Tuesday, December 7, 2021  | 2 Jamadilawal, 1443
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By Kamal Siddiqi

In this age of ‘fake’ news, unverified reporting and slippery ethics, it is worth examining the career of Muhammad Ziauddin, one of Pakistan's most respected names in journalism.

While working for nearly sixty years at almost all the major newspapers of the country—The Muslim, The News, DAWN, The Express Tribune—Ziauddin sahib has managed the nearly impossible: to maintain a blemish-free record throughout despite skirmishes with the high and mighty, including the once all-powerful General Pervez Musharraf.

Ziauddin sahib's struggle was not just with dictators; he put up with his fair share of irascible seniors and weak media owners. Mercifully, however, his beat reporting days are also filled with stories of unflinchingly fearless editors during some of the darkest and most tumultuous times in our political history. By attempting to document some of these stories, I hope to remind the next generation of Pakistan’s journalists that they can prevail.

Kamal Siddiqi is a journalist. He has served as Editor of The Express Tribune and is currently the director of the IBA’s Centre for Excellence in Journalism.

Editing: Mahim Maher
Development: Faizan Abbasi
With thanks to Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi for archive photos and DAWN Archives.

Ziauddin's press card from his days at the Pakistan Economist, issued by the Karachi Union of Journalists and valid for 1975 to 1977. Image courtesy: M. Ziauddin

Childhood and family: India and East Pakistan

Muhammad Ziauddin was born in 1938 in Madras (now Chennai). His mother was originally from Bangalore and his father Zaheeruddin Khan was a keen hockey player who almost made it to the national Indian hockey team.

The family lived in a remote town called Mahbubabad in Hyderabad, Deccan till 1948 when his father was working as manager in a match factory. The family’s fortunes fluctuated, however, after Hyderabad’s status grew uncertain following Partition. By 1948, when it fell to Indian forces, the match factory was shut down. At that time, the young Ziauddin was barely in class four.

The family returned to Madras, and then decided to move to Dhaka, East Pakistan by 1952. Zaheeruddin joined a cousin managing the family’s leather business and eventually set up his own tannery on an island on Buriganga, the river that flows along the eastern side of the city. Unfortunately, the factory would be washed away almost every year in the floods, but that was not the only problem in Dhaka.

Trouble was brewing over how the migrants to East Pakistan were behaving with the locals―acting like rulers. This was a difficult time for non-Bengalis and although there was no open aggression as such, there was resentment. Migrants, mostly from Indian Bihar and those from the-then West Pakistan, occupied most of the important government positions in East Pakistan. Even major businesses were in the hands of non-Bengalis. These conditions led to the 1954 language movement to push for Bengali to be recognised for official use in Pakistan.

In 1958, when Ziauddin was studying for his BSc in Pharmacy at Dhaka University and coaching the cricket team, he got a chance to travel to Karachi for a camp. This would be his first time seeing West Pakistan. “It was a very different city in those days,” he says, referring to Karachi which was the federal capital at the time. “Flying Orient Airways, when we were landing, I saw vast swathes of desolate land where a huge number of migrants were living in jhuggis.” From PIB Colony, he recalls, you could see all the way to Saddar. Malir was mostly farmland while Nazimabad was showing early signs of life. From Keamari you could catch a tram to different parts of the city.

The young men who had come from all over Pakistan to take part in the coaching camp were put up at the National Stadium. It was here that Ziauddin saw all the top cricketers in action: Hanif, Wazir, Mushtaq and even Sadiq, who still in his teens used to come to practice table tennis. Pakistan’s opening batsman Alimuddin was their batting coach. Master Aziz, who had coached Hanif, was also a regular visitor at the camp.

Soon after Ziauddin returned to Dhaka, the family took the decision to resettle in Karachi owing to his father’s bad health and losses at the tannery from recurring floods. And so, in 1960, when he was 21 years old, Muhammad Ziauddin moved to Karachi.

M. Ziauddin's cricket certificate from the 1958 camp signed by AH Kardar. Photo: M. Ziauddin

Karachi and the KU years

Looking for work was a challenge in those days but Ziauddin managed to get a job as a medical representative for a pharmaceutical company. There were a few pharmaceutical factories in Karachi at the time but the industry itself was still in its infancy.

It was not work he enjoyed, and so by 1963, he decided to follow his passion for writing and enroll in journalism at the University of Karachi. This gave him the confidence within a few years to quit as a medical representative and take up his first job in journalism as a cub reporter in PPI (then PPA) for a paltry sum of Rs75 a month. But that was in 1966.

Meanwhile, he had continued in his job as a medical representative because after suffering a severe heart attack his father had to close down his business and Ziauddin became the breadwinner for the family.

The two years at KU were tough for him. He would be in the offices of the company (CH Boehringer) where he worked as a medical representative at Qamar House (now EFU building) at around eight o’ clock in the morning but then would rush all the way to the KU at the other end of the city, changing two buses, to make it to class. As he hurried down the corridor to the classroom, the pin-drop silence of classes in session, would be broken by the rasp of his shoes announcing his arrival, which Rehman sahib, the English teacher, would wryly punctuate with: “Here comes His Royal Highness.”

“I had kept my job a secret from the staff and colleagues at the journalism department,” Ziauddin says. “Ironically, they all thought I was the scion of a well-to-do family and was attending university only as a pastime.”

During his second year he had also worked as a campus reporter for daily Dawn. He used to file to the then city editor H. B. Khokhar. It was, however, not a paid job and Ziauddin suspects Khokhar had something to do with this. (Perhaps the editor had not formally appointed him at the newspaper). Either way, he developed the impression that Khokhar lacked professional ethics and was a sycophant of the first order.

Since he had been recommended to the founding head of the journalism department, Shariful Mujahid sahib, by the late Jauhar Hussain, son of Professor Karrar Husain of Surq Sawera, Ziauddin was automatically branded by his teachers as some kind of leftist. “My notoriety based on the strange combination of half-baked surqa and royalty cost me dearly as my first-year grades were in the pits.” The only saving grace was that he managed to make up most of the lost academic territory in the final exams as their test papers went to other universities for checking and grading.

A story by HB Khokar dated June 26, 1960 in Dawn. He was the city editor. Image: DAWN Archives
Jauhar Husain speaking to Dr Mehdi Hasan, former journalist, Dean of BNU and secretary of the HRCP. Photo: Husain Family Archive
Professor Karrar Husain. Photo: Lutfallah’s Archives/YouTube screenshot
Prof. Shariful Mujahid of KU's journalism department
A reception arranged for Shariful Mujahid and his wife on their wedding. Jauhar Husain (the tallest one) and Ziauddin were the only two seniors. All others were from second year (MA Journalism). Jauhar had graduated. Ziauddin was waiting for his results. L-R: M. Ziauddin, Najmul Hasan, Zakariya Sajid, Shariful Mujahid, Jauhar Husain. Seated (R-L): Geity Ara, Roohi Zakaullah, Razia Bondrey (later Bhatti), Mrs Shariful Mujahid, Mehr Ahsan. On the carpet (L-R) Abdul Qadir and Najam Rizvi

Starting student publications

Before leaving university, Ziauddin made his small contribution to what the newfound student power of the 1960s was doing in universities the world over, influenced by the Vietnam War. He brought out an underground magazine called Voice of the Students, edited with Akhtar M Farooqi, who was also from the Journalism department. KU’s proctor Major Aftab was furious.

Knowing how the administration would react, the two young men prudently kept their names from appearing in its pages. But it did carry, on their own request, the names of friends from the Economics department, Abdul Hameed Chhapra and Rashid Patel who, driven by political ambition, saw the advantage in being publicly associated with the venture. In fact, the magazine was published at Chhapra’s family printing press.

Both Chhapra and Patel lost one full year of studies as punishment. Chhapra went from university to join the Jang Group and became active on the trade union front, going on to lead the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists. At one point he even stood for national elections on the ticket of Asghar Khan’s Tehreek-i-Istaqlal. Rashid Patel became a lecturer and took part in education politics but passed away young.

It took Ziauddin a fortnight to produce a second edition of Voice of the Students but this time its masthead was left blank. He was ultimately forced to discontinue the publication when his English teacher Rehman sahib recognised the writing styles of the two men from his class and warned Ziauddin and Farooqi to stop, otherwise...

Abdul Hameed Chhapra. Photo: Akhtar Soomro

Pakistan Spotlight’s ZAB interview

Immediately after he wrapped up his Master’s degree in Journalism in 1966, Ziauddin launched a monthly news magazine called Pakistan Spotlight. Ironically, the very person whom he had tried to dislodge from the office of president of the student union, Zia Abbas, was its publisher. He was a Muslim League man but allowed Ziauddin and his team full editorial independence.

Sarwar Naqvi, who later joined the Foreign Office and retired after serving as ambassador in important capitals, became its assistant editor. They were joined by a number of graduates fresh out of the Journalism department (Akhtar Farooqi, Warasat Husnain, Zamir Alam, Mehar Kamal, Rohi Zakaullah and Geity Ara).

The first issue of Pakistan Spotlight carried a comprehensive cover story on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who had just left the Ayub cabinet and was talking about forming his own party. He had developed serious differences with President Ayub Khan over the Tashkent Declaration, which was the name of the peace agreement the Soviets helped Pakistan and India sign after a 17-day war in 1965 that ended in a stalemate. It was an inspirational profile of Bhutto with him on the cover photographed in a pensive mood in an easychair on the lawns of his 70 Clifton residence.

After about four issues, however, the publisher ran out of funds and they stopped printing.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at 70 Clifton. Photo: Shama Junejo/Twitter
At the launch of Pakistan Spotlight (March 1966). (L-to-R) Zamir Alam, Warasat Husnain (Assistant Editors), University of Karachi Vice Chancellor, Ziauddin and publisher Zia Abbas at the mic. Photo: M. Ziauddin

Pakistan Press Agency, Jawaid Bokhari and Ayub Khan

Ziauddin then joined Pakistan’s only private news wire at the time, Pakistan Press Agency, which was later renamed Pakistan Press International. He was offered a position that his friend Jauhar Husain was asked to leave, over some made-up excuse. Jauhar had completed his Masters a year earlier and was working on probation at PPA. That job would have gone to him after his probationary period ended and would have entitled him under the labour laws to qualify for all the privileges of a permanent employee. This would have been an ‘unacceptable’ extra financial burden on the organisation and so it was easier for it to show him the door and recruit a fresh Ziauddin for the vacancy―such were the service conditions in the profession in those days. The salary was a paltry 75 rupees.

PPA’s bureau chief was Jawaid Bokhari, who retired finally as in-charge editor of Dawn’s Economic and Business Review. The wire agency was also led by Anwar Mansuri who retired as German news agency DPA’s chief in Pakistan and the late Ashfaq Bokhari. The no-nonsense Jawaid Bokhari was a tough taskmaster and self-taught economic journalist. Ashfaq, on the other hand, was a laid-back professional with a heart of gold which bled for the downtrodden and those consigned to a permanent place below the poverty line.

These were disruptive times. By August 1970, there was upheaval. Newspaper workers went on an indefinite strike, protesting the refusal of owners to honour the Wage Board Award that set minimum salaries. Journalists were already protesting the Press and Publications Ordinance (PPO) promulgated by Ayub Khan in 1963 and in the fight between newspaper owners and journalists, a number of professionals lost their jobs.

The PPO was a draconian law in its most extreme form. Briefly put, if some official sitting in a remote corner of the country did not like the colour of your shirt, he could confiscate your printing press, close down the newspaper, send you to jail and throw away the key and there would be no recourse to the law.

A DAWN story on the newsprint crisis in 1970. Image DAWN Archive

Pakistan Economist, Khan of Kalat interview

As matters were in transition, Ziauddin moved from PPA to the weekly Pakistan Economist in 1974 (later the Pakistan and Gulf Economist) where Ibnul Hasan was Editor. Hasan had the uncanny knack of entirely re-writing (he called it editing) an analytical piece on the economy, politics, foreign affairs or a social issue but faithfully keeping intact what the author had wanted to convey. He would do this with such precision and style that reading the article would be a joy.

It was at Pakistan Economist that Ziauddin interviewed the Khan of Kalat. “Physically a roly-poly figure, but intellectually a giant of a person, the Khan was exceptionally pleasant to converse with,” recalls Ziauddin. “What he said was a tutorial in classical politics. It was a cerebral experience that left a lasting imprint on my mind.” He took the reporter on a quick trot through Balochistan’s pre-Partition history, expanded on the relationship he had enjoyed with Quaid-i-Azam, dilated on his vision for Balochistan within an independent Pakistan and gave candid insight into how this vision was smashed to smithereens soon after Jinnah’s death. Had the centrist ruling elite of Pakistan not drastically tinkered with the Khan’s vision of Balochistan in an independent Pakistan, perhaps the country would have averted most of the sociopolitical setbacks that it had suffered over the ensuing 73 years. “Had the colonial-minded Centre not oppressed them all these years, the people of Balochistan would have, with all their rich mineral endowments and a vast coastline of white sand, taken the country far on the road to prosperity much ahead of all its western neighbours, including the oil-rich Gulf countries,” he says.

Ziauddin’s interview with minister of production Rafi Raza was quite different. After the interview on the ministry, Ziauddin asked Raza for his views on the tussle between the government led by Prime Minister ZA Bhutto and the Opposition led by Wali Khan. Rafi Raza’s short but prophetic answer was: The two should come to some amicable understanding before the return of the 90,000 or so POWs, (a good number of them being Army personnel, both officers and rankers), being held by India at the time. Otherwise, he said, all hell would break loose. He gave the impression that the Establishment was lurking in the shadows rather impatiently to get back to its politically predominant position and was only waiting for the return of its troops to make a move.

Curiously, that is exactly what happened as soon as the troops returned home—all hell broke loose: The PM dismissed the Mengal government in Balochistan on some trumped-up charges of plotting secession, ‘evidence’ for which was ‘obviously’ unearthed by the Establishment. In protest, the NWFP coalition government led by CM Mufti Mahmood resigned, following which the country entered a highly unstable political phase that culminated in the ouster of the PPP government by the then COAS General Ziaul Haq, arrest and subsequent hanging of Bhutto and extended dictatorship that lasted eleven years.

Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at a banquet with the outgoing Governor of Balochistan Mir Ahmed Yar Khan of Kalat and the incoming governor Nawab Akbar Bugti. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi

TV and Morning News

While he was still serving as Assistant Editor at the Pakistan Economist, Ziauddin joined a select group of the country’s top English script writers on current affairs for a TV programme The World Tonight. It used to be a weekly programme, presented by the renowned intellectual, politician and advertising genius Javed Jabbar. Ziauddin wrote a number of scripts for the programme but the best were, according to him, the ones on world population and the law of the sea.

In 1976, Ziauddin joined Morning News as an Assistant Editor on the invitation of the then Editor Sultan Ahmed. Seniors such as Rafiq Jabir, Amanullah, Akhtar Payami (City Editor) were his colleagues.

Ziauddin remembers Sultan Ahmed as a difficult Editor who would not spare even his most senior colleagues for the slightest of editorial lapses. “I kept a low profile in order to avoid confrontation," he recalls. The country changed drastically when General Ziaul Haq took the reins, staging a coup in July 1979. As expected, the regime removed Sultan Ahmed, replacing him with SR Ghauri, who was the "best editor," professional to his fingertips but also a caring human being.

Ghauri was not given the job because of any Army connections, which he did not possess, but because of the open hostility between him and Bhutto that had existed while he was editing the monthly Herald. It did not take long, however, for Ghauri and the powers that be to fall out and he left the job to be permanently lost to the profession. One of Ziauddin's responsibilities at the Morning News was to write editorials, but given his staunch aversion to dictatorship, he thought his best option, if he wanted to continue in the job, was to avoid writing on domestic happenings. The National Press Trust, which owned Morning News, had overnight turned anti-ousted civilian rule, particularly anti-Bhutto to the extent of digging up all kinds of real and imaginary scandals against him. Ziauddin thought of resigning but the job market was tight and he needed to bide his time. He requested Ghauri sahib assign him to only foreign topics for the editorials, explaining why he was asking for the favour. Ghauri readily agreed and Ziauddin pivoted to focus on international issues from then on, by steering away from local politics. Despite this, he landed in trouble over a series of editorials on the civil war in Beirut and the roles the Americans played.

It turned out that a fellow journalist had complained to the NPT chairman but not over some ideological leaning. The complaint was made during the Karachi Press Club elections that year. One of Ziauddin’s contemporaries and close friends, a well-known left-leaning journalist, Ashfaq Bokhari, was standing. As Ziauddin recalls, the complaint was made in an attempt to pressure those close to Bokhari so they did not campaign or vote for him. The NPT chairman was told that a “pro-Soviet communist” working at the Morning News had written highly critical editorials against America. “It was the first day of Ramazan and the chairman of the NPT had come to the office to meet this ‘pro-Soviet Communist’ hiding in an NPT newspaper,” recalls Ziauddin. “I was summoned to the Editor's room where the two [of them], the chairman and the Editor, were having tea.” Ziauddin was asked whether he would like to have a cup too but he declined, saying he was fasting. After some small talk the Editor asked him to return to his seat.

Later, after the NPT chairman left, the Editor called Ziauddin back. He could see Ghauri was trying to contain his laughter. With what appeared to be a wide grin on his face, Ghauri sahib joked sarcastically, ‘The chairman had come all the way from Lahore to fire a pro-Soviet Communist lurking in his Trust and went back after meeting a rozedar!’

DAWN's M. A. Mansuri reporting on the events of July 5, 1977. Image: DAWN Archives
DAWN's story from Zia's address, dated Aug. 30, 1979. Image: DAWN Archives
Editor Sultan Ahmed with ZAB. Photo Azam Sultan.
The Leader, an eveninger edited by Sultan Ahmed. Photo Azam Sultan.
Ziauddin with Saleem Asmi (L), Javed Jabbar and Khwaja Ejaz Sarwar during DAWN's Islamabad launch. Photo M. Ziauddin.

Censorship under Zia

Still, writing editorials meant courting controversy. In 1978, when General Ziaur Rehman lifted martial law from Bangladesh, Ziauddin wrote an editorial welcoming the move, but after the first salutary sentence, descended into an outpouring against dictatorship in general, which could easily be misinterpreted as being censorious of Pakistan’s regime. For good measure, a few excerpts from Bhutto’s then latest If I am Assassinated! essay were added, of course without naming him. The late Wazuddin, a sincere friend who had chosen not to go back to Bangladesh, had the task at Radio Pakistan of selecting the most important editorials of the day and relaying them verbatim every morning. He saw the title of the editorial which referred to his birthplace and without going through it just read the text without even bothering to take a pause.

This caught the attention of the then dreaded information secretary, Lt. General Mujibur Rehman, who demanded that the person who wrote the editorial be sacked immediately.

Ziauddin did not regret writing the piece but he did regret breaking Ghauri sahib’s trust. As it was a Friday, Ghauri sahib had been on his weekly day off which is why he had not seen the piece before it went to press. "I told him that I was sorry for breaking his trust but felt no regrets about writing the edit," Ziauddin says. Ghauri sahib handled it in his typical style. After a show-cause notice was issued to Ziauddin for writing an editorial “that could mar friendly relations with a foreign country” and Ziauddin apologised in writing, saying it was not his intention, Ghauri sahib and Ziauddin both went on a month’s leave each. “Let us see what happens when we return!” he had said. That was the last meeting between the two men. Ghauri sahib resigned soon after and Ziauddin was offered a job at The Muslim, a newspaper being launched from Islamabad.

Pre-censorship on dailies lifted, says Zia from DAWN Jan 12, 1982. Image: DAWN Archives
An example of governmentspeak: Zia calls for healthy journalism (March 31, 1982). Photo: DAWN Archives

The Muslim years, seth-editor relations

After almost twenty years in Karachi, Ziauddin moved to Islamabad where he worked under the legendary AT Chaudhry, Editor of The Muslim, in 1978. "He was a complete Editor," recalls Ziauddin. But the owner of the newspaper, Agha Murtaza Pooya, was a part-time politician with unconcealed ambitions. As the popularity of the newspaper grew rapidly under Chaudhry sahib’s leadership, so did Agha’s political ambitions and his interference in editorial decision-making.

The Muslim was launched at the height of Zia’s dictatorship. Editorially, AT did what the seniors at the newspaper saw as a tight-rope walk. Coverage of government policies would be critical but not confrontational. Most of the senior staffers, including Minhaj Barna, in the newspaper were from the large number of journalists dismissed from Pakistan Times for writing an open letter criticizing the policies of the National Press Trust. When questioned about this aspect of the editorial team by the establishment, AT would list the advantages of keeping the ‘rebels’ under his close watch rather than letting them go about their own, creating embarrassing mischief for the government. The Editor had developed a kind of rapport of mutual respect with the ruling junta which perhaps created the space for the newspaper to build its credibility among the discerning reader.

Ziauddin and other senior colleagues used to, daily, carry the made-up pages all the way to the Press Information Department where a junior information officer would go through them with a fine-tooth comb. Anything the officer felt did not fit government policy or was critical of it, would be removed from the page. Back in the newsroom, the page in-charge would have to fill the blank space with some innocuous story. But after a few months, the newspaper started to deliberately let the empty spaces go as is into print—a silent protest against the censorship. A law was also introduced by the Zia regime which said that even if a defamatory story was based on facts and the truth, the newspaper would be liable to be punished.

In 1981, When the publisher’s ambitions finally got the better of him, AT Chaudhry went home. It was the end of his short but eventful association with The Muslim. Ziauddin and a couple of colleagues nevertheless went to Lahore to try to persuade him to return, but AT refused. He rather tersely explained to them what publisher Agha Murtaza Pooya’s understanding of an editor’s responsibilities was: “Have you seen an accomplished artist at work in front of his canvas with a brush in his hand? His strokes and what emerges on the canvas appear so easy, so effortless. Agha would know what he has led himself into when he actually takes in hand the painting brush and stands before the canvas all set to start painting!”

Chaudhry sahib was right. Agha Pooya lost his way soon. Then out of frustration some colleagues decided to take over the newspaper, with Ziauddin leading the pack. Pooya wanted to wrest control but the journalists did not give in.

Information Secretary Mujeebur Rehman was particularly livid with this development. When Ziauddin had resigned from Morning News Rehman had offered him the editor’s job if he were to repudiate the PFUJ and resign as assistant secretary general of the union. Ziauddin had rejected the offer.

First Ziauddin’s Bangladesh editorial, then his refusal to resign from the PFUJ and now this takeover. The information secretary was apoplectic. “A takeover and that too on the main thoroughfare of the capital!” The Muslim was located on main Aabpara Road. Rehman ordered the arrest of the entire editorial team. “By sheer luck I escaped arrest as I had gone to watch a movie with my wife,” says Ziauddin. “When I got back to the office, I saw that the police had taken over the premises. I was not allowed to enter and all my colleagues were missing.”

