Reveals inside story of how NRO was finalized
By Umar Cheema
ISLAMABAD: Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has divulged the background stories of the NRO and the deal that provided immunity to Musharraf.
He also revealed how, funded by a multinational company (which he did not name), Musharraf was planning to hijack the PML under the delusion that he was the only binding force of different PML factions, minus the PML-N of course. However, he cautioned his former boss and advised him to be content with making money through lectures, enjoy life and forget about politics.
In an exclusive hour-long interview with The News, a totally different Shujaat unfolded how PPP leadership desperately craved for the NRO that could grant them amnesty. They had no regard for other vital issues such as provincial autonomy. Richard Boucher of the US was instrumental in finalising the modalities of the deal. To avoid the stigma that the deal was concluded with the Army, it was on the insistence of Benazir Bhutto that Shujaat was brought in the loop and directed to fly to the UAE together with Pervaiz Elahi to hold negotiations with Benazir. The Chaudhrys agreed but the plan was cancelled. However, they held talks with the second-tier PPP leadership, Makhdoom Amin Faheem and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
Benazir wanted the NRO exclusively about the cases pending in the courts and she rejected the Shujaat proposal to include some other issues like provincial autonomy in the same. He said they successfully kept out of the NRO, the PML term in office as well as the cooperative scandal which had been anathema for them.
Shujaat also shared details about the questions the UN team probing the murder of Benazir Bhutto asked him. They ranged from the NRO to who could be the suspected assassins in his view. The UN team also inquired the reason why Ms Bhutto had named Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi as the possible suspect in case she was murdered, to which he replied that this could be because he was her potential political rival.
He did not categorically hold Baitullah Mehsud responsible for Benazir’s murder. He told the UN investigators that Bhutto’s controversial and pro-US statements on nuclear proliferation, Lal Masjid etc had earned her many enemies.
He said differences with Musharraf started after the formation of the PPP government when Musharraf insisted that he (Shujaat) quit as party president and let the PML-Q join hands with the PPP. Farooq Leghari and Faisal Saleh Hayat opposed the then president whereas Kasuri, Wattoo and Chattha sided with Musharraf.
Shujaat said that Musharraf carried out Lal Masjid operation just to please America. He termed Akbar Bugti’s murder the outcome of stubborn attitude of the civil-military establishment; however, he stopped short of pinning its responsibility on Musharraf.
Shujaat said that he sold out his sugar mills due to anti-industry policies of Shaukat Aziz. He termed relations between Shaukat Aziz and Pervez Musharraf neither cordial nor sincere. He said that Musharraf had decided about the deal two years before it was signed and in this connection he had met Benazir twice in London and Dubai.
He said that the PML and Musharraf did not see eye to eye with each other on issues like the judiciary, Lal Masjid, and Akbar Bugti’s murder. “We had told Musharraf to stop confrontation with Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, an advice that always fell on deaf ears. He also disregarded their advice to patch up with the CJ. Likewise, he refused to hear us on Lal Masjid operation”.
Shujaat did not approve both of the PPP and the PML-N, saying his party would forge alliance with smaller parties and the Jamaat-i-Islami was one of them.