of 1988 the military has played a more professional role. They have confined themselves to the more professional field and in the last few years they have stayed away form interfering in the political field, which is a good sign. So many people talk the way you asked the question, but this is an oversimplification, you have to distinguish between different times and periods.

Q: Now let’s come to Mian Nawaz Sharif, the perception again is, that he has failed on the domestic front and he has failed on the external front. He had a couple of chances, with India detonating the nuclear bomb that unified the nation, but he failed to cash this unity. Could you comment on his era?

Leghari: In the second chance that Nawaz Sharif got, I don’t think that any prime minister or party has gotten the open and free mandate that Nawaz Sharif got. The whole nation stood united, there was euphoria, even those newspapers that were against him felt that there was now a chance to make progress. Nawaz Sharif himself, in his conversations with me, always agreed with the priorities that I said we must follow. I think he really had a lot going for him, and had a great opportunity. The caretaker government had provided him with a basic framework and all he had to do was to follow the policies and lead the nation. Unfortunately, he failed on every score, whether it was economic policy, which he mismanaged to the point where we are back at the default position, whether it was social policy, he paid scant attention to Pakistan’s social needs, the education, health. He has never even given any speech which is noteworthy. Whether it is our national security program, or our fight against terrorism, or sectarianism, on each of these fronts, Nawaz Sharif has failed to grasp the problem. I personally feel that for the first time I saw him up close I found him to be failing to understand simple concepts, let alone to grasp important problems which face the nation. It is a very unfortunate thing that the country is led by a Prime Minister who either has no attention span for important matters or who is incapable of understanding even simple concepts. But that is where we are. There have been many missed opportunities in foreign affairs. Take the case of the post-explosion situation, after India exploded its nuclear devices and Pakistan exploded its devices on the 28th, and two days later we exploded another device, immediately the day after that it was a great opportunity for Pakistan to initiate a dialogue with the United States on the CTBT. I do not say that we should have signed it, but we should have taken the lead. I know that India has initiated a dialogue. Pakistan under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif, instead of initiating a dialogue and taking advantage, allowed time to lapse. There was no policy, no leadership provided. Pakistan kept dithering, kept looking at what India was doing. Why should we tie ourselves down to what India was doing? We could have taken advantage of that situation, we did not. To the best of my knowledge, we did not take any initiative. Again, I do not say that we should have signed the CTBT, but we should have entered into a dialogue with the Americans. But now that we are engaging them in this dialogue, it’s a month too late, it’s after India has already taken the initiative. And the United States is not paying attention to our overtures. And similarly on other occasions too, take the case of Kashmir, after the explosions, Kashmir suddenly became an important issue to world. And Nawaz Sharif lost that as well, there was no diplomatic offensive.

Q: In what way would you be different than others. Pakistan has reached a point where a popular uprising is being predicted, where they would lynch their leaders. You are to some, an option, kind of a light at the end of the tunnel. Are these people correct in hoping that you are the light at the end of the tunnel?

Leghari:Well, I can sincerely hope so for the sake of Pakistan. We must have some light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t want to make any tall claims for myself, but I think it is up to us collectively to work together to save Pakistan from its downslide. And I don’t know if I can do it, I can sincerely hope that God will help us in saving the situation, because the immediate priority is to save Pakistan from self destruction. Defaulting on our loans will cause damage which we cannot even contemplate today, and yet our Prime Minster and Finance Minister have embarked on that course. So we can only hope that somehow we can arrest the downslide. Once we have done that, then the upturn is possible, we have the resources, human and material in our country. Our people have an inner strength that can be mobilized, we can reorganize and we can have a snowballing effect in reverse. It is not an impossible situation, I think there is hope in Pakistan, there is light at the end of the tunnel. But I don’t think it is possible with only one leader, as such. I don’t know whether I’m that leader at all, but all I can say is that people that are sensitized to Pakistan’s situation need to get together, whether they belong to different parties or different sectors or different professions, we need to put together our collective strength to save Pakistan from this downslide.

Q: Justice Javed Iqbal was here a couple of weeks ago, he defined Pakistan as four cats tied by their tails trying to run away from each other. Could you comment on this statement?

Leghari: I think that Javed Iqbal, despite his lineage, is a part-time politician. And he hasn’t paid sufficient attention to our system. I don’t think that the provinces want to run away from each other, I think that the people in power are trying to force them to part company. What is fundamentally at fault is the power situation in Pakistan. The fact that we are not doing justice to the Constitution which keeps us together, the Constitution which is the social contract between the people, the provinces and the center, the horrible sense of deprivation that prevails and exists everywhere, including in the most advanced province, which is Punjab. This sense of deprivation exist everywhere, even in the slums of Lahore, so what is needed is to get that sense of deprivation removed. What that requires is a change in the power equation between the provinces and the local areas. Local governance does not exist in Pakistan. Until we can have a devolution of power and decentralization, we cannot get anywhere. Then the cats will not be running away from each other. I don’t think there is much of a desire for the provinces to run away from each other, what do you do when the leaders in the country, who are talking with a lack of understanding of the situation, suddenly come up with initiatives which destroy the unity of the country. The crude manner in which the Kalabagh dam project was announced was like another explosion. Without preparing the ground, the project has been hurt. I’ve always been in favor of building more reservoirs, both for irrigation needs and for hydropower. I’ve been talking about it in the heart of Sindh, in the heart of the NWFP, as president and as opposition leader, but I’ve always maintained that these things have to be done after preparing the ground, after preparing grass root support. And I had a political strategy for creating that grass root support, for Kalabagh dam and other dams, but the government never followed that strategy. They just announced the Kalabagh dam, in the perception of the people of Sindh, Balochistan and the NWFP it is meant only for the people of Punjab. In reality, it is not only for Punjab but also for other provinces, but they have given an irreversible setback to the whole concepts of dams and created divisions within the provinces. So what is needed is political wisdom in dealing fairly with the needs of the provinces and needs of the areas.

Q: Shall the Pakistanis wait for Nawaz Sharif to complete his term or is there an alternative?

Leghari: More than three weeks ago, I could foresee the default coming, and I talked about it. I talked about the dangers of default and what that would entail. I also said that it was the duty of the National Assembly, which had elected Mr. Nawaz Sharif, to elect another leader in his place. Because we must try to remain within the system, and it is the duty of the National Assembly to bring up alternatives when a leader has failed. And they must rise up against the considerations of the 14th Amendment and stop being like a herd of cattle being led by the nose. They must realize that if things continue as they are, then they will not be able to go back to their constituencies, the people will lynch them. Unfortunately, we are moving in that direction. So I can sincerely hope that the National Assembly will perform its duty. But I’m not very hopeful._______

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