The first task at hand was for the team to have their colleagues released. Roedad Khan was the federal interior secretary at the time and somehow, a release order was issued without much loss of time, perhaps because the administration did not want a law and order situation in the capital where all the embassies and most of the foreign news agency bureaus were located. Then financial negotiations started with Agha Pooya. Ziauddin recalls with pride that the politician-turned-senator had to cough up three months’ severance pay for all the journalists he had fired. At the forefront of this campaign was Ayaz Amir, an active trade unionist, and Iqbal Jaffery, an office bearer of The Muslim Union, who had suffered lashes ordained by a court during the early days of Zia’s regime along with Nasir Zaidi.

An unexpected outcome of this episode was that most of Ziauddin’s newspaper colleagues who didn’t have a place to live in Islamabad ended up camping at his house. “It looked like a jam-packed motel in those days."

Ziauddin much later on with Minhaj Barna (extreme right) and Nasir Zaidi. Photo: M. Ziauddin
Reporting on a strike in the film industry, August 1970. Photo: DAWN Archives
The Muslim's publisher Agha Murtaza Pooya.
The Muslim's Editor, AT Chaudhri, writing in DAWN Jan 2, 1982. Photo: DAWN Archives

The mysterious Revenue story

Around the end of fiscal year 1981, Ziauddin saw a Karachi datelined story by Jawaid Bokhari sahib, who headed The Muslim’s bureau there. It was about the federal government urgently recalling loans extended to state enterprises. The amount seemed substantial and as Ziauddin felt his imagination getting the better of him he went back to the budget books to ferret out the revenue target for the year. He simply deducted the amount being recalled from the target and came up with the story that the revenue would suffer a shortfall by as much. In order to add further authenticity to the amount, he added a figure following the decimal.

After the story was published in The Muslim, a number of official looking persons as well as some friends of the newspaper colleagues started pressing Ziauddin to divulge the source of the story. One person asked: “Just tell me the secretariat block from which you got this story.” Ziauddin could hardly name a block because he had not even visited the federal secretariat since his arrival in Islamabad!

Two years after the story appeared, Ziauddin was taken to finance secretary HU Beg’s office in the company of a mutual friend, Sajjad Akhtar, the publisher of the weekly Pakistan Economist. When they were introduced, the finance secretary jumped out of his chair: “You’re Ziauddin!?” he almost shouted.

“In the next 15 minutes it was my turn to enter a state of shock,” recalls Ziauddin. “The amount of revenue shortfall that my 1981 budget story had mentioned was correct to the point of even the decimal. And the file containing this estimate was kept under lock and key in the finance ministry whose access was limited to Beg sahib and his secretary who was a man of his confidence.” Beg sahib disclosed that intelligence agents shadowed Ziauddin for almost two months to try to uncover his source. They never did.

Postscript: In 1983, Ziauddin won an APNS best investigative story award for his story exposing the conditions of IMF programmes. Pakistan had signed just before the US offered a five-year $3.02 billion and economic aid package in return for its help waging an American jihad against occupying Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Therefore, the IMF programme along with its conditionalities did not last for more than the first tranche.

Ziauddib's May 1, 1983 story in DAWN on IMF conditions. Image: DAWN Archives
The 1982-83 APNS award for M. Ziauddin's reporting on IMF conditions. Photo: M. Ziauddin

Work starts at Dawn, Zia and the PFUJ

In 1982, Ziauddin joined Dawn’s Islamabad bureau to report on the economy beat. The bureau was led by the late M. A. Mansuri, who was succeeded by the late Hasan Akhtar and by 1990, Ziauddin succeeded Akhtar sahib.

After his experience at The Muslim, Ziauddin found that Dawn’s culture was different. Its owner Mehmood Haroun was General Zia's interior minister but Ziauddin did not sense, unlike at The Muslim, that there was editorial interference. In fact, Editor Ahmad Ali Khan appeared to be in complete control.

This was not to say that Zia’s media censorship had eased off. The PFUJ had its work cut out but luckily, its members were men of integrity: stalwarts such as Nisar Osmani, Minhaj Barna and Afzal Khan. “They were intellectuals in the true sense of the word,” says Ziauddin. “[They were] well-read and eloquent. In any government-PFUJ dialogue the Union team would dominate the discussions."

In fact, one historic example is an impromptu debate on religion between General Zia and the Dawn Lahore bureau chief and PFUJ stalwart, the late Nisar Osmani, during a press conference at the Lahore airport. Osmani won hands down and cassettes of the recording sold in black all over the country.

The PFUJ continued to be a thorn in the side of Zia's regime by staging rallies against martial law, the drastic clampdown on press freedom and harsh censorship. Its members filled jails by courting arrest on a daily basis. This was regarded by the government as damaging for its image in world capitals as the BBC persistently kept up with the news.

Being the cunning strategist, General Zia targeted the very unity of the PFUJ and broke it up by sowing seeds of discord within. With the help of his advisors, he started to patronise some journalists, most belonging to the right wing, while ignoring the rest. He developed a personal rapport with some of the chosen ones and promoted them. They could call him up with their problems and were recognized for their influence. Thus, by the time he had finished the job, Zia had divided the PFUJ on ideological grounds—left and right—with the left wing, led by Barna and Nisar Osmani, thrown to the wolves.

During this period, Dawn’s owner Mahmoud Haroun was in Zia’s cabinet as interior minister but as Ziauddin describes it, during his entire tenure Haroun never misused the Islamabad bureau by planting stories or stymying unfavourable ones. Ziauddin never received any directives from the Editor on how or how not to report on the interior ministry or the CDA which used to be under it then.

There was a small encounter that proved just how ironclad was the separation of management and editorial at Dawn. Ziauddin was returning from a foreign work trip when a graceful lady in the seat next to him on the plane struck up a conversation and asked what he did for a living. “Oh, you work for Dawn!” she cried. “Dawn is too critical of government policies and is like a mouthpiece of the Opposition!” When he inquired a little about her, he was shocked to learn that she was a close relative of Mahmood Haroun.

Hassan Akhtar of Dawn. Photo: DAWN
Is interest-free loans scheme being misused? Published, Sept 26, 1982. in DAWN. Image: DAWN Archives
Sindh Governor Mahmoud A. Haroun with Chief Minister Syed Muzaffar Shah and Liaquat Ali Jatoi visiting the 'interior' of Sindh. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi archives

Zia persists, Dawn’s expansion

After having attempted to render the PFUJ ineffective by destroying its unity, Zia tried to buy off newspaper owners by allowing them duty-free newsprint imports ‘strictly’ in accordance with their requirements, which were to be estimated on the basis of their circulation.

As Balzac said, behind every great fortune there is a crime. And it was a great crime when newspaper owners claimed highly exaggerated circulation numbers so they could import newsprint far in excess of their requirements so they could sell the surplus in the market at prices equal to those that carried the import duty. Overnight, newspaper owners big and small turned into tycoons. In order to justify their circulation numbers, many of them increased their pages and editions, filling them with features on all kinds of topics except critical political pieces. The owners of Dawn too benefited and indeed, two highly innovative weekly editions were launched: The weekly ‘Economic & Business Review’ or EBR and ‘Books and Authors’.

SGM Badruddin, a journalist of high standing and well-versed in the economy, headed the EBR and Assistant Editor Zubeida Mustafa was assigned Books&Authors.

The EBR was launched within a year of Ziauddin joining Dawn and since he had developed his skills in economic reporting, he became an automatic addition to Badruddin sahib’s team. It already included Shaheen Sehbai at the desk and later Babar Ayaz, Sabihuddin Ghausi and Afshan Subohi joined the team.

Drawing on several styles—comment, analysis, investigative reporting, exposes, interviews—the EBR team slowly but firmly started testing the limits of the regime, which otherwise brooked no criticism. Soon the pink pages had turned into a highly critical broadsheet of the regime’s socio-economic policies by extensively using the idiom of political economy.

General Zia’s was an opaque government. Even the most routine information such as the official rate of inflation was treated as a national secret. Officials privy to this crucial information started a roaring lucrative side business from this. Lobbyists for business groups, which had set up shop in the capital, would cultivate these officials, tempting them with cocktail parties and offers they could not refuse, in return for the all-important commercial and business information.

A story in the EBR dated April 3, 1983 on inflation
A story on Pakistan seeking commercial loans to fund imports by Ziauddin in the EBR, April 24, 1983. Image: DAWN Archives
An investigation into black money by Ziauddin in EBR, May 8, 1983. Image: DAWN Archives

Economic fog and censorship

In the meanwhile, WAPDA had become a major vehicle of corruption as aid from multilateral aid agencies, particularly the World Bank, to fund power projects was siphoned off by its decision-makers. This caused inordinate delays in these projects, forcing the Bank and other agencies to completely shut the concession window for such work in the public sector and ask the government to bring in the private sector. This led to the creation of HUBCO, the first such set-up with a non-concessional loan from the WB. Not a single megawatt was added to our generation capacity during the entire period of General Zia’s 11-year dictatorship. And by 1985, Pakistan was at the mercy of waves of country-wide brownouts as the eras of round-the-clock electricity supplies with enough for domestic, commercial, manufacturing and agricultural use came to an end.

At the same time, nationalized banks were being destroyed by official economic managers led by finance wizard Ghulam Ishaq Khan. He had failed to mobilize enough revenue to fund the budgets, which were swelling from mounting defence and non-development expenditure. And so the government had resorted to borrowing from nationalised banks at the rate of 0.6 percent from banking resources that were being mobilised at the rate of around 15 to 20 percent. Next, the government introduced an investment promotion scheme to encourage the private sector to take up import substitution. Nationalized banks were allowed to offer entrepreneurs 70% equity loans against 30% of their own contribution. This scheme was exploited to the hilt for its rent-seeking advantage. The private sector made fortunes without having to risk even a single rupee. They would get back their 30% contribution by over invoicing hardware imports for proposed manufacturing units, depositing the foreign currency thus earned in foreign banks—virtual money laundering activity. Next, the sponsors would sell the shares of their proposed units in the stock market for say Rs10 per share, then depress the price to Rs5 a share by manipulating the market they would buy back these shares thus making a killing before even setting up the plant. And once the plant started working the sponsors would pilfer utilities and evade taxes. Most of these entrepreneurs would default on bank loans and disappear with the loot leaving behind sick units.

Alongside this, a massive market for smuggled goods had started doing roaring business in the tribal areas where the laws of Pakistan did not apply. These markets were sponsored by the families of officials who were making money on the side by selling information to business lobbyists. Added to this was the long list of electronics and other gadgets that overseas Pakistani workers could bring in duty-free and sell locally at exorbitant profits. This not only deprived Pakistan of foreign exchange but also destroyed a number of fledgling manufacturing units being set up. For example, the domestic tyre-making industry suffered badly. A unit making glassware under the brand Toyo Nasic had to close down within months of opening with its products sold for peanuts on footpaths across the country. Finance minister Ghulam Ishaq Khan was not at all bothered that this was happening to the economy because, as he maintained, it was not adversely affecting official forex reserves! Once, planning minister Mehbubul Haq was asked by journalists visiting from India what was the secret to a shining Pakistan with a growth rate of over 6 percent. (India’s was 2 to 3 percent). He said, Pakistan as a nation had rejected poverty while India had owned it.

Blanket media censorship exacerbated the delusions. Ziauddin claims that at the EBR, however, staff had started testing the limits by probing deeply into these aspects of the economy and were even getting away with it. Once a former ISPR official, who was not happy with what he was reading in its pages, warned Ziauddin. But when their discussion delved into the depths of the matter, the officer lost the argument and aborted the discussion by saying: Ok, carry on.

PTV copies US show on Zia’s instruction

General Ziaul Haq paid an eight-day state visit to the US in December 1982 at the invitation of President Reagan. This was when the US was taking a deeper look at Pakistan’s strategic location in the context of Washington’s policy to contain Communism. The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 added momentum to this policy and prompted the US to establish a closer relationship with Pakistan.

A week after General Zia returned, Ziauddin received a call from Anwar Hussain, who was in charge of PTV’s current affairs programme. He invited Ziauddin to join a panel of three journalists on a TV talk show planned on the pattern of Face the Nation, a weekly American news and morning public affairs programme, airing Sundays on the CBS radio and television network. Typically, the programme featured interviews with prominent American officials, politicians and authors, followed by analysis from a panel of experts.

Before agreeing, Ziauddin asked two questions: What was the provocation for starting such a programme in such an opaque environment? And did Anwar Hussain know Ziauddin’s opinions about policies which he had been expressing rather guardedly in his EBR columns?

To the first question, Anwer said that the general himself had asked PTV to start such a programme as he had watched a few Face the Nation episodes during his US visit and was impressed by what he saw.

To the second question Anwer’s answer was vague. He seemed more interested in producing a ‘credible’ programme. For the first show Petroleum Minister Rao Farman Ali had come prepared for the TV station which was Chaklala those days, carrying some twenty files. Ziauddin had most of the facts and figures on the petroleum sector at his fingertips, therefore, the one hour-long programme ended without the minister getting a chance to refer to his files. Ziauddin claims by the time the hour ended, the minister seemed thrown off balance and was looking for an escape route.

Friends at PTV told Ziauddin later on that Rao Farman stayed back after the recording to watch the outcome in the OB van. He did not like what he saw and said as much to PTV. When they refused to pull the show, he took the recording to the president. It never aired.

The next day another panel led by Ziauddin was pitted against another cabinet minister, this time the all-knowing Lt. Gen. (retd.) Saeed Qadir, minister for privatization, in the PTV recording room. Ziauddin claims this minister did not fare any better either but he appeared to not even know what had hit him.

When PTV telecast this episode after a couple of days, it was received by viewers as an oddity because of the way a government’s minister was cut down to size by a mere journalist. PTV never invited Ziauddin again as long as Gen Zia was in power.

Rao Farman Ali. File photo

Notes on the MQM, MRD, PPP

By 1984, a Presidential referendum was held and elections on a non-party basis for the National and provincial assemblies were planned for February 1985.

But before the elections, the political landscape was set to change with the entrance of a group of young University of Karachi students calling themselves the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM). Their main grouse was against the government job quota system which they argued discriminated against those who had migrated from India and settled in Karachi. The movement gave expression to the suppressed resentment the Urdu-speaking people had felt when Sindhi language was introduced in Karachi as compulsory subject in 1974 along with Urdu, the national language. The regime had discontinued Sindhi as a compulsory subject from Karachi school syllabuses. Some of their complaints were genuine as some rules were introduced to keep Karachi domicile people out of government jobs.

The perceived and real complaints of Mohajirs in Karachi were exploited to the hilt by General Zia to create a violent ethnic faultline in Sindh in the 1980s. He wanted to neutralize the severe pressure from the Sindh-based Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), a historically populist, left-wing political alliance formed to oppose and end his government. The MRD was launched in February 1981 and led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), a mostly nonviolent alliance rooted in Sindh’s rural areas. However, the MRD’s failure to expand beyond its southern stronghold combined with repression from the led to its demise. Zia allowed the MQM a free hand to terrorise rural Sindhis or Mohajirs who had supported the PPP.

Ghaus Ali Shah, a former judge who had served the Sindh government between 1981 to 1988, first as minister and then chief minister, has publicly claimed on a number of occasions that he helped General Zia create and promote the MQM. From 1983 onwards, until he was declared an ‘Indian agent’ in 2016 and cut off from the party in Pakistan, MQM’s founder Altaf Hussain ruled urban Sindh, first from Karachi and then from London, after he absconded to the UK. He had two faces—a political one which he used to capture, by hook or by crook, urban Sindh seats in the provincial and national assemblies, and a militant one in the form of a network of sector in-charges who were his hitmen. His grip extended from college and university campuses to hospital wards, the corridors of government and even newsrooms.

The Establishment gave Altaf a free hand out of the fear that taking any action against him would only let urban Sindh slip back into the hands of the PPP. It never wanted because then it would have been impossible for the establishment to rule the country in accordance with its own agenda.

It was only when the PTI was nurtured into the MQM slot that it was time for Altaf to be shown the door.

Note from Ziauddin: “I interviewed Altaf Hussain in London in mid-1994. He did not let me use my camera. He took hold of it as soon as I entered the room and returned it only when I was on my way out.”
Benazir Bhutto during the 1988 elections. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi
An MQM news clipping dated Nov 3, 1985 in DAWN

Martial Law and Benazir’s entry

President Ziaul Haq nominated Muhammad Khan Junejo as prime minister on March 20, 1985. Junejo instantly promised the nation that he would lift Martial Law and restore civilian government as soon as possible. His position was, however, weak and vulnerable under Zia’s constitutional amendments, which subordinated the prime minister to the president. Despite this, Junejo fulfilled his promise and lifted Martial Law to restore fundamental rights, but at the price of the Eighth Amendment, thereby validating the Revival of the Constitutional Order imposed by Zia.

When Martial Law was lifted in December 1985, Benazir Bhutto decided to return. She arrived at the Lahore airport in April 1986, where she was greeted by a massive crowd. And an estimated two million people came to see her speak at Iqbal Park, where she railed against Zia's regime.

Ziauddin first saw Benazir when she addressed a press conference in Karachi (just before she went into exile). She shone with supreme confidence, criticising the dictatorship throughout her interaction with the media. Hers was not a sentimental denunciation, but the well thought-out expression of an Opposition leader. “Some of my colleagues who attended the press conference, seemingly put off by her confidence, were heard quipping: Who is she? What does she have other than the political legacy of her father? They insisted that they were not impressed. I, being a sentimental slob, saw in her a leader in the making.”

After her return from exile, she went hammer and tong against the Zia regime, addressing large public gatherings around the country. Her refrain was the economy, which she declared was going to the dogs. To prove her point, she would quote from articles published in Dawn’s Economic & Business Review and she would be gracious enough on occasion to name their authors. “We [Ziauddin, Shaheen Sehbai and Babar Ayaz] felt like we were on cloud nine. However, it was only after she became PM that I had an opportunity to meet her face-to-face,” says Ziauddin.

DAWN reporting on Junejo, Jan 1, 1986
DAWN's reporting of the events of April 10, 1986, the day Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan. The crowds came to welcome here at Lahore airport. Image: DAWN Archives
Benazir Bhutto addressing a press conference during the Zia era. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi

Junejo, the Geneva accord, BB and the 1988 elections

In March 1988, Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo called an all-parties conference on Afghanistan. He wanted Benazir Bhutto to take part in order to ensure it was a success, but she demanded that Zia be left out and Junejo accepted. A piqued Zia retaliated by instructing Junejo he was not to sign the Geneva Peace Accord on the Afghanistan settlement. Buoyed by the all-parties conference’s support for his stance, Junejo nevertheless dispatched foreign minister Zain Noorani to the headquarters of the United Nations.

The Geneva accord was signed on April 14, 1988, between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the United States and Soviet Union serving as guarantors. Junejo had to pay the ultimate price for going against a dictatorship and by May 29 was unceremoniously dismissed on charges of corruption of all things. Zia dissolved the assemblies and on July 16 announced that fresh general elections would be held on November 16. It is said that Benazir duped the dictator into believing that she would be on maternity leave around that period. In fact, she gave birth to her first born, Bilawal, on September 21, and within a week was up and running for the November polls.

By August 17, however, Zia had died in a plane crash, leaving Benazir with what appeared to be a level playing field. It would have been a landslide victory had former chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence Lt-Gen (retd) Hameed Gul and his agency (as he once publicly disclosed) not created and financed the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, a conglomerate of right-leaning and religious parties led by Nawaz Sharif.

The PPP won 94 seats, a little short of a majority against the Nawaz-led IJI's 55 seats. Independents took 37 seats, including 13 to the MQM whose candidates stood as independents, and 19 to smaller parties. Since the PPP was the single largest party, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan was obliged to invite Benazir to form the government—but he did not.

Ghulam Ishaq Khan had wanted to give the Nawaz-led IJI enough time to make a successful bid for the government in Punjab before Benazir was offered the PM’s slot. He feared that if she were elected prime minister before the political fate of Punjab was decided, all the Punjab independents would go over to the PPP. The party’s candidate for chief minister, Farooq Leghari, was working hard to win them over. Finally, it was Nawaz who wooed enough independents over and out-bid Leghari to form the IJI government in Punjab.

The PPP still managed to show a clear majority by winning the support of 13 MQM MNAs and eight members from what was then the federally administered tribal areas (now tribal districts).

The Geneva Accord is signed, DAWN April 15, 1988. Image: DAWN Archives
DAWN's reporting of the events of 1988. Image: DAWN Archives
DAWN's reporting of the events of 1988. Image: DAWN Archives
DAWN's reporting of the events of 1988. Image: DAWN Archives
DAWN's reporting of the events of 1988. Image: DAWN Archives
DAWN's reporting of the events of 1988. Image: DAWN Archives
DAWN's reporting of the events of 1988. Image: DAWN Archives

BB’s compromise and first run at government

Benazir Bhutto was asked to form the government after she had consented to three major conditions: the assurance of the election of Ghulam Ishaq Khan as president, the retention of former foreign minister Lt. General Yaqub Ali Khan in the cabinet, and that the Defense budget would not be reduced.

Benazir did everything she could that did not cost money: free prisoners, lift the ban on unions, permit freedom of the press. Political freedom increased during this period but her government was unable to adopt policies for long term socio-economic transformation.

Soon her administration was plagued by strong and persistent allegations of corruption, political patronage at public expense, autocratic tendencies and personal animus against political opponents.

The appointment of her mother Nusrat Bhutto as a senior minister without a portfolio, followed by the selection of her father-in-law Hakim Ali Zardari as chairman of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee was viewed in some quarters as ill-advised nepotism. Benazir's government also set up the controversial Placement Bureau which made political appointments to the civil bureaucracy, although it was later abolished. She let the political legacy of her family intrude, for example, when capable public servants who had earlier harbored disagreements with her father, were dismissed for reasons other than performance. The failure of the PPP to share power and its spoils with its coalition partners caused further alienation, including the withdrawal of the MQM from the government by October 1989.

Altaf Hussain, Nawaz Sharif, Abida Hussain and Ghulam Mustafa Jaoi gang up against Benazir 1989. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi
An anti-PPP alliance is forged with with Ghafoor Ahmed, Abdul Wali Khan, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Altaf Hussain and Nawaz Sharif 1990. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi

BB’s power slips and the truth of the matter

On September 18, 1989, the MQM formally aligned itself with the IJI which had grown into a bigger alliance called the Combined Opposition Parties determined to bring down the PPP regime. Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto survived the November 1, 1989 vote of no-confidence moved by Nawaz Sharif and his IJI. A total of 119 votes were needed to dislodge her. With 92 seats in the National Assembly, the PPP needed at least another 27 votes to survive. The IJI had 54 votes, but sought an extra 65 to oust the government. With both parties in need of additional votes, a battle to woo parliamentarians began in earnest.

