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Three Presidents And An Aide

Arshad Sami Khan recalls working with three Pakistani rulers in his book. Amit Baruah tells more.
Hindustan Times | By Amit Baruah, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2008 08:03 PM IST

Three Presidents And An Aide
Author: Arshad Sami Khan
Rs 495
PP 298

Arshad Sami Khan's book Three Presidents And An Aide is a ringside account of working with three Pakistani rulers Field Marshal Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan and President and Chief Martial Law Administrator Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

There's also a brief account of his association with Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. A Pakistani getting his book published in India would have been seen as persona non grata in Pakistan only a few years ago. How times have changed. And Arshad Sami Khan is no ordinary Pakistani. He was presented the Sitara-i-Jurrat - Crescent of Bravery' - for his role in the 1965 war with India as a crack Pakistan Air Force pilot.

Arshad Sami (incidentally the father of singer Adnan Sami) remembers the stories that took place around him involving Pakistan's high and mighty and their highs and lows. The book also provides us insights into the actual functioning of Pakistan's warped power structure.

Some of the anecdotes contained in the book are worth recounting. For instance, Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito, who shared a passion for hunting along with his host Ayub Khan, fell into a Sindhi lake even as he felled an over-flying duck. Given Tito's bulk, they had a tough time pulling him back onto a boat.

While Sami is cagey about revealing the full extent of Yahya's well-known exploits, he does talk of "smuggling" the Pakistani President to a "dance party", replete with wooden floor, in Dhaka. And just in case, Sami was carrying a Colt revolver.

He also recounts the sacking of army chief General Gul Hassan and Air Marshal Rahim Khan on March 3, 1972, even as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was having a "working lunch" with them. Hassan and Rahim Khan were "driven away" by Ghulam Mustafa Khar, Bhutto's close associate, into oblivion, even as Sami and the other ADCs were listening to their seniors getting the sack on the 1 pm radio news bulletin in another room.

To me, that sounds ominously similar to what Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tried with his army chief, Pervez Musharraf in 1999. The mediums were, however, different Sharif had to do it on TV Bhutto on radio. An , other important difference: Bhutto succeeded, Sharif didn't. Will history in Pakistan continue to repeat itself ?

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