I was a young man at the time of the military intervention. My father had fought three martial laws, and it was my legacy to fight the fourth.

Back then, PML-N didn’t have the character to confront martial law. 

But on 12th October, everything changed. When Musharraf sent those three generals to Nawaz Sharif, they presented a paper to him and said, “Resign.” He said, “You can shoot me, but I won’t resign.” It was in that moment, that a historically pro-establishment political party was converted into an anti-establishment party.

After that, all hell broke loose. Jails and arrests became a daily occurrence. 

We would meet in bazaars and small streets, in secret. Khawaja Saad Rafique would give me hand written messages to deliver to the newspaper offices. Let me tell you, a 10 year journey is not a small one. When I got out of jail after 7 months, my young son who was only a year and a half old at the time, did not recognise me. I swear that one minute was harder for me than all the months I spent in jail. 

General Musharraf found a few allies from within the PML-N, those who advised the dictator to seek democratic and political cover. The greatest failure of politics in Pakistan, is that here dictators often wish to be democrats and democrats so often behave like dictators. Bhutto’s martial law is proof of this. 

However, if there is anyone who has confronted dictatorship in Pakistan after Benazir Bhutto, let it be said now: it was Begum Kulsoom Nawaz. So many of our stalwarts left the party. Begum Kulsoom collected the few who remained and led our march to democracy. In Lahore, she must have visited every worker’s house to comfort them. Wherever she would go, that person or his/ her family would be arrested that same night. 

Those who left PML-N and joined the Q League used to make fun of us. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, Sheikh Rasheed... these were people who used to sing the praises of Nawaz Sharif, people who used to call themselves his right hand men. Overnight, they left us for the lap of the General. 

In the winter of 1999, I met Nawaz Sharif in jail in Karachi. I saw such sorrow in his eyes. He said, “This was not what I had expected of these people.”

You see, there were so few left. When Nawaz Sharif was brought to the Supreme Court of Pakistan for the first time, there were just three people from his party there. Just three from the entire party! Ghulam Dastgir Khan, Arif Sindhila and myself. 

By the laws of politics, the politics of Nawaz were over on October 12th, 1999. But the people standing with him on that day, we were not there for politics. We were there for the love of Nawaz and the love of country.