AAMER WAQAS CH talks to the PML (N) leader Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa, who maintains that unification of various factions of the Muslim League to serve the military regime is not acceptable
Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa is the only surviving son of Sardar Dost Muhammad Khan Khosa, and became the Chief of his tribe at a very young age of six years after remaining in the Court of Ward, as his parents had died. His initial education was at Queen's Mary College (then open for boys as well) before joining Aitchison College in 1946, where he remained till December 1954 and did his HSC. "I wanted to study at Cambridge, but it was vetoed by my grandmother, who did not want me to be away for another six years." In 1963, Field Marshal Ayub Khan abolished the Jirga System and no alternative system to replace it was given for the next six years. It was for the first time that the lawyers were allowed to plead cases. "Dera Gazi Khan is a large area and the masses were illiterate. Corruption and favouritism crept among the tribes at that time. They were thrown into a totally alien system, and consequently, their miseries increased manifold. Later, openings in the Gulf brought opportunities and they began migrating there. Now the situation has improved to a greater extent with the network of roads and establishment of schools." Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa was the youngest member of the provincial assembly of 1962. He has been a witness to the rule of all the military rulers. His last election during Nawaz Sharif's second tenure was his eighth consecutive election from his constituency.
Following are some excerpts from an interview with him:-
On the performance of the present government
Let me briefly narrate my impression of the previous military dictators. I was a member of the Assembly during the self-styled Field Marshal Ayub Khan, and had been in the political scene during Yahya Khan's tenure as well. I was jailed during Zia's Martial Law. Then I witnessed the present take-over in October 1999. All these military dictators made very tall promises to the nation. What disasters we have suffered at the hands of these rulers, is now a part of our national history. I do not have to expound on that. Here is a person, who is unaware of what the nation wants. He is blind to its needs and aspirations. He makes a declaration of his Seven-Point-Agenda, giving accountability the priority. When he speaks about this during his addresses, people start building high hopes and rightly so because Pakistan has been labelled as the second most corrupt country of the world. I remember PTV showed people distributing sweets and dancing–never a big crowd just a few people. It was very obvious that it was arranged. Then comes the crackdown. If you look at the record, the Pakistan Muslim League is the main target as if they were the only corrupt people. Subsequently, as this process rolled on, he made an announcement that the judiciary and the armed forces will not be touched. Are they angels or above the law? 'The King can do no wrong' is what we used to read, and have seen being practised here. This was a sour point with the common man next to his own stomach. If he can fill his stomach, the next thing he wants is eradication of corruption. This government has failed in its claims of accountability. They have only victimised the PML. They showed certain files of their misdeeds to the bigwigs within the PML, and won them over to their own side. I do not want to name them, but some of the prominent Muslim leaguers came out with blatant praise of the General. I will not dispute the number of members who broke away from us–they claim so much and we know how much–they have been able to break away some members, but not the vote bank of the PML. And those who were, perhaps, in half a mind when some of the top leadership deserted our party ranks, are now fully back in the party fold. I speak with authority, as I am the President of the PML Punjab. In fact, because of the poor performance of the government, its accountability process, spiralling process and high rates of the utilities, have disillusioned the common man. During my tours of various districts, I have seen the reaction at the ground. Again this regime thinks that it is cleverer than Ayub, Yahya or Zia. General Musharraf thinks so because of his scheme of devolution of power - power to the grass-root, that is to the district and tehsil Nazims. Obviously, he was apprehensive of the political strength of the two major parties (PPP and PML), hence it was declared the partyless elections. There is so much confusion even within their own ranks, but an order was passed that anybody having affiliation with any political party would stand disqualified, and some were disqualified too. As a result, you had people deserting their parties or avoiding the party discipline. Then there was an undue delay, because they wanted the result according to their own wishes. It took them months to complete the local government system. This had never happened in the past. Elections were declared over in a day in the past, and here they took months, because first, they were unclear. Secondly, because they did not know what they were doing. Thirdly, they wanted results in their favour. Managing the whole country in one go and get their own people elected, was not an easy task. But by holding election in two to four areas at a time, they managed to complete the job. Their agencies were running around in army jeeps, not trying to win over people through subtle gestures, but by threatening them. Some people who took part in local body elections belonged to the Muslim League. They have realised their mistake, and feel sorry for participating in the meaningless system despite tall promises by the government. They have tendered written apologies to the party, thereby coming back to the party fold. We are in a very strange situation. With all the government pressures, money spent, support of the agencies and the district administration, and everything that was available to the government, the results of the referendum show you how popular the devolution of power system has become, and how popular the present regime is. It is the most ridiculous thing that has happened to this country. The so-called Chief Executive said that he got 57 per cent votes, and the Chief Election Commissioner maintained that the vote cast was 71 per cent. I wish they had a meeting before declaring 'their' results. At least they could have arrived at the same figure. The whole affair stands exposed. In one of his addresses, the General confessed - 'I know some of my friends and well-wishers went over-board and they committed excesses. I am hurt and I am sorry for that' - now as the General had admitted that, then what did he do to save the nation and prestige of the country? The international community is laughing at us. I had a big laugh when I read the caption. Kis ney dhaka diya (who pushed him into this?) It is a big question. Despite all that they have done and his remarks made during his addresses to the nation - the PML and the PPP has no role in the politics of the country- he has been made to realise that these two parties had played a role in the referendum. It was the ARD and the MMA, who appealed to the people to refrain from voting in the referendum. In my opinion, the voter turn-out was less than two per cent.