Allegedly, a lot of money was thrown around by both parties. Many observers began to describe the politics of the time as a lucrative business. In the final count, the IJI-led opposition could only bag 107 votes, falling short by 12 votes.

Benazir may have survived the no-confidence vote but she did not subsequently make any substantial effort to build bridges with political opponents and, thus, national politics remained fragile.

Before the vote of no-confidence, Benazir had accused of a conspiracy to bring down the government. At the time, this was written off as a political statement—but 24 years later intelligence officials went on to testify before higher courts that they had indeed been involved in political maneuvering. For example, in February 2013 a three-member bench of the Supreme Court was hearing a case about the misappropriation of Intelligence Bureau secret funds during 1989. Former IB director General Masood Khan Khattak claimed that non-political forces were behind the no-confidence vote. He named President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg as the men who wanted to dislodge BB’s government in the shortest possible time. A former officer of the army’s engineering services had a series of very business-like meetings between certain PPP MNAs and leaders of the opposition IJI, with two serving army officers (Brigadier Imtiaz and Major Amir) acting as intermediaries. The meetings are held against the backdrop of the Opposition’s impending no-confidence move against the Benazir Bhutto government in October 1989, when political horse-trading had touched unprecedented heights.

Though BB’s government was sent packing eight months later, it did not depart through a parliamentary vote but through a presidential decree. For the time being, Article 58 2 (b) would hold greater sway than the popular mandate. It would be removed later, in 1989, by the very man who had been adamant that it be employed: Nawaz Sharif.

DAWN's coverage of the no-confidence move by Hasan Akhtar, Nov 2, 1989.

Digging into PPP corruption

Ziauddin’s first encounter, not a rather happy one, with the first PPP government was after one of his stories in Dawn alleged that PPP MNAs and MPAs were charging money from successful job seekers via the Placement Bureau set up inside PM’s Secretariat (the MNAs could recommend two candidates and the MPAs one).

“Interior minister Aitzaz Ahsan sent an FIA team to Dawn’s offices in Islamabad to fetch me for questioning. I refused and as my other colleagues came to know about the matter, within no time a resounding protest emanated from the journalist community. The Interior Ministry backed off and after a couple of months I received a letter of apology from the minister himself.”

Earlier, when the new information minister Javed Jabbar addressed his first news conference, Ziauddin sought an answer from him over a conflict of interest that had arisen because of his links with the MNJ advertising firm. “Javed and I were friends from our university days when he was doing his honors as I was completing my Master’s. The question was deliberate and intended to make it clear that from now on the two of us were on opposite sides—he in government and I as its watchdog.”

Most of the independent media had been trying to break the shackles of press curbs all these years and was at the same time trying to do justice to its role as a watchdog as honestly as possible under the circumstances. It had welcomed the advent of an elected government but also used its new-found freedom to keep it under critical watch. The media was not bothered about the new government’s fragility, which usually accompanies such a transition from dictatorship, and worked to expose its weaknesses and flaws in its economic management, the combined effect of which was manifesting in rampant corruption.

After the failure of the no-confidence motion, the first Benazir government wooed the Press rather earnestly. In fact, the more critical you were of the government, the closer you found yourself to it. The prime minister herself would be seen personally trying to win over the more critical writers. Husain Haqqani was one such case. As advisor to Punjab CM Nawaz Sharif, Haqqani was one of BB’s bitterest critics and was also the author of a number of concocted scandals against her. But then, during Benazir’s second tenure, Haqqani was appointed federal information secretary.

PM Nawaz Sharif with press secretary Husain Haqqani in Zimbabwe for the 1991 Commonwealth Summit. Photo M. Ziauddin
Ziauddin at the so-called Surrey Palace pictured in 1996

Riots at the American Cultural Center

Once Ziauddin heard information minister Javed Jabbar telling a PTV reporter who had wanted his advice on how to cover an event, to use his professional judgment instead of seeking his advice. “I wish he had followed his own principle,” Ziauddin says. “Jabbar once asked me how to cover the bloody riots in the Blue Area in front of the American Cultural Center during protests against Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses published in September 1988.”

Ziauddin’s advice to Jabbar was to show it as it was because the global media which had covered the event would expose the government if he went with an edited version.

Some of the PPP old guard, who had never accepted him as a new face, and that too in charge of the sensitive information portfolio, forced BB to get rid of him. They blamed him for the ‘bad publicity’ that the PTV coverage of the event had earned for the PPP government.

Five people were killed and as many as 80 were reported injured as the center of Islamabad turned into a battlefield. Several thousand Muslims marched on the American cultural center, throwing stones at it and demanding the death of the writer and a ban on the book. The police, after failing to disperse the crowd with tear gas, opened fire on the demonstrators, two of whom had climbed to the roof of the center and pulled down the American flag.

This violence was a startling reminder of the depths of radical Islamic fervour in a country that was trying to make a transition to democracy. It was an indication of the difficulties that governments have faced when trying to steer a course between modernization and single-minded Islamic orthodoxy.

DAWN's reporting from Feb 1989. Image: DAWN Archives

Meetings with BB, journalism against her government

Ziauddin’s first face-to-face encounter with Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto took place soon after she had survived the no-confidence motion in 1989. A dozen or so journalists (from a distance of 30 years he can recall the names of only two of them, Ayaz Amir and the late Jamilur Rehman sahib) were invited to meet her at the PM’s Secretariat.

It was a no-holds barred encounter with Ayaz. “A few other journalists and I were going hammer and tong against everything that the PPP government had done since it had come to power,” he says. “We criticized the appointment of Hakim Ali Zardari as the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and Asif Ali Zardari being allowed to do business from an office in the Secretariat. The PM defended her decisions as best she could, but the encounter was more of a draw.”

In the evening Ziauddin received a call from Wajid Shamsul Hassan, the former editor of the eveninger Daily News, and a good friend. He was very close to BB, who held him in high esteem. He reprimanded the journalist for being too harsh on her.

The next detailed meeting Ziauddin had with Benazir was when she was out of power and holding out as the leader of the Opposition. He was introduced to her by the late HK Burki, a senior journalist who had worked for Pakistan Times and had been close to ZAB. Both Begum Bhutto and BB knew him and used to seek his opinion on policy matters. Another senior journalist, Afzal Khan, who was one of the directors of the Associated Press of Pakistan, the government-run wire service, was also part of the trio that met BB on occasion. Ziauddin recalls, “While introducing us, Burki sahib asked BB if she could spot Ziauddin. To our amusement, BB promptly pointed at Afzal Khan.”

The day Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed her government using Constitutional Article 58 (b), a large group of Islamabad journalists went to Sindh House to meet her. “She welcomed all of us and we crowded around her as she sat on the sofa answering our queries on the why’s and how’s of her ouster,” Ziauddin recalls. “She was in a good mood and was even joking. Zahid Hussain and Kaleem Omar were sitting at her feet, indulging in a good-natured repartee with her.” They were the authors of a vicious piece on her government’s and especially her husband’s alleged corruption and indulgences with the headline ‘Take the bags and run’ published in the monthly Newsline magazine.

To their amazement President Ghulam Ishaq Khan had used stories of her government’s alleged corruption cases published in Dawn (filed by Shaheen Sehbai and Ziauddin) as grounds for his decision to dismiss her government. And what was more amazing was that the Supreme Court accepted the newspaper stories as proof beyond an iota of doubt and upheld the dismissal order. But what really left an impression was the fact that Benazir never ever let this matter alter their relationship. In fact, on no occasion did she ever complain to them about this matter.

At a diplomatic reception during Benazir Bhutto’s second term as PM. Photo: M. Ziauddin
Note from Ziauddin: At a reception during Benazir’s first term as leader of the Opposition. She spent the entire evening gossiping with me as she wanted to avoid some senior politicians who were eager to have a word with her. She made it as if we were talking about something very serious. Photo: M. Ziauddin
Foreign Minister Z A Bhutto with journalist H K Burki in the UN, 1965. Photo Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi
Khalid Hasan and HK Burki, journalists from Pakistan compare notes in Simla, 1972. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi

The same happens to Nawaz

This formula was repeated when President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed the first Nawaz government as well. His reference to the Supreme Court against the Nawaz government also carried as proof our stories of alleged corruption published in Dawn. But this time the SC ruled that newspaper stories cannot be regarded as proof beyond any doubt, rejected them and restored the Nawaz government.

The Establishment made it impossible, however, for Nawaz to resume power at the Centre by toppling Punjab Chief Minister Ghulam Haider Wyne through a no-confidence vote and installing Manzoor Wattoo. The new CM and Punjab Governor Chaudhary Altaf Hussain made it impossible for the prime minister to function. As the business of the government came to a complete halt, the COAS, General Abdul Waheed Kakar, was seemingly forced to intervene and had both the PM and the President resign so that a caretaker government under Prime Minister Moin Qureishi could be appointed.

The clash between PM Nawaz and President Ghulam Ishaq that was said to have led to their exit did appear contrived, with many people feeling that there was more to it. Many years after the episode the actual reason was divulged to Ziauddin in person by former foreign minister, the late Sahibzada Yaqub Ali Khan. This is what he said: As the senior Bush was clearing his desk before leaving the White House following his defeat at the hands of President Bill Clinton, he saw a file awaiting the president’s signature. Had he signed that file Pakistan would have been declared a terrorist state and consequently suffered the punishments such as serious economic sanctions and geopolitical isolation. The file was full of stories of terrorist incidents in many parts of the world, especially in Egypt and its neighborhood traced to Pakistan’s ‘non-state’ actors.

For reasons unknown, Bush did not sign the file and left it for the incoming President Bill Clinton to do the ‘needful’. As luck would have it, the Clintons were in awe of Benazir and were said to be her fans. Meanwhile, on January 9, 1993 president-elect Clinton gave Pakistan six months to refute Indian charges that it was sponsoring international terrorism.

The Establishment developed a plan to use this goodwill to make it possible for Pakistan to escape being declared a terrorist state. The Plan: Get rid of illegal Arab immigrants to prevent any extremists among them from using Pakistan to foment violence in other countries. After a crackdown on illegal immigrants, hundreds of Arab nationals were arrested on suspected links to Islamist militants. Next, oust Nawaz somehow and bring in Benazir for a second stint.

Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo with Punjab Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi
Ziauddin with Sahibzada Yaqub Ali Khan at a diplomatic reception

Note on Nawaz Sharif

Ziauddin found an exiled Nawaz more articulate and more his own man than he had appeared in Pakistan even during his two terms in the PM’s office. During the UK Dawn posting whenever Ziauddin had an opportunity to hear Nawaz in public or one-on-one, he came back impressed. Nawaz was most articulate in his silence to questioning about his opinion on the negotiations between Benazir and Musharraf. Ziauddin thought they were seemingly in violation of the Charter of Democracy the two had signed just months earlier. Nawaz would just smile at such questions.

How BB made a second return

The general elections were held on October 6, 1993. The PPP won 86 seats and the PML-N secured 72 seats. The Establishment maneuvered to keep the PPP out of Punjab where it let the PPP’s alliance partner, the PML-Chattha win most seats. And in order for the PPP to win enough seats to become the largest single party in the National Assembly so it could be invited to form the government, the Establishment had the MQM boycott the elections on some flimsy grounds. This paved the way for the PPP to bag the urban Sindh seats which had traditionally belonged to the MQM.

Benazir was in London on a maternity visit from January until perhaps June, 1993. It is presumed that she had little idea of what was going on in Pakistan during this period as Farooq Leghari and Shafqat Mehmood were participating on her behalf in the Establishment's conspiracy to oust Nawaz.

“I was in Lahore looking after Dawn’s Lahore Bureau when Benazir issued an ultimatum to the government that she would march on Islamabad if the PML-N government did not resign,” recalls Ziauddin. “A couple of days before the march was scheduled to start, I took a round of the city but to my utter puzzlement did not see any signs of preparation. I rushed to the house where Benazir was staying and was immediately ushered into her presence. She put my worries to rest by assuring me of the success of her campaign, march or no march.” True enough; a day before the march, COAS Kakar had done his job!

“I found she would grow uncomfortable whenever we talked about the way she came back to power for the second time. Perhaps if she had her own way, she would not have perhaps participated in the conspiracy.” The Nawaz-led IJI did not win a two-thirds majority in the November 1996 elections without the help of the Establishment. There is an affidavit signed by Lt. Gen Durrani in the Supreme Court that he had obtained about Rs140 million from Mehran Bank on the orders of COAS General Aslam Beg to distribute among a number of IJI stalwarts, including Nawaz Sharif, to help them get enough seats.

That is why after losing the elections, Benazir had famously said: They [the IJI] have stolen the polls.

DAWN's coverage from Oct 7, 1993 byline Shaheen Sehbai

Working with MSR at The News

Ziauddin was then moved to Lahore as Resident Editor of Dawn on the promise that an edition would soon follow from that city. But this did not happen and he felt he was being wasted there because Lahore was too small a beat compared to the centre of power in Islamabad.

So when Jang Group owner Mir Shakilur Rehman or MSR offered him the position of Editor of the Islamabad edition of The News, in 1991, following the departure of Dr Maleeha Lodhi as Ambassador to the US, Ziauddin made the change. He soon realized that MSR, unlike the owners of Dawn, was acting like a super editor. There was an element of guile as well in the editorial policy. In one instance, an editorial on the former chief justice Nasim Hasan Shah was allowed to go in the Islamabad edition but was dropped from its Lahore and Karachi editions.

MSR's involvement continued to grow. Once there was a disagreement over the placement of an advertisement, during Benazir Bhutto’s second term. It concerned a property dispute among the elder Sharifs.

The advertisement had to be placed on the front page of The News which showed the womenfolk of the estranged side of the Sharif family protesting outside the Model Town residence of Mian Sharif. This was being placed, in Ziauddin’s words, to demean Nawaz Sharif and his family. He refused to carry the advertisement and soon after there was a call from MSR insisting that it should go. Ziauddin refused and at one point during the argument MSR blurted out that the advertisement had in fact come from Zardari. Ziauddin told MSR to ask Zardari to call him, which never happened, and the advertisement was not carried. But this incident was the beginning of a schism between the publisher-cum-chief editor and the editor.

Then there was a story by Ilyas Khan (now with BBC) in the newly launched TNF (The News on Friday) edition. TNF's first editor was Beena Sarwar with Fareshteh Aslam overseeing sections in Karachi. It was later renamed The News on Sunday . The story was about heroin smuggling in National Logistics Cell trucks. Ilyas Khan’s story had referred to 2 Army officers being involved, but due to a typo, the published story carried the figure of 20.

“It was around noon that I got a call from a shaken MSR,” Ziauddin recalls. “He asked me to come over to the ISI headquarters in Aabpara where a number of angry officers were waiting for me along with MSR. But I had done my homework by the time I arrived. I readily accepted the typo blunder and then offered to publish an apology on the front page in the next day’s edition. This was graciously accepted by the officers present.” But that was not the end of it.

As the meeting at the ISI headquarters was coming to an amicable end, MSR volunteered on his own that along with the apology, the paper would also mention that Ilyas Khan was being dismissed. Ziauddin was taken aback and protested rather mildly. Back in the office he insisted that if anyone was to be fired it should be him, because whatever was printed in the newspaper was the Editor’s responsibility.

MSR sent the Editor a roundabout apology written by the then information secretary Husain Haqqani, but under an obscure pen-name. Ziauddin told the courier who had brought the ‘apology’ that he would not give space on the newspaper’s front page to an obscure source. The ‘apology,’ he insisted, would either go under Haqqani’s name or not at all. It did not, finally. Instead, the paper carried an apology without the dismissal order. The last straw came when annual newspaper staff increments had to be fixed. Ziauddin was disappointed to see his recommendations had been set aside and MSR was issuing his own, based on criteria no one knew. After he debated this with MSR for a week, the reply was curt and final. “He said it was his decision and he would not change it,” recalls Ziauddin. "After this I decided that the time had come to move on as the staff would not respect me if they got to know that I had no say in the process of fixing annual increments.”

To be fair to MSR, many people in the administration of The News, Rawalpindi said that his interference had been at a minimum during Ziauddin’s tenure as Editor. He had even, on occasion, reluctantly accepted Ziauddin’s counter-suggestions, which had never been the case with some earlier Editors.

These matters came down to a newspaper’s culture; Dawn’s, under the late Ahmad Ali Khan, was totally different from that of The News. Khan sahib had instilled self-confidence in his senior colleagues by giving them the freedom to be their own bosses in their spheres of responsibility. These senior colleagues had the freedom to recruit and recommend annual increments.

What Khan sahib would not countenance was a story bouncing. He would insist that a full text of the clarification, contradiction or full version of the other side of the story be published immediately. There would be no ‘I stand by my story’ unless the reporter could completely satisfy the Editor, which would be never. It was only in the case of Shaheen Sehbai that this rule was relaxed because he would always be able to back his stories with authentic official documents. Khan sahib’s wrath would be confined to seniors such as Bureau Chiefs or edition in-charges and not the reporter who had filed the story.

The story on heroin trade by Ilyas Khan titled 'Poppy Politics' in The News, Sept. 23, 1994 and the subsequent responses to it. Images courtesy: Ilyas Khan
Ziauddin with the cricket team of The News in 1992 when he was Editor for just one year. Photo: M. Ziauddin

Back to Dawn

The time to move came sooner than Ziauddin had expected. It was the end of the year 1993 when he received a call from Ahmad Ali Khan, asking him to rejoin Dawn as its Islamabad Bureau Chief. This he did and by 2001 the Islamabad edition of the paper was launched and Ziauddin became its first Resident Editor.

Ziauddin claims that he was the first among his professional colleagues at equivalent grades in the entire industry to receive an office car. Next, when he came back to the Islamabad bureau, the office paid for his membership at the Islamabad Club, another first.

During this period, Mahmood Haroun had for some time served as the Governor of Sindh. But one never felt that he was in any way trying to use the newspaper for his own purposes. Once he was not holding any government position, he invited all of Dawn’s senior staffers to dinner at his residence in Karachi. Editor Khan sahib attended the dinner but kept a low profile throughout the evening. After dinner, Haroun issued a short and sweet political statement: If you receive a report from my office which you think is worth the front page, then put it on the back page; if it is worth the back page, put it inside; if it is worth the inside pages, then throw it away!

Ziauddin with Saleem Asmi and Ahmad Ali Khan at DAWN's Islamabad edition launch in 2001.

Interviewing Benazir on PTV

The caretaker government of Prime Minister Miraj Khalid had planned interviews of party leaders on PTV as part of a pre-election programme, in 1997. The political parties were allowed to name the panel of interviewers (limited to two journalists) of their choice. PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto’s panel of choice included Ziauddin and Rehana Hakim, Editor of Newsline magazine. Convinced that the PPP had named him expecting him to go soft and not ask any embarrassing questions, Ziauddin called up friend Wajid Shamsul Hasan, a close aide of Benazir, and warned him against nursing any such expectations. Hasan knew Ziauddin too well to argue.

When the interview began, it quickly turned into a heated argument with Benazir angrily rejecting all questions on corruption stories involving her government, especially her spouse. At times she sounded as if she was trying to bully the interviewers. With the interviewers trying hard to keep the session from turning into an interrogation, and BB sounding as if she would walk out in anger any minute, it was a miracle that it lasted its allotted time. And to Ziauddin and Hakim’s surprise, they encountered a different Benazir during the post-interview tea at the PTV Karachi GM’s office. She was friendly, warm and asked them for the latest on the political scene and shared her assessments and opinions.

Wajid Shamsul Hasan, former Pakistan High Commissioner in UK at Ziauddin's elder brother’s residence in London. (R-L): Moinuddin Khan (brother), M. Ziauddin, Wajid, Mrs. Wajid, Mrs Masroor Zia, Mrs Moinuddin.

Benazir, the MQM and Karachi

The very first action Benazir took after being sworn in as prime minister for the second time was to withdraw the army from Karachi where it had hunkered down for a running feud with MQM hitmen. She handed the city over to Interior Minister General Naseerullah Babar who, although a sensible man, returned Karachi to its police force. The police had been on the receiving end of months of turmoil leading up to the birth of the MQM-Haqiqi, engineered by Karachi Corps Commander General Asif Nawaz. This was when MQM hitmen had killed a number of policemen and officers. And so, as soon as the police were back in control, scores of fake encounters took place daily in which MQM workers were mowed down. It was a mass bloodletting.

Three journalists (Ziauddin, Zafar Abbas and Zahid Hussain) took up the fake police encounters with the prime minister aboard the aircraft on their way to attend the 50th session of the UN. She kept defending the decision and the conversation turned bitter. As it ended, one of the three men warned the PM: Giving so many powers to the police force could damage the government itself. And his words proved true. Her very own brother, Murtaza Bhutto, was killed in an ‘accidental’ shoot-out outside 70 Clifton.

Tasneem and Zafar Abbas with Ziauddin.

Refusing to interview Zardari

Early in Benazir’s second term, in 1994, Zardari’s self-appointed advisor, the late Azhar Sohail, had somehow managed to persuade him to be interviewed on PTV by some ‘credible’ journalists to establish his own integrity and trustworthiness. Farhad Zaidi sahib, who was heading PTV, was assigned the task of recruiting Ghazi Salahuddin and Ziauddin for the job. Both refused.

But a trick had been played. Ziauddin was told that Ghazi Salahuddin had agreed to do the interview and Ghazi Salahuddin was told that Ziauddin had agreed. As it turned out, both men went to PM House (where the interview was to take place) to find out why the other had agreed. So when they found out the truth, they told Farhad sahib not to bother making arrangements and to let them leave.

By the time this had transpired, Zardari had arrived and Azhar Sohail had completed, in the meanwhile, the hard part of the interview. Ziauddin and Salahuddin continued to refuse to do a command performance. They told Zardari not to take the risk because they would not hold back, especially when it came to his alleged corruption stories.

With a characteristic broad smile, Zardari dared them to ask any question and told the camera crew to start rolling. Left with no choice, the two journalists started the interview. By the time they wrapped up what they thought was a complete slaughter, the broad smile had left Zardari’s face and Azhar Sohail looked as if he had eaten something disagreeable. The interview was never broadcast.

Meetings with Benazir

During Benazir’s second term (1993-1996), Ziauddin frequently met her, mostly with Burki sahib or Shaheen Sehbai joining them if he was in town (he was Dawn’s Washington correspondent at the time). Normally, the meetings would take place after some official banquet at PM House. Burki Sahib had kept warning her to beware of President Farooq Leghari, which she did not take seriously. When the discussion would turn to her government’s alleged corruption, she would turn to Nawaz Sharif’s corruption and wonder how she was going to contest against a billionaire in the next election.

