Khwaja Muhammad Khan Hoti’s interview

Khwaja Mohammad Khan Hoti: “Oppositionist by nature”

By Tahir Ali

(The News January 2009)

Nawabzada Khawaja Muhammad Khan Hoti was born in Mardan on 1st January 1955. He belongs to the Yousafzai tribe of Pakhtoons. He has passed Bachelor of Arts from Sindh University.

He belongs to an influential political family. His father Nawabzada Mohammad Umar Khan Hoti was chief of Hoti. His grand father (Late) Nawab Sir Muhammad Akbar Khan Hoti was a big landlord and prominent political figure of NWFP. His maternal grand father Brig. Sir Nawab Muhammad Shah Jehan Khan (Late) was the ruler of Dir State. He is the son in law of (Late) Nawabzada Abdul Ghafoor Khan Hoti Ex-Governor NWFP, Federal Minister and Central Pakistan Muslim League Leader and has a son Umar Farooq Hoti – who recently created stir in Mardan when he joined PML (N) – and four daughters.

KMH joined politics in 1979 as member of Mardan municipality. He joined the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in 1987, became the General Secretary of its NWFP Chapter in 1998. One year later, he became the President of PPP NWFP.

In1988 he became the advisor, and in 1989, the special assistant to the Chief Minister NWFP. Later, he was appointed Provincial Minister for Tourism for a short period. He also served as provincial Minister for Education from 1993-1996.

Due to differences with Chairperson of PPP in 2004, he left the party as provincial president and later on, resigned from its basic membership. In 2006, he joined ANP and was appointed as its Central Vice President of ANP. He won National Assembly seat in Feb. 2008 and was given the portfolio of Federal Minister for Social Welfare & Special Education in April 2008. Now-a-days, he is Federal Minister for Narcotics Control.

He is locally known as Baba-e-Rozgar and he says cannot help without providing jobs to the poor and needy. He is famous for his candid remarks. He is a public figure and feels like amongst the common man. This is why he is locally very popular.

TNS talked to him recently. Excerpts follow

The News on Sunday: You remained very close to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. How did you find her during your interaction with her?

Khwaja Mohammad Khan Hoti: The truth is that BB was a leader with an unmatched political acumen. She was an international leader and was Pakistan’s cherished identity abroad. She was an asset to the country. Pakistan and Pakistanis have lost too much in her departure to Hereafter. She was a high calibre lady born and nurtured in a great political family- the Bhutto family- and tutored by one of the greatest leaders this country ever produced- Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Shaheed. She had her peculiar qualities and was truly benazir (matchless). She always took informed and well thought out decisions in her political career.

She had sagacity more than her any other contemporary. She would anticipate the future course of actions and would prepare her responses how to deal with them. I remember when I contacted her right after the 9/11; she was profoundly sad and said that it was a step that would have dangerous repercussions for the Muslims the world over and especially Pakistan. The events in the aftermath just testified to what she had anticipated on the very day of the terrorist attack.

She had that outstanding ability to recognise the potentials workers and how to take them along with her. She was mardum shanas (good judge of people) and would deal with people according to their worth and capabilities.

I personally miss her a lot. She held me in high esteem. You remember I was the PPP’s provincial president for NWFP. Once, in Dubai, when interviews for the aspirants of party tickets were being held before elections, I had a brawl with her on the issue of awarding party ticket to a person for elections. BB stressed that her nomination be endorsed which in my view was not suited to the prospects of the party. I objected to it. Difference of opinion took ugly terms and I walked out of the meeting saying that if our advice was not to be ignored, we had nothing to do there and told her that she should take the decisions herself and get these communicated to us which would be endorsed. Feeling disgusted, I went to the City Centre and was preparing to depart for Pakistan. Soon afterwards, she called for me. When I reached there, she smiled and said, “Hoti sahib! I agree to your suggestion because I have confidence in your political acumen.” Then she said that as I was angry with her that day, she would take us to lunch -which she very rarely did. On another occasion, when after a party’s public meeting in Lahore, there was a discussion as to the number of participants. Some said they numbered 20 thousands and others put the attendance at 30,000. When BB heard all of them, she asked me to give my analysis, and told those present that my assessment would be right as I always spoke the truth. I told them they all exaggerated and that actually the strength was five to six thousand. BB approved of my estimation.

TNS: Despite the fact that there is a powerful PPP government in the centre and four provinces, the death of BB is yet to be investigated. How do you look at the delay? And also who do you think to be behind her death?

