Does Benazir recognise your political utility?
Things have improved between us, thanks to Asif Zardari, who’s a friend. She has given instructions to party people that all respect be given to me.
Will she be like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who made you the PPP’s face in Punjab...
If he wasn’t executed, ZAB would have put Benazir up as PM in the elections after 1977. That would have led to her political grooming under his watchful eyes. But things didn't work out that way. She was jailed on her return from abroad and her father hanged. She didn't have time to go through the process — and get to know ZAB's associates —the way Indira Gandhi could under Pandit Nehru.
In Punjab, you might find yourself pitted against Tehmina Durrani, your former spouse married now to Nawaz Sharif’s brother, Shahbaaz...
If democracy has to take roots in our country, there has to be a much deeper understanding between genuine political leaders. When I went to Saudi Arabia for Haj, Nawaz Sharif invited me for dinner. I saw a major change in him; he wasn't the man I had known. Even Benazir has matured. I'm confident that they will come to an understanding.
Tehmina has been a kind of political advisor to Shahbaaz. These political genes.... who gave it to whom?
You should ask her. She used to frankly admit that “Mustafa changed my life.” There was a time when she only thought of luxuries and comforts.... After our marriage, her lifestyle, her whole thinking changed.
Do you miss her?
Yes, I do. We were in love. There were good times and bad times. But we were made for each other. When I was in jail in 1986, she was very dedicated, very loyal. I cannot forget these things. Moreover, she's the mother of our four children. She is a woman with many qualities.
Have you read My Feudal Lord?
Yes. (Laughs) It's a good novel.
Novel? You mean fiction....
Yes, yes, a lot of sensibly placed fiction.
With explicit details of your dalliances, your incorrigible glad eye....
I have never denied the fact of being romantic. I don't feel shy or bad about it.
Was Tehmina your first wife?
No, third. My first two marriages were traditional, arranged.
You have married nine times, if I am not wrong?
That’s not correct. Six times.
Six times, and how many children do you have?
Are you in touch with Tehmina?
We are very good friends. She calls me up, I go and discuss things with her. She has always given me good advice. Whatever happened in the past,we never remember, never talk about it.
Did she discuss her marriage plans with you?
You'll be surprised. She told our son that she wanted to speak to me about an important decision before leaving for the US. But I couldn't speak to her immediately. When I read it in newspapers, I realised what she had on her mind. Had we spoken, I'd have said: yes, go ahead, this is the right thing for you. Before their marriage, she'd often tell me: “Mustafa why don't you be friends with Shahbaaz. He's a nice man.” The last time I was in London, I and Shahbaaz met over meals. Then we went to his flat in the Park Lane for political discussions. We have a very good rapport.
Will their marriage work?
They have known each other for quite some time. Tehmina didn't have much to lose. Our children are grown up and they have a father. She needed companionship — or whatever the reasons. But the decision must have taken some time for Shahbaaz. He has grown up children; they are a big, closely-knit family. He must have thought about the repercussions....I think it should work. But you never know. After my marriage to Tehmina, somebody asked: Saab will you marry again? I said “No question, I will not." I really meant it. But ultimately things went in the direction where I lost control.
What went wrong?
It's a long story. How can I condemn the woman with whom I lived for 14-15 years?
But she put you on the mat in My Feudal Lord...
Yes, she tried her best.
Was it the reaction of a woman slighted?
It was something much bigger.
A plot to demolish your reputation, your political career?
Yes. She's a good writer but the book was given shape by a journalist named Imran. At that time Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaaz were deadly against me. They perceived me as a political threat. On my part, I thought I was wasting my time in politics if my leadership could be destroyed by one individual, my wife. Politically, I have lost nothing. Certain class of people do talk against me. But can you name a politician who isn't controversial?