Once she offered Ziauddin a job in the Planning Commission which he politely declined. On another occasion, she publicly announced at a media function that she was thinking of naming him for a national award. He requested her not to. “I said that after receiving the award, my work would be judged through the prism of the award,” recalls Ziauddin. “If I criticized her policies, my readers would think I was just trying to boost my professional standing at her cost. If I praised her policies, they would mistake it to be an attempt on my part to return the favour. I suggested a journalist should accept such awards only after retirement.” She asked: “When do you retire, Ziauddin?” She was left with no choice but to change the subject with a chuckle when he said, “Prime Minister, journalists don’t retire!”

The PM visited Ziauddin’s home to condole with the family on the passing of his young daughter. She came with her full entourage which included Nahid Khan and Farhatullah Babar. While she was still at the house, Farhatullah Babar took Ziauddin aside and told him that the PM had offered to fund the couple’s Hajj. Ziauddin was obliged but politely declined.

Once Benazir convened a brainstorming session at PM House and invited two representatives from almost every walk of life. MA Zuberi of the Business Recorder and Ziauddin came from the media. She began by first inviting Ziauddin to speak and he instead wondered why there was no representation from the armed forces, who had a lion's share of the national budget. For a few seconds there was pindrop silence but the PM recovered quickly and told him that she represented the armed forces so it was not to worry and he should present his ideas. After she lost the 1996 elections and before she went into exile, Ziauddin had a few meetings. Once she had invited him to her house for tea but upon his arrival he was ushered into a comfortably fitted room where she was chatting with about three or four wives of ambassadors. “The topic was of no interest to me,” Ziauddin says. “So, I kept quiet, only to go red in the face and try my best to avoid the good-humored stares of the guests when Benazir said, ‘We wanted five children but they kept Asif incarcerated most of the time.’ She certainly appeared to be a rare political person enjoying motherhood.”

As the guests were leaving, Benazir was informed that Amanullah Khan of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front had arrived. She met Khan in another room and Ziauddin accompanied her. The gist of their conversation was she was pleading with Khan not to go on a solitary freedom mission but to hitch up to the Hurriyat bandwagon, an idea which he appeared to dislike.

Before she went into exile Ziauddin had what he describes as his last meeting with the couple in Pakistan. This was at the Opposition leader’s chamber in the National Assembly. One of her aides had approached Ziauddin in the corridor and told him Benazir would like to see him in her chambers. As he entered he saw BB sitting in the chair across a huge desk, Zardari ensconced in a sofa nearby and a third person in a low chair next to Zardari’s sofa. As Ziauddin greeted the two, the man who was talking to Zardari in whispers, stood up to leave, but before he left, he knelt and touched Zardari’s feet.

As soon as he left, Benazir turned to Asif and chided him for letting the man do that. With a sheepish smile Zardari said he did not ask the man and that it was just an age-old Sindhi tradition. Benazir appeared genuinely infuriated and told Asif that such traditions should be done away with. She began what sounded like an angry lecture. When he tried to calm her down she became angrier, raising her voice. He looked as if he had lost his voice. Every time he opened his mouth to say something, she would shout him down.

At some point, during the one-sided exchange, Ziauddin heard the name Murtaza Bhutto. Soon, Benazir was in tears as she recalled her late brother clearly blaming Asif for the souring of relations between her and Murtaza. Ziauddin witnessed the exchange which lasted for about ten minutes or so in utter embarrassment. Just as she was warning Asif with: “If we come to power again, I do not want to see you in Pakistan!” Aitzaz Ahsan walked into the room. That was the cue to end the lecture and for her to rush to the bathroom to wash away the tears. Asif also disappeared. Ziauddin asked Aitzaz if he had heard what BB was saying while he was entering the room. He said he did but told Ziauddin not to worry, “if that happens, you will see Asif back in Pakistan.”

With Zafar Abbas, HK Burki and Minhaj Barna in New York in 1995
With Irshad Haqqani, Khalid Hasan, Shaheen Sehbai, Husain, Farooq Mazhar and Hamid Mir in New York visiting along with PM Benazir on the 50th anniversary of the UN. Photo: M. Ziauddin

Confronting Musharraf in Pakistan

During his first press conference after the takeover in 1999, Ziauddin asked General Pervez Musharraf a simple question.

“By way of a war strategy, all generals have an exit strategy. What is yours?"

The annoyed general’s response was: “I am not one who runs away."

Thus started a running war of words between the two men, which lasted till Musharraf left the political scene. One spat took place during a press conference. Ziauddin openly questioned the General’s intentions of going back to the barracks after his three years given by the Supreme Court were up. As Ziauddin put it, the intentions were suspect because Musharraf was being advised by Sharifuddin Pirzada, who had been General Ziaul Haq’s main political advisor as well.

After his court-sanctioned three-year tenure ended, Musharraf invited Dawn to interview him on his plans. He went on to say that since there was much unfinished work that needed to be done, he has decided to stay on for another five years. Ziauddin asked: “If you felt at the end of five years that there was still a lot of unfinished work that needed your personal attention, would you extend your tenure further? The answer was a gruff “Yes!”

Just before the announcement of his plans to hold the 2002 general elections, Musharraf expressed his desire to be interviewed by Dawn's publisher Hameed Haroon. Haroon said that he did not do interviews for Dawn and referred the matter to Editor Tahir Mirza. Mirza Sahib also declined and nominated Ziauddin, who was Resident Editor Islamabad then.

“So I, along with senior correspondent Raja Asghar, Lahore Bureau correspondent Ashraf Mumtaz and the newspaper's photographer, went to interview Musharraf." It was a disaster from the outset.

Before the interview started, Musharraf began talking about the newspaper's editorials as if most were misdirected and based on false premises. He brought up the ones on the Okara Farms. “I had the choice to side-step Musharraf’s onslaught by taking the position that I did not write all those editorials and he could write to the Editor listing his complaints. But Musharraf was not alone at the table.” He was accompanied by his information minister, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, his information secretary Anwer Mehmood, his secretary and a few other officials. There was a mountain of files at his side. “I felt that since I was representing Dawn on the occasion, it was my duty to defend our editorial policy, more so, because both the publisher and the Editor had, after declining the invitations to interview him, nominated me for the job.”

So, Ziauddin started defending the editorials. “On Okara farms I was very firm and tried to show how wrong the position of the army was on the issue,” said Ziauddin. “A lot of heat was generated in the process. When the discussion moved on to Kalabagh dam, I said, ‘When you decided to stage a coup you did not ask anybody or tried to mobilise support for the decision, but when you say the dam is a matter of life and death for the country you go around the country trying to mobilise public opinion to take that fateful decision. Isn’t that a glaring contradiction?’”

Before Musharraf could answer, information secretary Anwer Mehmood gave a note to Ziauddin which said: “On one hand you accuse him of being a dictator and on this issue you want him to act like one?"

As the interview wound up, they were joined for lunch by Hameed Haroon, Shaikh Rasheed Ahmad and two young upcoming politicians Omar Ayub and Kashmala Tariq. Musharraf started the conversation by praising Ayub, giving full credit to the Field Marshal for setting up Karnaphuli paper mills. "He had no idea of history as this had happened before Ayub Khan,” said Ziauddin. “Like Imran Khan, his ideas were vague." But more was to follow.

At one point Musharraf started showering praises on Omar Ayub and Kashmala Tariq and predicted that these highly educated young people had a great future. Ziauddin dryly remarked, "There was one young man called Bhutto and another called Nawaz Sharif. One was trained by Ayub and another by Zia. One became a brilliant dictator and the other not so much.”

This incensed Musharraf. “Mister Ziauddin have you ever taken the liberty to talk like this to any other leader?" Ziauddin replied in the negative but recalled an argument between Nisar Osmani and General Zia some decades back during a news conference at Lahore airport. Cassettes of their exchange were sold in the black market because Nisar Osmani had the last word in the debate between the two over some aspects of religious beliefs.

Hameed Haroon hastily intervened and tried to smoothen the ruffled feathers by diverting the conversation to the topic of Sufism, and mentioning in the course the name of Farangi Mahal. But Ziauddin knew that his fate had been sealed. His publisher knew that trouble would ensue if Ziauddin remained in Islamabad.

DAWN Editor Tahir Mirza. Photo: Omar Quraishi/Twitter
With DAWN's Tahir Mirza and Enver Beg
Secretary Information Anwer Mehmood visiting Dawn

Questioning Musharraf in London

Musharraf gave a talk at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies think tank in London in 2007, which Ziauddin recalls was attended by an unusually large number of journalists from major world media. Musharraf told the gathering how good the law and order in Pakistan was and how safe the country's nuclear assets were (that was the question he was being asked wherever he went on his tour of European capitals before reaching London). In the midst of this, Ziauddin asked about the case of British terrorist Rashid Rauf who had managed to escape from official custody in Pakistan just the other day.

“How can you say nuclear assets are safe when you cannot keep such a terrorist from escaping?" Ziauddin asked.

"Is this Mr Ziauddin?" Musharraf asked of Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, then the High Commissioner in the UK, who accompanied him to the talk. She nodded and then he went on to publicly question Ziauddin’s patriotism and virtually called him a traitor to his country. He was so upset by then that when he was asked the next question, about Iran, he blurted out what was on his mind about India.

Later in the evening he went to address the Pakistani community where recalled his altercation with Ziauddin and instructed the audience ‘do-teen tikka dain’ (slug him a few) if they saw him.

The next day all the major newspapers pegged their stories on the Ziauddin-Musharraf spat except Dawn because:

"We are journalists,” says Ziauddin. “We do not become the story."

The next day Musharraf went on to address a press conference at the High Commission. “Since it was my duty as Dawn’s correspondent in the UK and [I was] paid to cover all such stories, I called Maleeha and told her I would like to cover the press conference if the High Commission did not have any problem in having me attend it.” Ziauddin told the High Commissioner that he would not ask any questions—and he kept his word.

In front of 10 Downing Street (during Musharraf’s visit).
With Shaukat Aziz, first finance minister and then prime minister, during Musharraf’s era.

Moving to London

In 2006, Ziauddin was posted as Dawn’s correspondent in the UK where he stayed till 2009.

Before his transfer to the UK, Ziauddin had some interesting interludes concerning Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, a PR man par excellence who had the best of relations with the media. He had especially cultivated Ziauddin, Nusrat Javeed, Afzal Khan and Khalid Hasan. (Aziz even offered Ziauddin a national award, which was also declined).

When Asif Zardari was released in 2004, Shaukat Aziz told Ziauddin, Nusrat and Afzal Khan that the goal was to get him into a position to take over the party as the Musharraf regime thought that would make it easier to manipulate the PPP. Zardari had become popular among the young jiyalas because of his long drawn incarceration without showing any sign of breaking down.

Wonder of wonders, Zardari actually tried to take over the party after he was released but when he failed miserably, he went to the US for what seemed to be permanent exile. Once during his incarceration days, Ziauddin went to meet him to find out what was happening. “We were meeting in the court premises. When I asked the question about his plans, he said with extraordinary confidence: Ziauddin you would find me either in the corridors of power or behind bars. There is no third place for me.”

As soon as he arrived in London in November 2006, Ziauddin met Benazir at Rehman Malik’s house. It was crowded as she had just concluded a meeting with the party’s senior members. Ziauddin used the opportunity to brief her on what he thought was happening to the PPP in Pakistan, which was not reassuring. It was the leading party within the opposition conglomerate but the leadership was being enjoyed by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal leaders—Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Maulana Fazlur Rehman with Makhdoom Amin Fahim of the PPP being drowned out. Ziauddin concluded his brief by telling her that unless she returned home at the earliest, the PPP would soon become history.

“Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Raza Rabbani and others who heard me speak my mind disagreed with me,” said Ziauddin. “And BB, who was having a late lunch during our conversation enquired if I would report the discussion, and expressed her reservations because I had not recorded the conversation. I told her I had no intention of filing reports on off-the-record conversations.” Still, it was not an amicable meeting. “Wajid Shamsul Hasan told me later that after I had left Rehman Malik tried to reassure BB, saying he would take care of me, to which BB is said to have warned him off.”

With Dr. Maleeha Lodhi at a diplomatic reception

Covering politics in London

Before Ziauddin left Pakistan he was accosted once by the British High Commissioner to Pakistan Mark Lyall Grant and the next time by his deputy, both trying to get him to talk to Benazir. She should not insist on her cases being quashed as a condition for her return home, and by implication cooperate with Musharraf. “I told them both that I was not a confidante of Benazir and did not think she would take my advice,” Ziauddin says. “Actually, around that time, behind-the-scenes contacts between BB and Musharraf had started under the close guidance of both the UK and US, to which I was not privy. But I felt many in the decision-making circles believed that I had some kind of influence over her.” Once Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain, the chief of the then ruling Muslim League asked if Ziauddin could arrange contact with Benazir to which the journalist replied that he was not the right person. This happened at an event at a European embassy where a number of PPP parliamentarians were present. Ziauddin pointed to Raza Rabbani who was chatting with a group at some distance. “Ask him,” he said.

“It was only when I reached the UK that I heard for the first time that BB and Musharraf were meeting secretly in Dubai (2005) to work out a cooperative agreement,” says Ziauddin. “I thought BB would never do it, and filed stories on the subject as if they were being spread by anti-PPP elements.” But soon an insider told him what was going on.

The first to approach Benazir was a UK minister (Jack Straw) at the behest of the US. Then she was put in contact with the US authorities, who then arranged her secret meetings with Musharraf. Soon a team of negotiators led by ISI chief Pervez Kiyani was in London to sort out the details of the accord between the two. “I broke the story in Dawn when the agreement was signed and sealed. My story said: The deal is done.”

“Her condition for cooperating with Musharraf was that she be allowed to contest the PM’s slot for a third time and if that is not acceptable, then all her cases should be quashed. Since Pervez Elahi had his eyes on the PM’s slot, The Muslim League leadership had Musharraf agree to the second option.”

Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif, who was also in exile in the UK, had convened an all-parties conference which was attended by members of the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy or ARD, including the PPP (represented by Makhdoom Fahim and Sherry Rehman, as BB was in France at the time or perhaps was abstaining on purpose as she was in deep discussions with Musharraf). The JUI, JI and PTI of Imran Khan also attended. The final resolution said that none of the participating parties would cooperate with the MQM in future. “But BB asked Sherry to insert a note of the PPP’s dissent on the issue in the resolution.”

During the conference, Chaudhary Nisar, who seemingly suffered from pathological hatred for the PPP, persuaded the PML-N to leave the ARD and join the MMA and PTI in a new alliance, APDM, which Nawaz did. The APDM passed a resolution, saying it would boycott elections called by Musharraf in uniform.

The last question for BB

Before Benazir left the UK to return home via the UAE in August 2007, she held what was billed as her farewell presser in London. It was a crowded event at Rehman Malik’s house, spilling over with journalists from the world media.

Benazir was being bombarded with all sorts of questions, mostly by the foreign media. “In the midst of all the shoutings to get her ear, I shouted my own question which was actually a critique of her decision to cut a deal with a dictator,” says Ziauddin. BB recognized his voice and called him an esteemed Pakistani journalist before responding to his question with what could only be described as a long drawn out explanation of why she was doing what she was doing. There was no bitterness in her response, only an appreciative understanding of Ziauddin’s motive in being critical of her deal.

“That was my last encounter with her. I tried to accompany her return home on 18th October 2007 as Dawn’s editor had agreed and sanctioned the expenses. But somehow, Farhatullah Babar, who was assigned the task of finalizing the list of journalists, completely walled me off. However, I went to Pakistan on my own to witness the subsequent events. But the very next day after my arrival in Islamabad she was assassinated as she was leaving a huge public meeting in Rawalpindi.”

Zardari takes over

A group of journalists including Shaheen Sehbai, Amir Mateen, Nusrat Javeed, Masood Haider and Ziauddin went to Larkana (in 2008) to meet Zardari and the family to express condolences and offer Fateha at BB’s last resting place. By the time Ziauddin met Zardari, he had already taken over the party according to the directives in a hand-written letter purported to be Benazir’s which also named Bilawal as the next chairperson. In Zardari’s presence, Ziauddin openly voiced his serious reservations.

“Musharraf will buy off the party from you,” he said. “And you are not doing the young Bilawal any favours by appointing an 18-year old who has yet to complete his education as chairman of a national party. In fact, I think you will be putting the life of a man-child under minute scrutiny of both friends and enemies of the Bhuttos.” “Okay, let Musharraf try what you say he would do,” replied Zardari. “And by the way, it was Bilawal himself who chose a political career, no pressure from me or anybody else.”

The group spent the night at Nahid and Safdar Abbasi’s house before returning to Karachi the next morning. They found Nahid shattered. She would not stop weeping at all the meetings. She told them what had happened. “We had just received a call about an attack on Nawaz Sharif’s entourage near the airport (the old one) and BB wanted me to call NS. As I began typing the number, she suddenly stood up, without warning and began waving at the crowd from the open hatch and just as suddenly fell. And within seconds, the vehicle went into almost a somersault from the impact of explosives. I found almost a part of her brain on my hands. I shouted for the driver to make a break for the nearest hospital.”

Nahid went on to tell the group: As we were leaving in the morning, Dr Abbasi informed us that Zardari had convinced NS not to go along with his APDM colleagues and boycott the elections, because in that case, the PML-N would find it very difficult to come back into mainstream politics. So, contrary to the resolution passed by the APDM members not to contest elections under President Musharraf, both the PML-N and the JUI declared that they would participate in the forthcoming elections scheduled on February 18, 2008. But the PTI and JI, the other members of the APDM alliance, boycotted the elections as per the APDM resolution.

What Zardari did next

Zardari had a number of surprises in store for Ziauddin.

First, contrary to Ziauddin’s apprehensions that Musharraf would buy off Zardari, it was actually Zardari who got rid of Musharraf by threatening him with impeachment. Before that the new PPP head entered into a coalition with the unlikely PML-N. The cabinet of prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, which included about four PML-N nominees, was sworn in by President Musharraf. Next, Zardari had President Musharraf agree to appoint Husain Haqqani as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US. This was indeed a surprise because after he had written the book Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military, he was persona non grata.

Next, Zardari had himself elected President of his country in September 2008—a totally unthinkable proposition as far as Ziauddin was concerned. He warned the Pakistan High Commissioner in the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, against the move when he heard that Zardari was planning to contest for the august office. Ziauddin thought Zardari as president would cause immense damage to both the image of Pakistan and its foundations, and even to his party.

Instead, he saw that as soon as he was elected to the office, Zardari handed all his (almost dictatorial) presidential powers over to Parliament and initiated a move to restore the 1973 Constitution in its original form. This was accomplished in the shape of the 18th Amendment by a bipartisan parliamentary committee working under Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani.

Zardari could accomplish all this by keeping the PCO Chief Justice, Abdul Hamid Dogar, in office until his retirement on March 21, 2009. As expected, Chief Justice Chaudhary Iftikhar resumed office the same day amid highly dramatic developments. The PML-N led by Nawaz Sharif hit the streets to march on Islamabad. COAS Pervez Ashfaque Kayani intervened to save the day by talking to PM Gilani. Gilani announced the appointment of CJ Chaudhary Iftikhar at almost midnight, creating the impression that the would have taken over had he not complied with the army chief’s orders.

It was only on Dogar’s retirement and with CJ Iftikhar Chaudhary back in office that Zardari’s troubles started. First, the Chief Justice declared illegal the National Reconciliation Ordinance signed between Benazir and Musharraf. The delay in reinstating CJ Iftikhar had cost Zardari and his coalition government with the PML-N whom he had replaced with The Muslim League.

The Express Tribune days

The time in London was productive and enjoyable. Ziauddin broke some exclusives such as the deal between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, and he reported prolifically. But he was also aware that once he would return to Pakistan, he would be neglected. “And when I came back that is exactly what happened,” he says. “I went to see [Dawn Editor] Abbas Nasir, who said that he did not know where to place me.”

By some coincidence, that very same day Ziauddin received a call from Bilal Lakhani, the young publisher-to-be of The Express Tribune newspaper. This was Ziauddin’s first interaction with the Express group and he was unsure how to proceed. At a lunch with Bilal and his father Sultan Lakhani, Ziauddin made it clear that he was not interested in being Editor. “I advised them to go for a younger person, someone with more energy. It was a big exercise they were entering.”

Ziauddin wanted to be a consultant but they insisted he become Executive Editor and he agreed, taking up the position in 2009. Despite all the ups and downs, he has no regrets from his time at the paper. “Most enjoyable was working with Bilal Lakhani, who gave us—me and the Editor—enough space to do the kind of stories that the paper carried. We would write on social issues and religious issues and he gave us a lot of freedom.”

Ziauddin's exit from The Express Tribune came in 2014 after the Express Media group fought with the Jang Group after the Hamid Mir affair. There was a story on the Tribune front page in which a leading Geo TV anchor was accused of blasphemy. Ziauddin would not have any of it. “I had the best of rapport with the management, including owner Sultan Lakhani. I had advised them not to enter into a confrontation with the Jang Group and told them that Jang has great depth and would not be unseated easily.”

But the actions of the group disappointed Ziauddin. He quietly wrote his resignation and sent it across. To ensure there would be no confusion, he posted a tweet as well on July 1, 2014. And that was his clean exit.

The Express Tribune's front page story against the Jang Group that prompted Ziauddin to resign.

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Benazir Bhutto with Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan during her second term as PM. Photo. M. Ziauddin
M. Ziauddin with Amber Saigol at DAWN Islamabad's launch
M. Ziauddin with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Indian statesman and co-founder of the BJP
Minhaj Barna, HK Burki, Sherry Rehman, Masood Haider and Zahid Hussain in New York. Photo M. Ziauddin
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with PM Narasimha Rao at the Commonwealth summit in Zimbabwe in October 1991. Foreign Secretary Shahryar Khan in the picture
Usman Peerzada, Samina Peerzada, M. Ziauddin and Dilip Kumar
With Aroosa Alam and Saira Banu (Mrs. Dilip Kumar), 1998
With Dilip Kumar in at a Pakistan hotel in 1998
With Farooq Mazhar, Chaudhary Ghulam Hussain and Salamat Ali
With Hamid Haroon, Dawn’s CEO
With Indian journalists Ashok Sharma of Press Trust India and Dawn’s correspondent in New Delhi in April 1991-Photo M. Ziauddin
With Jamilur Rehman
With Kuldip Nayyar in Islamabad
With Noam Chomsky and Dr Adib Rizvi on the inauguration of Dawn’s Islamabad edition. Photo M. Ziauddin
With Razia Bhatti, Abidi sahib, MA Mansuri and Nawaz Raza of Nawa-i-Waqat in Dhaka in March 1994. Photo M. Ziauddin
With US Ambassador William Milam at DAWN
Ziauddin at the Great Wall of China on August 14, 1992. Photo M. Ziauddin
Ziauddin sb coming out of the Supreme Court after the hearing of Cowasjee’s case on the attack on the Supreme Court by PML-N workers
Ziauddin sb with Saira Banu, Mrs. Dilip Kumar, in 1988
Note from Ziauddin: Arguing with Chief Minister Jam Sadiq Ali. On a visit to Islamabad he held a press conference during which instead of answering questions he insulted reporters by asking questions. Losing my patience, I called off the press conference and walked out, leading the journalists. Outside, in the lobby of the hotel, Jam sahib accosted me and we bitterly argued over his behavior. Shaheen Sehbai was by my side. It was an unfinished match which continued at Sindh House where he was staying and had invited me for tea and to reconcile. But matters worsened and we parted on an unfriendly note.

