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Inside Pakistan – politicians who lived in exile

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Guess what do Gen Pervez Musharraf the 10th President of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto the 11th and 13th Prime Minister of Pakistan, her husband Asif Ali Zardari the 11th President of Pakistan, brother Murtaza Bhutto (the elder son of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto), Sahibzada Iskander Mirza, the first President of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif the longest-serving Prime Minister of Pakistan (three non-consecutive terms — more than 9 years), his brother Shehbaz Sharif (the 23rd and current Prime Minister of Pakistan), and Altaf Hussain, the founder of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) have in common?

Well, the simple answer is that they are among the 30-odd political leaders who spent varying amounts of time in exile outside Pakistan to save their life.

The first political leader who was forced to live in exile was Choudhary Rehmat Ali a law student at the University of Cambridge who coined the acronym “Pakistan” (P A K I S T A N) as a separate Muslim homeland assimilating Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sindh, and Baluchistan“. Ali published a pamphlet, “Now or Never”, also known as the Pakistan Declaration in 1933.

In a way, Ali was one of the first persons to describe ‘Pakistan’ as a ‘nation’ and evolved the two-nation theory as early as 1933. This was later adopted by the All-India Muslim League.

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After the partition, Choudhary Rehmat Ali was reportedly unhappy about the fact that the Muslim League had accepted a much smaller Pakistan than he had conceived in 1933 and openly criticized Jinnah by calling him “Quisling-e-Azam”. Little did he realize that this made him lose friends and win enemies.  

Choudhary Rehmat Ali a law student at the University of Cambridge coined the acronym Pakistan

After the partition, Ali returned to Lahore In 1948, to finally settle down in Pakistan but was expelled by the then Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan. All his belongings were seized, and he was made to leave for England empty-handed in October 1948. Ali died in Cambridge as a broken-hearted, penniless, and lonely person at the time of his death on 3 February 1951. There was no one to shed tears over his grave and all his medical and funeral expenses were reimbursed by the Pakistan High Commissioner in November 1953, after protracted correspondence between the London office and the relevant authorities in Pakistan.

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan ‘Frontier Gandhi’ fled to Afghanistan, where he lived in exile. He was invited to attend the 100th birthday of Gandhi in India in 1969 and the centenary celebrations of the Indian National Congress in 1985. He became the first non-Indian to be awarded India’s highest civilian honour — Bharat Ratna in 1987. Badshah Khan died in Peshawar and was laid to rest in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on 20th January 1988. Thousands of mourners attended his funeral.

A bitter critic of the partition of India, he told Gandhi and followers in the Congress party: “You have thrown us to the wolves.”

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The new Pakistani government placed Ghaffar Khan under house arrest from 1948 to 1954. After his release, he gave a speech again on the floor of the constituent assembly, in which he bluntly said, “I had to go to prison many a time in the days of the Britishers. Although we were at loggerheads with them, their treatment was to some extent tolerant and polite. But the treatment which was meted out to me in this Islamic state of ours was such that I would not even like to mention it to you.”

The most recent example of an exiled politician is that of 76-year-old Gen Pervez Musharraf who ruled as President of Pakistan after seizing power in a military coup in 1999. Musharraf has been living in Dubai since 2016 following a Pakistan Supreme Court order allowing him to leave the country for medical treatment.

Ironically Musharraf was appointed Army chief superseding Lt Gen Ali Kuli Khan Khattak and Lt Gen Khalid Nawaz by the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom he forced into exile. The relations between Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf reportedly soured after he kept Sharif in the dark about the Pakistan army’s active involvement in the Kargil fiasco. Sharif tried to get even by dismissing Musharraf, while he was returning from Sri Lanka on a PIA commercial flight. Nawaz Sharif aimed to quietly terminate Musharraf in absentia and replace him with the then ISI Chief General Ziauddin Butt. As part of a well-thought-out plan, Sharif ordered the police to prevent the A300 aircraft from handing in Pakistan territory but Musharraf got the wind of it and ordered his loyalists to stage a coup and take over control of the government.

What followed was pure melodrama as Musharraf resumed command and control of the military despite his termination on 12 October 1999. To consolidate his position Musharraf later assumed control of the government as chief executive while Sharif and his protégé Gen Ziauddin Butt were stripped of their powers, arrested, and tried by a military judge. Ziauddin was kept in solitary confinement for two years and finally dismissed from service exercising ‘scout’s penalty’ – a discretionary punishment not requiring a crime. 

