The (political) planes of Pakistan

Sept 10, 2007…Islamabad airport….Musharraf forcibly deported Sharif to Saudi Arabia…April 14, 2005….Zardari was taken
into custody from inside the aircraft when he landed at Lahore airport…
Oct 12,
1999…..PIA’s commercial plane carrying Gen
Musharraf was denied landing permission at the Karachi airport 

While all South Asian nations enjoy a bit of drama-bazi, it seems that in Pakistan things move at a higher plane…so to speak. It is a real musical chairs fun and games, Sharif trying to thwart Musharraf, Musharraf trying to stymie Benazir, Musharraf  stifling Sharif, Sharif sabotaging Qadri…the airports are where the action is. 
Monday’s diversion of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s plane
from Islamabad to Lahore is the latest addition to a list replete with
the political role of aeroplanes in the country’s history.

Qadri is not the first political figure to have refused to disembark
from an aircraft without seeking some guarantees. Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari had also had to negotiate
with the administration inside their planes when they landed in Pakistan
during the rule of Gen Pervez Musharraf. The retired general himself
had taken over the government in a bloodless military coup after a plane
hijacking drama in 1999.

The latest scenes at the Islamabad and
Lahore airports refreshed the memories of the people who had witnessed
similar events six years ago when Mr Musharraf forcibly deported Mr
Sharif to Saudi Arabia after the latter attempted to return to Pakistan
from London and end his seven-year exile.

The Musharraf regime had
taken the plea that the Sharif brothers should not return to the
country because they had gone to Saudi Arabia under an agreement that
they would stay away from politics for 10 years.

However, Nawaz
Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif declared that they would return to the
country, come what may, after the Supreme Court ruled on Aug 23, 2007,
that they were free to come to their homeland.

On Sept 10, Nawaz
Sharif left London on a PIA flight with a team of journalists and some
PML-N members, but only to be deported again to Saudi Arabia in a
special plane.

And two days before his planned return to the
country, Lebanese politician Saad Hariri and Saudi intelligence chief
Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz had come to Islamabad to take him back to Saudi
Arabia in the special plane hours after landing at the airport here.

Sharif later returned to Pakistan on Nov 25, a month after then PPP
chief Benazir Bhutto landed at Karachi airport after ending her

In April 2005, former president Zardari was taken
into custody from inside the aircraft when he landed at Lahore airport
to lead the PPP in the absence of his wife Benazir.

workers were not allowed to receive Mr Zardari at the airport and even
the journalists who accompanied the leader from Dubai were manhandled by
security personnel.

The plane crash of former president and army
chief Gen Ziaul Haq in August 1988 in Bahawalpur and the denial of
landing permission to the aircraft carrying former president Musharraf
in Karachi were the two main events that changed the political scenario.

was after the death of Gen Zia in the mysterious military plane crash
that the country saw a real democratic transformation and four elections
were held within nine years — from 1988 to 1997.

On Oct 12,
1999 then prime minister Sharif removed Gen Musharraf from the post of
chief of the army staff when he was on his way back to Karachi from
Colombo, where he had gone to attend the Sri Lankan army’s 50th
anniversary celebrations.

PIA’s commercial plane carrying Gen
Musharraf was denied landing permission at the Karachi airport. The
plane remained in the air till the time military commanders on the
ground toppled the government and arrested Mr Sharif, who later faced a
trial on charges of hijacking.

During the last days of Gen
Musharraf’s rule after the 2008 elections, there were rumours that a
special plane was parked at the Islamabad airport to take him abroad. He
denied the presence of any such plane, but later left the country after
resigning as president in the wake of a no-confidence motion against
him and started living in self-exile in the UK.

Just two months
before the general elections in May last year, Mr Musharraf returned to
Karachi to take part in the polls from the platform of his newly-formed
All Pakistan Muslim League.

On April 1, Gen Musharraf departed
for Islamabad from Karachi in a chartered plane. This time again, his
plane was diverted to Lahore, but only because of bad weather.





Brown Pundits