KMH: I think her death should be promptly investigated. There have been many untraced killings in Pakistan and let’s hope that her case doesn’t add to these blind cases. Who ever that killed her has succeeded to strike the nation and the country hard. I don’t know as to whether local or foreign people or groups are to blame for her death but it’s our duty to expose her killers and bring them to justice as soon as possible.

TNS: People say the present PPP regime is violating her legacy and the party is being haphazardly run. Do you agree?

KMH: Since I am not in the PPP I cannot say for sure as to how the party is being run after her. I think only a party insider can be exactly aware of the things and feeling there. I am not in a position to say as to what changes have taken place since President Zardari became the party chief.

TNS: You had differences with her. Could you explain as to why did you desert the PPP in early 1990s?

KMH: Now as she is no more physically amongst us I don’t want to go into details about this matter. I have buried this hatchet.

TNS: Your son Umer Farooq Hoti recently joined Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). Did you suggest this step? People say you are also to join the party soon?

KMH: Yes my son has joined the PML (N). He had some serious differences with local leadership which I think were not dealt rightly by the local chapter of the party. Perhaps Farooq thought that he would have more vistas open to him there in PML (N) and that he could serve the people well if he joined it. So he took the decision on his own. You know he is my only son. If I cannot make him happy, I simply have no right to compel him on this front and thereby displease him. Then he is an adult and knows his interest well. But as far I am concerned, I am in the ANP. Asfandyar Wali Khan is my leader. He is like a brother and very dear to me. He is a respectable and knowledgeable man and knows politics well.

If my son is in a party other than mine, this has been done by others in the past and is seen even today. Wasn’t Asfandyar’s grand-father Bacha Khan a veteran of Congress while the latter’s elder brother Dr Khan sahib was in the Unionist party before independence? Aren’t the two brothers from Laki Marwat – Saleem Saifullah and Anwar Saifullah – in the PML and PPP respectively? I would also like to draw your attention to the past. You know I was inducted into politics by my uncle Abdul Ghafoor Khan Hoti, former NWFP Governor who was a PML stalwart. He wanted me to join PML and would argue with me. But I joined the PPP in 1987 instead.

TNS: But don’t you have differences with, and difficulties in, the ANP?

KMH: We do have been facing some difficulties but I think they are the products of local conspiracies against us. I want to make it crystal clear to all plotters that ministerial or party slots have no significance in my eyes. These come and go. My family has always been the lucky one in this connection. In my case especially, I have worked on too many important slots in different governments. I have made commitments to people in my constituency- You know I am locally known as Baba-e- Rozgar (Father of jobs) because I believe in service and try to provide jobs to the needy. I am proud of my reputation and feel happy that I am not known as Baba-e- corruption which someone else is. Ministries may seem attractive only to those who make money out of them. I have never indulged in corruption and have always met my personal and political expenses by selling my ancestral property. The confidence, support and service of the people are dearer to me. I am not ready to compromise on Pakistan and the rights of the people of Mardan. The moment I realised I won’t be able to fulfil the promises I made with the people, I will resign and go to the people again to apprise them of the situation. I believe in transparency and always consult my constituency on whatever step I take. That will be my last day in office. Also, I am an oppositionist by nature. I feel like being with the people who oppose an incumbent regime.

TNS: How do you look at the performances of central or NWFP government so far?

KMH: I think there are some problems to face, ranging from law and order to financial crunch to external threats to political tensions. The governments are trying to solve the problems. The question is what after them? Who else has the panacea for these ills?  I believe the Pakistani nation is ready to confront all these hardships with courage and patience. The people, unfortunately, are not being taken into confidence. The sooner it is done, the better. I think we need an overall surgery of our policies. These must be brought in tune with the people’s wishes.

TNS: During your election campaign, you would chastise the US policy vis-à-vis Pakistan and Muslims. What about that now?

KMH: Pakistan is a declared non NATO ally of the US. Bilateral relations are meant for the benefit of both the countries. We’ll try our best to rid the world of terrorism. But we have our limits and cannot and must not exceed them to have our own polity jeopardised for them. We may be prima facie divided, we may belong to divergent groups and parties but we are united in that we are not ready to compromise on our sovereignty and national honour. For us Pakistan comes first and other things follow it. It is somewhat a universal truth that we have embraced as a nation. While Pakistan would do whatever it could to eradicate extremism and terrorism, it also expects rational thinking from its other allies. The present stereotyped tendency of putting all the blames of each and very thing on Pakistan will have to be avoided. It will only create problems and will serve no purpose for the coalition. If President Bush has been attacked by shoes, it is not a work of Pakistan’s making. The US will have to change its policy from aggression to peaceful dialogue with its opponents. It will have to bring a shift in its policies towards the Islamic world. When you support the killers of Palestinians, you will have to face indignation from the whole Muslim Ummah. While successive Pakistani governments are also to blame for the scourge, much of the terrorism in the world today is a reaction to US policies. If you also look at the huge anti-war rallies worldwide, you can see that the US has lost the war for hearts and minds. The American people need to know the truth. The US will have to think as to why it is being looked as an anti-Islam/Muslim power. The US must forthwith shun its militant approach, befriend the nations and avoid subjugating them.

