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Nawaz Shairf and the Turkish Kebabs

When Pakistani envoy didn't allowed Nawaz Sharif to eat Turkish Kebabs

In my previous blog, I mentioned two incidents regarding Asif Zardari. Later, many readers demanded that the target was Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and it’s now co-Chairman. Is there anything for Nawaz Sharif in former ambassador’s memoirs?

Wherever Karamatullah Ghauri was the ambassador of Pakistan, rulers kept changing in different periods. He narrated his observations and impressions regarding those rulers with great clarity. He also mentioned dictators like General Zia and Musharraf. Two or three interesting incidents were penned down regarding Mian Nawaz Sharif, one was during his first term. At that time, Karamat Ghauri was then ambassador to Algeria.

In his recently published book titled, “Rozgar Safeer”, Ghauri wrote: “Mian Sahib’s CV, which was sent to all ambassadors, stated that Nawaz Sharif was the first Home Grown Prime Minister of Pakistan. The ambassadors asked the Foreign Ministry what it meant. When they did not get a satisfactory answer, they assumed that since Mian Sahib was born after the formation of Pakistan and all his education was from the country, that is why he was called Home Grown.”

When Nawaz Sharif paid his first official visit to the United Kingdom after becoming the Prime Minister, the Ambassador (High Commissioner) was Dr Humayun Khan. The then British Prime Minister John Major hosted a luncheon for Mian Sahib at his official residence, Ten Dining Street. The British protocol informed the Pakistani High Commissioner that there would be no speeches at lunch. Therefore, speeches were not written for Mian Sahib.

During the lunch, John Major suddenly stood up and gave a short speech of three to four minutes. This was a surprise to the guests, but he was the Prime Minister and the host, he can do anything. Nawaz Sharif’s was shocked. It was a difficult task for him to read the written speech, the impromptu speech is a far cry.

Pakistani Ambassador Dr. Humayun Khan, seeing the delicacy of the occasion, immediately took out a piece of paper from his pocket and wrote a few lines so that Mian Sahib could get some confidence. Nawaz Sharif, while stumbling, read those words but as soon as the lunch was over, he lambasted at Dr Humayun Khan.

Mian Sahab said the High Commissioner was incompetent, he had deliberately kept the Prime Minister in the dark and created embarrassment for him. It was ordered that the Dr. Humayun Khan be terminated immediately. The Englishman was a clever person. He knew that the whole situation was a tragedy for Humayun Khan and he had been unjustifiably revealed.

The British government promoted Humayun to a key position in the Commonwealth Secretariat. It was later revealed that the real reason for Mian Sahib’s displeasure with Dr Humayun was that the ambassador failed to get lunch invitation of a close friend of Mian Sahib, who was doing business in the United States and had joined the government delegation at Nawaz’s request.

The second incident took place just two months before the end of Mian Sahib’s second government. On August 17, 1999, a devastating earthquake struck Turkey, shaking several cities and a large area between Ankara and Istanbul. More than 18 thousand lives were lost while more than 50 thousand were wounded.

Three days later, Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz contacted the Turkish authorities that Nawaz Sharif was willing to visit Ankara. Attempts were made to convince Mian Sahab that the Turkish leadership was currently engaged in relief operations and did not have time to host. This was reported to the Secretary to the Prime Minister at the request of Sartaj Aziz.

Nawaz Sharif agreed to a five-day adjournment, after which he arrived in Istanbul. He offered his condolences to the Turkish leadership and inspected the site. Mian Nawaz Sharif loved a kebab from Istanbul. Every time he came, he would go to this hotel and eat those kebabs. This time, too, he wanted to do so, but was stopped by saying that the host Turkish leadership would dislike it.

The strongest argument was that where he had gone for condolences, it was not appropriate for him to go out with all the protocol to satisfy his hunger. He was promised, however, that his favorite kebabs would be placed on the next morning’s flight from Istanbul to Ankara.

Mian Nawaz Sharif accepted the advice not to eat kebabs, his reputation at the time was that he did not reject the reasonable advice of officers. An interesting incident happened while traveling from Istanbul to the airport. He kept talking to his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif in Pakistan on my mobile phone. He was disturbed by Mian Azhar who was challenging him in the ranks of the Muslim League.

He was having a conversation with Shehbaz Sharif. The topic was what should be the headline of the next morning’s newspapers in condemnation of Mian Azhar. When Mian Nawaz Sharif gave his instructions to younger brother, he asked me: Ambassador! Was I right?

I rebuked and said, “Mian Azhar is a turncoat.” Mian Nawaz Sharif was impressed with my advice and immediately instructed Shehbaz on how to mention Mian Azhar in newspapers. “Look, the biggest headline should be that Mian Azhar is a turncoat,” Nawaz told Shehbaz.

Mian Sahib kept repeating the term ‘Turncoat’ till we reached the airport and kept shaking his head. When we boarded the flight, his favourites kababs were there. He kept eating and I kept reveling in his gluttony.

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