KARACHI, July 10: Bilal Sheikh was an old confidant of President Asif Ali Zardari.
He was appointed Mr Zardari’s security officer the day the latter was elected president in September 2008.
Mr Sheikh was born in a Sindhi-speaking family of Karachi in Haji Mureed Goth, near Gulbahar, and lived throughout in the same house till his death.
“His ancestors had been living in Haji Mureed Goth well before the creation of Pakistan and they still have their roots in the same neighbourhood,” said Najmi Alam, a PPP leader, while speaking to Dawn.
Mr Sheikh had a life full of controversies, incarcerations, thrill and power. He was an ordinary party supporter until 1986 when he got admission to the Government Degree Jinnah College for Men in Nazimabad.
He joined the Peoples Students Federation there and went on to become a deputy of the PPP’s student wing’s ‘iron man’ Najeeb Ahmed, who was killed in an attack in 1990.
He had been jailed for several times till Benazir Bhutto came to power in 1988 after the death of General Ziaul Haq. Here he got close to the family, particularly the late Ms Bhutto’s husband, who had started getting known in the corridors of power for his manoeuvring in politics.Mr Sheikh’s brief visits to jail were a routine during Nawaz Sharif’s governments when Mr Zardari was behind bars, but he was indicted as a key accused with Akhtar Javed Pirzada and Babar Sindhu in the murder case of Justice Nizam Ahmed and his son Nadeem Ahmed, who were killed in Ferozabad in 1996.
He remained a few years in jail and then got bail. He had already become the president’s security officer in November when he appealed to a court for acquittal in the case on the plea that no evidence had been found against him. A district and sessions judge allowed his application in November 2008.
Detractors of Mr Zardari in the party, however, insist that Mr Sheikh did not enjoy the same power and prestige with Benazir Bhutto as he did in her husband’s leadership.
“He was one of those party members who got fame and power in the post-Benazir era when the old guard were forced to leave,” said a disgruntled party worker.