Year: 1983. It was 11.30 pm. Sadruddin Hashwani got a call.
“There is a chaos in disco!” GM of Marriott Hotel Karachi was on the other side, “We’ve had a fight between two men and their groups…guns and firing.”
Hashwani ordered GM to use guards and kick those fellows out. Later, it turned out that one of the men involved in fight was Asif Ali Zardari. The same man who later became husband of the Prime Minister, and eventually, President of Pakistan.
This is an excerpt from “Truth Always Prevails,” a memoir by Sadruddin Hashwani. Hashwani is a prominent businessman in Pakistan, who runs the country’s largest hotel operations. The book narrates his journey from humble beginnings to overwhelming success. But even more than that, the book reveals his struggle against corrupt politicians, and uncooperative government officials.
Hashwani says Asif Ali Zardari took it as a commercial opportunity, when his wife became Prime Minister of Pakistan. And because of hotel incident, Zardari held a grudge against Hashwani.
One day Zardari called him. He wanted to buy some of Hashwani’s land. Hashwani offered to sell that land at purchase price (even though the value had shot up in the years). When Zardari came to finalize the deal, Hashwani says he could tell Zardari wanted that land for free.
Plot to kill
Corps commander Karachi, General Asif Nawaz called him in his office to tell a very disturbing thing. Two noted criminals, Qureshi and Laghari, were released from prison, contracted to abduct and kill Sadruddin Hashwani. Orders of their release came from Islamabad, the capital. He was to be abducted, forced to sign papers giving away his properties, and killed.
Worried and frightened Hashwani left country with his family.
During Benazir’s second term, Zardari continued with his naughtiness. Government invited offers to build a new five-star hotel in Karachi. Hashwani also bade for it. A few days later, he got a telephone call from Zardari, who wanted to give the hotel project to his friend Tufail alias Tony Shaikh. Hashwani understood the message and withdrew his bid.
A dismissive Zardari
Once Zardari travelled to several countries with his PM wife. Hashwani asked him to relate experience of meeting with international leaders. Zardari’s reply: “They are all stupid and below average… No understanding of ground realities.”
A smiling Zardari
When Zardari became President, a British journalist told Hashwani, “For a man whose country is in crisis and who’s lost his wife in awful tragedy only a few months ago, he certainly seems to smile a lot.”
Back with old tricks
According to Hashwani, President Zardari was back to his old tricks, and started running presidency like a cartel. So, there were attempts on Hashwani’s life. His house was set on fire. His office was burned, and his hotel in Peshawar was subject of a bomb attack. And this time, Zardari had an alibi – he could blame all disturbances to ‘terrorism.’
Attempts to his life continued, and one day, Hashwani’s hotel in Islamabad, the Marriott, was attacked with an explosive-laden truck. 1000 kg of RDX was used.
Hashwani wonders that Islamabad Marriott hotel is located at a high-security zone. The Parliament, the Supreme Court, the President’s and Prime Minister’s residence – all are located close by. It is not an area where you can simply drive around for the sake of it. So it was odd that a whole truck, packed with explosives reached there without being stopped. The truck was apparently escorted by a car.
A strange fire
After 1000 kg of explosives were exploded, another strange thing happened. Fires broke out in rooms on the fourth and fifth floors of the hotel building. But those flames were blue in colour, indicating that those fires were caused by chemicals.
An official call
And then a senior government official called Hashwani. “You must tell the media that the President was intended to be the target of the bombing.” Zardari and his office told international media that he was scheduled to have dinner at the Marriott, and the bombing had been planned to kill him.
The same night, the then interior minister, Rehman Malik, invited Hashwani to tea.
While having tea, Hashwani wondered aloud, “Who did this?”
“Obviously Baitullah Mehsud.” Came a prompt reply by Rehman Malik.
Hashwani was surprised. How did the minister know so quickly, within five hours?
Could Hashwani ignore the signs? Of course he could not. So he shifted overseas, only to return when Zardari was no more president.
The memoir is blunt, and offers an insight into corrupt political culture of Pakistan. For a journalist, the book is full of explosive news.