On the consultation with political parties by the government
Some people say why did not all the members of the ARD went for the meeting, which the General had called. On the outside, perhaps people are justified in reminding that the General is the person who wants to open a dialogue and these people should have gone and heard what he wanted to say. But the facts are totally different. It has never been a dialogue. It had always been a one-sided briefing from the Chief Executive. 'I have done this...I thought that I should inform you' Is this a dialogue? You take your decision which is in the process of implementation, and then as an eyewash you call us. I do not know to which gallery he is playing. He wanted to involve the senior politicians and political parties of the country by calling them for a conference. Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan said: 'We are not declining to go to a conference, rather we do not want to listen his lecture' - this is a hard fact. An army officer, from day one, is made to obey orders. 'Yes sir' is all he can say. He cannot argue with his senior officers. When he moves up the ladder of command, he cannot in turn listen to 'no' from his subordinates. There is either black or white for the army men. There are no other colours. He issues a command or a bhashan, and it is obeyed. I remember an interview of General Naqvi when he was questioned about the system of local bodies - 'Not having legal cover, and is a provincial subject made as a federal subject and there is no provision in the Constitution' - All he says is: Ho jay gaa (all will be done). On another question of this system being rejected by the Assemblies, he replied in the same fashion. We should be expecting this attitude from these people. The command or bhashan has been delivered, the nation stand attention and better not argue, and obey the Bhashan. This is no politics. Now people have realised during his tenure, that they have come to give commands, but not to deliver. They are saying that we do not know how to govern. They tell ours as bad governance. They should show us good governance as a balance. Have you been able to show good governance? No! He has confessed in one of his many addresses: 'We have not been able to improve law and order situation considerably. We have not brought a marvellous change in the economy. We are making efforts for reforms' We are struggling for investment.' This is after two-and-a-half years. Now he is talking of stability after having got rid of corrupt politicians, then why is the investor not coming? Why the economy has not picked-up? You have eliminated corruption, done away with all the malpractice of the politicians. Two-and-a-half years is enough of a time and the trend should be very visible now. How do you claim that that your government is a better one? There are parallel governments as I see them today. The ISI has its own agenda, and the IB does not see eye-to-eye with ISI to actualise its own agenda. One General has one view while the other goes against the next one. So much so that today we do not know if General Musharraf utters a command today, when he will take it back. This has been happening through out his tenure. A PCO ordinance is issued today and because of the divergent opinions of the Generals, it is withdrawn some days later.
On the governance of the present regime
With the Supreme Court functioning, the constitutional limitations and the assemblies in existence for the elected representatives, here there are no such hurdles. The Constitution is held in abeyance. The Judges have taken oath under the PCO. I think the word was that they owe loyalty to the government. They shall be loyal not to the Constitution, but to General Musharraf. With these conditions, they are picking-up people when and where they want to without evidence and any charges. Look at the law and orders situation, sectarian killings and crime graph. I know for a fact that the SHOs have been ordered not to register cases unless it becomes absolutely unavoidable. Through this, they want to show a drop in the crime graph. I visit all districts of the Punjab and I meet people from all sections of the society. This is a general complaint. 'We would do your job and recover the burglary, but do not register the case.' Where have they succeed? I have said so often that at least in the previous martial laws, two things used to be very obvious: first, the price would stay put, and those martial law regimes ensured that the prices of the commodities would stay stable. Secondly, the crime graph would immediately drop. Now prices have gone extremely high. And, if you pick up any paper of any date, crime is glaringly evident there.