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Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif too faced a living hell and was tried for kidnapping, attempted murder, hijacking, terrorism and corruption. Such was the terror that almost all his cabinet ministers and supporters deserted him. Anyone who dared to speak up on his behalf was arrested by the military police and locked up in prison. His lawyer, Iqbal Raad, was gunned down in Karachi and the military court was on the verge of passing a life sentence but for an intervention by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and US President Bill Clinton on his behalf. As Musharraf wrote in his biography Nawaz Sharif was about to be sent to the gallows like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979 but for the last-minute mediation by King Fahd.

As part of the deal, Nawaz Sharif agreed not to take part in politics in Pakistan for 21 years and was exiled in live Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for 10 years. He tried to return to Pakistan in 2007 but within hours he was arrested and deported to Saudi Arabia. After a few months, he returned to Pakistan in 2008 to contest the elections but lost.

After being in exile for more than a decade, he returned to politics in 2011 and led his party to victory for the third time in 2013. However, he was removed from office and disqualified from holding public office by the Supreme Court of Pakistan for his involvement in various economic offences in which almost all his family members including his daughter Maryam, son-in-law Capt. Muhammad Safdar and sons Hasan and Hussein too played a part. He was also sentenced to ten years in prison by an accountability court.

On July 28, 2017, the Pakistan Supreme Court ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to open a criminal trial into ownership of the London flats and disqualified him from office. The moot question thus is – whether this is the end of his political career as such a person cannot contest elections or become a member of parliament.

Sharif has since been living in England and Jeddah to evade legal action in Pakistan. The new Pakistan government, under Shehbaz Sharif (his brother), is now understood to be planning to quash the corruption charges to allow him to return to Pakistan.

Also Read: Pakistan on the verge of self-destruction?

On October 18, 2007, Benazir Bhutto the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and Pakistan’s first democratically elected Prime Minister returned to Pakistan after General Musharraf pardoned her of corruption charges. In December 2007 Bhutto was assassinated while campaigning in Rawalpindi after eight years in exile in Dubai and London. A UN investigation on the incident opined that ‘Ms Bhutto’s assassination could have been prevented if adequate security measures had been taken.

According to reports several weeks before the assassination Benazir Bhutto is said to have requested the CIA, Scotland Yard, and Mossad to beef up her security cover but the Pakistani government refused to give visas to the foreign security contractors. After the assassination, President Musharraf went on record to say that Benazir’s death was essentially due to her fault as she took “unnecessary risks” and should have exited the rally more quickly.

Though the UN Inquiry Commission accused Musharraf of failing to provide adequate protection to Bhutto, Pervez Musharraf tried to shift the blame on Benazir’s husband Asif Ali Zardari who according to him had the most to gain from Benazir Bhutto’s murder. “Asif Ali Zardari is responsible for the Bhutto family’s demise and is involved in the deaths of Benazir and Murtaza Bhutto,” he said.

“Every time there is a murder, the first thing that needs to be seen is who has the most to gain from the death. In this case, I had everything to lose as I was in power and the murder put my government in a difficult situation,” he said.

Curiously Benazir’s husband Asif Ali Zardari indicted for Murtaza Bhutto’s murder and other corrupt deals returned to Pakistan from self-exile in Dubai, after Bhutto’s assassination and led the party to victory in the 2008 general elections. He forced Pervez Musharraf to resign and was elected president on 6 September 2008 and acquitted of the criminal charges the same year.

Probably the most pathetic narrative of Pakistani politicians in exile is that of General Iskander Mirza the first President of Pakistan who imposed the first-ever martial law in Pakistan and appointed his protégé General Ayub Khan, as the Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA). Within two days of his appointment, Gen Ayub ordered a military unit to enter in presidential palace at midnight on 26-27 October 1958 and place his mentor, Gen Iskander Mirza, on an aeroplane bound for England.

Despite belonging to a wealthy Nawab family, Mirza spent the rest of his life in exile in London, England where he struggled to meet his expenses running a small hotel.

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Neeraj Mahajanhttps://n2erajmahajan.wordpress.com/
Neeraj Mahajan is a hard-core, creative and dynamic media professional with over 35 years of proven competence and 360 degree experience in print, electronic, web and mobile journalism. He is an eminent investigative journalist, out of the box thinker, and a hard-core reporter who is always hungry for facts. Neeraj has worked in all kinds of daily/weekly/broadsheet/tabloid newspapers, magazines and television channels like Star TV, BBC, Patriot, Sunday Observer, Sunday Mail, Network Magazine, Verdict, and Gfiles Magazine.


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