How the Charter
of Democracy Was Signed
By Dr Ghayur Ayub
My mobile buzzed,
I rubbed my eyes feeling very groggy and looked
at my watch. It was 5 a.m. The mobile stopped ringing
after a few buzz. After spending a tiresome and
long night, I had difficulty focusing and dosed
off again. The meeting which should have started
at 11 am the previous day started at 8.30 pm and
went on uninterrupted well over midnight. The reason
for the delay was simple.
Makhdum Fahim informed Zafar Iqbal Jhagra at 11
a.m that their team was reaching London at 3 p.m.
and from there they were going straight to see the
Chairperson following which they were calling on
us. It was the day before the signing of the Charter.
We had no choice but to wait, and we waited all
day. In the late afternoon, I saw Syed Ghaus Ali
Shah dozing off on the sofa while Mr Jhagra went
out to have a stroll in Oxford Street. Mr Ahsan
Iqbal, as usual, kept himself busy with the computer
going through the clauses which were discussed earlier
with Mr Mohammad Nawaz Sharif. He is basically workaholic
and likes to go through the minor details. In the
late afternoon we were told that the PPP team had
arrived from Pakistan and, as expected, went straight
to Rehman Malik’s residence where Mohtarma
Benazir Bhutto was staying. We kept on waiting.
By the time they reached at PML-N Secretariat at
Duke Street, it was 8.30 pm.
They looked tired. After the initial pleasantries,
it was 9 pm when we sat to give final touches to
the document now known as the Charter of Democracy.
I admire Aitezaz Ahsan’s legal wit; Raza Rabbani’s
levelled intelligence; and Dr Safdar Abassi’s
political acumen. There were visible expressions
of tiredness on their faces but they showed no tempers
or frustration while discussing contentious clauses.
Aitezaz Ahsan took two extra pillows putting them
against the wall to support his apparently aching
and tired neck.
On our side, Syed Ghaus Ali Shah despite his growing
age, looked comparatively fresh. Mr Jhgara demonstrated
his usual political charm and Ahsan Iqbal was in
his usual conversational mood. By the time we finished
going through the document, clause by clause, it
was 1.30 am. There was not much disagreement on
the already grilled clauses except for three.
The first one pertained to repealing the 17th Amendment
and restoring the 1973 Constitution. We agreed on
the principle of repealing the amendment but had
slight problem interpreting it linguistically. Our
combined aim was to put the country back on the
constitutional path. The second was related to the
selection of judges to higher judiciary. Again,
both the teams agreed on having a system through
which judges with clean and spotless characters
are selected. There were a few details on methodologies
that needed further exploration. Again our intention
was to introduce the rule of law which was seen
to be applied by non-corrupt judges whose track
record was unblemished. The third was linked to
the election commission and selection of its chief.
Again, both the parties agreed on establishing a
system through which free and fair elections are
held in all future elections. Yet again, our aim
was to introduce real democracy in the country by
having an independent election commission headed
by an election commissioner who was powerful, honest
and a man of integrity. There were one or two points
on the Local Bodies Elections also. After going
through them a few times, both the parties decided
to discus them with respective leaders in the morning.
Thus the meeting came to an end. I took the train
from Victoria and by the time I reached home at
Purley it was 3.30 am. That was the gist of the
The mobile buzzed again. This time it was in the
text mode. I rubbed my eyes again and rolled over
to see the screen. The message was from the ever-energetic
Imran Khan. He is the nucleus of activities in PML-N
Secretariat at London. He was reminding me of the
early morning meeting with our Quaid. After praying
Fajr, I made toasts and tea as my wife was in North
Wales looking after her ailing mother. It took me
another hour or so to go through the morning newspapers
on Internet and posted them to our PML-N office.
At 7.30, I left the house and reached office at
9.00. I saw everyone was immaculately dressed. After
all it was a historic day.
The actual meeting between the two leaders was planned
for 11 am at the residence of Mr Rehman Malik. Talking
of Mr. Malik, a day earlier, when the venue was
discussed, someone objected to the venue because
of his past actions as DG FIA against late Mian
Sahib. I was watching Mr Nawaz Sharif’s face
to see his reaction. He remained calm and showed
no expression. Then he slowly turned his head and
looked at Mr Jhagra. Mr. Jhgra told him that as
Muhtarema was staying there she thought it to be
appropriate to invite him there as a reciprocal
gesture for he invited her to his residence. Mr
Nawaz Sharif thought for a while and said softly
‘Let’s be absolutely clear about one
thing.’ He leaned forward and picked up the
document from the table. ‘This Charter of
Democracy is not mine or anybody else’s. It
belongs to the people of Pakistan. I’ll go
anywhere if I find even a flicker of hope for the
betterment of Pakistan and its people.’ The
message was loud and clear. The discussion on the
venue ended up there.
