After October 12th, we were like a leaderless crowd. Nobody knew what had happened and what had to be done. People were turning to the senior party leadership. At that time, the senior party leadership were really only the Chaudhrys, and a few people like Zulfiqar Ali Khosa. In November, when party members finally got together, I said, “We must come out to the streets. Such a big party, such a big mandate, and there is not a single man willing to protest?”

The next day, I was at home in Faisalabad. The police and agencies raided my house, arrested me and brought me to Lahore. I was blindfolded, my hands tied behind my back. They hung me and began to systematically beat me. The blood completely soaked my clothes. I was being constantly abused, they told me I had spoken out against the army.

I was thrown into a cell and presented in court after 16 days. They accused me of distributing anti-army pamphlets in Ghalib Market, Lahore. I couldn’t even believe what I was reading. Even now, I often ask them, “Yaar who wrote those treacherous pamphlets? It certainly wasn’t me, so perhaps it was you.” They charged me with 124A, waging war against the government, and threw me into jail. It wasn’t until three months later that I was released by the court.

The madness went on. We’d be caught and released on and off. You see, the same people who abandoned us then, are back with us now, sitting next to me in the cabinet. But believe me, in those days, there was no one. Between 12th October and April 2000, we were almost completely alone. It was only when Mian Nawaz Sharif was given the life sentence instead of death that people started cautiously coming back. Perhaps in the history of the world, no courtroom has ever erupted in such rejoicing at the awarding of a life sentence. We congratulated Begun Kulsoom Nawaz. It was the hope we needed.

I was elected MPA in the 2002 elections. During a heated debate in the House in 2003, I jokingly said, “What do generals know about making laws?”

To them, I had crossed a line. On the night of 8th March, 2003, I was picked up by the agencies and taken to the ISI office in Faisalabad. For hours, I was tortured. They cut me and rubbed petrol in my wounds, beat me, shaved off my head, my eyebrows, my face. When I passed out from all the pain, I was thrown onto a bypass on the motorway. When I regained consciousness in the early hours of the morning, I found a nearby petrol station, called home and was picked up.