Down the memory lane

Muhammad Zahid Rifat

KASHMIR is lifeline of Pakistan and without resolving the lingering Kashmir issue with India and granting birth right of self-determination to the Kashmiris in accordance with the UN Resolutions, agenda of partition of the sub-continent will remain incomplete. This is the real position and this is what the political leadership of the country believe and say every now and then. Pakistan has all along been supporting indigenous un-armed struggle of the Kashmiris against atrocities and oppression of the large number of Indian occupying security forces. Every civilian and military government of Pakistan all these years has been and is continuing to extend political, moral and social support to the Kashmiris in their just struggle throughout.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had only recently forcefully pleaded the case of the struggling Kashmiris and drawing attention of the world community towards continued oppression, brutalities and flagrant violations of the human rights by Indian security forces in the occupied Kashmir as India continues to forcibly occupy the territory for decades together against the wish of the people living there. Kashmir issue was also being raised at all national and international forums during the regime of country’s first military dictator General turned Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan.Then Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was the Chief Minister of Indian occuoied Kashmir and Mian Arshad Hussain, son of prominent figure Mian Afzal Husain, was Pakistan’s High Commissioner in New Delhi. Then, Urdu daily “Jang” was published from Karachi and perhaps Rawalpindi also.
I was then working private news agency Pakistan Press Association (PPA) which had later changed its nomenclature to Pakistan Press International (PPI) at its Lahore Bureau on Cooper Road adjacent to the Islamia College for Girls.. I used to read newspapers more or less regularly daily. One day, I read a brief news on the front page of “Jang” Karachi that Pakistan High Commissioner Mian Arshad Hussain is coming to Pakistan soon. Then somehow Kashmir issue was being heatedly discussed and talked about. I found residence number of Mian Afzal Hussain and started ringing every second day almost to find out as to when Mian Arshad Hussain is coming. Mian Afzal Hussain was kind enough to ask me to keep making enquiring as I like as no exact date was immediately available. On one evening after some days when I rang up, Mian Afzal Hussain said that Arshad Hussain has come and I may come at their residence off Lawrence Road. It is a bitter fact that I have never been mobile, neither had motor cycle even what to talk about a car.
I came down on the road from the office to find a rickshaw which were not many in those days. But none was coming. Suddenly I saw Mr Irfan Ghazi, who worked in daily “Mashriq” along with his brother Sultan Ghazi, riding a Quickley motor bike. I signaled him to stop and requested him to drop me at Lawrence Road without telling him where I was going. Through Mr Irfan Ghazi’s courtesy I reached Lawrence Road and got down on the main road and started walking towards residence of Mian Afzal Hussain. I met Mian Arshad Hussain , exchanged greetings with him and started talking about situation in held Kashmir and India over a cup of tea. I had not taken out notebook and pencil from my pocket and was just listening to him and asking question now and then. Noticing this, he asked me to jot down few lines and dictated about his meeting in New Delhi couple of days earlier with Kashmiri leader Shaikh Muhammad Abdullah who had sent a message of thanks to President Ayub Khan for supporting the Kashmiris struggle.
The news story so filed was quite obviously headline next morning in all English and Urdu dailies throughout the country. This had taken by the journalists including seniors like Syed Amjad Hussain and Nisar Osmani Sahibs by some surprise and they appreciated me and also made frantic queries as how I got the story. Mian Arshad Hussain on reaching Islamabad was somewhat admonished as to why he had talked to the media people prior to reporting to the Foreign Office. His going back to New Delhi was duly mentioned in the newspapers. As he arrived in Lahore from Islamabad, many journalists including myself telephoned him requesting for a meeting. But he turned down requests of all journalists. I only asked him as to when he will be crossing Wagah border into India, he told me that he will do so around six in the morning.
In all fairness and honesty, I filed entirely a tabled story which was duly sent to Rawalpindi and cleared by Senior News Editor Mr Ahmad Hassan. The story in short assured the Kashmiris of Pakistan’s continued support in their just struggle for right of self-determination. Quite expectedly, the news was again published as headlines and thus I had got two headlines in the newspapers within a matter of couple of days. My senior colleagues enquired from me repeatedly as how I had talked to Mian Arshad Hussain as he declined all their requests in this regard. But I had never told them as how I had made a tabled story and telling the same perhaps now for the first time. I would not have got two headlines in quick succession had not Mr Irfan Ghazi taken me to Lawrence Road on his Quickley in all fairness, please.
*****
Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif for last some months has been heatedly discussed, talked about, criticized and what not in the wake of the Panama Papers Leaks which had taken Pakistan by storm much more vocally and politically than any other country. He has been on the country’s political scene for the last four decades either in power or in the opposition. Industrialist turned politician and a Ravian (student of the prestigious Government College) from Model Town Lahore Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, son of visionary and innovative industrialist Mian Muhammad Sharif, has created history by becoming the Prime Minister of Pakistan three times and failed to complete his stipulated tenure every time though, quite unfortunately rather.
He had worked as the Finance Minister Punjab and then was elevated as the Chief Minister Punjab for the first time during military regime of General Muhammad Ziaul Haq through the recommendations and patronage of then Punjab Governor and former ISI chief Lt General Ghulam Jilani Khan.
As a professional journalist and resident of Model Town Lahore for pretty long period, I have covered and known Nawaz Sharif as a quite friendly politician. There were days when he used to drive his car without any escort or protocol as the Finance Minister, Provincial Chief Minister and even as the Prime Minister. But I have not met him in any capacity after mid-1990s though following him from distance due to more and more security cordons around him and Sharif family shifting from H Block Model Town to the huge family in Jaati Umrah. For want of space, I am briefly mentioning his political career as the prime minister only pending some more personal and professional details to some other time. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif contested election to the National Assembly initially from the platform of Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) in November 1990 and assumed the office of the Prime Minister on November 6, 1990 defeating Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Afterwards, he formed his own faction of Pakistan Muslim League known as PML (N) popularly. He was removed from office on April 18,1993 and reinstated by the Supreme Court for brief interlude from May 1993 to July 1993 when he had resigned the office in pursuance of an arrangement worked out with the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.
Nawaz Sharif again won the general election against PPP’s Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and became the Prime Minister on February 17,1997 and was removed from the office by then Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf on October 12, 1999. PML (N) won the general election again and Nawaz Sharif became the Prime Minister for third time after the Constitution was suitably amended on June 5, 2013 and was disqualified by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on July 28, 2017 in the Panama case verdict. There is lot more to write about doings and activities of Nawaz Sharif both while in power or in the opposition and this will continue to be mentioned in this column from time to time on the basis of my own memories and personal experiences, please.
—The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News) Radio Pakistan, Islamabad and can be reached at zahidriffat@gmail.com

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