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When Asif Zardari embarrassed Benazir Bhutto


While reading the book of Karamatullah Ghori, the former ambassador of Pakistan, one gets to read such heartbreaking stories about many Pakistani rulers that he wants to share with his readers. Today we read the stories related to Asif Zardari.

Karamat Ghori was Pakistan’s ambassador to Kuwait. He says that during the second term of Benazir Bhutto’s government, local PPP leaders tried hard to invite her to Kuwait.

He repeatedly reported that Bibi was coming to Kuwait soon but she did not come to Kuwait even once during her three years in power. Kuwaiti officials later said that during her first term in office, when Benazir Bhutto visited Kuwait, her husband, had amassed embarrassment and remorse for her, blocking her return to Kuwait.

Karamat Ghori writes:

“There is a principle of protocol regarding foreign heads of state, according to which only the distinguished guest sits in the car of the host or the president. If an interpreter is needed, he sits on the front seat, followed by the guest’s ADC with the driver.”

Zardari was accompanied by Bibi on his first visit to Kuwait. He was reminded that only Benazir Bhutto would be seated in the number one car and he was accompanied by the Crown Prince of Kuwait and Prime Minister Sheikh Saad who was the host. Will sit and no one but ADC.

“Zardari’s mind was probably in the seventh heaven. A guard of honour was presented to Benazir Bhutto at Kuwait Airport. When she sat in her car with Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Saad and the car was about to leave, not knowing where her husband Asif Zardari appeared and opened the door of the car and sat.”

Zardari’s protocol, which he did in such a way, had to be revolved around it. The Kuwaitis said nothing but what was left to say? It is impossible to estimate the embarrassment that happened to Benazir Bhutto. Her insensitive husband not only embarrassed her but also put a stigma on Pakistan’s forehead. Benazir somehow completed the visit but did not return to Kuwait to be embarrassed.“

Karamat Ghori was the ambassador to Algeria during the first term of Benazir Bhutto’s government, where Bibi had gone as prime minister. Two interesting but tragic events took place during this visit. Karamat Ghori says: “After Algeria, Benazir had to go to Baghdad. This was the visit in which Saddam Hussein made Benazir wait for half an hour before the meeting. 

“Well, for the seniors of this VVIP flight, two expert chefs were sent from PIA’s flight kitchens in Karachi especially to Algeria. The cook arrived in Algeria two days before the flight.”

“He declared that Mr. Zardari liked Bhindi very much and if okra was not on the table then he would not break the snack. The problem was that there was no okra season in Algeria, nowhere to be found in the market, but the chefs insisted that it was necessary anyway. He was convinced that if he did not get the job, he would lose his job.”

Arshad Sami Khan (Adnan Sami’s father) who was the Chief of Protocol Officer in the Foreign Office was also part of the delegation.

He told me that okra must be arranged otherwise these people would say that the ambassador is so incompetent that he could not even get Bhindi for Mr. Zardari. The bundles were finally ordered from Paris by air parcel and cooked for Mr. Zardari.

“During his visit to Algeria, then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto received a warm welcome. The difficulty in this visit was that wherever her husband was supposed to be as per protocol, he was prominent everywhere due to his absence.”

There is a memorial to the martyrs in the center of the Algerian capital, and laying flowers on this national monument is a must for every distinguished foreigner. Zardari did not consider it necessary to support Benazir Bhutto there either. He was so lost in a suite in the official guest house with one of his trusted specialists that he could hardly be seen outside.

He was not there in meditation or retreat, but he had alcohol with him. Mr. Zardari specifically asked my wife if she was sent our cook’s hand-cooked food and video cassettes of Indian films then he would be very grateful. My wife sent him cassettes of popular films with the help of children and Zardari remained immersed in them.

“On the last evening of the visit, Zardari was not ready to attend the special invitation extended by the Algerian president. This special dinner was for both the guests. Benazir Bhutto was the first head of government to be awarded this honour.”

Foreign Minister Sahibzada Yaqub Ali Khan spoke to the Prime Minister to invite Zardari to the dinner and told him that it could affect the bilateral relations between the two countries. Then Zardari agreed to go to the dinner.

“When Benazir Bhutto left the tour, my wife and I kept thinking that what did Benazir know that her husband used to watch Indian movies while staying in a famous guest house?”

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