Soldiering and politics are poles apart but they did find a perfect amalgam in the person of M Asghar Khan. After retiring as Pakistan's Air Force Chief, he threw himself headlong in politics in 1968 on Z A Bhutto's urging to fan the flames of the popular upsurge against President Ayub Khan. Ironically, it was Bhutto's government in which he survived three assassination attempts. Later General Zia's regime kept him in a continuous detention for 1603 days because of his refusal to cooperate with the junta. With several books to his credit and having held important positions in public life, it is believed that all that he has penned down about Ayub, Bhutto and Zia in his latest work, "My political struggle" is on good authority. Presently, for over a year, the legal fraternity has been struggling to establish constitutionalism in Pakistan but back in 1958, after Ayub had abrogated the 1956 constitution and was worried about the framing of a new one, it was none other than the then Chief Justice of Pakistan, who supported the dictator with these words: "This is no problem. We will draw up a constitution for you and you should, after having it published in the papers, address four public meetings... and ask them (people) whether they approved of it. The answer would definitely be in the affirmative. "Manzoor Hai," they would say and you will thus have the people's mandate" (p544). During the 1965 war with India, Ayub did not want to annoy the Americans but at the same time the country badly needed the military hardware so he sent Asghar Khan to China to seek aircraft but with standing instructions that the aircraft instead of being flown straight to Pakistan, should first be sent to Indonesia, put into crates and then shipped to Karachi. When Asghar Khan made this outlandish request, the bewildered Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai replied, "You are fighting a war, we can fly these aircraft to Peshawar or Sargodha tomorrow from Kashgar, and you want these sent by sea?" Wryly, the retired Air Marshal confides that it was Yahya Khan, who had done all the planning for Ayub's military takeover and his brother, who controlled the civil intelligence which engineered public unrest in Punjab against Ayub that eventually brought down his government (pp 12-13). Of all the leaders of Pakistan, Khan Sahib has been most critical of Z A  Bhutto. He has alleged that Ayub undertook the 1965 military adventure against India in Kashmir on the advice of Bhutto who had assured him that India would not resort to an all-out war against Pakistan. He concludes that this act of Bhutto and his opposition to the convening of the National Assembly session after the 1970 elections were unpatriotic acts. He has also alleged that it was Bhutto who first advised and later collaborated with Yahya in latter's military operation in East Pakistan that killed thousands (p 20). Despite his hatred towards Bhutto, when Zia told him that he would hang Bhutto if the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence awarded by the High Court, he warned Zia "that this would be wrong and unwise." In fact, Mrs Nusrat Bhutto tried her best to meet Zia, a day before her husband's hanging. Instead, when a senior officer met her, she pleaded for mercy and requested that Bhutto be allowed to leave Pakistan and at the same time assured "that he and his family would not indulge in politics ever again" (p 161). Asghar Khan was a top leader of the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) protest movement that brought the downfall of Bhutto in 1977. It may be a surprise to many that during their stormy June 22, 1977 meeting in Islamabad, all the PNA leaders except Maulana Noorani and Asghar Khan were ready for any kind of settlement with Bhutto's government (p 104). Khan Sahib has himself recorded that an accord had reached between the PNA and the government on July 2, 1977 but when in the night of July 3, the PNA leadership urged the members of its negotiating team to convey to Bhutto the rejection of the accord by the PNA council "Professor Ghafoor (of Jamat-i-Islami) had to be pushed to go. He was refusing to go as he felt that our stand was a volte-face from the commitment the team had already made (p 107)." Khan Sahib has further alleged that during imprisonment in connection with the PNA agitation, some of the leaders such as Sherbaz Mazari, Malik Qasim, Mian Tufail Mohammad and the author were administered drops of mercury in their diet to slow poison them. (p 102). The PNA had presented itself to the people as an alternative leadership to Bhutto. Between March and June 1977, the PNA movement caused anarchy and grounded the economy to a halt by holding protest demonstrations - men (3990), women (248), lawyers (92), students (241), ulema (18) and children (57) - in which 162 installations were sabotaged, 30,000 people were imprisoned and about a 1000 lost their lives. Within