Home Opinion The Tale Of Junejo’s Premiership

The Tale Of Junejo’s Premiership

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Nusrat Javeed

When I came across the Sunday edition of the English newspaper “Dawn” while reading newspapers at home on Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised. On its front page were excerpts from a book titled “My Dear Jinnah,” authored by Salman Farooqui. Seeing the author’s name, I was taken aback. Some of you may remember that Salman became a prominent figure during the mid-1980s.

Despite residing in Islamabad since 1975, it took me quite a while to establish direct acquaintance with him. Despite being part of Islamabad’s knowledgeable journalists and politicians group, Salman was always portrayed in a negative light due to his brilliance. He was presented as a government official who, with the skill of being ‘closest’ to the most powerful individuals in power, became ‘rich’ through his ‘skill’.

His apparent ‘skill’ was also considered a key to corruption. Consequently, stories, both true and fabricated, about Salman continued to circulate between 1988 and 1999, under every government’s tenure. Despite promises, no one provided me with a document that would enable me to narrate the “strange tale of corruption” against him.

Salman’s personality and his role as a government official shaping our state’s decision-making are not the subject of today’s column. The excerpts from his yet-to-be-released book that I read on Sunday morning were limited to the years 1985 to 1988. During those years, Muhammad Khan Junejo was our Prime Minister.

Despite his nomination and subsequent dismissal by his ‘creator,’ General Zia-ul-Haq, our attention here has been quite minimal. It was my good fortune that, after eight years of the long martial law, when General Zia decided to ‘revive democracy’ through ‘non-party elections,’ I was a more active and vigilant reporter. Apart from being a reporter for the Islamabad-based newspaper “The Muslim,” I also wrote a column in the same newspaper about diplomatic events.

I expressed a desire to be given the opportunity to write about the Press Gallery rather than report on the proceedings of the newly formed National Assembly. Gradually, this column became one of the most widely read columns in our newspaper. Many people began to think that while reading this column, they could find the foundations of the stability or instability of any government. Although I always wrote this column with caution, trying to find the motivations behind its movements within the corridors of power.

Reading excerpts from Salman’s book brought me the greatest joy because the reasons he stated for the rise and fall of Junejo were expressed in the same manner in my columns, despite not having direct access to the corridors of power. What Salman has chosen in his book.

After the 1985 elections, President Zia, in military uniform, gained the authority to nominate any member of the non-party-based National Assembly as Prime Minister. It was assumed that whoever the President, wearing a uniform, nominated would be the Prime Minister, and the other members of the National Assembly would vote for him with “trust” from the back of the hall, considering him “present, sir.”

When the elections took place, rumors spread in Islamabad that due to being close to the ‘establishment,’ either Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali or Ali Ahmed Sumroo from Balochistan would be nominated for the post of Prime Minister. However, I began to feel that after Bhutto’s execution, General Zia had started playing games to appease Sindh, and perhaps the nominated person would also be someone who wanted to become General Zia’s ‘chosen one.’

With this thought in mind, I began efforts to reach Pir Pagara. After several days of effort, I was able to reach him, but often questions were evaded with mocking laughter, or they would start spinning around the chair with their feet on the backrest late at night.

One day, I was sitting in their room in the afternoon when a gentleman entered barefoot. After introducing himself, Pir Sahib just said that his name was Muhammad Khan Junejo and he had come from ‘our side’ to the National Assembly. After saying this, he asked me to leave, saying he needed to talk to his guest alone.

The manner in which Junejo entered Pir Pagara’s room and the urgency with which Pir Sahib had me expelled from his house forced my curious mind to further explore about Muhammad Khan Junejo. In this context, the late Chaudhry Anwar Aziz proved to be very helpful to me.

In the National Assembly of 1962, he and Junejo were members under the banner of the West Pakistan Assembly. Junejo was also made Minister for Railways. With his help, I learned that Yasin Wattoo was quite close to Junejo these days. After getting the ‘tip,’ I went in search of Yasin Wattoo, and after obtaining more information from him, I assumed that Muhammad Khan Junejo, hailing from Sanghar, was being nominated for the post of Prime Minister.

After Junejo was nominated, he took the oath and immediately announced that “martial law and democracy cannot go together.” Incorporating this sentence into my column, I stirred controversy by suggesting that General Zia had found his own General Zia in Junejo. My sentence caused quite a stir. “Democracy” had just been restored. Anyway, my sentence was also printed in the English newspaper.

Therefore, it was ‘saved.’ From the first day of holding power, those who nominated Junejo as Prime Minister, General Zia, began to regret their decision and eventually, on May 28, 1988, they sent Junejo home with the powers of the eighth amendment. However, later, in August 1988, he also met with a tragic accident.

As a reporter, I report almost daily in my newspaper column about the increasing differences between Junejo and the late General Zia over the Gulf crisis. Salman Farooqi’s hidden stories, while explaining these differences, make it easy to understand due to his acquisition of the highest government positions.

My insight is that the key message here is that those in ‘power’ need complete control over ‘authority and power.’ If any Prime Minister dares to interfere with this ‘monopoly,’ then, like the late Junejo, despite being an honest and cautious custodian of national resources, he will be sent home. Those who accept the ‘job’ of Prime Minister in our beloved country must always remember this fact.

Note: This is the translation of his column published in Nawai Waqt. 

 

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