On the unification of various factions of the Pakistan Muslim League
They are faltering constantly in their agenda. They are victimising the Muslim Leaguers and pushing them into their own sections of the PML they have created. It was rightly labelled as 'Lota' League and some called Hum Khayal (like-minded) as Kham Khayal. To avoid those tags put on them, now they come out with the Quaid-i-Azam League. That, I think, is very unjust to the Quaid. A faction of the Muslim League is Quaid-e-Azam's League. Ain't they ashamed of using this name? No body in the past had used this name for a faction of the Muslim League. This is their decision and mentality. But having realised in their last fiasco of referendum - that the masses have rejected them - now comes the Jazba (passion) for unification. Unification for what! - to serve the general, the military regime and its purposes, and sell out your party. I do not think there is any likelihood of this Muslim League uniting with those factions, who are serving the interests of either the General or their own. Why should we join the ranks of the corrupt and time-servers? These people used to carry car of Mian Nawaz Sharif into the city, and today they utter the foulest against him. Mian Nawaz Sharif is no relation of mine. I came to know him only in 1985 during the partyless elections. I am not a follower of Nawaz Sharif, I am a Muslim Leaguer, and the united Muslim League elected him as the party president. So he is my Party President. When you want to impose the will of the General on this party, it will not happen.
On whether this movement started by the government to serve its own purposes
It is more than obvious. They are saying it. They are minions running around in the district with a pretext - 'It would cause a huge damage to the country if we are not united, because the Pakistan People's Party would win.' That is not my concern. We sat twice in the opposition in the National Assembly, and once in the province also. It is the system - one party or a coalition forms a government and others sit in the opposition. At least, the courts and the Constitution was there. We had access to the courts. Here the PCO judges cannot entertain a petition or a writ or an appeal against their (the army) orders. Some body is arrested without any proof or a charge, there is no recourse to resort to. So if they are not worried about the elections, then why are they running for this unification? They are apprehensive about the outcome of elections. They know that they are the cause of weakening the Muslim League. They have divided and shattered the Party. Having said so much foul about Mian Nawaz Sharif - 'We have thrown him out' and the General's own statement 'had I not been removed, he would have been prime minister! - where is corruption then? Where are the charges you have brought against him? Everything is verbal till date, barring that fiasco of the plane hijack. There is not a single case against him. So unification to serve the purpose of the General or to block the PPP from winning the elections, this is not on the agenda of Pakistan Muslim League. This is the agenda of the General, let him go where they wants to actualise his agenda. We believe in the democratic system. There is no love-loss between the Muslim League and the PPP. We are the two main opponents in the political field. I will always say that they should not be barred from elections. Let Benazir come, and face charges. I am not for sheltering the corrupt. If there are charges, she must come and face them. There are no charges against Nawaz Sharif. The only charge of plane hijacking and that too, has been set aside. Then why do you bar Mian Nawaz Sharif from coming back to Pakistan? As the General says, 'People have no faith is Nawaz Sharif', then why are you afraid of him? People have rejected Nawaz Sharif, let him be rejected in the election. He says that this much 'percentage of people want me', let the people show it. If the Lotas, who had supported him in the referendum, might be the winning candidates tomorrow, then why are you worried? His claims should be justified through the result of the elections. And let the election not be as fair and free as the referendum. When he says that the October elections would be the same - 'fair and free' - I shiver at what he intends to do with the country. We have seen the results of rigging the past.
