Musharraf's Men Begin Political
Game to Oust Aziz, Bring Humayun
M T Butt & Syed Saleem Shahzad
May 4: New political games have begun in Islamabad and the target
this time is the very obedient Prime Minister, Citi-banker Shaukat
Aziz, whose economic performance is being projected as a dismal
failure but the real reasons are different.
Musharraf feels frustrated by PM Aziz's handling of the Zardari
arrival fiasco as before leaving for New Delhi, Musharraf had
authorized Aziz to handle the event but Aziz did not assert himself
and allowed the Choudhries of Lahore to create a colossal embarrassment
for Musharraf, both during his Indian visit and in the on-going
secret negotiations with PPP, competent sources say in Islamabad.
potent reason is Shaukat Aziz's defiance in the appointment of
the new PIA Chairman, which infuriated the inner core of Musharraf’s
close friends who were ardent supporters of ousted PIA Chairman
friends are also known to be close sponsors of Humayun Akhtar
Khan, the sharpshooting billionaire wonder-kid from Lahore, the
son of a General who became rich because of CIA. Humayun got the
biggest political boost of his career when two weeks back Musharraf
dropped at his Lahore residence for lunch and they discussed politics
of over two hours.
Musharraf-Humayun meeting kicked off the "Get-Aziz"
campaign in Islamabad as General Musharraf, a totally confused
man caught in the middle of a political whirlpool, wants to talk
to Benazir Bhutto and her PPP while retaining the support of Punjab’s
Choudhries and opposing the religious grouping of MMA. Yet his
political allies, in their own selfish interests, want PPP to
stay away from the Army and would be more comfortable with the
MMA as long as Nawaz Sharif sticks to his hard line against the
this high stake political poker, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz fits
nowhere as he has no constituency and no political muscle. So
the man can be sacrificed either by the Army if they hit it with
the PPP or by the Choudhries if MMA starts to play ball or breaks
to analyst Nusrat Javeed, a well-informed political journalist
of Islamabad, “Rumors are rife in Islamabad claiming that
Humayun Akhtar Khan, who had almost succeeded in replacing Mir
Zafarullah Khan Jamali at Budget time last year, was again emitting
prime ministerial vibes.”
time Humayun is careful. After meeting Musharraf he told the Weekly
Independent of Lahore: "I will hold more meetings with
General Musharraf in future. It was my first meeting with the
President Musharraf at my Lahore residence and more such meetings
will take place in (near) future." He refused to discuss
his chances as the next Prime Minister.
He said the President visited his house only to have lunch with
him; however, they also discussed prevailing political situation
in the country as well as the city. He said he was moving forward
under the leadership of General Musharraf.
know of at least two meetings, where some top aides of General
Musharraf keenly listened to a highly critical evaluation of the
current finance managers’ policies and their ominous consequences.
In one of these meetings, a daring “young Turk” had
even forewarned that the “bullish bubble of our Stock Exchange
is about to burst,” well connected analyst Nusrat Javeed
wrote recently in The News.
Islamabad people are also watching the business tycoon Sadruddin
Hashwani, who is known for his behind-the-scene role in making
or unmaking prime ministers. According to analysts this tycoon
remained a diehard promoter and supporter of Shaukat Aziz for
many months. But of late he has begun telling the people of his
confidence that Shaukat Aziz had failed to attract foreign investment.
“Why not try Humayun Akhtar Khan?” Hashwani has been
According to analyst Nusrat, “close
to the presentation of another budget the usual makers and breakers
of a prime minister in this country are trying to repeat history.
It is too early for me to commit whether they will succeed in
their attempt or not.”
his almost successful, but ultimately abortive, bid last year
to become the PM, Humayun Akhtar Khan has got his opening to attack
Shaukat Aziz because of the PIA affair. The national airline was
run by Musharraf’s nominee Choudhry Ahmed Saeed for 4 years
with a firm grip, as he violated all rules and regulations to
act as the Chairman, MD, Finance Director and Purchase Director,
all in one.
airline was given colossal amounts of Government money in cash
and sovereign guarantees and Saeed went on a buying spree never
seen before but all his promises and projections of profits were
based on cooked-up accounts and did not materialize. Shaukat Aziz
was so annoyed he refused more demands of money and then told
Musharraf that Saeed had to go. Musharraf agreed reluctantly.
Saeed was a member of the inner core of Musharraf’s friends
prominent among them Tariq Aziz, the National Security Adviser,
a Bridge Buddy Retired Brig Niaz and Lahore’s famous Horse
Bookie Pappoo. All of them were last year working hard for Humayun
Akhtar Khan as the replacement of Jamali. Premature leakage of
this news activated the Gujrat Choudhries who stood up against
Humayun’s nomination, thus paving the way for no-body’s-man
Shaukat Aziz to become a consensus PM.
by sacking Saeed as PIA chief, Shaukat Aziz has given this core
group of Musharraf’s men an opening to go for him. When
tycoon Sadruddin Hashwani joined them, the momentum got going
and now media has started talking about an imminent change. When
former PM Jamali recently talked about a change at the top to
PPP-turncoat Faisal Saleh Hayat, he was flabbergasted and rushed
to see Shaukat Aziz.
