Mian Nawaz Sharif That I Know
19 April, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi
I have known Mian Nawaz Sharif now for at least three decades. I met him for the first time when I was a correspondent of the Independent English Daily “The Muslim” published from Islamabad during the era of General Ziaul Haq. It was in the Punjab House Rawalpindi where he invited the journalists for a press conference. During that time he was the chief minister of Punjab. He was robust and much younger.
Perhaps to cow down the journalists from asking pinching questions, all of sudden he harshly told a servant to lower or raise the air-conditioner. The press conference was brief and it is hard for me to recollect, in the hind sight, what he said or what questions the reporters asked of him.
I met him for the second time at Lawrence College Ghora Gali Murree Hill, where he had come to attend the annual college function. Late Muhammad Khan Junejo then the prime minister of Pakistan was the chief guest of the event. I was one of the journalists representing The Muslim newspaper. On the conclusion of the ceremony I saw Nawaz Sharif walking towards the Parking space. He was surrounded by a host of individuals. I went near to him and requested him for an interview. The Muslim’s Murree correspondent Salim Shiwalvi was with me.
He readily agreed and asked us to meet him at the Punjab House at Murree after some time. We reached the Punjab House in advance of Nawaz Sharif. During our conversation he was extremely friendly and courteous and served us tea and snacks. He politely complained that The Muslim was rather biased and antagonistic towards Punjab government. I promised to him that I shall talk to the editor. On the conclusion of the meeting he invited me to come to Lahore to meet him.
It so happened that I mentioned my meeting with Nawaz Sharif and his friendly treatment to some of my friends. I also told them that the chief minister had invited me to come to Lahore and meet him. One of my friends My Bukhari working as a Tehsildar at Rawalpindi wanted to be transferred to another department for the reason best known to him. He requested me to go to Lahore and talk to the chief minister.
I went to the Punjab Assembly building where I was told that the chief minister was sitting in his chamber with his cabinet members and MPAs. The waiting room was filled with visitors wanting to meet the chief minister. I told his military secretary that I had come from Islamabad and wanted to meet the chief minister. He looked at me with awe and by pointing at the people sitting in the waiting room told me me point blank that it was impossible for me to meet with the chief minister. I was rather dismayed and felt belittled.
In the meantime there was was a commotion in the corridor and the secretary announced that the chief minister was leaving his chamber to go to his residence signaling that even the feeble hope of meeting him was over. In a state of panic of frustration coupled with a tinge of disappointment I rushed down the stairs. I saw Mian Sahib moving ahead ensconced by a circle of his ministers, provincial assembly members and guards.
Without hesitation I rushed towards him and from behind loudly called, Mian Sahib”. He looked back and at once recognized me. He embraced me and took me a few yards way in isolation. He called his military secretary and whispered in his ears that Mr.Qureshi would come to my residence in the Model Town in the afternoon and that I should be given the proper protocol.
Mian Sahib received me all by himself and we had a conversation that devolved on the Punjab government’s relations with the press generally and with daily Muslim particularly. He asked as to what he could do for me. I requested him about the transfer Mr. Bukhari and he nodded in affirmative.
While we were in conversation, Mr. Shahbaz Sharif also stepped in the same visitors’ room and casting a glance at us left the room. The next day I received a call from the commissioner Rawalpindi who told me that in compliance with the orders of the chief minister, Mr. Bukhari would be transferred to his requested place in few days. That did happen.
In my estimation Mian Sahib adores and rewards his well wishers and supporters and detests his opponents. That is a natural instinct which every human being is endowed with. Those who stood by him during the difficult times were given perks and privileges. Among the whole lot one is Siddique ul Farooq a reporter in daily Pakistan Observer whom Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed him as the chairman or director general of the House Building Corporation. Indeed it was a very privileged position for the reporter of a newspaper. After closure of the Muslim I switched over to Pakistan Observer as editorial writer.
Editor Mushahid Hussain Syed had to leave the Muslim Newspaper under pressure from Junejo government for his involvement in arranging clandestine interview of Indian Journalist Kuldeep Nayyar with Pakistan’s nuclear scientist Dr. Qadeer Khan. When Nawaz Sharif was out of power they both became very close friends. He was appointed as the information minister later and senator. Later Mushahid Hussain joined Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s Pakistan Muslim League and thus their friendship ended.
Presently, Irfan Siddiqi an Urdu columnist and Tariq Fatimi a retired diplomat, among others are the advisers of Mian Nawaz Sharif. Both these gentlemen had been supporting Mian Sahib in their media outlets. Mr. Siddiqui wrote columns and Tariq Fatimi was occasionally a guest commentator on the TV channels. Tariq Fatimi too was an ambassador and in that capacity he might have treated Mian Sahib very well. There are many other individuals who are beneficiaries of Mian Sahib’s gratitude for their support during the time when he was in dire straits and out of power.
Now a series of miracles happened in favor of Mian Nawaz Sharif. When his naive bid to oust Pervez Musharraf failed, he was lodged in Adiala jail Rawalpindi and the military court was on the verge of giving him death sentence as was done in case of Z.A. Bhutto. But by a providential help, he was rescued jointly by Saudi government, US President Bill Clinton and King Fahd. As a result he went into exile for ten years and with commitment to not take part in politics for 21 years. But the providence had other plans for Nawaz Sharif.