BY KAMAL SIDDIQI

In this age of ‘fake’ news, unverified reporting and slippery ethics, it is worth examining the career of Muhammad Ziauddin, one of Pakistan's most respected names in journalism.

While working for nearly sixty years at almost all the major newspapers of the country—The Muslim, The News, DAWN, The Express Tribune—Ziauddin sahib has managed the nearly impossible: to maintain a blemish-free record throughout despite skirmishes with the high and mighty, including the once all-powerful General Pervez Musharraf.

Ziauddin sahib's struggle was not just with dictators; he put up with his fair share of irascible seniors and weak media owners. Mercifully, however, his beat reporting days are also filled with stories of unflinchingly fearless editors during some of the darkest and most tumultuous times in our political history. By attempting to document some of these stories, I hope to remind the next generation of Pakistan’s journalists that they can prevail.

Kamal Siddiqi is a journalist. He has served as Editor of The Express Tribune and is currently the director of the IBA’s Centre for Excellence in Journalism.

Editing: Mahim Maher
Development: Faizan Abbasi
With thanks to Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi for archive photos and DAWN Archives.


This story is divided into sections. Please tap or click on the bars to open them up.

Ziauddin sahib's press card from his days at the Pakistan Economist, issued by the Karachi Union of Journalists and valid for 1975 to 1977. Image courtesy: M. Ziauddin
M. Ziauddin's cricket certificate from the 1958 camp signed by AH Kardar. Photo: M. Ziauddin

Muhammad Ziauddin was born in 1938 in Madras (now Chennai). His mother was originally from Bangalore and his father Zaheeruddin Khan was a keen hockey player who almost made it to the national Indian hockey team.

The family lived in a remote town called Mahbubabad in Hyderabad, Deccan till 1948 when his father was working as manager in a match factory. The family’s fortunes fluctuated, however, after Hyderabad’s status grew uncertain following Partition. By 1948, when it fell to Indian forces, the match factory was shut down. At that time, the young Ziauddin was barely in class four.

The family returned to Madras, and then decided to move to Dhaka, East Pakistan by 1952. Zaheeruddin joined a cousin managing the family’s leather business and eventually set up his own tannery on an island on Buriganga, the river that flows along the eastern side of the city. Unfortunately, the factory would be washed away almost every year in the floods, but that was not the only problem in Dhaka.

Trouble was brewing over how the migrants to East Pakistan were behaving with the locals―acting like rulers. This was a difficult time for non-Bengalis and although there was no open aggression as such, there was resentment. Migrants, mostly from Indian Bihar and those from the-then West Pakistan, occupied most of the important government positions in East Pakistan. Even major businesses were in the hands of non-Bengalis. These conditions led to the 1954 language movement to push for Bengali to be recognised for official use in Pakistan.

In 1958, when Ziauddin was studying for his BSc in Pharmacy at Dhaka University and coaching the cricket team, he got a chance to travel to Karachi for a camp. This would be his first time seeing West Pakistan. “It was a very different city in those days,” he says, referring to Karachi which was the federal capital at the time. “Flying Orient Airways, when we were landing, I saw vast swathes of desolate land where a huge number of migrants were living in jhuggis.” From PIB Colony, he recalls, you could see all the way to Saddar. Malir was mostly farmland while Nazimabad was showing early signs of life. From Keamari you could catch a tram to different parts of the city.

The young men who had come from all over Pakistan to take part in the coaching camp were put up at the National Stadium. It was here that Ziauddin saw all the top cricketers in action: Hanif, Wazir, Mushtaq and even Sadiq, who still in his teens used to come to practice table tennis. Pakistan’s opening batsman Alimuddin was their batting coach. Master Aziz, who had coached Hanif, was also a regular visitor at the camp.

Soon after Ziauddin returned to Dhaka, the family took the decision to resettle in Karachi owing to his father’s bad health and losses at the tannery from recurring floods. And so, in 1960, when he was 21 years old, Muhammad Ziauddin moved to Karachi.

A story by HB Khokar dated June 26, 1960 in Dawn. He was the city editor. Image: DAWN Archives

Looking for work was a challenge in those days but Ziauddin managed to get a job as a medical representative for a pharmaceutical company. There were a few pharmaceutical factories in Karachi at the time but the industry itself was still in its infancy.

It was not work he enjoyed, and so by 1963, he decided to follow his passion for writing and enroll in journalism at the University of Karachi. This gave him the confidence within a few years to quit as a medical representative and take up his first job in journalism as a cub reporter in PPI (then PPA) for a paltry sum of Rs75 a month. But that was in 1966. Meanwhile, he had continued in his job as a medical representative because after suffering a severe heart attack his father had to close down his business and Ziauddin became the breadwinner for the family.

The two years at KU were tough for him. He would be in the offices of the company (CH Boehringer) where he worked as a medical representative at Qamar House (now EFU building) at around eight o’ clock in the morning but then would rush all the way to the KU at the other end of the city, changing two buses, to make it to class. As he hurried down the corridor to the classroom, the pin-drop silence of classes in session, would be broken by the rasp of his shoes announcing his arrival, which Rehman sahib, the English teacher, would wryly punctuate with: “Here comes His Royal Highness.”

“I had kept my job a secret from the staff and colleagues at the journalism department,” Ziauddin says. “Ironically, they all thought I was the scion of a well-to-do family and was attending university only as a pastime.”

During his second year he had also worked as a campus reporter for daily Dawn. He used to file to the then city editor H. B. Khokhar. It was, however, not a paid job and Ziauddin suspects Khokhar had something to do with this. (Perhaps the editor had not formally appointed him at the newspaper). Either way, he developed the impression that Khokhar lacked professional ethics and was a sycophant of the first order.

Since he had been recommended to the founding head of the journalism department, Shariful Mujahid sahib, by the late Jauhar Hussain, son of Professor Karrar Husain of Surq Sawera, Ziauddin was automatically branded by his teachers as some kind of leftist. “My notoriety based on the strange combination of half-baked surqa and royalty cost me dearly as my first-year grades were in the pits.” The only saving grace was that he managed to make up most of the lost academic territory in the final exams as their test papers went to other universities for checking and grading.

Jauhar Husain speaking to Dr Mehdi Hasan, former journalist, Dean of BNU and secretary of the HRCP. Photo: Husain Family Archive
Professor Karrar Husain. Photo: Lutfallah’s Archives/YouTube screenshot
Prof. Shariful Mujahid of KU's journalism department
A reception arranged for Shariful Mujahid and his wife on their wedding. Jauhar Husain (the tallest one) and Ziauddin were the only two seniors. All others were from second year (MA Journalism). Jauhar had graduated. Ziauddin was waiting for his results. L-R: M. Ziauddin, Najmul Hasan, Zakariya Sajid, Shariful Mujahid, Jauhar Husain. Seated (R-L): Geity Ara, Roohi Zakaullah, Razia Bondrey (later Bhatti), Mrs Shariful Mujahid, Mehr Ahsan. On the carpet (L-R) Abdul Qadir and Najam Rizvi
Abdul Hameed Chhapra. Photo: Akhtar Soomro

Before leaving university, Ziauddin made his small contribution to what the newfound student power of the 1960s was doing in universities the world over, influenced by the Vietnam War. He brought out an underground magazine called Voice of the Students, edited with Akhtar M Farooqi, who was also from the Journalism department. KU’s proctor Major Aftab was furious.

Knowing how the administration would react, the two young men prudently kept their names from appearing in its pages. But it did carry, on their own request, the names of friends from the Economics department, Abdul Hameed Chhapra and Rashid Patel who, driven by political ambition, saw the advantage in being publicly associated with the venture. In fact, the magazine was published at Chhapra’s family printing press.

Both Chhapra and Patel lost one full year of studies as punishment. Chhapra went from university to join the Jang Group and became active on the trade union front, going on to lead the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists. At one point he even stood for national elections on the ticket of Asghar Khan’s Tehreek-i-Istaqlal. Rashid Patel became a lecturer and took part in education politics but passed away young.

It took Ziauddin a fortnight to produce a second edition of Voice of the Students but this time its masthead was left blank. He was ultimately forced to discontinue the publication when his English teacher Rehman sahib recognised the writing styles of the two men from his class and warned Ziauddin and Farooqi to stop, otherwise...

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at 70 Clifton. Photo: Shama Junejo/Twitter

Immediately after he wrapped up his Master’s degree in Journalism in 1966, Ziauddin launched a monthly news magazine called Pakistan Spotlight. Ironically, the very person whom he had tried to dislodge from the office of president of the student union, Zia Abbas, was its publisher. He was a Muslim League man but allowed Ziauddin and his team full editorial independence.

Sarwar Naqvi, who later joined the Foreign Office and retired after serving as ambassador in important capitals, became its assistant editor. They were joined by a number of graduates fresh out of the Journalism department (Akhtar Farooqi, Warasat Husnain, Zamir Alam, Mehar Kamal, Rohi Zakaullah and Geity Ara).

The first issue of Pakistan Spotlight carried a comprehensive cover story on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who had just left the Ayub cabinet and was talking about forming his own party. He had developed serious differences with President Ayub Khan over the Tashkent Declaration, which was the name of the peace agreement the Soviets helped Pakistan and India sign after a 17-day war in 1965 that ended in a stalemate. It was an inspirational profile of Bhutto with him on the cover photographed in a pensive mood in an easychair on the lawns of his 70 Clifton residence.

After about four issues, however, the publisher ran out of funds and they stopped printing.

At the launch of Pakistan Spotlight (March 1966). (L-to-R) Zamir Alam, Warasat Husnain (Assistant Editors), University of Karachi Vice Chancellor, Ziauddin and publisher Zia Abbas at the mic. Photo: M. Ziauddin
A DAWN story on the newsprint crisis in 1970. Image DAWN Archive

Ziauddin then joined Pakistan’s only private news wire at the time, Pakistan Press Agency, which was later renamed Pakistan Press International. He was offered a position that his friend Jauhar Husain was asked to leave, over some made-up excuse. Jauhar had completed his Masters a year earlier and was working on probation at PPA. That job would have gone to him after his probationary period ended and would have entitled him under the labour laws to qualify for all the privileges of a permanent employee. This would have been an ‘unacceptable’ extra financial burden on the organisation and so it was easier for it to show him the door and recruit a fresh Ziauddin for the vacancy―such were the service conditions in the profession in those days. The salary was a paltry 75 rupees.

PPA’s bureau chief was Jawaid Bokhari, who retired finally as in-charge editor of Dawn’s Economic and Business Review. The wire agency was also led by Anwar Mansuri who retired as German news agency DPA’s chief in Pakistan and the late Ashfaq Bokhari. The no-nonsense Jawaid Bokhari was a tough taskmaster and self-taught economic journalist. Ashfaq, on the other hand, was a laid-back professional with a heart of gold which bled for the downtrodden and those consigned to a permanent place below the poverty line.

These were disruptive times. By August 1970, there was upheaval. Newspaper workers went on an indefinite strike, protesting the refusal of owners to honour the Wage Board Award that set minimum salaries. Journalists were already protesting the Press and Publications Ordinance (PPO) promulgated by Ayub Khan in 1963 and in the fight between newspaper owners and journalists, a number of professionals lost their jobs.

The PPO was a draconian law in its most extreme form. Briefly put, if some official sitting in a remote corner of the country did not like the colour of your shirt, he could confiscate your printing press, close down the newspaper, send you to jail and throw away the key and there would be no recourse to the law.

Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at a banquet with the outgoing Governor of Balochistan Mir Ahmed Yar Khan of Kalat and the incoming governor Nawab Akbar Bugti. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi

As matters were in transition, Ziauddin moved from PPA to the weekly Pakistan Economist in 1974 (later the Pakistan and Gulf Economist) where Ibnul Hasan was Editor. Hasan had the uncanny knack of entirely re-writing (he called it editing) an analytical piece on the economy, politics, foreign affairs or a social issue but faithfully keeping intact what the author had wanted to convey. He would do this with such precision and style that reading the article would be a joy.

It was at Pakistan Economist that Ziauddin interviewed the Khan of Kalat. “Physically a roly-poly figure, but intellectually a giant of a person, the Khan was exceptionally pleasant to converse with,” recalls Ziauddin. “What he said was a tutorial in classical politics. It was a cerebral experience that left a lasting imprint on my mind.” He took the reporter on a quick trot through Balochistan’s pre-Partition history, expanded on the relationship he had enjoyed with Quaid-i-Azam, dilated on his vision for Balochistan within an independent Pakistan and gave candid insight into how this vision was smashed to smithereens soon after Jinnah’s death. Had the centrist ruling elite of Pakistan not drastically tinkered with the Khan’s vision of Balochistan in an independent Pakistan, perhaps the country would have averted most of the sociopolitical setbacks that it had suffered over the ensuing 73 years. “Had the colonial-minded Centre not oppressed them all these years, the people of Balochistan would have, with all their rich mineral endowments and a vast coastline of white sand, taken the country far on the road to prosperity much ahead of all its western neighbours, including the oil-rich Gulf countries,” he says.

Ziauddin’s interview with minister of production Rafi Raza was quite different. After the interview on the ministry, Ziauddin asked Raza for his views on the tussle between the government led by Prime Minister ZA Bhutto and the Opposition led by Wali Khan. Rafi Raza’s short but prophetic answer was: The two should come to some amicable understanding before the return of the 90,000 or so POWs, (a good number of them being Army personnel, both officers and rankers), being held by India at the time. Otherwise, he said, all hell would break loose. He gave the impression that the Establishment was lurking in the shadows rather impatiently to get back to its politically predominant position and was only waiting for the return of its troops to make a move.

Curiously, that is exactly what happened as soon as the troops returned home—all hell broke loose: The PM dismissed the Mengal government in Balochistan on some trumped-up charges of plotting secession, ‘evidence’ for which was ‘obviously’ unearthed by the Establishment wing. In protest, the NWFP coalition government led by CM Mufti Mahmood resigned, following which the country entered a highly unstable political phase that culminated in the ouster of the PPP government by the then COAS General Ziaul Haq, arrest and subsequent hanging of Bhutto and extended dictatorship that lasted eleven years.

DAWN's M. A. Mansuri reporting on the events of July 5, 1977. Image: DAWN Archives

While he was still serving as Assistant Editor at the Pakistan Economist, Ziauddin joined a select group of the country’s top English script writers on current affairs for a TV programme The World Tonight. It used to be a weekly programme, presented by the renowned intellectual, politician and advertising genius Javed Jabbar. Ziauddin wrote a number of scripts for the programme but the best were, according to him, the ones on world population and the law of the sea.

In 1976, Ziauddin joined Morning News as an Assistant Editor on the invitation of the then Editor Sultan Ahmed. Seniors such as Rafiq Jabir, Amanullah, Akhtar Payami (City Editor) were his colleagues.

Ziauddin remembers Sultan Ahmed as a difficult Editor who would not spare even his most senior colleagues for the slightest of editorial lapses. “I kept a low profile in order to avoid confrontation," he recalls. The country changed drastically when General Ziaul Haq took the reins, staging a coup in July 1979. As expected, the regime removed Sultan Ahmed, replacing him with SR Ghauri, who was the "best editor," professional to his fingertips but also a caring human being.

Ghauri was not given the job because of any Army connections, which he did not possess, but because of the open hostility between him and Bhutto that had existed while he was editing the monthly Herald. It did not take long, however, for Ghauri and the powers that be to fall out and he left the job to be permanently lost to the profession. One of Ziauddin's responsibilities at the Morning News was to write editorials, but given his staunch aversion to dictatorship, he thought his best option, if he wanted to continue in the job, was to avoid writing on domestic happenings. The National Press Trust, which owned Morning News, had overnight turned anti-ousted civilian rule, particularly anti-Bhutto to the extent of digging up all kinds of real and imaginary scandals against him. Ziauddin thought of resigning but the job market was tight and he needed to bide his time. He requested Ghauri sahib assign him to only foreign topics for the editorials, explaining why he was asking for the favour. Ghauri readily agreed and Ziauddin pivoted to focus on international issues from then on, by steering away from local politics. Despite this, he landed in trouble over a series of editorials on the civil war in Beirut and the roles the Americans played.

It turned out that a fellow journalist had complained to the NPT chairman but not over some ideological leaning. The complaint was made during the Karachi Press Club elections that year. One of Ziauddin’s contemporaries and close friends, a well-known left-leaning journalist, Ashfaq Bokhari, was standing. As Ziauddin recalls, the complaint was made in an attempt to pressure those close to Bokhari so they did not campaign or vote for him. The NPT chairman was told that a “pro-Soviet communist” working at the Morning News had written highly critical editorials against America. “It was the first day of Ramazan and the chairman of the NPT had come to the office to meet this ‘pro-Soviet Communist’ hiding in an NPT newspaper,” recalls Ziauddin. “I was summoned to the Editor's room where the two [of them], the chairman and the Editor, were having tea.” Ziauddin was asked whether he would like to have a cup too but he declined, saying he was fasting. After some small talk the Editor asked him to return to his seat.

Later, after the NPT chairman left, the Editor called Ziauddin back. He could see Ghauri was trying to contain his laughter. With what appeared to be a wide grin on his face, Ghauri sahib joked sarcastically, ‘The chairman had come all the way from Lahore to fire a pro-Soviet Communist lurking in his Trust and went back after meeting a rozedar!’

DAWN's story from Zia's address, dated Aug. 30, 1979. Image: DAWN Archives
Editor Sultan Ahmed with ZAB. Photo Azam Sultan.
The Leader, an eveninger edited by Sultan Ahmed. Photo Azam Sultan.
Ziauddin with Saleem Asmi (L), Javed Jabbar and Khwaja Ejaz Sarwar during DAWN's Islamabad launch. Photo M. Ziauddin.
Pre-censorship on dailies lifted, says Zia from DAWN Jan 12, 1982. Image: DAWN Archives

Still, writing editorials meant courting controversy. In 1978, when General Ziaur Rehman lifted martial law from Bangladesh, Ziauddin wrote an editorial welcoming the move, but after the first salutary sentence, descended into an outpouring against dictatorship in general, which could easily be misinterpreted as being censorious of Pakistan’s regime. For good measure, a few excerpts from Bhutto’s then latest If I am Assassinated! essay were added, of course without naming him. The late Wazuddin, a sincere friend who had chosen not to go back to Bangladesh, had the task at Radio Pakistan of selecting the most important editorials of the day and relaying them verbatim every morning. He saw the title of the editorial which referred to his birthplace and without going through it just read the text without even bothering to take a pause.

This caught the attention of the then dreaded information secretary, Lt. General Mujibur Rehman, who demanded that the person who wrote the editorial be sacked immediately.

Ziauddin did not regret writing the piece but he did regret breaking Ghauri sahib’s trust. As it was a Friday, Ghauri sahib had been on his weekly day off which is why he had not seen the piece before it went to press. "I told him that I was sorry for breaking his trust but felt no regrets about writing the edit," Ziauddin says. Ghauri sahib handled it in his typical style. After a show-cause notice was issued to Ziauddin for writing an editorial “that could mar friendly relations with a foreign country” and Ziauddin apologised in writing, saying it was not his intention, Ghauri sahib and Ziauddin both went on a month’s leave each. “Let us see what happens when we return!” he had said. That was the last meeting between the two men. Ghauri sahib resigned soon after and Ziauddin was offered a job at The Muslim, a newspaper being launched from Islamabad.

An example of governmentspeak: Zia calls for healthy journalism (March 31, 1982). Photo: DAWN Archives
Ziauddin much later on with Minhaj Barna (extreme right) and Nasir Zaidi. Photo: M. Ziauddin

After almost twenty years in Karachi, Ziauddin moved to Islamabad where he worked under the legendary AT Chaudhry, Editor of The Muslim, in 1978. "He was a complete Editor," recalls Ziauddin. But the owner of the newspaper, Agha Murtaza Pooya, was a part-time politician with unconcealed ambitions. As the popularity of the newspaper grew rapidly under Chaudhry sahib’s leadership, so did Agha’s political ambitions and his interference in editorial decision-making.

The Muslim was launched at the height of Zia’s dictatorship. Editorially, AT did what the seniors at the newspaper saw as a tight-rope walk. Coverage of government policies would be critical but not confrontational. Most of the senior staffers, including Minhaj Barna, in the newspaper were from the large number of journalists dismissed from Pakistan Times for writing an open letter criticizing the policies of the National Press Trust. When questioned about this aspect of the editorial team by the establishment, AT would list the advantages of keeping the ‘rebels’ under his close watch rather than letting them go about their own, creating embarrassing mischief for the government. The Editor had developed a kind of rapport of mutual respect with the ruling junta which perhaps created the space for the newspaper to build its credibility among the discerning reader.

Ziauddin and other senior colleagues used to, daily, carry the made-up pages all the way to the Press Information Department where a junior information officer would go through them with a fine-tooth comb. Anything the officer felt did not fit government policy or was critical of it, would be removed from the page. Back in the newsroom, the page in-charge would have to fill the blank space with some innocuous story. But after a few months, the newspaper started to deliberately let the empty spaces go as is into print—a silent protest against the censorship. A law was also introduced by the Zia regime which said that even if a defamatory story was based on facts and the truth, the newspaper would be liable to be punished.

In 1981, When the publisher’s ambitions finally got the better of him, AT Chaudhry went home. It was the end of his short but eventful association with The Muslim. Ziauddin and a couple of colleagues nevertheless went to Lahore to try to persuade him to return, but AT refused. He rather tersely explained to them what publisher Agha Murtaza Pooya’s understanding of an editor’s responsibilities was: “Have you seen an accomplished artist at work in front of his canvas with a brush in his hand? His strokes and what emerges on the canvas appear so easy, so effortless. Agha would know what he has led himself into when he actually takes in hand the painting brush and stands before the canvas all set to start painting!”

Chaudhry sahib was right. Agha Pooya lost his way soon. Then out of frustration some colleagues decided to take over the newspaper, with Ziauddin leading the pack. Pooya wanted to wrest control but the journalists did not give in.

Information Secretary Mujeebur Rehman was particularly livid with this development. When Ziauddin had resigned from Morning News Rehman had offered him the editor’s job if he were to repudiate the PFUJ and resign as assistant secretary general of the union. Ziauddin had rejected the offer.

