According to a letter issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday, the federal cabinet has been reshuffled and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has been given the portfolio of Interior Ministry for the first time. This article was first published on October 10, 2020 on the occasion of the publication of Sheikh Rashid’s memoirs and is now being re-shared on the occasion of Sheikh Rashid’s recent appointment.
The Independence Day celebrations had begun in the United States, when a young man pedaled his bicycle and finally reached the embassy. Coming on a bicycle, he was probably the only guest who surprised even the intelligence bureau, but his name was on the guest list. As there was no bicycle stand, the officer in plain clothes took the bicycle from the youth and took it to the parking lot.
When the young man entered the embassy, Wali Khan and Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani were present on one side with the leaders of the opposition. A man approached him from the front and called him a ‘national bully’. The young man was Sheikh Rashid, a senior Pakistani politician, while Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto called him a ‘bully’.
Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has written in detail about his relations and differences with the PPP leadership in his memoir book ‘Fifty Years of Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Son of Pakistan from Lal Haveli to UN’.
Sheikh Rashid further writes about the incident of confrontation with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the US embassy that ‘Bhutto came near me and said that I saved you in Liaquat Bagh that day, otherwise people would have made fun of you and then they would have said what do you think Is it you who brought down Ayub Khan or Bhutto?
Gohar Ayub and Akhtar Ayub (son of President Ayub Khan) have unloaded Ayub Khan. He also asked me if you have done BA. I said not yet. He told his military secretary. “It will be difficult to get the ‘national bully’ out of Gordon College.”
When a shot was fired at Bhutto’s rally in Liaquat Bagh
Sheikh Rashid Ahmed writes that after the fall of Dhaka, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto took charge as the Chief Marshal Law Administrator. He announced that he would hold his party’s convention in Liaquat Bagh to get Bangladesh approved by the Islamic Summit Conference and challenged Bhutto during a rally in Shaheed Chowk two days before the conference that he had the courage to hold a rally in Liaquat Bagh Show up
He also made statements in the newspapers that Bhutto would hold a rally in Liaquat Bagh after passing over his body.
According to Sheikh Rashid, after this announcement, panic spread throughout the city. Police started arresting the father and brothers but they did not give up. Last night, after which the meeting was to be held in the morning, they went to Dogiz Spent at my friend Butt’s house in front of the cafe.
“I slept on the roof all night with a one-button knife. I would panic if a cat passed by.”
Sheikh Rashid states that he had given a group of a few of his devotees time to gather in front of the Islamia School. Buses were coming in droves to the convention since morning and thousands of PPP cadres were entering. After a while, a platoon of police moved towards Dougis Cafe and they panicked but found out that he had only taken up his security position.
Sheikh Rashid further writes that when Bhutto started his speech, he escaped from the police and reached his friends and entered through the main gate chanting slogans. There was a commotion in the hall and people started fleeing which they took full advantage of and when they reached near the stage some foolish person started firing from the stage and the meeting became chaotic.
According to the plan, my friends set fire to vehicles parked outside Liaquat Bagh in two or three places. The youths carried me on their shoulders and I was shouting slogans against Bangladesh in front of Bhutto while around 20 or 25 youths surrounded me. When more shots were fired, I took off my coat, shirt and vest and showed my bare breasts. Challenged Bhutto to ‘shoot here’, the meeting went awry.
“People came out and set fire to three or four more vehicles. Bhutto was so frightened that security surrounded him and he left Gawalmandi in an hour.”
The Sheikh Rashid who was Bhutto’s fanatic
These are the days when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto resigned from the Foreign Ministry after the Tashkent Declaration and formed his own party, the Pakistan People’s Party, while Sheikh Rashid was studying at the Technical Institute. He writes in his memoirs that Bhutto had started a campaign against Ayub and on November 7, 1967, it was learned that he was coming from Rawalpindi to Rawalpindi. He decided to receive him but was left behind by his student union.
He spoke at the institute and Jhangi Syedan on the same day but Bhutto arrived late, gave a short speech and went to Rawalpindi where riots were already taking place. When they marched back to the gate of the institute, the police clashed with Bhutto. At that time, Bhutto had left and the police opened fire on the protesters without any reason, killing one of his comrades and injuring another.
The boys gathered and they sent me to Pearl Continental so that I could bring Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto back and see this atrocity. When I got there, the students of Gordon College had already come and met Bhutto. ۔ In such a situation, the police reached there and batons were being charged to disperse the students and later tear gas was also released.
“When I entered Bhutto’s room, he was combing in a new suit. I was crying in emotion and he was telling the story. He hugged me and said I will go, but that time did not come.”
Proximity to media houses
Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has also been the Federal Minister of Information and Broadcasting in his political journey. He has maintained relations with major media houses and eminent journalists since his student days.
In his memoirs, he writes that after Bhutto’s rally, he was introduced to political figures all over Pakistan. He also started collecting donations from city mill owners to cover his expenses. Were The first change was that he shifted from a bicycle to a 93 Vespa scooter.
“Hardly a night goes by when I don’t go to the office of the war-torn Golamandi to meet the insurgents. When the copy of the newspaper was sold, he would come back with them at half past one in the night.
