On the evening of the 12th, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif came to the Aiwan-e-Sadar and showed me written orders that said General Pervez Musharraf was to be dismissed as army chief and General Ziauddin Butt to be appointed in his place. “The President may please see,” said the document. I signed it, “Seen.”

Two hours later, news began trickling in that the army had taken control of the government. I called the Prime Minister’s personal line. “Is all well?” I asked when he picked up. “The army has entered the Prime Minister House,” he said. “What are my orders?” I asked him, but the phone line was cut and my message never reached him.

Late that night, the telephone rang in the Aiwan-e-sadar. It was General Pervez Musharraf calling from Karachi. “Please wait for me,” he said. “Don’t take any decisions on your own.” He reached me at dawn and with a salute said, “Sir, you will continue to hold this office.” I told him I needed three days to consider his demand. He was visibly disturbed by my answer and carried on. “We need your consent immediately because only you can give us democratic cover. If you refuse, the whole world will declare us a rogue state.”

“In this country, General Sahib,” I told him, “Ayub placed martial law, so did Yahya and Zia. But none of them had been dismissed by the Prime Minister of their time. Tell me, what legacy do you want to leave for yourself, all for the sake of this office?”

By this time, I had already sent my son to Lahore with a clear message: tell Mian Muhammad Sharif that I do not want to stay in the Aiwan-e-Sadar for a moment longer, but I will do so if he says in the end.

The general was getting increasingly impatient and demanded an answer every day. But it wasn’t until October 16th that baray Mian Sahib’s message reached me. “There is nobody left but you,” it said. “The thought of leaving the presidency must never cross your heart. For as long as possible, remain at your designation.”

When General Musharraf came to see me again, with the request to give my consent, I had already received a message from baray Mian Sb and informed him I would continue as President. The very next day he addressed the nation and notified the people that I had agreed to remain at my office on his request.

A press note that appeared in the press on 18th October 1999 said that after his speech Pervez Musharraf went to Aiwan-e- Sadar and thanked the President, Rafiq Tarrar, for giving his consent to continue.