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special envoy Tariq Aziz laying a wreath at the tomb of Mian Sharif
Sharif Have First Telephonic Conversation After '99 Coup
November 22: Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf had
a long telephonic conversation with exiled former Prime Minister
Nawaz Sharif in Medina on November 5, Sharif’s son, Hasan
Nawaz confirmed on Sunday, Nov 21.
to me from his London residence, Hasan Nawaz said General Musharraf
first called Shahbaz Sharif and then talked to Nawaz Sharif, who
was in Medina, and offered his condolences on the death of Mian
was the first time that General Musharraf spoke directly to the
politician whom he deposed in a coup in October 1999 and then
sent him into exile to Saudi Arabia one year later.
General Musharraf had earlier sent his close friend and confidant,
National Security Council Secretary Tariq Aziz, as his special
envoy to Raiwind to lay a wreath on Mian Sharif’s grave
on his behalf. Punjab Chief Minister Choudhry Pervaiz Ilahi had
also accompanied Tariq Aziz to Raiwind.
Hasan Nawaz would not give any details
of the conversation between General Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif
but he said the telephone call “was now an open secret and
everybody is talking about it.”
close to the Sharif family however told the South Asia Tribune
General Musharraf “offered his apologies to Nawaz Sharif
for what he described as a big mess created by the Pakistani Ambassador
to Saudi Arabia in connection with allowing Nawaz and Shahbaz
brothers to attend their father’s funeral in Pakistan.”
“General Musharraf explained
that the Pakistan Ambassador in Saudi Arabia had not been given
any mandate by him or the government to put conditions on the
return of the Sharif family with Mian Sharif’s body.’
one source said.
General Musharraf was quoted to have
said that he was not very happy with how this matter had been
handled and told the exiled Prime Minister if he had come with
the body for funeral, “I would myself come to Raiwind to
offer my condolences, as I know what it means to lose one’s
The family sources said Mian Nawaz
Sharif reminded General Musharraf that when his father had died,
Sharif had sent the General a letter of condolence from the Attock
Musharraf heard that, he went silent for at least 10 second and
did not know how to respond. He then said he was not happy in
the manner in which the whole matter had been handled by the Ambassador.”
When the elder Sharif had died, it was widely reported that the
Pakistan government had asked the Sharif family to approach the
Saudi authorities so that they could request the Pakistani government
for allowing the family to visit Pakistan to take part in the
last rites of Mian Sharif.
The Charge d' Affaires at Pakistan Embassy in Saudi Arabia, Abdul
Aziz Mirza, had proposed to Nawaz Sharif to approach the Royal
Saudi family with a request that they should seek a formal permission
from Pakistan for the purpose. Mirza called on Nawaz Sharif in
the afternoon and condoled the death of Mian Sharif on behalf
of President Musharraf.
was then reported by Daily The News that Government was
ready to allow the family members, including Nawaz Sharif and
Shahbaz Sharif, to take part in the funeral. However, the Pakistan
government wants the Royal Saudi family to guarantee that the
Sharif family, especially Nawaz and Shahbaz, would return to Saudi
Arabia after performing the rites.
the Pakistani diplomat in Jeddah conveyed the message that all
other members of the family, minus Nawaz and Shahbaz and Kulsoom
Nawaz, could accompany the body. This was unacceptable to the
family as the elders had to be present at the funeral.
Talking to The News, Brig (retd) Javed Iqbal Malik, who
lives in Jeddah with Nawaz Sharif and acts as his confidant, had
at the time expressed shock over the conditions being laid down
by the Pakistan government at a mournful occasion when the bereaved
Sharif family was already suffering from a tremendous sense of
loss due to Mian Sharif’s demise. He had said the Sharifs,
being Pakistani nationals, had every right to come home for the
last rites of Mian Sharif.
Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Ilahi had then said the government
had not received any request from Sharif family to return with
Nawaz family sources said all this was explained by General Musharraf
to Nawaz Sharif in his telephonic conversation "as a big
mess created by the Pakistani diplomat who had not been mandated
to put these conditions."
analysts say the complete secrecy about the Musharraf-Nawaz conversation
by both the sides meant that at least they had reached some understanding
on how to keep talking and keep their channels open.
They said Musharraf would not have
liked the conversation to become public as it would create a sense
of great uncertainty in the crowd of PML-N defectors who have
aligned themselves with General Musharraf under the PML-Q banner.
“If the PML-Q members, now
in the government realize that Musharraf had opened his direct
channels with Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif, they would start shaking
in their pants as it would mean an end to their utility for the
General,” one analyst said.
On the other hand, the Nawaz camp
did not want the conversation to become public because they wanted
the channels to remain open so that when enough confidence was
restored they could start discussing more substantial political
said General Musharraf was getting desperate to open these channels
not only with the Nawaz camp but with Benazir Bhutto and Asif
Zardari as well as he was coming under severe pressure from the
religious extremists on the one hand and the ARD on the other,
specially on his uniform issue.
“If Musharraf can reach some
broad understanding with these mainstream political parties, he
would then feel confident enough to take off his uniform and stay
as a powerful president until 2007,” analysts said.
factor which has increased the pressure on General Musharraf is
the change of leadership at the US State Department where his
friend "General" Colin Powell has left and a more hawkish
"civilian" Condoleezza Rice is set to become the new
Secretary of State.
Rice will certainly use the stick
on issues like the investigation into the Dr AQ Khan nuclear sales
and the hunt for Al Qaeda leaders including Osama bin Laden and
thus feels that he has to broaden his political support base at
home to face the increasing pressure from the US and opening of
new channels between Musharraf and the Sharif family is certainly
a step in that direction.