And look at the respective attitude of India. It also accuses us of being supportive to terrorism. It ignores that Pakistan is itself a target of terrorists. If terrorists from India or Iraq target Pakistan, does it give us a license to attack these countries? Certainly not. It would have to forgo this mentality of accusation and threats. If it continues to charge Pakistan of whatever ugly takes place there, we also have questions regarding its role. When Pakistan overlooks the Indian intrigues against Pakistan or the disproportionately large presence of Indian consulates in Afghanistan, India should also reciprocate the same gestures.

TNS: You remained in the political arena for quite a time now. Based on your experience, what are the three main problems the Pakistani political system is faced with?

KMH: We considerably lack tolerance. Be that leaders or workers, they all try to benefit at the expense of others. They see their party colleagues not as brothers and friends but as rivals who must be sidelined and maligned to minimise their own prospects. Look when some vested interests in the ANP conspired against us in Mardan, my son was compelled to join the PML (N). This practice goes on unabated at all levels-local, provincial and national- in the country. Politics should not be turned into personal enmity which is a common sight through out Pakistan.

Another malady with our political system in my view is that promises are made but are mostly violated. Commitments are fulfilled the least. Because the promises are not intended to be pursued, mostly unrealistic commitments are made with the people. The public is not taken into confidence by the leaders if there are any hurdles and problems in the realisation of promises and objectives. This causes public resentment and disenchantment with the politicians.

The third drawback in our system to me is that there is too much experimentation in every department. Policies are made, changed and replaced. Projects are started, then lethargy engulfs those who run it and at last these are shelved for ever. Very handsome policies are prepared but these always await implementation. This lethargy has dealt us severe blows through out our history.

TNS: where does Pakistan stand today in Narcotics-trade?

KMH: There are at present an estimated 600,000 drug addicts in Pakistan. It accounts for a little over 2 % of the world’s Narcotics business. Afghanistan now a days is world’s biggest supplier of Narcotics- around 7800 hectors of poppy cultivation has been estimated there. The international drug mafia has changed its focus from Pakistan and is now taking drugs to Europe on some other routes in Iran, Turkmenistan and Bangkok.

And one interesting information, Holland of late has legalised the use of Charas (cannabis) in its country.

TNS: How can the drug trafficking be stopped or minimised?

KMH:  China and Saudi Arabia award death penalties to drug traffickers but even then people take drugs there. Narco mafia is very powerful and spread over the globe. It is very difficult to eliminate the business altogether. But we will have to continue our efforts for a drug-free world. We may not be able to eradicate the trade entirely but will decrease it for sure. As Pakistan is concerned, it faces many constraints. The narcotics’ department is yet to have its own building. It has a total budget of Rs.120 million which much too less than actually needed- as against it, the social welfare department’s budget when I was its minister recently was Rs.9000 million. The department has a workforce of three thousand employees that supervise border areas spread over thousands km- according to an estimate every official looks after an area of 10km to ensure that drug peddling doesn’t take place. Is it possible for him? As against it Iran has a total anti narcotics force of 35000 while Turkmenistan has 25000 personnel for the purpose. Also their pays are ridiculously small- while they are astonishingly expected to deal fairly with the narcotics-trade worth millions, and often billions, of rupees and have to contend with the resourceful drug mafia which is ever ready to invest on them. They deserve to be remunerated well. More incentives must be given to them and to the informers that risk their lives against the dangerous and powerful drug barons. We also need X-ray machines. Small dealers should also be arrested but it is the drug barons that would have to be given special attention- after all the small peddlers get it only form them to pass on to consumers. We also need to have more narcotics police stations around the country. Again, the importance of having more hospitals for drug addicts cannot be exaggerated- I am happy to announce that the present regime has envisaged to open a few narcotics police stations and Benazir Hospitals for drug addicts in the country.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

2 Responses to Khwaja Muhammad Khan Hoti’s interview

  1. ch sheraz says:

    hej tahir my name is sheraz and omer hotti used to be one of my good friends..can you help me to provide his home or office number…..if he asks so tell him sheraz liaqut house denmark….thanks for help if you can

    Like

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