By Dr Ghayur Ayub

Ch Nisar and Javed Hashmi are like two sides of one coin-the coin being PML-N. Both are sincere to the party and its leadership, but by nature they are poles apart. I have known both of them closely and can say with confidence that I can write a book on each. Who knows, one day I might even. But today, without touching on their private lives, I will try to highlight factors effecting their personalities pertaining to politics.

In February 1992, I was sent to Sheikh Zaid Hospital, Lahore, as trouble shooter to control an ongoing doctor's strike. After taking charge as Chairman, I found the hospital a picture of devastation, with broken windows, shattered glasses, bricks, stones and pebbles filling the otherwise clean lawns, corridors and wards. The strike resulted in seven strikers being locked up and three in hospital with serious injuries. I managed to control the situation, bringing the striking parties on the table and releasing those behind the bars.

While I was in Sheikh Zaid Hospital, the post of Executive Director, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) fell vacant and I applied for it. There were four candidates for the job. One day, I got a call from the Cabinet Division informing me that I had been selected for the post and a notification was issued accordingly. I was also told that this decision had been made by the Deputy Prime Minister, Ch Nisar Ali Khan. I did not know Ch Nisar personally at that time. A few weeks later, I met him at Lahore airport for the first time. He looked fragile in physique and indifferent in attitude. When I introduced myself, all he said was, “So you are Dr Ghayur; your opponents have slung a lot of mud on you. But my enquiries about you proved otherwise.” We were to become friends thereafter.

Over the years, I found him to be impressive in his logical approach on political matters and in his know-how of convincing others on problematic issues. He had a matter-of-fact personality with two distinct qualities; an outright revulsion for corruption and complete distaste for sycophants. He could not tolerate corruption, and unnecessary flattering irritated him. When it came to persuasion, he had to be convinced by logical arguments rather than emotions. He disliked people sacrificing their pride just to get ahead. This attitude was translated by some of his opponents as his egoism and arrogance. Some of his colleagues labelled him as an abrupt man suffering from complexes who had huge chip on his shoulder. He was known for tough decisions and once he made up his mind, it was practically impossible to change it. Some even compared him with the fictional character, Col Faridi, created by the great writer Ibn-e-Safi. His bolshy nature, dry noesis and closeness to the party leadership led his colleagues to fear him. They stayed away from him and vice versa.

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He could not tolerate two things – incompetence and laziness. Mediocre people holding high positions made him uncomfortable. He expected others to see things the way he saw them. This made him short-tempered and fractious. Because of this, senior bureaucrats felt uneasy and even worried, when they brought files to him for discussion. Once, I saw a grade 22 bureaucrat perspiring heavily as he left his office. In meetings with bureaucrats, he acted like more of a bureaucrat than the shrewd bureaucrats themselves. With politicians, he failed to present himself on their wavelength. In party meetings, he would sit quietly and avoid giving his input unless asked by the leadership. Such aloofness with politicians and hawkish attitude with bureaucracy made him unpopular with both groups, especially the former. In a way his attitude made him seem less of a politician and more of a bureaucrat. His innate obstinance extended to his religious leanings. Being a staunch supporter of Deobandi School of Thought, he closed his mind to other sects and was especially critical of Sufism.

This type of personality package fell heavy on his friends. He chose friends according to their skills and would only discuss matters of their fields, making them feel restricted in openness, creating a window of frustration. Very rarely, with a scarce few, he would open up socially – otherwise he always kept a lid on personal and private matters. One such friend was a risible cardiologist from PIMS who could change his mood instantly, otherwise his short temper could spoil a friendly atmosphere in a blink. Such a disposition made his friends realise that friendship with him ran one way – his way. Among them, he became known as a man who knew when and how to dump friends. Soon, he started losing his lifelong 'buddies'.

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Here comes the punchline. With all the logical and calculated mental selectivity, he had a strange paradox in his personality. He had weak ears for gossips especially if they involved stories pertaining to corrupt practices. His immediate juniors took advantage of this and concocted stories about those they did not like, turning his mind against them. His trusted personal secretary from his village was a glaring example. He provided misinformation on corruption about a few politicians and friends sowing the seeds of misunderstanding against them. This was to become a tipping point against Javed Hashmi.

I met Javed Hashmi a few times when I was executive director, PIMS in the early 1990s. We became friends when he was appointed as health minister in the second term of Mr. Nawaz Sharif. I was director general health then. I worked with him for three years and found him an easy person to work with. He was down to earth in his attitude and humble in his character, treating all with equality. One could see in him a person whose political mindset had been nurtured in the fields of a 'Pind'. This mindset made him modest and unassuming. His political discussions evolved around Tehsil politics. One could feel elementary politics running in his jugular making him knowledgeable on both local and national politics.

He was one of the few persons I ever met who did not loose logic when flooded with emotions. Usually people sink down to basic instincts when emotionally charged loosing rational thread. Not him. Most probably this was because he had a complex-free personality. It became obvious when I saw him having no problem conveying his point of view to the foreigners in 'tooty phooty' English. When pointed out he smiled saying his aim was to convey his message and not to teach or learn English. I saw him doing it effectively in Geneva, Cairo and Damascus where he represented Pakistan in world fora.

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In decision making, he had a clear mind and had no hesitation in acting on the most difficult decisions, which put him in trouble many times. One such decision put him behind bars for 23 years. His bold stand alongside Begum Kulsum Nawaz at a time when many left Nawaz Sharif was another fearless decision he took. I have first hand knowledge that when Sheikh Rashid changed sides, he tried to convince him to do the same and get political mileage. But Javed Hashmi refused in the name of democracy, thereby exposing himself to the military onslaught and suffered personally.

When he was in Adhyala Jail, I was sent to assess his medical condition by the federal government. There, I found him as rapturous as he was in the Ministerial Enclave as minister. The only time I saw his eyes filling with tears was when he narrated a chapter from his upcoming book in which he spoke of his daughter. Over all, he is a politician, groomed at grass-root level, having no inhibitory qualms. His leaning on the Barelvi School of Thought has a great influence on his personality, making him humble, down to earth and tolerant.

So here are two prominent political leaders of PML-N, both full of political acumen and sincere to the party who cannot look straight into each other's eyes because of their diverse personality traits. When I was investigated by NAB, repeated pressure was put on me to provide 'something' against both that would indict them. They gave me the distinct impression that the two hated each other and expected me to take sides. Once, the frustrated investigating ISI Col got annoyed, banged the table and left the room fuming. Reason? I told him point blank that there was nothing to show the two men's involvement in nepotism, irregular administrative practices or corruption.

It is a pity that two such outstanding senior politicians, with their inborn, laudable but diverse qualities have been pitted against each other by a few narrow-minded and inconsiderate people around them to widen the gap between the two for their own selfish reasons.