On whether elections would be held
I cannot dispute if the people are suspicious about it, because he has said so much in the past and gone back on his words. It is a matter of record. I would not be surprised in the least if he does not honour this commitment, especially after the result of the referendum. All high hopes he attached to his Lotas, had fallen flat as people have rejected him and his supporters. Though he may make all sorts of tall claims, but his face, expression and composure show that he is a very worried man. The confidence of his earlier televised speeches is totally missing. Secondly, no body can deny another factor - the massacre of Muslims across the border has not sat well with Pakistan, and he is very much part and parcel of the massacre. Who created all those conditions? They did! No body can dispute this. Every magazine and journal appearing from any part of the world, portrays the real situation. Now every thing is out in the open. This has not sat well even with the villagers, who are no more ignorant. If one thinks so, he lives in a fool's paradise. Every Pakistani is concerned about the fate of the Muslims across the border. I have a very strong feeling and knowing his past record - going back on his words - we will not relax. We are going to go full-swing in our preparation for the elections. If the elections does not take place, we will further organise our party, and strengthen our political structure. If all is failure, on what agenda the General is working? He enumerated the Seven-Point Agenda and subsequently, he himself discussed his agenda point-wise. Except for one issue, that is, the devolution of power, he confessed of not having done enough. The devolution of power is very questionable. Even today, after a lapse of about ten months since district Nazims took over, no body knows where his power starts, and where it ends. No body knows where and whom to go with a problem. Two or more individuals contested elections for the seat of Nazim. Have they become angels because of one man's bhashan? Equal treatment to the winner and the loser, is not possible. Even in the liberated societies of Britain and America, no one treats the loser at par with the winner. As long as it was only for the political gain, it is fair. As far as the development work is concerned, giving priority to one's own area and neglecting the other, is part of our political culture. But administrative powers placed with the Nazims, they are squashing their opponents, registering cases against them and denying their rights. This is evident in the recent wheat purchase by the government. District Nazims favoured their chosen one. Are the opponents not growers and feeding others? Is this the devolution of power? The administration has no role in these issues. Tender and contract system, which is worked on the basis of the lowest and the highest bidder, but now favouritism is playing the dominant role. This is weakening the system. There is no improvement and in fact, it is going down the drain. The devolution of power does not mean that you give Nazims administrative power, and keeping the police under their thumb. When the police was withdrawn from Nazims, there was a huge hue and cry. It was later on, the government accepted proposal of the Nazims to put police under them. This system is in doldrums as well. Do you think that the reformed devolution plan can work better? This system is only working in Korea. If some body has studied that system and applied here, the chances of success are higher. Very poor literacy rate, and people still not having come out of the era of British subjects, we are incapable of asking for our rights. Again the national and provincial assemblies has a role and according to the Constitution, you cannot negate these Assemblies. You cannot allow the district to take power of higher assemblies. In case of elections and transfer of power to the elected Assemblies, what would be role of the provincial assembly? Why incur massive expenditure on the national exchequer? Subsequently, either of these assemblies would be meaningless. Are your criticising this being a politician whose interests have been damaged? This is not criticism. I am stating facts. The powers have already been given to districts. Then why do we need provincial assemblies now? Bureaucracy has never created any problem and has never fallen beyond the control of the government. Barring a few Nazims, who have some experience of administration, all the rest are doing petty favours to voters by requesting SHOs. I know many cases where the DCOs were shunted out disgracefully because they were not entertaining unlawful commands.
On the stand-off between India and Pakistan
When Mian Nawaz Sharif was the Prime Minister, at his behest Vajpayee came to Pakistan by road. For the first time in the history of these two nations, he came to Minar-e-Pakistan; thereby an Indian Prime Minister acknowledged the existence and nationhood of Pakistan. He admitted that Kashmir is a dispute, which was in direct contradiction to their previous stance of Atute Ung. That was a historical change brought about by Mian Nawaz Sharif. Then the Chief Executive said that word Kashmir was included in the Lahore Declaration for one time because of him. Here I would like to be placed on record. On that day, he was in Rawalpindi receiving a Chinese delegation. This is a wrong statement. Word Kashmir comes at three places in the Declaration. That meeting was for Kashmir, how it would have been missed! The one who is misguiding the nation, calls himself the President of Pakistan today. His significance for the West is only after September 11 (actually from the last October) when America and his allies devastated Afghanistan. He literally pleaded with the Indian prime minister for meeting under all circumstances. We have prestige, pride and aspirations. Here the Chief Executive is literally pleading. Can we hold our head up? If India is considered bigger power, it was the same during Nawaz Sharif's tenure. We had all the weaknesses and lesser things, and they have all powers then. The only quality was of elected governments. Their respect for democracy is shown clearly by this fact that when as elected Prime Minister invited him, Vajpayee came. But when a dictator says, - 'Meet me at any place and any time,' Vajpayee has no time for him. The sooner we come back to democracy and Constitution, it would be better for the country as we have no other recourse. Will India talk with Pakistan despite the present tension? I am certain that the day democracy is restored, India will sit on the dialogue table. All these allegations were there before the military take-over. No civilian government banned Jehadi organisations. Their leaders and cadres were not arrested. Vajpayee did not insist on it. There was much more movement going on across the Line of Control then. He (Vajpayee) did not insist on pre-conditions for a dialogue. Limiting the movement of the freedom fighters was not happening then, but India is changed today.