months of Bhutto's overthrow, Khan Sahib admitted that the PNA was "an entirely unworkable team, incapable of tackling the country's problems." If this were the case then why did Khan Sahib first join the PNA, later sabotaged the government - PNA accord and finally waged an unnecessary violent movement that derailed the democratic process and heralded a ten-year dictatorship. Later, the people realised that they were fooled and consequently rejected these leaders including Khan Sahib with all his sterling personal qualities, in the general elections held in the eighties and nineties. The Air Marshal's assessment of Zia regime is more of an expos of how the PNA leaders collaborated with a military autocrat who had abrogated the 1973 constitution and hanged the most popular leader the country had after the Quaid. He has written "Wali Khan and Naseem Wali Khan have a good understanding with Ziaul Haq.... Pagara is fully with Ziaul Haq and his Muslim League should be called 'Ziaul Haq Muslim League'. Pagara is politically untrustworthy and is a reactionary. Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan ... is not with Ziaul Haq but is not politically reliable. Suffers from complexes and is a reactionary. He is not likely to play a constructive role in national politics ... Mufti Mahmud ... will stay with any grouping so long as he is made the leader. Jamat-i-Islami is the real 'king's party'. It is fully with Ziaul Haq but will put up a faade of opposition to keep in line with the public mood (pp 230-231)."As late as February 1980, Chaudhry Zahur Elahi was prevailing upon recalcitrant politicians to strengthen Zia's hands by joining his government (p 199). Zia is on the record to have said that Islam did not permit the existence of political parties but political compulsions forced him to conceive a political party of 'good people' and Asghar has revealed that Zia paid rupees twenty million to Muslim League (p 137). One by one, politicians began to fall like ripe apples in Zia's basket. Khurshid Kasuri, a senior leader of Khan Sahib's own party proposed that (TI) should try to reach an understanding with Zia without giving up on party's basic stance (p 303). Today's icons of democratic struggle against authoritarianism such as Mian Nawaz Sharif who was in (TI) was asked to join the Ziaist set-up and when he was advised to decline the offer, he replied that "he did not know how to say 'no' especially as Jilani the Governor had been 'so nice to him' (p 257). Yet another Tehrik-i-Istiqlal leader Javed Hashmi resigned his party and became a Minister of State for the students and youth in General Zia's dispensation in July 1978 (p 136). Through Wazir Ali, a (TI) leader, even Asghar Khan himself was approached by Ziaist establishment to join the government but he refused. He believes that it was Wali Khan who had advised Zia not to hold elections (pp 190-191) and had fully assured Zia's NWFP Governor Lt-Gen Fazle Haq that though "he would not join the government or support them openly but they could count on his full cooperation" (p 235). What is happening in the name of religious fundamentalism in Pakistan now has a direct connection with Zia's 'Afghan Jehad' in the wake of Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The Air Marshal blames Ziaul Haq and Jamaat-i-Islami for encouraging the Afghan refugees to come to Pakistan (p 189) and adds that other politicians such as Maulana Mufti Mahmud and Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan were the first ones who announced the formation of 'Majlis-i-Jehad' at a meeting in Lahore on 18 January 1980 demanding that Zia's government should actively help the refugees in their operations against the Afghan government (pp 196-197). Subsequently, how the money and weapons flowed from the West and the Middle East to make Afghanistan the 'Russian Vietnam' is a history, now. One can safely imagine the magnitude of financial inflows for 'Afghan Jehad' from Khan Sahib's disclosure that an Afghan refugee leader Gulbadin Hikmatyar had a bank balance of Rs 75,000,000 in Pakistani banks by 1982 (p 298). Generally, the politicians enthusiastically supported the 'Afghan Jehad.' There were a few sane voices at that time which cautioned the danger of the Afghan fallout on Pakistan but their warnings were not heeded. M Asghar Khan was one such voice. What he said thirty years ago about the repercussions of such jehad has become a prophetic truth today. On 23 February 1979, he warned, "I feel that Pakistan must stay clear of the Afghan problem and should not convert Pakistan into a base for operations against Afghanistan... The risks are too great and Pakistan's own survival and security would be placed in jeopardy" (p 158). Today's Pakistan with frequent bomb blasts, suicide bombings and American attacks on its territory is a mirror of what happens when sagacity is sacrificed at the altar of greed and adventurism. E-mail: