Tale of a historic journey

From Heathrow to Lahore

2018-07-15T03:36:11+05:00 Irfan Siddiqui

These sentences are from my column, “Naqsh-e-Khayal” published in Nawa-i-Waqt around eleven years ago on September 10, 2007. I had written: ”When you will be reading these lines it will be dawn of September 10. What this morning has for us and what it takes back will be clear in a while. If Mian Nawaz Sharif takes the flight setting all sorts of pressures aside, this morning will be his. It simply does not matter what treatment he gets on his arrival here. It would just be meaningless what sort of cases are instituted against him, which jail he is imprisoned or deported to which country and how many people make it to the airport to receive him. Nawaz Sharif will be achieving his goal the moment he sets his feet on the plane. And it will smash the pride of the person who thinks that all politicians are here to polish his shoes.”

On 10th of September Nawaz Sharif had flown from the very same Heathrow Airport. Pakistan was then being ruled by an egoist dictator who had no fear of God Almighty. When the Supreme Court ruled that no Pakistani could be forcefully stopped from returning to Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif declared to come back. Great efforts were made to stop him but he had made up his mind to return. What a coincidence that I had accompanied Nawaz Sharif at that time too from Heathrow to Islamabad. City was sealed in such a foolproof manner that even the wind could not trespass. Hundreds of military commandos armed with sophisticated weapons were on standby.

Nawaz Sharif along with his workers came to lounge but only to be bundled off to Jeddah.

I was in London for the last one week. Every day, Nawaz Sharif and other family members would gather in a small room of Harley Street hospital in London and remain there till evening. I would also reach there by 11 am and stay till late afternoon. Doctors would come in intervals to tell the family about the need for ventilator for Begum Kalsoom Nawaz. Doctors would also test the natural respiratory system of the patient from time to time by removing the ventilator.

I would hear the doctors almost regularly saying that she was improving. And one day, the issue of returning to Pakistan was seriously discussed. Despite her immense love and attachment with her mother, Maryam insisted on returning to Pakistan. Owing to Mian Sahab’s emotional mental state, I kept trying to understand how he strikes a balance between his personal and national responsibilities. His fifty year long emotional attachment with his spouse was still in his mind and heart. He kept on repeating that he just wanted his spouse to gain consciousness, see us and say few words.

But ultimately it was decided that it was not possible to wait longer as it had become inevitable to announce the return plan. The 13th July was decided as the date of return and Maryam announced it the same day.

Addressing the party workers on 11th of July, Nawaz Sharif and Maryam declared that the time for a state within state was over, and now another state had come into being over and above the actual one. After all, for how long will it continue that one person is heading a government but another one is actually ruling the country.

Twelfth of July was the date to set off for Pakistan. After long deliberations it was decided to board Ittehad Airlines because its arrival time suited the most. With the announcement of the date and flight, the demand for tickets soared and they were available only in black. When I reached hospital on 12th of July, a journalist came and congratulated me that Begum Kalsoom had gained consciousness. Just a day before, a weeping Maryam was telling her sister Asma as to why their mother was not responding to their calls and doctors were only consoling them since long.

When I entered the specific room I just could not see the happiness on anyone’s face which should have been there after hearing such happy news. It was later known that she had opened her eyes for a while but did not talk to anybody. Nevertheless, the doctors deemed it a big success. Before departing for the airport, Mian Sahab along with children visited his spouse and kept calling her repeatedly. Then he moved out of the room praying for her health. While Nawaz Sharif had tears in his eyes, Maryam cried loudly. It was a painful scene.

Two days before when Mian Sahab was instructing his servant what to pack for the jail, I just wondered about manifestations of politics for the politicians. How quickly the distance from the highest office of prime minister to jail is covered. I was present in Mian Sahab’s vehicle from hospital to the airport. Maryam was sitting in another vehicle following us. Nawaz Sharif asked his personal physician if he had kept with him medicines enough for at least for one month. The doctor replied in the affirmative and Nawaz Sharif was satisfied. He took one sleeping pill for himself whereas I took half for myself.

By morning, I came to know that he could not sleep and same was true of me. The plane touched Abu Dhabi Airport at 6:30am as per schedule. And it was from here that a new vista of wonders started. We were allowed to leave the plane after all passengers had disembarked. Four vehicles were parked close to the aircraft along with uniformed protocol officers. We just wondered about the kind of protocol we had just received and we tried to grasp what was behind it.

We were taken to a decorated lounge with lot of adjoining rooms. We were served with dates and green tea. Mian Sahab wanted to rest for some time. We moved to the first class lounge along with our hosts. No vacant room was available, however, it was little lively here. After a while, we realised that some people were keeping a watchful eye on us. When Maryam stepped out of the lounge for a while, the security men raised alarm stating that if anyone wanted to go around, the security will go along. Dozens of Pakistanis and foreign journalists were contacting to meet Mian Sahab but they were not allowed. As per rules, any passenger from the business class could come to the first class lounge by paying 100 dollars but this concession was waived that day. No passenger was allowed to go there. I said jokingly to Mian Sahab that it appeared we are under arrest. He agreed and called the protocol incharge to ask why they were not allowed to meet anybody. He replied they had instructions from above. After this, we thought had Nasirul Mulk and Hasan Askari become that powerful. We realised their power when our flight got delayed by two hours. After this, we were under the grip of rumours, apprehensions and uncertainty for a long time.

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