He went through the document again in view of our
previous night’s discussions and gave his
opinion on the contentious clauses. Soon, Mr Jhagra
rang up Mukhdum Fahim and told him that we were
ready. He asked us to go to their place. After seeking
permission from our leader; off we went. It was
11 am when we reached there. The place was flooded
with media people, flashing their cameras and running
their TV rolls. They were expecting Mr Nawaz Sharif
with his team. Obviously, the actual meeting between
the two leaders was pushed to a later time. We were
greeted by Sardar Asif, Aitezaz Ahsan, Razza Rabani,
Dr Safdar Abbasi, Rehaman Malik and Wajid Shamsul
Hassan. After a great hustle we entered the house.
I couldn’t stop noticing a porcelain replica
of the ‘Last Supper of Jesus Christ’
placed skilfully on the hearth in the lounge we
were going to have the meeting.
The meeting started once again and continued for
two hours. At one stage, we were told that in Pakistan
the news was circulated that the negotiations had
broken down. It turned out to be disinformation
spread by you know whom. We just laughed. It was
about 1.30 pm when we came to an understanding.
Dr Safdar Abbasi took the document to Mohtarma Benazir
Bhutto in the next room, and Mr Jhagra spoke to
our Quaid on the phone. Half an hour later Dr Abbasi
came up with some more suggestions. We had discussion
on them and Mr Jhgara rang up Mr Nawaz Sharif again
about the new changes. He asked us to go to the
PML-N office where he carefully read the modifications.
“I’ll discuss these with Mohtarma Bhutto
myself. Let’s go” Then he looked at
Mr Shahbaz Sharif, and asked, “Did you say
we should exchange pens at the end of the signing
ceremony?” He replied in the affirmative,
“Yes I did, it’s a good gesture,”
and then he handed him a pen. Mr Nawaz Sharif took
it and put it in his side pocket. It was decided
that Ahsan Iqbal would present the document and
when it was finalised he would print it there and
then in the room on a special paper bought for the
purpose. It meant we had to take laptops and printer
to have the facilities ready at hand. Meanwhile
Makhdum Fahim rang up to inform that he was on his
way to give proper protocol to Mr Nawaz Sharif by
joining his entourage. That was indeed a good gesture
on behalf of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
Again in the brightly sparking flashes, Mr Nawaz
Sharif and his team were received by Mohtarma Benazir
Bhutto and her team. Once again we had difficulty
entering the house. The actual meeting started four
hours late at 3 pm. Showing palpable cordiality,
the two leaders went through the items one by one
with a positive mindset and determination to make
things right. After all, they knew the future of
Pakistani politics vis-à-vis real democracy
was in their hands. It seemed, they had put their
past bitterness behind and were looking forward
to a future healthy and tolerant political set-up.
They wanted to bring proper rule of law by strengthening
the judiciary through a transparent selection of
judges. They wanted to have real democracy in the
country by making the election commission an independent
institution. They wanted to methodise procedures
to alleviate poverty, reduce unemployment and give
real hope to those who had been ignored in the past.
Lastly they wanted to block the military takeovers
of civilian governments and making the army subservient
to the civilians as in other civilised countries.
While the two leaders were sorting out matters for
the good of the country, three students appeared
from nowhere outside the house, with hurriedly written
slogans and started chanting. They were quickly
taken away from the scene. Later we were told that
one of the boys confessed they were paid £50
each to create a scene so that it could be broadcasted
on TV channels. One doesn’t have to be Plato
to know who was behind this act. Except for the
times when Mohammad Nawaz Sharif went out during
prayer break; they remained glued to their chairs.
It was 8.30 in the evening when sweets were distributed.
The deal was done. It was skilfully written on the
laptop by Ahsan Iqbal and carefully printed by Imran
Khan. Now, the Charter of Democracy was ready for
signature. It was time to call the press and media
people to cover the historical event. The doors
were opened and in no time the room was flooded
with print and electronic personnel. The document
was signed in the middle of flashing lights. The
event was shown live on many channels. Those disillusioned
pundits who predicted that it would never be signed
must have felt bitterness at the back of their dry
throats as if they were swallowing a sour pill.
For me, the last few hours that led to signing the
document were indeed an experience of a lifetime.
I could imagine the feelings going through the authors
when they signed Pakistan Declaration in 1940 or
the Constitution of Pakistan in 1973. The declaration
of 1940 gave birth to Pakistan, 1973 gave a constitutional
identity to the country and May 14, 2006, Inshallah,
would give real democracy to this democracy-deprived