Hard Stance Against Musharraf Cost Him His Passport
M. Afzal Khan
July 26: The question of issuance of passports to exiled premier
Nawaz Sharif and his spouse looked like a done deal a couple of
pronouncements from the Government during the first few days emphasized
the right of every Pakistani to secure a passport. Nawaz Sharif
could not be an exception. It was too good to believe and yet
most people thought that the Government would honor this commitment
to the law.
have, however, gone awry much to the frustration of Mr. Sharif
who, out of disgust, has now decided not to send his son-in-law,
Capt. Safdar, to Pakistani diplomats in Jeddah to hear excuses
on daily basis for being unable to take a decision. He says he
will wait for it for the time being and in the meantime contemplate
a court option.
first step towards that the PML-N has sent to the Chief Justice
of Pakistan the copy of the letter Mr. Safdar had written to the
Consul General in Jeddah.
What went wrong is a matter of speculation. Relevant official
circles attribute it to Nawaz Sharif’s hard hitting telephonic
speech to PML-N leadership in Lahore on July 2 in which he repudiated
the thought of even sitting with Musharraf for a dialogue or to
accept for unification of the PML those people who betrayed the
party. He continued with this theme and tone in subsequent speeches
during the week.
PML-N leaders reject this explanation as a lame excuse. “If
that is the main reason for refusing the passport, it reflects
only a petty mind,” says Sardar Ayaz Sadiq MNA. “How
cold you violate the legal and constitutional right of a citizen
of the country just because he said something to the distaste
of one person.”
Some incorrigible optimists in the PML-N and the appropriate diplomatic
circles here still believe that the process has not derailed but
only deferred. The original arrangement being talked about would
have had Nawaz’s mother and some other family members return
to Pakistan while Nawaz would have traveled to London.
Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who largely reflects President Musharraf’s
thinking, now says that Mr. Nawaz Sharif will not come to Pakistan.
Shahbaz Sharif’s, however, is a different case. He blames
Nawaz Sharif for being a major hurdle in the return of his younger
Many interesting developments have taken place since the leak
that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah may play a role in bringing about
a Musharraf-Nawaz rapprochement, Government’s belated and
warped denial notwithstanding. Nawaz applied for issuance of the
passport while Government’s initial response seemed very
positive. The exiled premier also began a series of telephonic
addresses to party activists for the first time in four and a
Without confirming or denying the report, Sheikh Rashid was quoted
in the media that if he was to reveal the terms on which Nawaz
wants to return, it would take the entire country by a storm.
The PML circles insist that the initiative to involve the Saudis
came from Nawaz and not Musharraf. But it is widely acknowledged
that the Saudis have great sympathy for the Sharifs and would
like to do something to end their present ordeal.
It is also admitted that even the speculation of a possible understanding
between Musharraf and Nawaz or Benazir sends alarm bells in the
ruling party creating a scare that the entire edifice built on
quicksand of Establishment’s support and needs would collapse.
This was publicly conceded by PML Chief Choudhry Shujaat Hussain
when Asif Zardari was stopped from staging a spectacular return
last April amid wide-spread perception that it enjoyed President
Musharraf’s nod. The report about impending Saudi intervention
sent similar shock waves, though Shujaat who was part of Musharraf’s
Saudi trip, uncharacteristically kept a discreet silence before
and after the publication of the story.
The Government statement which came late by four days had some
interesting elements. It rebounded to Nawaz Sharif’s impulsive
statement of July 2 using the same tough language and tone. His
name was not even mentioned during the meeting between Saudi and
Pakistani “officials”, it said. The use of the expression
‘officials” is intriguing. The meeting was held between
Musharraf and Crown Prince Abdullah and not any officials. While
one may look like splitting hair, it is not clear whether it was
an oversight or a deliberate attempt at subterfuge.
Significantly the Government mentioned for the first time that
under a ‘deal” Nawaz Sharif cannot leave Saudi Arabia
for 10 years. Nawaz Sharif has always denied having signed such
a deal. The Government has also failed to produce any document
though its apologists say that the sensitivity of involvement
of the Saudi royal family is the major restraint.
Musharraf once waved a paper to a group of journalists but did
not let them see the signatures. However, in support of his contention
that Sharifs willingly left for Jeddah, Musharraf has been telling
journalists to see the TV clips of the departure scenes to ascertain
how happy they were.
On another occasion when Shujaat was confronted with the question
whether the document bears the signatures of Nawaz Sharif and
the Crown Prince, he retorted: ”Do you think the princes
go about putting their signatures on documents?” PML-N circles
say the only known document on the issue is the then President
Rafiq Tarar’s grant of amnesty, apparently on a petition..Interestingly,
the immigration authorities did not put the exit stamp on passports
of the family members when they left for Jeddah.
It is also no secret that irrespective of their own regard and
ties with Nawaz Sharif, the Saudis has acted at the prompting
of the then US President Bill Clinton. The former American President
is on record indirectly sharing part of the blame for Nawaz Sharif’s
downfall by sponsoring a retreat from Kargil. US diplomats who
acknowledge this role, also say Clinton had developed a liking
for Nawaz Sharif in his very first meeting.
Sharif left the room, Clinton told his National Security Adviser,
Sandy Berger: “He is a simple and down-to-earth man”.
These diplomats, however, insist that there is no American role
in the current passport issue.
Legal experts put a different tack to the so-called deal. There
is no provision in the Constitution to send anybody into exile.
Even if there be any agreement between Sharif and the Government,
it is illegal and not binding. The Supreme Court has ruled that
no citizen can be prevented from returning to his country. There
is also another question. How can any member of a family enter
into an illegal agreement condemning the entire family to a life
writer is a senior journalist based in Islamabad. He writes for
The Nation and Khaleej Times.