Thursday, April 9, 2009

Judge Asif from today by By Masood Sharif Khan Khattak - Former Director General Intelligence Bureau

Mr Masood Sharif Khan Khattak, Former Director General of The Intelligence Bureau, Government of Pakistan
Judge Asif from today by By Masood Sharif Khan Khattak DATED Tuesday, September 09, 2008
President of Pakistan, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari
Having known Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto since 1987 I am proud of the fact that this exceptionally outstanding leader had chosen me to be the Director General, Intelligence Bureau (DG IB) in her government. I thus worked under her direct command. The unbearably tragic assassination of a leader as brilliant, brave and incomparable as her brought an untimely end to a very vibrant and purposeful life devoted to an unending effort to bring about true democracy in Pakistan. One could write unendingly on Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto's personal courage, political acumen and her love for the people of Pakistan. She knew she was being hunted by ruthless assassins. Yet, this great courageous leader held rallies all over the country. The assassins finally caught up with her in Rawalpindi. Her biggest tribute is that she lived with the masses, commanded their love and respect and died amongst them, bravely, with a smile on her face and hand waving at the cheering crowds.

Seventeen days before Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto's coldblooded assassination I had expressed some differences on political matters openly. Little did I then know that I will never see her again. It is this aspect that weighs heavy on me and makes me regret what I had done.

The grim situation arising out of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto's assassination which saw Pakistan paralysed was handled by Asif Ali Zardari with dexterity and courage. The PPP was saved from likely fractures and was led through that turbulent period and the elections in such a manner that it emerged as the major party in the National and Sindh Assemblies. Zardari's handling of the post-election scenario brought about a grand coalition with the PML-N and others at the centre and he even managed to bring the MQM back into mainstream politics. These were no ordinary achievements.

Why the coalition broke after Musharraf's resignation is too well known. Heartburning could have been buried after Asif Zardari apologised to Nawaz Sharif on TV and requested him to return to the coalition. Knowing each other from the sixties, I and Asif Ali Zardari were also imprisoned together in Karachi Central Jail for three long years. Prison days leave an indelible imprint. As director-general of the IB, I was arrested on the night between Nov. 5 and 6, 1996, in Lahore. Asif Ali Zardari was then at the Governor's House in Lahore. He had my secret telephone number which had not been disconnected. He called me but got through to my wife who told him that I had been arrested an hour ago. After a short sojourn at Kot Lakhpat Jail I was shifted to Karachi Central Jail where I and Asif Ali Zardari then spent the next three years together. In late 1996, Asif and I were also locked up in the cold cells of a police station. We were subjected to days of brutal torture and interrogation. Who would have then known that this man lying on the cold floor of the police station would one day become president of Pakistan? Bravo Asif.

Experiences like jail bring forth the real man in anyone. I admired the man I saw in Asif while in jail with him. He was a man full of courage and fight, and was never cowed by the many cases that were being instituted against him. With each new case he would be taken away for investigation (actually torture). He was stronger than the state that was bullying him, not knowing that he would one day head it as president.

He was subjected to months of solitary confinement after which, on a court order, I was allowed to visit him in his cell and, thereafter, we used to spend the day together. After sunset I would return to be locked up in my own dreadful cell. I can never forget Asif's concern for me all the time we were in jail. Asif helped many prisoners get a lawyer and helped numerous others in different ways. He was always a common man with the common prisoners and this ability to empathise with the downtrodden and to relate to them should now stand him in good stead. It is during these days that I gauged the extraordinary political acumen, courage, insight, understanding and fortitude that this much vilified man possessed.

Today, Asif Ali Zardari will be taking oath as Pakistan's indisputable constitutional president. I plead to all his detractors to bury the bogey of all the negative propaganda of the past two decades and judge him from now.

The democratically-elected structure is now in position and should gear up to solve the country's massive problems. These are challenging times. Only internal political stability and non-partisan national unity on issues affecting Pakistan's security and integrity will be able to deliver solutions. It is now incumbent upon all political parties to strengthen the hands of the new president and I am confident that Pakistanis may well be in for a pleasant surprise.

As a patriotic Pakistani and someone who has remained in the corridors of power, in a responsible position, I shall make a humble request to all political forces, in particular to Mian Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N, to rise above and give Asif Zardari a huge helping hand. To Mr Sharif, my humble request will also be that, notwithstanding the genuine grievances he may have, he give the coalition one more chance.

The writer is a former DG of the Intelligence Bureau and served on the PPP's Central Executive Committee. Email:

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