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 I spoke to generals to win Zardari’s release in 2005: Ijaz

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PostSubject: I spoke to generals to win Zardari’s release in 2005: Ijaz   Tue Jun 02, 2009 6:02 am

I spoke to generals to win Zardari’s release in 2005: Ijaz



Tuesday, June 02, 2009
By Rauf Klasra


ISLAMABAD: Former federal minister Ejazul Haq — son of late president Gen Ziaul Haq — claimed that President Asif Ali Zardari — the son-in-law of late Bhutto — had secretly sought his help in 2005 to secure his release from his continued incarceration. Ijaz claims that he delivered on that request. He was talking to The News, here on Monday.

Reportedly maintaining contacts with the Khakis, Ejaz went on to add that Zardari’s case had then been pleaded by him before the military top brass and subsequently two weeks later he was released on bail by the Supreme Court.

The disclosure was made by Ijazul Haq while answering an otherwise unrelated question regarding his opposition to the almost done alliance between the PPP and the PML-Q in the Punjab during governor’s rule days, which however got scuttled also because of Ijaz’s high profile meeting with Nawaz Sharif and his open opposition to the budding PML-PPP alliance.

Responding to that question, Ijaz said that he only had ideological differences with the PPP and not personal ones and had that been the case then why would he have endeavoured to secure Asif Zardari’s release in 2005.

Replying to a query on this particular issue, the former minister disclosed that soon after his release, Asif Zardari had also made two personal telephone calls to him to say “thank you” as he believed him to have played a pivotal role in his release. Incidentally, this was also the first direct contact between the two families since Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged in 1979 after the military coup of 1977. Asif Zardari had quietly sought this personal help from Ijazul Haq at a time Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was caring for the kids while being in exile in Dubai and according to one family insider, Benazir had not been taken into confidence before the involving of Ijazul Haq in seeking Asif’s release from jail where he had been locked up since the fateful night of November 5, 1996, on the orders of then president Farooq Leghari.

He said that while he was serving as minister for religious affairs in 2005 in the Shaukat Aziz cabinet, when one fine morning and to his utter surprise he received a telephone call from one of the close aides of Asif Zardari, who had been languishing in jail for years. That non-political personality and still a close confident of President Asif and reportedly ruling the presidential roost asked a surprised Ijazul Haq to do a favour to his “sahib” and pleaded him to argue for his release with the military top brass.

Ijazul Haq said he promised to personally talk to the relevant top generals in the Musharraf regime who were in a position to influence the decision of Asif’s release from prison.

According to Ijazul Haq, he felt obliged after receiving this distress call from Asif and went to meet the top commanders and argued Asif’s case on the ground that he had spent so many years in jail without any charge being established against him. In his opinion the very fact that the son of Gen Zia was pleading the case weighed heavily and positively in Asif’s favour.

Ijaz also believed at the time that it was unfair on the part of this government to keep Zardari in detention for such a long period of time on charges, which were never proved in court despite spending millions of rupees on the lawyers.

Ijaz recalled telling the generals that keeping Zardari behind the bars on unproven charges was only giving a bad name to the Musharraf government. Much to his own surprise, after two weeks of his meeting the top generals, Asif Zardari was allowed bail by the Supreme Court. However, in his own words he did not take the credit for Asif’s release as he genuinely believed that there might be other factors and reasons behind Asif Zardari’s release.

But, Ijazul Haq got the biggest surprise of all when, soon after Asif’s release, the same aide who had made the first fateful call for his “sahib”, made another call. This time, he straightaway informed a puzzled Ijazul Haq that his “sahib” wanted to talk to him. But, Ijazul Haq did not know what he meant by “sahib”. Then he heard an unfamiliar voice on the mobile, saying hello, and even then he did not recognise the voice. To remove his ambiguity, Ijaz asked the caller about his identity, upon which, Asif Zardari introduced himself. A polite and grateful Asif Zardari told a surprised Ijazul Haq that he was grateful that he had at least talked to some people in the military establishment and pleaded his case for freedom.

But, Ijazul Haq told Zardari that he had only told the military authorities as a politician about his release, what he actually believed that he should be released now. This call was made by Zardari from Karachi soon after his release.

For Ijazul Haq, this was the end of the matter and might be a new beginning of relationship between the two families who shared a bitter past. But, when Asif Zardari was leaving for interior Sindh, he once again called Ijazul Haq on mobile phone and again expressed his gratitude for talking to military men for his release. Zardari told Ijazul Haq that as and when would he reach Islamabad, he would meet him. Ijaz told The News that he did not have any problem with meeting or talking to anyone even Asif Zardari who is now the president of Pakistan. “Look, now I am in politics and open to meet and engage with anyone irrespective of the past bitterness,” Ijaz said.

To a question, Ijazul Haq said he was ready to meet Zardari as and when he wanted to meet him as in politics everything was possible. Talking to The News, president’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar dismissed this entire version as a publicity gimmick and said that since Asif Zardari had become the president of Pakistan, many people were taking the credit for having played some role in his political rise, adding “It seems now Ijazul Haq too wants his name in the same long list”.

Babar said, he did not know of any such telephone calls made to Ijazul Haq by Zardari in 2005 to seek his release while he was in jail. Babar advised this correspondent to contact president’s close aide Dr Qayyum Soomro.

This correspondent made numerous telephone calls to Dr Qayyum Soomro, but he did not answer his cell phone. A text message pertaining to this report was also sent to his mobile, but he did not reply.
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