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Mr. Sethi do you remember

The former caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab and Chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board Najam Aziz Sethi is a very controversial political and media figure in Pakistan. Najam Sethi has a reputation of making contentious remarks and comments. He recently took on Pakistan Army by alleging that the military leadership made former Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani give statements about former President Pervez Musharraf. Former Prime Minister in a staggering confession stated on 19th July that all the political parties including ruling PML(N) was part of the understanding to let Musharraf go abroad after 2008 elections.

This is nothing new, Pakistani public has witnessed Mr Sethi regularly criticising Pakistan Army and its intelligence agency ISI. He is habitual of accusing Pakistan Armed forces and intelligence agencies for everything from supporting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan to murdering its critics. It appears that Mr. Sethi has developed this acrimony against Pakistan armed forces in 70s. This was the time when he returned to Pakistan from UK as he could not complete his PhD at Clare College, Cambridge, despite of staying there two years as a PhD student. In UK, he joined the ‘London Club’ a group of Marxist South Asian students. The group was allegedly leading the Baluchistan insurgency from United Kingdom. The insurgency beleaguered the Pakistani government from 1973 to 1977.It is believed that some of the Pakistani Balouch leaders were conspiring with the Soviet Union and Iraq to mutilate Pakistan and Iran. The Baluch militants were uniform in their adherence to their code of Rivaj and the belief that the actions of Bhutto and the central government was a deliberate insult to all Baluch that needed to be redressed militarily. Mr. Sethi remained an active member of these insurgent factions. The insurgency slowly evolved into a well-established movement and became known as the Baluch People’s Liberation Front (BPL).

Renowned anchor Mubashar Luqman has recently exposed Mr. Sethi’s picture with the militants of BPL, costumed in a traditional Baluchi dress. In 1975, Najam Sethi was arrested. Soon after Sethi’s arrest three of his comrades from London Club were also arrested while one of his comrade Dilip Das was killed by Pakistan Army near the Indo-Pak border. The security agencies established that the comrades of “London Club” sought military training in the mountains of Baluchistan from the Balouch militants. After his arrest in Quetta, Sethi was shifted to Hyderabad with other Balouch leaders who had been jailed by the then Prime Minister Zulifqar Ali Bhutto for treason. By 1977, support for the Balouch insurgents began to recede and an opportunity was presented to General Zia ul-Haq to bring the violence in Baluchistan to an end. He exonerated all the prisoners including Sethi. After his release Sethi started his career as a journalist.

In 1996, Najam Sethi in collaboration with the BBC prepared an implicating documentary about Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari called ‘The Princess and the Playboy’. This resulted into Sethi’s first appearance in Federal Cabinet of Pakistan in November 1996, when President Farooq Ahmed Khan Laghari dismissed the Government of Pakistan Peoples’ Party under Benazir Bhutto on charges of corruption, lawlessness and extra judicial killings. Sethi was appointed as interim Minister for National Accountability. He played a pivotal role as Minister to prepare cases of alleged corruption against Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari.

In 1999, Sethi arrested for treason after he made anti-Pakistan statements in India. He was put under the custody during Nawaz Sharif government. There were rumours about Sethi being tortured. Later he was released without any charges brought against him. Fifteen minutes after his release, Sethi gave an interview to the BBC in which he claimed that he was severely tortured. Immediately following Sethi’s release, more than two dozen cases of tax evasion were filed against him. Sethi was also placed on the government’s Exit Control List, preventing him from traveling abroad. And on July 15, a politician from PML (N) filed a petition with the chief election commissioner seeking to disqualify Sethi from voting or running for public office on the grounds that he did not “fulfill the requirements of a Muslim” and was opposed to the “ideology of Pakistan.” The government later backed down in both of these high-profile cases.

In the most recent past, a pro-democracy Mr. Sethi appears to be so much concerned about any possible relief to former President Pervez Musharraf. He might have forgotten that he played a key role in supporting and building General Pervez Musharraf’s image in Pakistani and international media after his military takeover in October 1999. It was his news weekly ‘Friday Times’ which mentioned in its editorial of 22 October, 1999 that ‘General Musharraf’s objectives are laudable. But the General has not discovered them in a flash of inspiration. In fact, these objectives have long been formulated by concerned Pakistanis as core issues in the debate of reforming and revitalising Pakistan. More significantly, they form the very yardstick by which the people of Pakistan have already condemned and rejected Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif and by which General Musharraf’s regime will also inevitably be measured.’

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