The big advantage of this was that the news was published in the newspaper and the second news was found out first. The late Kashmiri insurgent introduced me to Majeed Nizami, ZA Silhari and Abdullah Malik. In this way, I was able to reach Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, Altaf Qureshi and Salahuddin.
Journalist influence is also seen in Sheikh Rashid’s political decisions. He writes that during college, through Mujeeb-ur-Rehman Shami, he joined Tehreek-e-Istiqlal on the same day along with Javed Hashmi and Hafeez Khan and it was decided that all three persons would be given tickets for the Provincial Assembly by Tehreek-e-Istiqlal. However, when the Khaksar movement joined the Qaumi Ittehad and tickets were distributed, they could not get tickets from Pindi.
Belonging to the Chaudhry family of Gujarat
Sheikh Rashid has been close to Chaudhry Shujaat and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in his political journey and Sheikh Rashid also became a part of the government in which both of them were involved.
Explaining the basis of this relationship in his memoirs, Sheikh Rashid writes that when he organized the Muslim Students Federation, he was introduced to Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi in Gujarat and he became his political supporter.
“Chaudhry Zahoor got a 32-bore pistol license and made a phone call to his house, the cost of which he used to bear, thus making all politics associated with him.”
Sheikh Rashid writes that in the election of 1977, there was a clash in the rally with the links of Zahoor Elahi and he fought with the same pistol and at the same time a person was killed after which he was also arrested in this case and then His release came as martial law was enforced and he was released on bail.
When the DG became a councilor on the intervention of ISI
Sheikh Rashid struggled for many years to reach the Assembly but he got the opportunity to enter the House in the non-partisan local body elections under martial law.
He writes that he was not an official of any party but his papers were rejected and when he complained to the presiding officer, he clearly said that you are sensible to contact above.
When Professor Wasiq was asked to contact a responsible person, he contacted his student Colonel Tirmidhi. Col. Tirmidhi arranged a meeting with Director General of ISI General Akhtar Abdul Rehman.
At the first meeting, it seemed that my conversation had impressed Abdul Rehman. He said that he would talk to General Zia-ul-Haq. General Akhtar Abdul Rehman took permission from Zia-ul-Haq to contest for the post of my councilor.
Sheikh Rashid further writes about his relationship that due to his participation in the election, he had now contacted the Director General of ISI, General Akhtar Abdul Rehman. He valued his opinion and often called him a ‘rumor of politics’. Remember by name.
“General Abdul Rehman was trying to get me to meet General Zia-ul-Haq. Once the meeting was arranged, he shook hands and introduced himself. He said in one sentence that there was no need for an introduction.”
“The second meeting took place three days before his death, which gave me an idea that he would not run in the election.”
The formula of Musharraf President and Benazir Prime Minister
After Sheikh Rashid Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, he was also against his daughter Benazir Bhutto. In this opposition, he used to criticize her personally along with politically criticizing her, which is mentioned in his memoirs. He was a federal minister in the Pervez Musharraf government when talks were underway on Benazir Bhutto’s repatriation.
Sheikh Rashid writes that Tariq Aziz and Lieutenant General Hamid were present in the talks with Benazir Bhutto at the palace in the United Arab Emirates. General Kayani was not confirmed but Benazir Bhutto wanted him to join.
Tariq Aziz wanted to form a government with President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Meanwhile, Tariq Aziz also met Altaf Hussain of the MQM. Tariq Aziz was running the entire presidency and he had the confidence of General Pervez Musharraf.
He claimed that Tariq Aziz played a key role in the return of Benazir Bhutto. The NRO had been decided and all cases were withdrawn from Benazir Bhutto.
According to Sheikh Rashid, Chaudhry (Shujaat and Pervez Elahi) were not supporters of the NRO but could not speak in front of President Musharraf and Tariq Aziz. Later it was proved that Chaudhry Shujaat was right and Tariq Aziz’s decision was not right. Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif tried to come to Pakistan but was sent back.
“In meetings with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, I used to be with President Musharraf. King Abdullah made it very clear that if Benazir Bhutto came, then I would not be able to stop Nawaz Sharif here. General Musharraf did his best to create conditions after Benazir’s arrival in the country that Nawaz Sharif should not be allowed to come.
Musharraf’s uniform and Benazir Bhutto’s stubbornness
Sheikh Rashid Ahmed writes that President Musharraf thought that the next government could do with Benazir Bhutto. This misunderstanding led to his downfall.
When Musharraf spoke of elections, Wajihuddin and Amin Fahim came up against him. Musharraf said that on the day he takes oath, he will take off his uniform but Benazir Bhutto persisted.
It may be recalled that Pervez Musharraf resigned from the army on November 27, 2007 and Benazir Bhutto was killed in an explosion the very next month.
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto took place in Sheikh Rashid’s city of Rawalpindi. He writes that Benazir thought that she would hold a rally on December 27 in any case, no matter what. He claimed that the post-mortem report of Benazir Bhutto was postponed at the behest of Asif Ali Zardari and this was done in her presence.