Choudhries of Gujrat are again going to be the main obstacle for
Humayun but Musharraf is not too happy with how the Punjab Government
led by the Choudhries thwarted Asif Ali Zardari’s show in
Lahore in a bid to sow seeds of doubt and suspicion between the
middlemen of the Army and the PPP negotiating in secret.
Musharraf was talking to PPP, his worried allies, the Choudhries
and other right of center parties were quietly discussing their
options with the MMA as well and recently Musharraf’s main
spokesman, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, even said publicly that PML-Q
and MMA could contest the 2007 election jointly. It was a strange
statement made in Peshawar, where MMA runs its provincial government,
which prompted Najam Sethi’s Daily Times to editorially
question his political sense.
Ahmed’s boss, General Pervez Musharraf, has made plain that
he is getting fed up with the MMA’s ideology and its troublesome
behavior,” the DT Editorial said on May 3. “So
what does Mr Ahmed mean when he simultaneously slaps and hugs
the MMA? Is he serious about allying with the MMA or is this his
(or the government’s?) signal to the PPP that time is running
out for the latter and it must sidle up to the PML-Q if it wants
a share in political power? In both cases the pertinent question
is whether Mr Ahmed has just shot his mouth off or fired this
shot with a nod from General Musharraf?”
MMA is not taking the bait easily. It has struck on two fronts
at a time. Firstly it has once again restored its political contacts
with the mainstream alliance ARD and both have now taken the hard
position that no elections would be acceptable under Musharraf
as President of the country.
MMA has announced it will go back to the streets, although Musharraf
has been giving in to their demands under the impression that
friends within his coalition partners would bring the MMA around.
Musharraf has already conceded the religious column in the passport,
a ban on mix marathon races and a compulsory scarf (Dopatta)
on the heads of PIA air hostesses. After these concessions political
managers of Musharraf were hoping that MMA would strike a deal
over the political engineering of local bodies polls and would
agree to a reasonable share to the exclusion of the mainstream
parties. Musharraf and the political parties believe that the
local bodies polls will be crucial for every stakeholder in political
and his political managers had been planning these games for more
than a year. They thought that by manipulating political parties
they would ensure that Musharraf would become head of a loose
political alliance in which all Muslim Leagues would become one
including a breakaway faction of Nawaz, led by Shahbaz Sharif,
Leghari’s Millat Party and Sindh Democratic Alliance. That
did not happen because of an adamant Nawaz Sharif.
PPP-breakaways, the Sherpao Group and Patriots, were merged into
one PPP but since no one could dare break away from Benazir Bhutto
this plan did not work. A similar plan to build an alternate MQM,
comprising all factions including that of Altaf Hussain, Afaq
Ahmed, Umar Goga and others also backfired when Dr Imran Farooq
failed to deliver. In fact the MQM operation went wrong so badly
the Government had to halt it and completely surrender to Altaf
Recently when a party leader of
Afaq’s Mohajir Quami Movement went to Islamabad he was given
only five minutes by Tariq Aziz in which a few words of apology
were presented on behalf of Afaq Ahmed. Tariq Aziz plainly told
him that no immediate relief was possible and at least six months
were needed to work out a new plan in which Afaq group could have
some chance to revive itself.
some hidden hands have started working against Shaukat Aziz and
his government was also evident on May 3 when out of the blue,
and without the knowledge and instructions of the Government,
Islamabad journalists were beaten up and arrested as they were
observing the World Press Freedom Day in front of Parliament,
an otherwise routine rally.
“What happened with a group
of working journalists in Islamabad on Tuesday was a text bookish
example of how some “permanent institutions” of the
State, police and the rest of law enforcers (meaning ISI and Army)
deliberately begin embarrassing a sitting government,” columnist
Nusrat Javeed wrote on Tuesday.
Aziz Government had just come out of a major confrontation with
the Press when for 3 days the Parliament was boycotted as a protest
against the treatment given to the media at Lahore Airport on
Zardari’s arrival, but this happened right under the nose
of the PM, without he or his Information Minister knowing it.
Press again walked out of Parliament and a massive hoopla began
on who was running the show, pitching the media against the Government.
hapless Information Minister rushed to the House and declared
on the Floor that the Government “was not responsible for
the latest arrests and beatings”. This led to wide speculation
about who was calling the shots and the House had to set up an
All-Parties Committee to investigate and fix the responsibility.
were sure that nothing would come out of this committee as the
real masters of the country were behind it and these poker players
in the House hardly have the balls to stand up to the big boots.