On the basis of NRO issued by Pervez Musharraf on 25 November 2007, amnesty was granted to political exiles. Sharif returned to Pakistan on November 27, 2007. On the contrary his arch rival Pervez Musharraf went into exile in London on November 2008.The second miracle was winning the general elections held in May 2013; Mr. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N) won 126 seats in the Assembly. The 18th Amendment Bill passed by the Parliament removed the bar on third term for a prime minister.
Now the situation was drastically reversed. While Pervez Musharraf went into exile, Mian Sahib became the prime minister of Pakistan. In a similar fashion as Mian Sahib was allowed to proceed abroad, Musharraf too was allowed to go abroad by the Supreme Court on 18th March 2016.
Notwithstanding Mian Sahib’s confrontation with both Judiciary and military of Pakistan which resulted in his ouster from power and exile from Pakistan from 2000 to 2007, his services to the nations have been remarkable. Although Zulfikar Ali Bhutto initiated and developed nuclear technology for Pakistan, it was during the second term of Nawaz Sharif as prime minister that in response to Indian nuclear tests, Pakistan successfully carried out six nuclear tests on 28 May 1998.
During his second term as Prime minister, Pakistan’s largest ever first major motorway known as M2 Motorway (also called as Autobahn of South Asia) was completed in November 1997. The M-2 is a motorway in the Punjab province of Pakistan. It is 367 km long and connects Lahore with Islamabad. The comfort and unhindered traveling facility which this motorway has provided to the commuters is indescribable. Mian Sahib widened the road between Murree and Rawalpindi facilitating the arduous traffic between the two cities.
The Lahore Metro Bus Service was inaugurated in February 2013. The Islamabad Rawalpindi Metro Bus service was inaugurated in June 2015. These services have enormously facilitated the movement of the people including the employees in the respective cities.
It was during his previous term that Pakistan improved its relations with Muslim world, Turkey, and Europe and even India. The then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Pakistan and signed the “Lahore Declaration” on 21 February 1999. But the good will generated by Lahore Declaration was watered down because of the Kargil war (May –July 1999) started by Pervez Musharraf.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would be a land mark achievement whose credit goes to Nawaz Sharif. It is a floodgate that would transform the complexion and destiny of Pakistan economically, industrially, socially and in many other ways. This mega project alone would put Pakistan on the road to progress and prosperity for all-time to come.
Moreover it would ensure the territorial integrity of Pakistan particularly from India, as China would not allow her assets to be attacked and destroyed by forces inimical to Pakistan. This watershed project would rapidly be expanded to upgrade ‘s infrastructure, as well as deepen and broaden economic links between Pakistan, the People's Republic of China as well as the Central Asian states.
No matter what his critics say but like all human beings Nawaz Sharif has drawbacks too. No one can be an ideal person. His approach in politics has been aggressive and colliding even with judiciary and armed forces perceiving these institutions as threat to his stay in power. And for that reason he suffered a lot in the form of incarceration and a threat to his life like Z.A. Bhutto and consequent exile from Pakistan. He had miraculous escape from a dreadful happening thanks to the intervention of his friends, supporters and intermediaries. He remained in exile for seven years.
Nawaz Sharif is in the habit of listening to and believing the people with vested interests. He cannot shun the rumours, conspiracy theories and the gossip conveyed to him by his visitors and friends. He has a tendency to believe that someone somewhere was conspiring against him to remove him from power. That is the great drawback in his outlook and personality for which he suffered.
His second weakness is a glaring lack of articulation particularly in English as the politicians generally possess this talent or skill. We saw him holding a piece of paper to be read before president Obama as a student reads before his teacher. That is why people like Tariq Fatimi are in his retina of associates writing and guiding and representing him on international forums.
A politcian must have the insight, knowledge and studied outlook to articulate and convince others of his opinion on contentious issues. In comparison Mian Sahib is a silent worker and prefers to avoid the international forums and parleys. Nawaz Sharif is a man of action and few words. He doesn’t have the art of waxing eloquence.
With elderly advisers and foot soldiers like Sartaj Aziz and Tariq Fatimi he is comfortable as they obey him docilely. These guys are spent forces yet basking in the international galore and limelight in their advanced stages of life. While having important ministries such as Foreign Affairs and Defense with him, Mian Sahib has the option to dictate to these yeomen without any opposition. These guys act as simply dummies and mouthpieces of the prime minister. Lately Tariq Fatimi has been sent to attend the Nuclear Security Summit sponsored by president Obama.
He and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, the current chief minister of Punjab, have been accused of amassing huge sums of money in several ways. The foreign exchange sent by expatriate Pakistan to the tunes of millions of dollars during the nuclear tests is still unaccounted. But I personally disagree with that accusation. The Sharif family has been rich since 1947 and it is their right to earn and increase their wealth through legitimate means in full public view.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat.This and other articles by the writer can also be read at his blog www.uprightopinion.com.