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                              Interview

             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._______

Curtsy By: www.paktoday.com

 



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