By Rauf Klasra
LONDON: Former caretaker prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain emerges as the only top politician of today’s Pakistan, who had the guts to say “NO” to millions of rupees offered to him by the then Chief of the Army Staff Gen (retd) Aslam Beg to become part of a larger conspiracy to stop Benazir Bhutto from coming to power in 1988.
That decision is paying him off today when many political reputations are at stake for accepting the ISI’s slush fund. Talking to The News from Islamabad on phone on Tuesday, Ch Shujaat Hussain confirmed that he was offered millions of rupees by General Beg, but he politely declined the offer.
According to the affidavit submitted in the Supreme Court of Pakistan along with Asghar Khan’s petition, former caretaker prime minister Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi received Rs 5 million, former Sindh chief minister Jam Sadiq Rs 5 million, former prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo Rs 2.5 million, Nawaz Sharif Rs 3.5 million, senior politician Pir Pagaro Rs 2 million, Jamaat-e-Islami Rs 5 million, Mir Afzal Khan Rs 10 million, Abida Hussain Rs 1 million, Lt Gen Rafaqat Rs 5.6 million for managing the media campaign, Humayun Marri Rs 1.5 million, former prime minister Zafarullah Jamali Rs 4 million, Kakar Rs 1 million, Jam Yousaf Rs 0.7 million, Hasil Bizenjo Rs 0.5 million, Nadir Mengal Rs 1 million, Altaf Hussain Qureshi and Mustafa Sadiq Rs 0.5 million, Salahuddin Rs 0.3 million, smaller groups Rs 5.4 million and others received Rs 3.339 million from the ISI’s slush fund.
Ch Shujaat, while narrating the incident, told this correspondent that he received an invitation from the then Army chief Aslam Beg to meet him at his residence. He, along with Ch Pervez Elahi, reached Gen Beg’s residence at the given time and was received by the general. After some typical discussion on the current political situation in the backdrop of General Zia’s death and the possibility of Benazir Bhutto’s coming to power after the elections, General Beg offered a ‘doable’ solution to the Chaudhrys of Gujrat. The civil-military establishment, led by Ghulam Ishaq Khan and General Beg, felt insecure and threatened by prospects of the PPP coming to power. It feared that the PPP government might try to settle scores with the retired Army generals and others, whom it held responsible for the killing, hanging and torture of the PPP leaders and workers.
Beg told Shujaat and Pervez that a comprehensive plan was chalked out to manoeuvre the election results of 1988 and for this purpose a huge sum of money was quietly arranged. Under this plan, millions of rupees were to be distributed among those candidates who would contest the elections under the banner of the Islami Jamhoori Ithad (IJI), whose sole purpose was not to let the anti-Bhutto vote split.
According to ISI calculations, the PPP could be defeated if there was one-to-one contest with the IJI candidates. The religious and political parties were made to sit together to achieve this grand objective. Beg told the Chaudhrys that by putting all the anti-Bhutto parties together in the shape of the IJI, the chances of anti-Bhutto vote being split would diminish. To further boost the chances of their success, the ISI was tasked to arrange money for the IJI candidates, so they all could effectively launch campaigns in their respective areas to defeat PPP.
Ch Shujaat, who had entered politics hardly six years back after the assassination of his father Ch. Zahoor Elahi, could not digest the dubious game-plan, as he knew the consequences of getting such kind of money from the ISI. Moreover, he was quite confident that he would win from his constituency without the ISI’s help. After a brief pause, Ch Shujaat Hussain politely told an impatient general that he did not need any funds from the ISI as he had enough money in his bank account to finance his election campaign.
Beg thought that perhaps Shujaat was reluctant to get the money from the ISI directly into his bank account so he was offering excuses. He advised Shujaat to get a bank account opened in the name of his domestic servant and all the funds would be transferred to his account and thus nobody would ever come to know that he got millions from the ISI to contest elections.
But Shujaat disappointed the general once again when he told him the he (Shujaat) himself had been giving money to his party candidates to contest elections in the past, so he did not need such kind of funds at all from the ISI or any other individual or institution.
He, however, told Gen Beg that although he did not need money for his own election campaign, but he would send him a list of certain candidates of his party who might need the money to contest the elections. But the general realised that his offer had again been rejected. Shujaat returned home “empty handed” and never sent the list of candidates to Gen Beg.