A lot has been said in the last few days by some retired persons and some media persons about remarks I allegedly made about the former dictator, General Pervez Musharraf. The dust has now settled but to put the record straight I would like to submit some facts. This is important because whatever I said will be a part of history and it should be based on facts and not fabricated assumptions.

It was March 31, 2014, when I entered the National Assembly Hall and Mr. Asif Hasnain of MQM had taken the floor of the house. He was delivering a passionate speech in favour of the former dictator and was pleading his case, asking why the Government was not allowing him to leave the country. As per parliamentary traditions, I requested the honourable speaker for permission to rebut the arguments of my worthy colleague from MQM. In my speech, I contended that this house is representative of the entire nation, and though it is true that some of us have at different times been a part of different dictatorial regimes, most of us have learnt from that mistake and have finally evolved as true democrats; unfortunately some of our friends have not learnt any lessons from the past. I contended that such people had no right to sit in the democratic and august house, and that we were not there to listen to their praises of a dictator.

Then, on April 3, 2014, when the application of Mr. Musharraf was under consideration before the Government, I came out of the National Assembly Building and was asked to comment on his application. I replied that Mr. Musharraf was under trial for high treason; what if the government allowed him to leave the country and he didn’t return to face the court? It was my contention that our Baloch, Pakhtoon and Sindhi brothers had all suffered under his rule; how would they react to this permission?

Mr. Musharraf abrogated the Constitution on October 12, 1999, and repeated the act on November 3, 2007. The Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan has already declared him guilty. A larger bench under Chief Justice Tassaduq Husain Jillani has also dismissed a review petition of Mr. Musharraf and has charged him with high treason.

I confess that I used the words, “Mard ka bacha,” but that was only slang- a phrase that is part of every day language in Lahore, and I am a proud Lahori. My words were misunderstood. I also mentioned that Mr. Musharraf who had retired on October 12, 1999 is also the President of APML, which is a registered Political Party and had taken part in the May 2013 elections, and it is normal for a political activist to go to jail. I also said that I have been critical of actions like Lal Masjid, Akbar Bugti’s murder, and removal of the Chief Justice.

I mentioned that I belong to a family which has always stood up against oppressive regimes and both my father Kh. Rafiq Shaheed and my mother had been victimized in the past. Along with my family, I had been victimized during Mr. Musharraf’s regime but my family and I believe in forgiving and forgetting and leaving the rest to the Almighty.

When I took part in student politics and was President of Govt. MAO College Lahore, I was tortured by Islami Jamiat Talaba but then and even today, I maintained cordial relations with the leaders of IJT who are now stalwarts of Jamat e Islami. I believe that BB’s Murder was a great tragedy despite my political differences with the PPP.

I sincerely believe in the sanctity of the Pakistan Army because they are the custodians of our territorial and ideological boundaries, and I cannot think of maligning our Armed forces. I have on record praised the role of Gen. Retd Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, who with his sagacity, depoliticized the institution of Armed Forces in the past six years. I had mentioned all this on April 3, 2014 but anchor persons very conveniently ignored these sentences and tried to create a negative impression for their own vested interests.

I am sure such people will never succeed in their nefarious designs and the Government together with the Armed Forces of Pakistan shall work for the betterment of our beloved home land, Pakistan, Inshallah.

The writer is Minister for Railways.