First Ziauddin’s Bangladesh editorial, then his refusal to resign from the PFUJ and now this takeover. The information secretary was apoplectic. “A takeover and that too on the main thoroughfare of the capital!” The Muslim was located on main Aabpara Road. Rehman ordered the arrest of the entire editorial team. “By sheer luck I escaped arrest as I had gone to watch a movie with my wife,” says Ziauddin. “When I got back to the office, I saw that the police had taken over the premises. I was not allowed to enter and all my colleagues were missing.”

The first task at hand was for the team to have their colleagues released. Roedad Khan was the federal interior secretary at the time and somehow, a release order was issued without much loss of time, perhaps because the administration did not want a law and order situation in the capital where all the embassies and most of the foreign news agency bureaus were located. Then financial negotiations started with Agha Pooya. Ziauddin recalls with pride that the politician-turned-senator had to cough up three months’ severance pay for all the journalists he had fired. At the forefront of this campaign was Ayaz Amir, an active trade unionist, and Iqbal Jaffery, an office bearer of The Muslim Union, who had suffered lashes ordained by a court during the early days of Zia’s regime along with Nasir Zaidi.

An unexpected outcome of this episode was that most of Ziauddin’s newspaper colleagues who didn’t have a place to live in Islamabad ended up camping at his house. “It looked like a jam-packed motel in those days."

Reporting on a strike in the film industry, August 1970. Photo: DAWN Archives
The Muslim's publisher Agha Murtaza Pooya.
The Muslim's Editor, AT Chaudhri, writing in DAWN Jan 2, 1982. Photo: DAWN Archives
Ziauddib's May 1, 1983 story in DAWN on IMF conditions. Image: DAWN Archives

Around the end of fiscal year 1981, Ziauddin saw a Karachi datelined story by Jawaid Bokhari sahib, who headed The Muslim’s bureau there. It was about the federal government urgently recalling loans extended to state enterprises. The amount seemed substantial and as Ziauddin felt his imagination getting the better of him he went back to the budget books to ferret out the revenue target for the year. He simply deducted the amount being recalled from the target and came up with the story that the revenue would suffer a shortfall by as much. In order to add further authenticity to the amount, he added a figure following the decimal.

After the story was published in The Muslim, a number of official looking persons as well as some friends of the newspaper colleagues started pressing Ziauddin to divulge the source of the story. One person asked: “Just tell me the secretariat block from which you got this story.” Ziauddin could hardly name a block because he had not even visited the federal secretariat since his arrival in Islamabad!

Two years after the story appeared, Ziauddin was taken to finance secretary HU Beg’s office in the company of a mutual friend, Sajjad Akhtar, the publisher of the weekly Pakistan Economist. When they were introduced, the finance secretary jumped out of his chair: “You’re Ziauddin!?” he almost shouted.

“In the next 15 minutes it was my turn to enter a state of shock,” recalls Ziauddin. “The amount of revenue shortfall that my 1981 budget story had mentioned was correct to the point of even the decimal. And the file containing this estimate was kept under lock and key in the finance ministry whose access was limited to Beg sahib and his secretary who was a man of his confidence.” Beg sahib disclosed that intelligence agents shadowed Ziauddin for almost two months to try to uncover his source. They never did.

Postscript: In 1983, Ziauddin won an APNS best investigative story award for his story exposing the conditions of IMF programmes. Pakistan had signed just before the US offered a five-year $3.02 billion and economic aid package in return for its help waging an American jihad against occupying Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Therefore, the IMF programme along with its conditionalities did not last for more than the first tranche.

The 1982-83 APNS award for M. Ziauddin's reporting on IMF conditions. Photo: M. Ziauddin
Hassan Akhtar of Dawn. Photo: DAWN

In 1982, Ziauddin joined Dawn’s Islamabad bureau to report on the economy beat. The bureau was led by the late M. A. Mansuri, who was succeeded by the late Hasan Akhtar and by 1990, Ziauddin succeeded Akhtar sahib.

After his experience at The Muslim, Ziauddin found that Dawn’s culture was different. Its owner Mehmood Haroun was General Zia's interior minister but Ziauddin did not sense, unlike at The Muslim, that there was editorial interference. In fact, Editor Ahmad Ali Khan appeared to be in complete control.

This was not to say that Zia’s media censorship had eased off. The PFUJ had its work cut out but luckily, its members were men of integrity: stalwarts such as Nisar Osmani, Minhaj Barna and Afzal Khan. “They were intellectuals in the true sense of the word,” says Ziauddin. “[They were] well-read and eloquent. In any government-PFUJ dialogue the Union team would dominate the discussions."

In fact, one historic example is an impromptu debate on religion between General Zia and the Dawn Lahore bureau chief and PFUJ stalwart, the late Nisar Osmani, during a press conference at the Lahore airport. Osmani won hands down and cassettes of the recording sold in black all over the country.

The PFUJ continued to be a thorn in the side of Zia's regime by staging rallies against martial law, the drastic clampdown on press freedom and harsh censorship. Its members filled jails by courting arrest on a daily basis. This was regarded by the government as damaging for its image in world capitals as the BBC persistently kept up with the news.

Being the cunning strategist, General Zia targeted the very unity of the PFUJ and broke it up by sowing seeds of discord within. With the help of his advisors, he started to patronise some journalists, most belonging to the right wing, while ignoring the rest. He developed a personal rapport with some of the chosen ones and promoted them. They could call him up with their problems and were recognized for their influence. Thus, by the time he had finished the job, Zia had divided the PFUJ on ideological grounds—left and right—with the left wing, led by Barna and Nisar Osmani, thrown to the wolves.

During this period, Dawn’s owner Mahmoud Haroun was in Zia’s cabinet as interior minister but as Ziauddin describes it, during his entire tenure Haroun never misused the Islamabad bureau by planting stories or stymying unfavourable ones. Ziauddin never received any directives from the Editor on how or how not to report on the interior ministry or the CDA which used to be under it then.

There was a small encounter that proved just how ironclad was the separation of management and editorial at Dawn. Ziauddin was returning from a foreign work trip when a graceful lady in the seat next to him on the plane struck up a conversation and asked what he did for a living. “Oh, you work for Dawn!” she cried. “Dawn is too critical of government policies and is like a mouthpiece of the Opposition!” When he inquired a little about her, he was shocked to learn that she was a close relative of Mahmood Haroun.

Is interest-free loans scheme being misused? Published, Sept 26, 1982. in DAWN. Image: DAWN Archives
Sindh Governor Mahmoud A. Haroun with Chief Minister Syed Muzaffar Shah and Liaquat Ali Jatoi visiting the 'interior' of Sindh. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi archives
A story in the EBR dated April 3, 1983 on inflation

After having attempted to render the PFUJ ineffective by destroying its unity, Zia tried to buy off newspaper owners by allowing them duty-free newsprint imports ‘strictly’ in accordance with their requirements, which were to be estimated on the basis of their circulation.

As Balzac said, behind every great fortune there is a crime. And it was a great crime when newspaper owners claimed highly exaggerated circulation numbers so they could import newsprint far in excess of their requirements so they could sell the surplus in the market at prices equal to those that carried the import duty. Overnight, newspaper owners big and small turned into tycoons. In order to justify their circulation numbers, many of them increased their pages and editions, filling them with features on all kinds of topics except critical political pieces. The owners of Dawn too benefited and indeed, two highly innovative weekly editions were launched: The weekly ‘Economic & Business Review’ or EBR and ‘Books and Authors’.

SGM Badruddin, a journalist of high standing and well-versed in the economy, headed the EBR and Assistant Editor Zubeida Mustafa was assigned Books&Authors.

The EBR was launched within a year of Ziauddin joining Dawn and since he had developed his skills in economic reporting, he became an automatic addition to Badruddin sahib’s team. It already included Shaheen Sehbai at the desk and later Babar Ayaz, Sabihuddin Ghausi and Afshan Subohi joined the team.

Drawing on several styles—comment, analysis, investigative reporting, exposes, interviews—the EBR team slowly but firmly started testing the limits of the regime, which otherwise brooked no criticism. Soon the pink pages had turned into a highly critical broadsheet of the regime’s socio-economic policies by extensively using the idiom of political economy.

General Zia’s was an opaque government. Even the most routine information such as the official rate of inflation was treated as a national secret. Officials privy to this crucial information started a roaring lucrative side business from this. Lobbyists for business groups, which had set up shop in the capital, would cultivate these officials, tempting them with cocktail parties and offers they could not refuse, in return for the all-important commercial and business information.

A story on Pakistan seeking commercial loans to fund imports by Ziauddin in the EBR, April 24, 1983. Image: DAWN Archives
An investigation into black money by Ziauddin in EBR, May 8, 1983. Image: DAWN Archives

In the meanwhile, WAPDA had become a major vehicle of corruption as aid from multilateral aid agencies, particularly the World Bank, to fund power projects was siphoned off by its decision-makers. This caused inordinate delays in these projects, forcing the Bank and other agencies to completely shut the concession window for such work in the public sector and ask the government to bring in the private sector. This led to the creation of HUBCO, the first such set-up with a non-concessional loan from the WB. Not a single megawatt was added to our generation capacity during the entire period of General Zia’s 11-year dictatorship. And by 1985, Pakistan was at the mercy of waves of country-wide brownouts as the eras of round-the-clock electricity supplies with enough for domestic, commercial, manufacturing and agricultural use came to an end.

At the same time, nationalized banks were being destroyed by official economic managers led by finance wizard Ghulam Ishaq Khan. He had failed to mobilize enough revenue to fund the budgets, which were swelling from mounting defence and non-development expenditure. And so the government had resorted to borrowing from nationalised banks at the rate of 0.6 percent from banking resources that were being mobilised at the rate of around 15 to 20 percent. Next, the government introduced an investment promotion scheme to encourage the private sector to take up import substitution. Nationalized banks were allowed to offer entrepreneurs 70% equity loans against 30% of their own contribution. This scheme was exploited to the hilt for its rent-seeking advantage. The private sector made fortunes without having to risk even a single rupee. They would get back their 30% contribution by over invoicing hardware imports for proposed manufacturing units, depositing the foreign currency thus earned in foreign banks—virtual money laundering activity. Next, the sponsors would sell the shares of their proposed units in the stock market for say Rs10 per share, then depress the price to Rs5 a share by manipulating the market they would buy back these shares thus making a killing before even setting up the plant. And once the plant started working the sponsors would pilfer utilities and evade taxes. Most of these entrepreneurs would default on bank loans and disappear with the loot leaving behind sick units.

Alongside this, a massive market for smuggled goods had started doing roaring business in the tribal areas where the laws of Pakistan did not apply. These markets were sponsored by the families of officials who were making money on the side by selling information to business lobbyists. Added to this was the long list of electronics and other gadgets that overseas Pakistani workers could bring in duty-free and sell locally at exorbitant profits. This not only deprived Pakistan of foreign exchange but also destroyed a number of fledgling manufacturing units being set up. For example, the domestic tyre-making industry suffered badly. A unit making glassware under the brand Toyo Nasic had to close down within months of opening with its products sold for peanuts on footpaths across the country. Finance minister Ghulam Ishaq Khan was not at all bothered that this was happening to the economy because, as he maintained, it was not adversely affecting official forex reserves! Once, planning minister Mehbubul Haq was asked by journalists visiting from India what was the secret to a shining Pakistan with a growth rate of over 6 percent. (India’s was 2 to 3 percent). He said, Pakistan as a nation had rejected poverty while India had owned it.

Blanket media censorship exacerbated the delusions. Ziauddin claims that at the EBR, however, staff had started testing the limits by probing deeply into these aspects of the economy and were even getting away with it. Once a former ISPR official, who was not happy with what he was reading in its pages, warned Ziauddin. But when their discussion delved into the depths of the matter, the officer lost the argument and aborted the discussion by saying: Ok, carry on.

Rao Farman Ali. File photo

General Ziaul Haq paid an eight-day state visit to the US in December 1982 at the invitation of President Reagan. This was when the US was taking a deeper look at Pakistan’s strategic location in the context of Washington’s policy to contain Communism. The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 added momentum to this policy and prompted the US to establish a closer relationship with Pakistan.

A week after General Zia returned, Ziauddin received a call from Anwar Hussain, who was in charge of PTV’s current affairs programme. He invited Ziauddin to join a panel of three journalists on a TV talk show planned on the pattern of Face the Nation, a weekly American news and morning public affairs programme, airing Sundays on the CBS radio and television network. Typically, the programme featured interviews with prominent American officials, politicians and authors, followed by analysis from a panel of experts.

Before agreeing, Ziauddin asked two questions: What was the provocation for starting such a programme in such an opaque environment? And did Anwar Hussain know Ziauddin’s opinions about policies which he had been expressing rather guardedly in his EBR columns?

To the first question, Anwer said that the general himself had asked PTV to start such a programme as he had watched a few Face the Nation episodes during his US visit and was impressed by what he saw.

To the second question Anwer’s answer was vague. He seemed more interested in producing a ‘credible’ programme. For the first show Petroleum Minister Rao Farman Ali had come prepared for the TV station which was Chaklala those days, carrying some twenty files. Ziauddin had most of the facts and figures on the petroleum sector at his fingertips, therefore, the one hour-long programme ended without the minister getting a chance to refer to his files. Ziauddin claims by the time the hour ended, the minister seemed thrown off balance and was looking for an escape route.

Friends at PTV told Ziauddin later on that Rao Farman stayed back after the recording to watch the outcome in the OB van. He did not like what he saw and said as much to PTV. When they refused to pull the show, he took the recording to the president. It never aired.

The next day another panel led by Ziauddin was pitted against another cabinet minister, this time the all-knowing Lt. Gen. (retd.) Saeed Qadir, minister for privatization, in the PTV recording room. Ziauddin claims this minister did not fare any better either but he appeared to not even know what had hit him.

When PTV telecast this episode after a couple of days, it was received by viewers as an oddity because of the way a government’s minister was cut down to size by a mere journalist. PTV never invited Ziauddin again as long as Gen Zia was in power.

Note from Ziauddin: “I interviewed Altaf Hussain in London in mid-1994. He did not let me use my camera. He took hold of it as soon as I entered the room and returned it only when I was on my way out.”

By 1984, a Presidential referendum was held and elections on a non-party basis for the National and provincial assemblies were planned for February 1985.

But before the elections, the political landscape was set to change with the entrance of a group of young University of Karachi students calling themselves the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM). Their main grouse was against the government job quota system which they argued discriminated against those who had migrated from India and settled in Karachi. The movement gave expression to the suppressed resentment the Urdu-speaking people had felt when Sindhi language was introduced in Karachi as compulsory subject in 1974 along with Urdu, the national language. The regime had discontinued Sindhi as a compulsory subject from Karachi school syllabuses. Some of their complaints were genuine as some rules were introduced to keep Karachi domicile people out of government jobs.

The perceived and real complaints of Mohajirs in Karachi were exploited to the hilt by General Zia to create a violent ethnic faultline in Sindh in the 1980s. He wanted to neutralize the severe pressure from the Sindh-based Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), a historically populist, left-wing political alliance formed to oppose and end his government. The MRD was launched in February 1981 and led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), a mostly nonviolent alliance rooted in Sindh’s rural areas. However, the MRD’s failure to expand beyond its southern stronghold combined with repression from the led to its demise. Zia allowed the MQM a free hand to terrorise rural Sindhis or Mohajirs who had supported the PPP.

Ghaus Ali Shah, a former judge who had served the Sindh government between 1981 to 1988, first as minister and then chief minister, has publicly claimed on a number of occasions that he helped General Zia create and promote the MQM. From 1983 onwards, until he was declared an ‘Indian agent’ in 2016 and cut off from the party in Pakistan, MQM’s founder Altaf Hussain ruled urban Sindh, first from Karachi and then from London, after he absconded to the UK. He had two faces—a political one which he used to capture, by hook or by crook, urban Sindh seats in the provincial and national assemblies, and a militant one in the form of a network of sector in-charges who were his hitmen. His grip extended from college and university campuses to hospital wards, the corridors of government and even newsrooms.

The Establishment gave Altaf a free hand out of the fear that taking any action against him would only let urban Sindh slip back into the hands of the PPP. It never wanted because then it would have been impossible for the establishment to rule the country in accordance with its own agenda.

It was only when the PTI was nurtured into the MQM slot that it was time for Altaf to be shown the door.

Benazir Bhutto during the 1988 elections. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi
An MQM news clipping dated Nov 3, 1985 in DAWN
DAWN reporting on Junejo, Jan 1, 1986

President Ziaul Haq nominated Muhammad Khan Junejo as prime minister on March 20, 1985. Junejo instantly promised the nation that he would lift Martial Law and restore civilian government as soon as possible. His position was, however, weak and vulnerable under Zia’s constitutional amendments, which subordinated the prime minister to the president. Despite this, Junejo fulfilled his promise and lifted Martial Law to restore fundamental rights, but at the price of the Eighth Amendment, thereby validating the Revival of the Constitutional Order imposed by Zia.

When Martial Law was lifted in December 1985, Benazir Bhutto decided to return. She arrived at the Lahore airport in April 1986, where she was greeted by a massive crowd. And an estimated two million people came to see her speak at Iqbal Park, where she railed against Zia's regime.

Ziauddin first saw Benazir when she addressed a press conference in Karachi (just before she went into exile). She shone with supreme confidence, criticising the dictatorship throughout her intetion with the media. Hers was not a sentimental denunciation, but the well thought-out expression of an Opposition leader. “Some of my colleagues who attended the press conference, seemingly put off by her confidence, were heard quipping: Who is she? What does she have other than the political legacy of her father? They insisted that they were not impressed. I, being a sentimental slob, saw in her a leader in the making.”

After her return from exile, she went hammer and tong against the Zia regime, addressing large public gatherings around the country. Her refrain was the economy, which she declared was going to the dogs. To prove her point, she would quote from articles published in Dawn’s Economic & Business Review and she would be gracious enough on occasion to name their authors. “We [Ziauddin, Shaheen Sehbai and Babar Ayaz] felt like we were on cloud nine. However, it was only after she became PM that I had an opportunity to meet her face-to-face,” says Ziauddin.

DAWN's reporting of the events of April 10, 1986, the day Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan. The crowds came to welcome here at Lahore airport. Image: DAWN Archives
Benazir Bhutto addressing a press conference during the Zia era. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi
The Geneva Accord is signed, DAWN April 15, 1988. Image: DAWN Archives

In March 1988, Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo called an all-parties conference on Afghanistan. He wanted Benazir Bhutto to take part in order to ensure it was a success, but she demanded that Zia be left out and Junejo accepted. A piqued Zia retaliated by instructing Junejo he was not to sign the Geneva Peace Accord on the Afghanistan settlement. Buoyed by the all-parties conference’s support for his stance, Junejo nevertheless dispatched foreign minister Zain Noorani to the headquarters of the United Nations.

The Geneva accord was signed on April 14, 1988, between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the United States and Soviet Union serving as guarantors. Junejo had to pay the ultimate price for going against a dictatorship and by May 29 was unceremoniously dismissed on charges of corruption of all things. Zia dissolved the assemblies and on July 16 announced that fresh general elections would be held on November 16. It is said that Benazir duped the dictator into believing that she would be on maternity leave around that period. In fact, she gave birth to her first born, Bilawal, on September 21, and within a week was up and running for the November polls.

By August 17, however, Zia had died in a plane crash, leaving Benazir with what appeared to be a level playing field. It would have been a landslide victory had former chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence Lt-Gen (retd) Hameed Gul and his agency (as he once publicly disclosed) not created and financed the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, a conglomerate of right-leaning and religious parties led by Nawaz Sharif.

The PPP won 94 seats, a little short of a majority against the Nawaz-led IJI's 55 seats. Independents took 37 seats, including 13 to the MQM whose candidates stood as independents, and 19 to smaller parties. Since the PPP was the single largest party, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan was obliged to invite Benazir to form the government—but he did not.

Ghulam Ishaq Khan had wanted to give the Nawaz-led IJI enough time to make a successful bid for the government in Punjab before Benazir was offered the PM’s slot. He feared that if she were elected prime minister before the political fate of Punjab was decided, all the Punjab independents would go over to the PPP. The party’s candidate for chief minister, Farooq Leghari, was working hard to win them over. Finally, it was Nawaz who wooed enough independents over and out-bid Leghari to form the IJI government in Punjab.

The PPP still managed to show a clear majority by winning the support of 13 MQM MNAs and eight members from what was then the federally administered tribal areas (now tribal districts).

DAWN's reporting of the events of 1988. Image: DAWNArchives
DAWN's reporting of the events of 1988. Image: DAWNArchives
DAWN's reporting of the events of 1988. Image: DAWNArchives
DAWN's reporting of the events of 1988. Image: DAWNArchives
DAWN's reporting of the events of 1988. Image: DAWNArchives
DAWN's reporting of the events of 1988. Image: DAWNArchives
Altaf Hussain, Nawaz Sharif, Abida Hussain and Ghulam Mustafa Jaoi gang up against Benazir 1989. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi

Benazir Bhutto was asked to form the government after she had consented to three major conditions: the assurance of the election of Ghulam Ishaq Khan as president, the retention of former foreign minister Lt. General Yaqub Ali Khan in the cabinet, and that the Defense budget would not be reduced.

Benazir did everything she could that did not cost money: free prisoners, lift the ban on unions, permit freedom of the press. Political freedom increased during this period but her government was unable to adopt policies for long term socio-economic transformation.

Soon her administration was plagued by strong and persistent allegations of corruption, political patronage at public expense, autocratic tendencies and personal animus against political opponents.

The appointment of her mother Nusrat Bhutto as a senior minister without a portfolio, followed by the selection of her father-in-law Hakim Ali Zardari as chairman of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee was viewed in some quarters as ill-advised nepotism. Benazir's government also set up the controversial Placement Bureau which made political appointments to the civil bureaucracy, although it was later abolished. She let the political legacy of her family intrude, for example, when capable public servants who had earlier harbored disagreements with her father, were dismissed for reasons other than performance. The failure of the PPP to share power and its spoils with its coalition partners caused further alienation, including the withdrawal of the MQM from the government by October 1989.

An anti-PPP alliance is forged with with Ghafoor Ahmed, Abdul Wali Khan, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Altaf Hussain and Nawaz Sharif 1990. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi
DAWN's coverage of the no-confidence move by Hasan Akhtar, Nov 2, 1989.

On September 18, 1989, the MQM formally aligned itself with the IJI which had grown into a bigger alliance called the Combined Opposition Parties determined to bring down the PPP regime. Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto survived the November 1, 1989 vote of no-confidence moved by Nawaz Sharif and his IJI. A total of 119 votes were needed to dislodge her. With 92 seats in the National Assembly, the PPP needed at least another 27 votes to survive. The IJI had 54 votes, but sought an extra 65 to oust the government. With both parties in need of additional votes, a battle to woo parliamentarians began in earnest.

