KARACHI: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif “thought he might be arrested” upon his return to Saudi Arabia after deportation from Pakistan on Sept 10, 2007, but Prince Muqrin, Head of General Intelligence Presidency, Saudi Arabia, gave Sharif “two options - he could either stay at a palace that had been prepared for him, or at his home. He opted to go to his home.”
The candid behind-the-scenes details of Mr Sharif’s return to exile in Saudi Arabia shared by Prince Muqrin with the US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ford M. Fraker, are documented in a secret cable from the US consulate in Jeddah on Sept 12, 2007.
“During Ambassdor Fraker’s meeting with Prince Muqrin, the Prince first summarised the ten-year agreement, brokered by Rafik Hariri, under which Sharif would live in Saudi Arabia and refrain from participating in Pakistani politics. He added that there was a verbal agreement that after five years, they would hold negotiations to consider reducing that ten year period,” according to the secret cable.
Prince Muqrin went on to describe “how Saad Al-Hariri warned Sharif not to return to Pakistan, but how Sharif disregarded the warning and went anyway.”
After Sharif’s forcible return from Pakistan to Jeddah, Prince Muqrin received the former Pakistani prime minister at the airport at which point the two discussed where Mr Sharif would stay.
Prince Muqrin also told Sharif that there would be “some restrictions” on his activities “for a short while, at least through the November elections, to reduce the likelihood of inciting rioting among his supporters in Pakistan.”
Ambassador Fraker was also told that “Sharif will remain in Saudi Arabia until after the Pakistani elections in November.”
Sharif eventually returned to Pakistan on Nov 25, 2007, by which point elections were to be held in early 2008.
Delving into the complexities of Pakistani politics, Prince Muqrin also “speculated that there is probably an agreement between Sharif and the Pakistani Chief Justice, adding that if the Chief Justice grants Sharif the right to return to Pakistan and Sharif wins, the Chief Justice will become President.”
The Saudi prince went on to state “that he is almost certain the Chief Justice will side with Sharif, noting that he believes the run-up to the November election will be tense.”
“The Prince explained that, as in Lebanon, the Pakistani constitution requires individuals working within the government to be outside government for two years prior to becoming President. Therefore a constitutional change would be required for Musharraf to become President.”
The Saudi intelligence chief was also frank about Saudi preferences: “The Prince explained that King Abdullah views both Sharif and Musharraf as friends, but that he believes that the two together do not equate to Pakistani security. The King feels that Musharraf is the best person to address anti-terrorism issues within Pakistan.”
Cable referenced: WikiLeaks # 121856. All cables can be viewed at Dawn.com.