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Rehman Malik, media’s ‘friend’ to the point of a fault

In Pakistan, the statements made by Rehman Malik are usually taken with a pinch of salt. Imtiaz Ahmad reports.

world Updated: Dec 17, 2012 00:23 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad

In Pakistan, the statements made by Rehman Malik are usually taken with a pinch of salt. The reason for this, possibly, is the sheer volume of his statements, or the fact that he is readily available to give soundbytes on issues that do not even concern him.

If his TV appearances and media statements are not enough, there is Rehman Malik on both Facebook and Twitter — always ready to be quoted. Newspaper editors complain that he personally calls them with requests that his photo be taken on the front page.

But there is also a more sinister side to Rehman Malik, which is well-known in the inner circles of Islamabad. That he is the military’s man in the Zardari government. Prior to being with Zardari, he was at Benazir Bhutto’s side — looking grand in his signature pink tie.

He first hit the limelight in the 90s, when the military was conducting an operation in Karachi against the Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party. He was the point person for Naseerullah Babar, then interior minister in the Benazir Bhutto government. At the time, he was the deputy chief of the Federal Investigation Agency – accused of human rights abuses against the MQM.

However, it seemed like Malik had overstepped his brief when he was rumoured to have been part of a plan under which Murtaza Bhutto, Benazir’s brother, was ambushed in a Karachi street by the local police. That was when Malik fell out of favour with Babar, who famously said that Malik was “not only unreliable but also untrustworthy”.

When Benazir’s government was dismissed soon after, Malik was briefly detained and then allowed to go into exile. When Benazir Bhutto fled into exile to Dubai and then to the UK, Malik appeared at her side and guided her through the tough days.

When Benazir returned to Pakistan prior to the 2008 elections, both Rehman Malik and Naheed Khan were by her side. However, when she was assassinated at a political rally, Khan said Rehman Malik “was nowhere to be seen”.

Malik soon attached himself to Zardari and, within months, became his right hand man. After the 2008 elections, Malik was appointed the de-facto interior minister, a position that was formalised when he was elected as senator.

Known to be especially warm to journalists, Malik once flew over 70 reporters for the Umra pilgrimage on a chartered plane.