Allegedly, a lot of money was thrown around by both parties. Many observers began to describe the politics of the time as a lucrative business. In the final count, the IJI-led opposition could only bag 107 votes, falling short by 12 votes.

Benazir may have survived the no-confidence vote but she did not subsequently make any substantial effort to build bridges with political opponents and, thus, national politics remained fragile.

Before the vote of no-confidence, Benazir had accused of a conspiracy to bring down the government. At the time, this was written off as a political statement—but 24 years later intelligence officials went on to testify before higher courts that they had indeed been involved in political maneuvering. For example, in February 2013 a three-member bench of the Supreme Court was hearing a case about the misappropriation of Intelligence Bureau secret funds during 1989. Former IB director General Masood Khan Khattak claimed that non-political forces were behind the no-confidence vote. He named President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg as the men who wanted to dislodge BB’s government in the shortest possible time. A former officer of the army’s engineering services had a series of very business-like meetings between certain PPP MNAs and leaders of the opposition IJI, with two serving army officers (Brigadier Imtiaz and Major Amir) acting as intermediaries. The meetings are held against the backdrop of the Opposition’s impending no-confidence move against the Benazir Bhutto government in October 1989, when political horse-trading had touched unprecedented heights.

Though BB’s government was sent packing eight months later, it did not depart through a parliamentary vote but through a presidential decree. For the time being, Article 58 2 (b) would hold greater sway than the popular mandate. It would be removed later, in 1989, by the very man who had been adamant that it be employed: Nawaz Sharif.

PM Nawaz Sharif with press secretary Husain Haqqani in Zimbabwe for the 1991 Commonwealth Summit. Photo M. Ziauddin

Ziauddin’s first encounter, not a rather happy one, with the first PPP government was after one of his stories in Dawn alleged that PPP MNAs and MPAs were charging money from successful job seekers via the Placement Bureau set up inside PM’s Secretariat (the MNAs could recommend two candidates and the MPAs one).

“Interior minister Aitzaz Ahsan sent an FIA team to Dawn’s offices in Islamabad to fetch me for questioning. I refused and as my other colleagues came to know about the matter, within no time a resounding protest emanated from the journalist community. The Interior Ministry backed off and after a couple of months I received a letter of apology from the minister himself.”

Earlier, when the new information minister Javed Jabbar addressed his first news conference, Ziauddin sought an answer from him over a conflict of interest that had arisen because of his links with the MNJ advertising firm. “Javed and I were friends from our university days when he was doing his honors as I was completing my Master’s. The question was deliberate and intended to make it clear that from now on the two of us were on opposite sides—he in government and I as its watchdog.”

Most of the independent media had been trying to break the shackles of press curbs all these years and was at the same time trying to do justice to its role as a watchdog as honestly as possible under the circumstances. It had welcomed the advent of an elected government but also used its new-found freedom to keep it under critical watch. The media was not bothered about the new government’s fragility, which usually accompanies such a transition from dictatorship, and worked to expose its weaknesses and flaws in its economic management, the combined effect of which was manifesting in rampant corruption.

After the failure of the no-confidence motion, the first Benazir government wooed the Press rather earnestly. In fact, the more critical you were of the government, the closer you found yourself to it. The prime minister herself would be seen personally trying to win over the more critical writers. Husain Haqqani was one such case. As advisor to Punjab CM Nawaz Sharif, Haqqani was one of BB’s bitterest critics and was also the author of a number of concocted scandals against her. But then, during Benazir’s second tenure, Haqqani was appointed federal information secretary.

Ziauddin at the so-called Surrey Palace pictured in 1996
DAWN's reporting from Feb 1989. Image: DAWN Archives

Once Ziauddin heard information minister Javed Jabbar telling a PTV reporter who had wanted his advice on how to cover an event, to use his professional judgment instead of seeking his advice. “I wish he had followed his own principle,” Ziauddin says. “Jabbar once asked me how to cover the bloody riots in the Blue Area in front of the American Cultural Center during protests against Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses published in September 1988.”

Ziauddin’s advice to Jabbar was to show it as it was because the global media which had covered the event would expose the government if he went with an edited version.

Some of the PPP old guard, who had never accepted him as a new face, and that too in charge of the sensitive information portfolio, forced BB to get rid of him. They blamed him for the ‘bad publicity’ that the PTV coverage of the event had earned for the PPP government.

Five people were killed and as many as 80 were reported injured as the center of Islamabad turned into a battlefield. Several thousand Muslims marched on the American cultural center, throwing stones at it and demanding the death of the writer and a ban on the book. The police, after failing to disperse the crowd with tear gas, opened fire on the demonstrators, two of whom had climbed to the roof of the center and pulled down the American flag.

This violence was a startling reminder of the depths of radical Islamic fervour in a country that was trying to make a transition to democracy. It was an indication of the difficulties that governments have faced when trying to steer a course between modernization and single-minded Islamic orthodoxy.

At a diplomatic reception during Benazir Bhutto’s second term as PM. Photo: M. Ziauddin

Ziauddin’s first face-to-face encounter with Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto took place soon after she had survived the no-confidence motion in 1989. A dozen or so journalists (from a distance of 30 years he can recall the names of only two of them, Ayaz Amir and the late Jamilur Rehman sahib) were invited to meet her at the PM’s Secretariat.

It was a no-holds barred encounter with Ayaz. “A few other journalists and I were going hammer and tong against everything that the PPP government had done since it had come to power,” he says. “We criticized the appointment of Hakim Ali Zardari as the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and Asif Ali Zardari being allowed to do business from an office in the Secretariat. The PM defended her decisions as best she could, but the encounter was more of a draw.”

In the evening Ziauddin received a call from Wajid Shamsul Hassan, the former editor of the eveninger Daily News, and a good friend. He was very close to BB, who held him in high esteem. He reprimanded the journalist for being too harsh on her.

The next detailed meeting Ziauddin had with Benazir was when she was out of power and holding out as the leader of the Opposition. He was introduced to her by the late HK Burki, a senior journalist who had worked for Pakistan Times and had been close to ZAB. Both Begum Bhutto and BB knew him and used to seek his opinion on policy matters. Another senior journalist, Afzal Khan, who was one of the directors of the Associated Press of Pakistan, the government-run wire service, was also part of the trio that met BB on occasion. Ziauddin recalls, “While introducing us, Burki sahib asked BB if she could spot Ziauddin. To our amusement, BB promptly pointed at Afzal Khan.”

The day Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed her government using Constitutional Article 58 (b), a large group of Islamabad journalists went to Sindh House to meet her. “She welcomed all of us and we crowded around her as she sat on the sofa answering our queries on the why’s and how’s of her ouster,” Ziauddin recalls. “She was in a good mood and was even joking. Zahid Hussain and Kaleem Omar were sitting at her feet, indulging in a good-natured repartee with her.” They were the authors of a vicious piece on her government’s and especially her husband’s alleged corruption and indulgences with the headline ‘Take the bags and run’ published in the monthly Newsline magazine.

To their amazement President Ghulam Ishaq Khan had used stories of her government’s alleged corruption cases published in Dawn (filed by Shaheen Sehbai and Ziauddin) as grounds for his decision to dismiss her government. And what was more amazing was that the Supreme Court accepted the newspaper stories as proof beyond an iota of doubt and upheld the dismissal order. But what really left an impression was the fact that Benazir never ever let this matter alter their relationship. In fact, on no occasion did she ever complain to them about this matter.

Note from Ziauddin: At a reception during Benazir’s first term as leader of the Opposition. She spent the entire evening gossiping with me as she wanted to avoid some senior politicians who were eager to have a word with her. She made it as if we were talking about something very serious. Photo: M. Ziauddin
Foreign Minister Z A Bhutto with journalist H K Burki in the UN, 1965. Photo Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi
Khalid Hasan and HK Burki, journalists from Pakistan compare notes in Simla, 1972. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi
Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo with Punjab Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif. Photo: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi

This formula was repeated when President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed the first Nawaz government as well. His reference to the Supreme Court against the Nawaz government also carried as proof our stories of alleged corruption published in Dawn. But this time the SC ruled that newspaper stories cannot be regarded as proof beyond any doubt, rejected them and restored the Nawaz government.

The Establishment made it impossible, however, for Nawaz to resume power at the Centre by toppling Punjab Chief Minister Ghulam Haider Wyne through a no-confidence vote and installing Manzoor Wattoo. The new CM and Punjab Governor Chaudhary Altaf Hussain made it impossible for the prime minister to function. As the business of the government came to a complete halt, the COAS, General Abdul Waheed Kakar, was seemingly forced to intervene and had both the PM and the President resign so that a caretaker government under Prime Minister Moin Qureishi could be appointed.

The clash between PM Nawaz and President Ghulam Ishaq that was said to have led to their exit did appear contrived, with many people feeling that there was more to it. Many years after the episode the actual reason was divulged to Ziauddin in person by former foreign minister, the late Sahibzada Yaqub Ali Khan. This is what he said: As the senior Bush was clearing his desk before leaving the White House following his defeat at the hands of President Bill Clinton, he saw a file awaiting the president’s signature. Had he signed that file Pakistan would have been declared a terrorist state and consequently suffered the punishments such as serious economic sanctions and geopolitical isolation. The file was full of stories of terrorist incidents in many parts of the world, especially in Egypt and its neighborhood traced to Pakistan’s ‘non-state’ actors.

For reasons unknown, Bush did not sign the file and left it for the incoming President Bill Clinton to do the ‘needful’. As luck would have it, the Clintons were in awe of Benazir and were said to be her fans. Meanwhile, on January 9, 1993 president-elect Clinton gave Pakistan six months to refute Indian charges that it was sponsoring international terrorism.

The Establishment developed a plan to use this goodwill to make it possible for Pakistan to escape being declared a terrorist state. The Plan: Get rid of illegal Arab immigrants to prevent any extremists among them from using Pakistan to foment violence in other countries. After a crackdown on illegal immigrants, hundreds of Arab nationals were arrested on suspected links to Islamist militants. Next, oust Nawaz somehow and bring in Benazir for a second stint.

Ziauddin with Sahibzada Yaqub Ali Khan at a diplomatic reception

Ziauddin found an exiled Nawaz more articulate and more his own man than he had appeared in Pakistan even during his two terms in the PM’s office. During the UK Dawn posting whenever Ziauddin had an opportunity to hear Nawaz in public or one-on-one, he came back impressed. Nawaz was most articulate in his silence to questioning about his opinion on the negotiations between Benazir and Musharraf. Ziauddin thought they were seemingly in violation of the Charter of Democracy the two had signed just months earlier. Nawaz would just smile at such questions.

The general elections were held on October 6, 1993. The PPP won 86 seats and the PML-N secured 72 seats. The Establishment maneuvered to keep the PPP out of Punjab where it let the PPP’s alliance partner, the PML-Chattha win most seats. And in order for the PPP to win enough seats to become the largest single party in the National Assembly so it could be invited to form the government, the Establishment had the MQM boycott the elections on some flimsy grounds. This paved the way for the PPP to bag the urban Sindh seats which had traditionally belonged to the MQM.

Benazir was in London on a maternity visit from January until perhaps June, 1993. It is presumed that she had little idea of what was going on in Pakistan during this period as Farooq Leghari and Shafqat Mehmood were participating on her behalf in the Establishment's conspiracy to oust Nawaz.

“I was in Lahore looking after Dawn’s Lahore Bureau when Benazir issued an ultimatum to the government that she would march on Islamabad if the PML-N government did not resign,” recalls Ziauddin. “A couple of days before the march was scheduled to start, I took a round of the city but to my utter puzzlement did not see any signs of preparation. I rushed to the house where Benazir was staying and was immediately ushered into her presence. She put my worries to rest by assuring me of the success of her campaign, march or no march.” True enough; a day before the march, COAS Kakar had done his job!

“I found she would grow uncomfortable whenever we talked about the way she came back to power for the second time. Perhaps if she had her own way, she would not have perhaps participated in the conspiracy.” The Nawaz-led IJI did not win a two-thirds majority in the November 1996 elections without the help of the Establishment. There is an affidavit signed by Lt. Gen Durrani in the Supreme Court that he had obtained about Rs140 million from Mehran Bank on the orders of COAS General Aslam Beg to distribute among a number of IJI stalwarts, including Nawaz Sharif, to help them get enough seats.

That is why after losing the elections, Benazir had famously said: They [the IJI] have stolen the polls.

DAWN's coverage from Oct 7, 1993 byline Shaheen Sehbai
Ziauddin with the cricket team of The News in 1992 when he was Editor for just one year. Photo: M. Ziauddin

Ziauddin was then moved to Lahore as Resident Editor of Dawn on the promise that an edition would soon follow from that city. But this did not happen and he felt he was being wasted there because Lahore was too small a beat compared to the centre of power in Islamabad.

So when Jang Group owner Mir Shakilur Rehman or MSR offered him the position of Editor of the Islamabad edition of The News, in 1991, following the departure of Dr Maleeha Lodhi as Ambassador to the US, Ziauddin made the change. He soon realized that MSR, unlike the owners of Dawn, was acting like a super editor. There was an element of guile as well in the editorial policy. In one instance, an editorial on the former chief justice Nasim Hasan Shah was allowed to go in the Islamabad edition but was dropped from its Lahore and Karachi editions.

MSR's involvement continued to grow. Once there was a disagreement over the placement of an advertisement, during Benazir Bhutto’s second term. It concerned a property dispute among the elder Sharifs.

The advertisement had to be placed on the front page of The News which showed the womenfolk of the estranged side of the Sharif family protesting outside the Model Town residence of Mian Sharif. This was being placed, in Ziauddin’s words, to demean Nawaz Sharif and his family. He refused to carry the advertisement and soon after there was a call from MSR insisting that it should go. Ziauddin refused and at one point during the argument MSR blurted out that the advertisement had in fact come from Zardari. Ziauddin told MSR to ask Zardari to call him, which never happened, and the advertisement was not carried. But this incident was the beginning of a schism between the publisher-cum-chief editor and the editor.

Then there was a story by Ilyas Khan (now with BBC) in the newly launched TNF (The News on Friday) edition. TNF's first editor was Beena Sarwar with Fareshteh Aslam overseeing sections in Karachi. It was later renamed The News on Sunday. The story was about heroin smuggling in National Logistics Cell trucks. Ilyas Khan’s story had referred to 2 Army officers being involved, but due to a typo, the published story carried the figure of 20.

“It was around noon that I got a call from a shaken MSR,” Ziauddin recalls. “He asked me to come over to the ISI headquarters in Aabpara where a number of angry officers were waiting for me along with MSR. But I had done my homework by the time I arrived. I readily accepted the typo blunder and then offered to publish an apology on the front page in the next day’s edition. This was graciously accepted by the officers present.” But that was not the end of it.

As the meeting at the ISI headquarters was coming to an amicable end, MSR volunteered on his own that along with the apology, the paper would also mention that Ilyas Khan was being dismissed. Ziauddin was taken aback and protested rather mildly. Back in the office he insisted that if anyone was to be fired it should be him, because whatever was printed in the newspaper was the Editor’s responsibility.

MSR sent the Editor a roundabout apology written by the then information secretary Husain Haqqani, but under an obscure pen-name. Ziauddin told the courier who had brought the ‘apology’ that he would not give space on the newspaper’s front page to an obscure source. The ‘apology,’ he insisted, would either go under Haqqani’s name or not at all. It did not, finally. Instead, the paper carried an apology without the dismissal order. The last straw came when annual newspaper staff increments had to be fixed. Ziauddin was disappointed to see his recommendations had been set aside and MSR was issuing his own, based on criteria no one knew. After he debated this with MSR for a week, the reply was curt and final. “He said it was his decision and he would not change it,” recalls Ziauddin. "After this I decided that the time had come to move on as the staff would not respect me if they got to know that I had no say in the process of fixing annual increments.”

To be fair to MSR, many people in the administration of The News, Rawalpindi said that his interference had been at a minimum during Ziauddin’s tenure as Editor. He had even, on occasion, reluctantly accepted Ziauddin’s counter-suggestions, which had never been the case with some earlier Editors.

These matters came down to a newspaper’s culture; Dawn’s, under the late Ahmad Ali Khan, was totally different from that of The News. Khan sahib had instilled self-confidence in his senior colleagues by giving them the freedom to be their own bosses in their spheres of responsibility. These senior colleagues had the freedom to recruit and recommend annual increments.

What Khan sahib would not countenance was a story bouncing. He would insist that a full text of the clarification, contradiction or full version of the other side of the story be published immediately. There would be no ‘I stand by my story’ unless the reporter could completely satisfy the Editor, which would be never. It was only in the case of Shaheen Sehbai that this rule was relaxed because he would always be able to back his stories with authentic official documents. Khan sahib’s wrath would be confined to seniors such as Bureau Chiefs or edition in-charges and not the reporter who had filed the story.

The story on heroin trade by Ilyas Khan titled 'Poppy Politics' in The News, Sept. 23, 1994 and the subsequent responses to it. Images courtesy: Ilyas Khan
Ziauddin with Saleem Asmi and Ahmad Ali Khan at DAWN's Islamabad edition launch in 2001.

The time to move came sooner than Ziauddin had expected. It was the end of the year 1993 when he received a call from Ahmad Ali Khan, asking him to rejoin Dawn as its Islamabad Bureau Chief. This he did and by 2001 the Islamabad edition of the paper was launched and Ziauddin became its first Resident Editor.

Ziauddin claims that he was the first among his professional colleagues at equivalent grades in the entire industry to receive an office car. Next, when he came back to the Islamabad bureau, the office paid for his membership at the Islamabad Club, another first.

During this period, Mahmood Haroun had for some time served as the Governor of Sindh. But one never felt that he was in any way trying to use the newspaper for his own purposes. Once he was not holding any government position, he invited all of Dawn’s senior staffers to dinner at his residence in Karachi. Editor Khan sahib attended the dinner but kept a low profile throughout the evening. After dinner, Haroun issued a short and sweet political statement: If you receive a report from my office which you think is worth the front page, then put it on the back page; if it is worth the back page, put it inside; if it is worth the inside pages, then throw it away!

Wajid Shamsul Hasan, former Pakistan High Commissioner in UK at Ziauddin's elder brother’s residence in London. (R-L): Moinuddin Khan (brother), M. Ziauddin, Wajid, Mrs. Wajid, Mrs Masroor Zia, Mrs Moinuddin.

The caretaker government of Prime Minister Miraj Khalid had planned interviews of party leaders on PTV as part of a pre-election programme, in 1997. The political parties were allowed to name the panel of interviewers (limited to two journalists) of their choice. PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto’s panel of choice included Ziauddin and Rehana Hakim, Editor of Newsline magazine. Convinced that the PPP had named him expecting him to go soft and not ask any embarrassing questions, Ziauddin called up friend Wajid Shamsul Hasan, a close aide of Benazir, and warned him against nursing any such expectations. Hasan knew Ziauddin too well to argue.

When the interview began, it quickly turned into a heated argument with Benazir angrily rejecting all questions on corruption stories involving her government, especially her spouse. At times she sounded as if she was trying to bully the interviewers. With the interviewers trying hard to keep the session from turning into an interrogation, and BB sounding as if she would walk out in anger any minute, it was a miracle that it lasted its allotted time. And to Ziauddin and Hakim’s surprise, they encountered a different Benazir during the post-interview tea at the PTV Karachi GM’s office. She was friendly, warm and asked them for the latest on the political scene and shared her assessments and opinions.

Tasneem and Zafar Abbas with Ziauddin.

The very first action Benazir took after being sworn in as prime minister for the second time was to withdraw the army from Karachi where it had hunkered down for a running feud with MQM hitmen. She handed the city over to Interior Minister General Naseerullah Babar who, although a sensible man, returned Karachi to its police force. The police had been on the receiving end of months of turmoil leading up to the birth of the MQM-Haqiqi, engineered by Karachi Corps Commander General Asif Nawaz. This was when MQM hitmen had killed a number of policemen and officers. And so, as soon as the police were back in control, scores of fake encounters took place daily in which MQM workers were mowed down. It was a mass bloodletting.

Three journalists (Ziauddin, Zafar Abbas and Zahid Hussain) took up the fake police encounters with the prime minister aboard the aircraft on their way to attend the 50th session of the UN. She kept defending the decision and the conversation turned bitter. As it ended, one of the three men warned the PM: Giving so many powers to the police force could damage the government itself. And his words proved true. Her very own brother, Murtaza Bhutto, was killed in an ‘accidental’ shoot-out outside 70 Clifton.

Early in Benazir’s second term, in 1994, Zardari’s self-appointed advisor, the late Azhar Sohail, had somehow managed to persuade him to be interviewed on PTV by some ‘credible’ journalists to establish his own integrity and trustworthiness. Farhad Zaidi sahib, who was heading PTV, was assigned the task of recruiting Ghazi Salahuddin and Ziauddin for the job. Both refused.

But a trick had been played. Ziauddin was told that Ghazi Salahuddin had agreed to do the interview and Ghazi Salahuddin was told that Ziauddin had agreed. As it turned out, both men went to PM House (where the interview was to take place) to find out why the other had agreed. So when they found out the truth, they told Farhad sahib not to bother making arrangements and to let them leave.

By the time this had transpired, Zardari had arrived and Azhar Sohail had completed, in the meanwhile, the hard part of the interview. Ziauddin and Salahuddin continued to refuse to do a command performance. They told Zardari not to take the risk because they would not hold back, especially when it came to his alleged corruption stories.

With a characteristic broad smile, Zardari dared them to ask any question and told the camera crew to start rolling. Left with no choice, the two journalists started the interview. By the time they wrapped up what they thought was a complete slaughter, the broad smile had left Zardari’s face and Azhar Sohail looked as if he had eaten something disagreeable. The interview was never broadcast.

With Zafar Abbas, HK Burki and Minhaj Barna in New York in 1995

During Benazir’s second term (1993-1996), Ziauddin frequently met her, mostly with Burki sahib or Shaheen Sehbai joining them if he was in town (he was Dawn’s Washington correspondent at the time). Normally, the meetings would take place after some official banquet at PM House. Burki Sahib had kept warning her to beware of President Farooq Leghari, which she did not take seriously. When the discussion would turn to her government’s alleged corruption, she would turn to Nawaz Sharif’s corruption and wonder how she was going to contest against a billionaire in the next election.

Once she offered Ziauddin a job in the Planning Commission which he politely declined. On another occasion, she publicly announced at a media function that she was thinking of naming him for a national award. He requested her not to. “I said that after receiving the award, my work would be judged through the prism of the award,” recalls Ziauddin. “If I criticized her policies, my readers would think I was just trying to boost my professional standing at her cost. If I praised her policies, they would mistake it to be an attempt on my part to return the favour. I suggested a journalist should accept such awards only after retirement.” She asked: “When do you retire, Ziauddin?” She was left with no choice but to change the subject with a chuckle when he said, “Prime Minister, journalists don’t retire!”