On the president's consultations with political parties
There is a vast difference between consulting various political leaders and briefing them about what the military regime has done. So far he has not called any political party except those who were praising him. Last meeting was the first instance when he called those party heads, who were either criticising him or were in the opposition to the army regime. Nawabzada Nasrullah was right when he said that we did not want to listen lectures. In dialogue, you present a situation, and then discuss. He is not involving us in a dialogue. He is just informing us after doing something. Where is the participation of the invitees?
On sending 'few selected' to the foreigner countries
I cannot speak on their behalf, but let me be fair. As far as the nation is concerned, they are non-entities. He picked up those individuals whom no body knew. They were chosen for qualities unknown to me - except they are toeing General's line. It hurts me when 'a law minister' stands up to defend the actions taken against the government. They are 'yes' men and do not have ground to stand on. They should first convince their own nation, and then go to other nations to do so. The foreign countries, especially the US, has special dispensation because 'the brave General has been helping' them, as they say. When FBI is allowed to arrest Pakistanis from our cities, it injures our sovereignty. Are we a nation? This is surprising. Now these missions, by those who are not even recognised in Pakistan, went to bring good name for the country. Are they dealing with babies? You are dealing with the world leaders and they should have at least some stature to do so.
On America's support to Pakistan
In 1971, we all heard that the American help is coming, but it never arrived. The same can happen again. It is a matter of interest. If the Israeli army marches into Palestine, the former has the right. If Iraq invades Kuwait, initially it is an internal matter, but later on turns out to be an invasion. In case of Iran-Iraq war, Iraq is supported because Iran was a 'Satan', as was portrayed by the Americans. There was no wrong Iraq could do at that time. Do I have to refer to Chechenya, Kosovo and East-Timor? Can we stand-up as a honourable nation? Mian Nawaz Sharif was moving in that direction. Was he not punished for this? Did he not say no to the president of America for not conducting atomic explosion? Whose baby was Kargil? I do not want to go into details.
On the law and order situation
The present regime, with unlimited powers and authority at it disposal, has gained little or almost nothing. Innocent people are being killed for no rhyme or reason. They do not have link with any group. Justice is justice. There should not be any difference between the rich and the poor to establish the writ of law.
On parties supporting the government
Some are the new faces, but the other are already tested, and we know the result. It is just zero plus zero equation. How the General is deluded? Why he is so naive not to understand this equation of zeros. The ex-president was removed from office, and deserted his own party. This is my personal view that he has created Millat Party out of delusion that he is a big leader. But the people say that he has made the biggest mistake by forming a party. I would avoid personal comments as he belongs to my district. I have given you opinion of the masses. How can he help the General? Leghari flew from Multan to Lahore to cast his vote. PTV showed mark on his thumb and he, his loyalty to the President.
On the leadership crisis and corruption charges levied against them
Who started corruption in Pakistan? The army brought corruption by bringing armymen into the civil service. Name the leaders, who had come to politics after 1958! Leaders with public following were eliminated through EBDO by Ayub. Then came Z. A. Bhutto, who used to call Ayub as Daddy. It resulted in the debacle of Dhaka. Who did that? We are familiar with that. The Generals created the only Civilian Martial Law administrator of the world. I do not have to name the General and the Air Marshal. What followed, brought about biradarism, regionalism and other ailments still afflicting the country even today. Who has ruled the country? They did, not us. In these 54 years of our history, the army has been ruling both behind the scenes, and directly for 28 years. And see, where are we today? Where it starts and ends, is the extent of every body's imagination.