Bill Clinton Helped Nawaz Sharif Get Reprieve from Musharraf, Not Hariri
The article was published in Daily Nawa-i-Waqt in Urdu and has been translated by Kasim Osmani for Naya Daur’s readers.
As per my ‘insider’, federal information minister in a recent cabinet meeting lashed out against Sui Northern Gas Company for January bills. He almost pleaded his fellow officials and reminded them that majority of the people upset with gas tariffs had voted for the PTI in July 2018 elections. However, he said, our government continues to add to the miseries of middle class.
I was able to verify these remarks when I talked to some well-informed people in this regard. I am sure that the federal minister made these remarks.
As a matter of journalistic ethics, I should have given the insider details in the very beginning of this column. I intended to, but Fawad Chaudhry, in his Monday briefing, was quick enough to make public the ‘details’ of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s meeting with Lebanese counterpart in Dubai. Every single word Chaudhry uttered in the meeting, might be true. However, I was disappointed to see those details being made public.
As if that was not enough, I got yet another shock when Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while talking to journalists in Dubai, unreasonably disclosed that God knows why Imran Khan thought it was important to tell his Lebanese counterpart Hariri that the talks of another NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance, often referred to indicate under the table deals) were taking rounds in Pakistan.
It is impossible, though.
Since reporters are adept at making a mountain out of molehill, Qureshi’s remarks created a perception that, perhaps, Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri in his meeting with Imran Khan might have talked about the likelihood of Nawaz Sharif’s acquittal.
Prime Minister Imran Khan was left with no option, but to reject it in strongest terms. With an intention to reinforce Khan’s rejection, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry felt the need to elaborate on the conversation between Imran Khan and Saad Hariri in a press conference.
According to Chaudhry, Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri ‘regretted’ over his role in helping Nawaz Sharif get NRO from former President Musharraf. The federal minister also claimed that Nawaz Sharif violated the terms of his agreement with Musharraf. Hariri is unlikely to trust Nawaz Sharif again for he failed to keep his promise.
It would be enough to remind my readers that Hariri had fled to Saudi Arabia last year, where he announced his resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister on television. However, after much persuasion by French president, Hariri agreed and returned to prime minister office in Beirut. It leaves one wonder in what capacity such a ‘prime minister’ could talk about bailing former Pakistani prime minister?
Let me repeat that I cannot contest or endorse the veracity of the details made public by Fawad Chaudhry, because of inaccessibility to concrete information. However, as a common Pakistani, I do have the right to raise objection that the Khan-Hariri conversation, whether true or not, should not have been made public via an information minister.
You may like or dislike Nawaz Sharif, fact remains that he is three-time elected prime minister of Pakistan, a country of over 200 million people. We are undoubtedly struck in an economic quagmire, but our importance in global community is an irrefutable fact. The only nuclear-armed Islamic country – nobody takes that lightly.
Lebanon is certainly an important country owing to its geography and history. However, Lebanon’s economic and political crisis are the reason why Prime Minister Hariri is considered unimportant.
It would be enough to remind my readers that Hariri had fled to Saudi Arabia last year, where he announced his resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister on television. However, after much persuasion by French president, Hariri agreed and returned to prime minister office in Beirut. It leaves one wonder in what capacity such a ‘prime minister’ could talk about bailing former Pakistani prime minister? Even if Hariri had the guts to talk, it was not appropriate for the government to telecast the details on state level.
In the wake of 12 October 1999 military coup, I was probably the only reporter of an English newspaper who, from September 2000 onward, started indicating at a likely deal that could reprieve Nawaz Sharif from imprisonment. The ruling quarters not just rejected, but mocked at these indications. I stood by my words, because I was receiving this information from highly reliable diplomatic sources.
Though I have piles of such insider information and plan to publish it in a book, but, as my mother would put it, a dwarf is unlikely to ride a horse, I am unable to do so for one reason or the other. With growing age, I increasingly regret not having written a book. However, I am able to lighten the burden by cherry-picking contents from those piles and making it public.
I used to be a very active reporter during Musharraf era. On basis of my access to information at that time, I can confidently claim that former US President Clinton played vital role in bailing Nawaz Sharif out. All other reports in this regard are trash.
Bill Clinton began ‘worrying’ about Nawaz Sharif during Kargil stand-off. This stand-off was resolved as per an agreement between then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Bill Clinton on 4 July 1999. General Musharraf and his close aides totally disliked this agreement. Nawaz Sharif was well-aware of their annoyance. When he discussed his concerns in-person, Clinton promised to help him in difficult situation, if any.
December 2000 was Clinton’s last month in White House. So before his departure from White House, Clinton started backdoor efforts to secure Nawaz Sharif’s release as per his promise. Lebanese prime minister only served as a messenger. Saudi Arabian Prince Abdullah, who became very close to Sharif after Pakistan’s successful nuclear tests, also played vital role in this regard.
Even today, I believe Clinton would have ignored Nawaz Sharif, if the 9/11 incident had occurred during his tenure. He would not have involved himself in securing release of Sharif.
The point is that we must keep the harsh realities of the past in mind, before we talk about some deal or relaxation. Today, we are in a totally different situation, where Lebanese prime minister is irrelevant. We don’t need to project him as a global impact-maker. An absurd point-scoring is underway to waste our time.