The PM visited Ziauddin’s home to condole with the family on the passing of his young daughter. She came with her full entourage which included Nahid Khan and Farhatullah Babar. While she was still at the house, Farhatullah Babar took Ziauddin aside and told him that the PM had offered to fund the couple’s Hajj. Ziauddin was obliged but politely declined.

Once Benazir convened a brainstorming session at PM House and invited two representatives from almost every walk of life. MA Zuberi of the Business Recorder and Ziauddin came from the media. She began by first inviting Ziauddin to speak and he instead wondered why there was no representation from the armed forces, who had a lion's share of the national budget. For a few seconds there was pindrop silence but the PM recovered quickly and told him that she represented the armed forces so it was not to worry and he should present his ideas. After she lost the 1996 elections and before she went into exile, Ziauddin had a few meetings. Once she had invited him to her house for tea but upon his arrival he was ushered into a comfortably fitted room where she was chatting with about three or four wives of ambassadors. “The topic was of no interest to me,” Ziauddin says. “So, I kept quiet, only to go red in the face and try my best to avoid the good-humored stares of the guests when Benazir said, ‘We wanted five children but they kept Asif incarcerated most of the time.’ She certainly appeared to be a rare political person enjoying motherhood.”

As the guests were leaving, Benazir was informed that Amanullah Khan of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front had arrived. She met Khan in another room and Ziauddin accompanied her. The gist of their conversation was she was pleading with Khan not to go on a solitary freedom mission but to hitch up to the Hurriyat bandwagon, an idea which he appeared to dislike.

Before she went into exile Ziauddin had what he describes as his last meeting with the couple in Pakistan. This was at the Opposition leader’s chamber in the National Assembly. One of her aides had approached Ziauddin in the corridor and told him Benazir would like to see him in her chambers. As he entered he saw BB sitting in the chair across a huge desk, Zardari ensconced in a sofa nearby and a third person in a low chair next to Zardari’s sofa. As Ziauddin greeted the two, the man who was talking to Zardari in whispers, stood up to leave, but before he left, he knelt and touched Zardari’s feet.

As soon as he left, Benazir turned to Asif and chided him for letting the man do that. With a sheepish smile Zardari said he did not ask the man and that it was just an age-old Sindhi tradition. Benazir appeared genuinely infuriated and told Asif that such traditions should be done away with. She began what sounded like an angry lecture. When he tried to calm her down she became angrier, raising her voice. He looked as if he had lost his voice. Every time he opened his mouth to say something, she would shout him down.

At some point, during the one-sided exchange, Ziauddin heard the name Murtaza Bhutto. Soon, Benazir was in tears as she recalled her late brother clearly blaming Asif for the souring of relations between her and Murtaza. Ziauddin witnessed the exchange which lasted for about ten minutes or so in utter embarrassment. Just as she was warning Asif with: “If we come to power again, I do not want to see you in Pakistan!” Aitzaz Ahsan walked into the room. That was the cue to end the lecture and for her to rush to the bathroom to wash away the tears. Asif also disappeared. Ziauddin asked Aitzaz if he had heard what BB was saying while he was entering the room. He said he did but told Ziauddin not to worry, “if that happens, you will see Asif back in Pakistan.”

With Irshad Haqqani, Khalid Hasan, Shaheen Sehbai, Husain, Farooq Mazhar and Hamid Mir in New York visiting along with PM Benazir on the 50th anniversary of the UN. Photo: M. Ziauddin
DAWN Editor Tahir Mirza. Photo: Omar Quraishi/Twitter

During his first press conference after the takeover in 1999, Ziauddin asked General Pervez Musharraf a simple question.

“By way of a war strategy, all generals have an exit strategy. What is yours?"

The annoyed general’s response was: “I am not one who runs away."

Thus started a running war of words between the two men, which lasted till Musharraf left the political scene. One spat took place during a press conference. Ziauddin openly questioned the General’s intentions of going back to the barracks after his three years given by the Supreme Court were up. As Ziauddin put it, the intentions were suspect because Musharraf was being advised by Sharifuddin Pirzada, who had been General Ziaul Haq’s main political advisor as well.

After his court-sanctioned three-year tenure ended, Musharraf invited Dawn to interview him on his plans. He went on to say that since there was much unfinished work that needed to be done, he has decided to stay on for another five years. Ziauddin asked: “If you felt at the end of five years that there was still a lot of unfinished work that needed your personal attention, would you extend your tenure further? The answer was a gruff “Yes!”

Just before the announcement of his plans to hold the 2002 general elections, Musharraf expressed his desire to be interviewed by Dawn's publisher Hameed Haroon. Haroon said that he did not do interviews for Dawn and referred the matter to Editor Tahir Mirza. Mirza Sahib also declined and nominated Ziauddin, who was Resident Editor Islamabad then.

“So I, along with senior correspondent Raja Asghar, Lahore Bureau correspondent Ashraf Mumtaz and the newspaper's photographer, went to interview Musharraf." It was a disaster from the outset.

Before the interview started, Musharraf began talking about the newspaper's editorials as if most were misdirected and based on false premises. He brought up the ones on the Okara Farms. “I had the choice to side-step Musharraf’s onslaught by taking the position that I did not write all those editorials and he could write to the Editor listing his complaints. But Musharraf was not alone at the table.” He was accompanied by his information minister, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, his information secretary Anwer Mehmood, his secretary and a few other officials. There was a mountain of files at his side. “I felt that since I was representing Dawn on the occasion, it was my duty to defend our editorial policy, more so, because both the publisher and the Editor had, after declining the invitations to interview him, nominated me for the job.”

So, Ziauddin started defending the editorials. “On Okara farms I was very firm and tried to show how wrong the position of the army was on the issue,” said Ziauddin. “A lot of heat was generated in the process. When the discussion moved on to Kalabagh dam, I said, ‘When you decided to stage a coup you did not ask anybody or tried to mobilise support for the decision, but when you say the dam is a matter of life and death for the country you go around the country trying to mobilise public opinion to take that fateful decision. Isn’t that a glaring contradiction?’”

Before Musharraf could answer, information secretary Anwer Mehmood gave a note to Ziauddin which said: “On one hand you accuse him of being a dictator and on this issue you want him to act like one?"

As the interview wound up, they were joined for lunch by Hameed Haroon, Shaikh Rasheed Ahmad and two young upcoming politicians Omar Ayub and Kashmala Tariq. Musharraf started the conversation by praising Ayub, giving full credit to the Field Marshal for setting up Karnaphuli paper mills. "He had no idea of history as this had happened before Ayub Khan,” said Ziauddin. “Like Imran Khan, his ideas were vague." But more was to follow.

At one point Musharraf started showering praises on Omar Ayub and Kashmala Tariq and predicted that these highly educated young people had a great future. Ziauddin dryly remarked, "There was one young man called Bhutto and another called Nawaz Sharif. One was trained by Ayub and another by Zia. One became a brilliant dictator and the other not so much.”

This incensed Musharraf. “Mister Ziauddin have you ever taken the liberty to talk like this to any other leader?" Ziauddin replied in the negative but recalled an argument between Nisar Osmani and General Zia some decades back during a news conference at Lahore airport. Cassettes of their exchange were sold in the black market because Nisar Osmani had the last word in the debate between the two over some aspects of religious beliefs.

Hameed Haroon hastily intervened and tried to smoothen the ruffled feathers by diverting the conversation to the topic of Sufism, and mentioning in the course the name of Farangi Mahal. But Ziauddin knew that his fate had been sealed. His publisher knew that trouble would ensue if Ziauddin remained in Islamabad.

With DAWN's Tahir Mirza and Enver Beg
Secretary Information Anwer Mehmood visiting Dawn
In front of 10 Downing Street (during Musharraf’s visit).

Musharraf gave a talk at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies think tank in London in 2007, which Ziauddin recalls was attended by an unusually large number of journalists from major world media. Musharraf told the gathering how good the law and order in Pakistan was and how safe the country's nuclear assets were (that was the question he was being asked wherever he went on his tour of European capitals before reaching London). In the midst of this, Ziauddin asked about the case of British terrorist Rashid Rauf who had managed to escape from official custody in Pakistan just the other day.

“How can you say nuclear assets are safe when you cannot keep such a terrorist from escaping?" Ziauddin asked.

"Is this Mr Ziauddin?" Musharraf asked of Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, then the High Commissioner in the UK, who accompanied him to the talk. She nodded and then he went on to publicly question Ziauddin’s patriotism and virtually called him a traitor to his country. He was so upset by then that when he was asked the next question, about Iran, he blurted out what was on his mind about India.

Later in the evening he went to address the Pakistani community where recalled his altercation with Ziauddin and instructed the audience ‘do-teen tikka dain’ (slug him a few) if they saw him.

The next day all the major newspapers pegged their stories on the Ziauddin-Musharraf spat except Dawn because:

"We are journalists,” says Ziauddin. “We do not become the story."

The next day Musharraf went on to address a press conference at the High Commission. “Since it was my duty as Dawn’s correspondent in the UK and [I was] paid to cover all such stories, I called Maleeha and told her I would like to cover the press conference if the High Commission did not have any problem in having me attend it.” Ziauddin told the High Commissioner that he would not ask any questions—and he kept his word.

With Shaukat Aziz, first finance minister and then prime minister, during Musharraf’s era.
With Dr. Maleeha Lodhi at a diplomatic reception

In 2006, Ziauddin was posted as Dawn’s correspondent in the UK where he stayed till 2009.

Before his transfer to the UK, Ziauddin had some interesting interludes concerning Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, a PR man par excellence who had the best of relations with the media. He had especially cultivated Ziauddin, Nusrat Javeed, Afzal Khan and Khalid Hasan. (Aziz even offered Ziauddin a national award, which was also declined).

When Asif Zardari was released in 2004, Shaukat Aziz told Ziauddin, Nusrat and Afzal Khan that the goal was to get him into a position to take over the party as the Musharraf regime thought that would make it easier to manipulate the PPP. Zardari had become popular among the young jiyalas because of his long drawn incarceration without showing any sign of breaking down.

Wonder of wonders, Zardari actually tried to take over the party after he was released but when he failed miserably, he went to the US for what seemed to be permanent exile. Once during his incarceration days, Ziauddin went to meet him to find out what was happening. “We were meeting in the court premises. When I asked the question about his plans, he said with extraordinary confidence: Ziauddin you would find me either in the corridors of power or behind bars. There is no third place for me.”

As soon as he arrived in London in November 2006, Ziauddin met Benazir at Rehman Malik’s house. It was crowded as she had just concluded a meeting with the party’s senior members. Ziauddin used the opportunity to brief her on what he thought was happening to the PPP in Pakistan, which was not reassuring. It was the leading party within the opposition conglomerate but the leadership was being enjoyed by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal leaders—Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Maulana Fazlur Rehman with Makhdoom Amin Fahim of the PPP being drowned out. Ziauddin concluded his brief by telling her that unless she returned home at the earliest, the PPP would soon become history.

“Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Raza Rabbani and others who heard me speak my mind disagreed with me,” said Ziauddin. “And BB, who was having a late lunch during our conversation enquired if I would report the discussion, and expressed her reservations because I had not recorded the conversation. I told her I had no intention of filing reports on off-the-record conversations.” Still, it was not an amicable meeting. “Wajid Shamsul Hasan told me later that after I had left Rehman Malik tried to reassure BB, saying he would take care of me, to which BB is said to have warned him off.”

Before Ziauddin left Pakistan he was accosted once by the British High Commissioner to Pakistan Mark Lyall Grant and the next time by his deputy, both trying to get him to talk to Benazir. She should not insist on her cases being quashed as a condition for her return home, and by implication cooperate with Musharraf. “I told them both that I was not a confidante of Benazir and did not think she would take my advice,” Ziauddin says. “Actually, around that time, behind-the-scenes contacts between BB and Musharraf had started under the close guidance of both the UK and US, to which I was not privy. But I felt many in the decision-making circles believed that I had some kind of influence over her.” Once Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain, the chief of the then ruling Muslim League asked if Ziauddin could arrange contact with Benazir to which the journalist replied that he was not the right person. This happened at an event at a European embassy where a number of PPP parliamentarians were present. Ziauddin pointed to Raza Rabbani who was chatting with a group at some distance. “Ask him,” he said.

“It was only when I reached the UK that I heard for the first time that BB and Musharraf were meeting secretly in Dubai (2005) to work out a cooperative agreement,” says Ziauddin. “I thought BB would never do it, and filed stories on the subject as if they were being spread by anti-PPP elements.” But soon an insider told him what was going on.

The first to approach Benazir was a UK minister (Jack Straw) at the behest of the US. Then she was put in contact with the US authorities, who then arranged her secret meetings with Musharraf. Soon a team of negotiators led by ISI chief Pervez Kiyani was in London to sort out the details of the accord between the two. “I broke the story in Dawn when the agreement was signed and sealed. My story said: The deal is done.”

“Her condition for cooperating with Musharraf was that she be allowed to contest the PM’s slot for a third time and if that is not acceptable, then all her cases should be quashed. Since Pervez Elahi had his eyes on the PM’s slot, The Muslim League leadership had Musharraf agree to the second option.”

Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif, who was also in exile in the UK, had convened an all-parties conference which was attended by members of the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy or ARD, including the PPP (represented by Makhdoom Fahim and Sherry Rehman, as BB was in France at the time or perhaps was abstaining on purpose as she was in deep discussions with Musharraf). The JUI, JI and PTI of Imran Khan also attended. The final resolution said that none of the participating parties would cooperate with the MQM in future. “But BB asked Sherry to insert a note of the PPP’s dissent on the issue in the resolution.”

During the conference, Chaudhary Nisar, who seemingly suffered from pathological hatred for the PPP, persuaded the PML-N to leave the ARD and join the MMA and PTI in a new alliance, APDM, which Nawaz did. The APDM passed a resolution, saying it would boycott elections called by Musharraf in uniform.

Before Benazir left the UK to return home via the UAE in August 2007, she held what was billed as her farewell presser in London. It was a crowded event at Rehman Malik’s house, spilling over with journalists from the world media.

Benazir was being bombarded with all sorts of questions, mostly by the foreign media. “In the midst of all the shoutings to get her ear, I shouted my own question which was actually a critique of her decision to cut a deal with a dictator,” says Ziauddin. BB recognized his voice and called him an esteemed Pakistani journalist before responding to his question with what could only be described as a long drawn out explanation of why she was doing what she was doing. There was no bitterness in her response, only an appreciative understanding of Ziauddin’s motive in being critical of her deal.

“That was my last encounter with her. I tried to accompany her return home on 18th October 2007 as Dawn’s editor had agreed and sanctioned the expenses. But somehow, Farhatullah Babar, who was assigned the task of finalizing the list of journalists, completely walled me off. However, I went to Pakistan on my own to witness the subsequent events. But the very next day after my arrival in Islamabad she was assassinated as she was leaving a huge public meeting in Rawalpindi.”

A group of journalists including Shaheen Sehbai, Amir Mateen, Nusrat Javeed, Masood Haider and Ziauddin went to Larkana (in 2008) to meet Zardari and the family to express condolences and offer Fateha at BB’s last resting place. By the time Ziauddin met Zardari, he had already taken over the party according to the directives in a hand-written letter purported to be Benazir’s which also named Bilawal as the next chairperson. In Zardari’s presence, Ziauddin openly voiced his serious reservations.

“Musharraf will buy off the party from you,” he said. “And you are not doing the young Bilawal any favours by appointing an 18-year old who has yet to complete his education as chairman of a national party. In fact, I think you will be putting the life of a man-child under minute scrutiny of both friends and enemies of the Bhuttos.” “Okay, let Musharraf try what you say he would do,” replied Zardari. “And by the way, it was Bilawal himself who chose a political career, no pressure from me or anybody else.”

The group spent the night at Nahid and Safdar Abbasi’s house before returning to Karachi the next morning. They found Nahid shattered. She would not stop weeping at all the meetings. She told them what had happened. “We had just received a call about an attack on Nawaz Sharif’s entourage near the airport (the old one) and BB wanted me to call NS. As I began typing the number, she suddenly stood up, without warning and began waving at the crowd from the open hatch and just as suddenly fell. And within seconds, the vehicle went into almost a somersault from the impact of explosives. I found almost a part of her brain on my hands. I shouted for the driver to make a break for the nearest hospital.”

Nahid went on to tell the group: As we were leaving in the morning, Dr Abbasi informed us that Zardari had convinced NS not to go along with his APDM colleagues and boycott the elections, because in that case, the PML-N would find it very difficult to come back into mainstream politics. So, contrary to the resolution passed by the APDM members not to contest elections under President Musharraf, both the PML-N and the JUI declared that they would participate in the forthcoming elections scheduled on February 18, 2008. But the PTI and JI, the other members of the APDM alliance, boycotted the elections as per the APDM resolution.

Zardari had a number of surprises in store for Ziauddin.

First, contrary to Ziauddin’s apprehensions that Musharraf would buy off Zardari, it was actually Zardari who got rid of Musharraf by threatening him with impeachment. Before that the new PPP head entered into a coalition with the unlikely PML-N. The cabinet of prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, which included about four PML-N nominees, was sworn in by President Musharraf. Next, Zardari had President Musharraf agree to appoint Husain Haqqani as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US. This was indeed a surprise because after he had written the book Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military, he was persona non grata.

Next, Zardari had himself elected President of his country in September 2008—a totally unthinkable proposition as far as Ziauddin was concerned. He warned the Pakistan High Commissioner in the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, against the move when he heard that Zardari was planning to contest for the august office. Ziauddin thought Zardari as president would cause immense damage to both the image of Pakistan and its foundations, and even to his party.

Instead, he saw that as soon as he was elected to the office, Zardari handed all his (almost dictatorial) presidential powers over to Parliament and initiated a move to restore the 1973 Constitution in its original form. This was accomplished in the shape of the 18th Amendment by a bipartisan parliamentary committee working under Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani.

Zardari could accomplish all this by keeping the PCO Chief Justice, Abdul Hamid Dogar, in office until his retirement on March 21, 2009. As expected, Chief Justice Chaudhary Iftikhar resumed office the same day amid highly dramatic developments. The PML-N led by Nawaz Sharif hit the streets to march on Islamabad. COAS Pervez Ashfaque Kayani intervened to save the day by talking to PM Gilani. Gilani announced the appointment of CJ Chaudhary Iftikhar at almost midnight, creating the impression that the would have taken over had he not complied with the army chief’s orders.

It was only on Dogar’s retirement and with CJ Iftikhar Chaudhary back in office that Zardari’s troubles started. First, the Chief Justice declared illegal the National Reconciliation Ordinance signed between Benazir and Musharraf. The delay in reinstating CJ Iftikhar had cost Zardari and his coalition government with the PML-N whom he had replaced with The Muslim League.

The Express Tribune's front page story against the Jang Group that prompted Ziauddin to resign.

The time in London was productive and enjoyable. Ziauddin broke some exclusives such as the deal between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, and he reported prolifically. But he was also aware that once he would return to Pakistan, he would be neglected. “And when I came back that is exactly what happened,” he says. “I went to see [Dawn Editor] Abbas Nasir, who said that he did not know where to place me.”

By some coincidence, that very same day Ziauddin received a call from Bilal Lakhani, the young publisher-to-be of The Express Tribune newspaper. This was Ziauddin’s first interaction with the Express group and he was unsure how to proceed. At a lunch with Bilal and his father Sultan Lakhani, Ziauddin made it clear that he was not interested in being Editor. “I advised them to go for a younger person, someone with more energy. It was a big exercise they were entering.”

Ziauddin wanted to be a consultant but they insisted he become Executive Editor and he agreed, taking up the position in 2009. Despite all the ups and downs, he has no regrets from his time at the paper. “Most enjoyable was working with Bilal Lakhani, who gave us—me and the Editor—enough space to do the kind of stories that the paper carried. We would write on social issues and religious issues and he gave us a lot of freedom.”

Ziauddin's exit from The Express Tribune came in 2014 after the Express Media group fought with the Jang Group after the Hamid Mir affair. There was a story on the Tribune front page in which a leading Geo TV anchor was accused of blasphemy. Ziauddin would not have any of it. “I had the best of rapport with the management, including owner Sultan Lakhani. I had advised them not to enter into a confrontation with the Jang Group and told them that Jang has great depth and would not be unseated easily.”

But the actions of the group disappointed Ziauddin. He quietly wrote his resignation and sent it across. To ensure there would be no confusion, he posted a tweet as well on July 1, 2014. And that was his clean exit.

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Benazir Bhutto with Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan during her second term as PM. Photo. M. Ziauddin
M. Ziauddin with Amber Saigol at DAWN Islamabad's launch
M. Ziauddin with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Indian statesman and co-founder of the BJP
Minhaj Barna, HK Burki, Sherry Rehman, Masood Haider and Zahid Hussain in New York. Photo M. Ziauddin
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with PM Narasimha Rao at the Commonwealth summit in Zimbabwe in October 1991. Foreign Secretary Shahryar Khan in the picture
Usman Peerzada, Samina Peerzada, M. Ziauddin and Dilip Kumar
With Aroosa Alam and Saira Banu (Mrs. Dilip Kumar), 1998
With Dilip Kumar in at a Pakistan hotel in 1998
With Farooq Mazhar, Chaudhary Ghulam Hussain and Salamat Ali
With Hamid Haroon, Dawn’s CEO
With Indian journalists Ashok Sharma of Press Trust India and Dawn’s correspondent in New Delhi in April 1991-Photo M. Ziauddin
With Jamilur Rehman
With Kuldip Nayyar in Islamabad
With Noam Chomsky and Dr Adib Rizvi on the inauguration of Dawn’s Islamabad edition. Photo M. Ziauddin
With Razia Bhatti, Abidi sahib, MA Mansuri and Nawaz Raza of Nawa-i-Waqat in Dhaka in March 1994. Photo M. Ziauddin
With US Ambassador William Milam at DAWN
Ziauddin at the Great Wall of China on August 14, 1992. Photo M. Ziauddin
Ziauddin sb coming out of the Supreme Court after the hearing of Cowasjee’s case on the attack on the Supreme Court by PML-N workers
Ziauddin sb with Saira Banu, Mrs. Dilip Kumar, in 1988
Note from Ziauddin: Arguing with Chief Minister Jam Sadiq Ali. On a visit to Islamabad he held a press conference during which instead of answering questions he insulted reporters by asking questions. Losing my patience, I called off the press conference and walked out, leading the journalists. Outside, in the lobby of the hotel, Jam sahib accosted me and we bitterly argued over his behavior. Shaheen Sehbai was by my side. It was an unfinished match which continued at Sindh House where he was staying and had invited me for tea and to reconcile. But matters worsened and we parted on an unfriendly note.