Beginning in 1966, I was back in Pakistan, posted at the Foreign Service Headquarters, serving as Deputy Secretary. During this time, I was in charge of the China Desk. In 1967, when the Karakoram Highway had not yet been built, I participated in border talks with the Chinese authorities in Sinkiang, concerning land trade, using a narrow route through the mountains, along which Sinkiang had traditionally traded goods with Pakistan. We went to Sinkiang to formally open this pathway for trade between the two countries. The actual volume of goods was not very large, mostly consisting of items such as lanterns, scissors and the like. But since this was a symbolic link with China, who we considered an ally, it was important.
In Sinkiang, we stayed at a palace which was once the home of the British resident. Our delegation consisted of myself, representing the Foreign Office, a representative of the Ministry of Commerce, a representative of the NWFP government and Habib-ur-Rehman, representing the administration of the Northern areas in Pakistan.
During the evenings we would stay indoors and talk, since there was not much we could do outside after dusk. It was during one of these conversations that Habib-ur-Rehman told us his version of the death of the famous Indian nationalist leader, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. As a Brigadier he had been an officer in the Indian National Army (INA), a large Japanese backed force led by Subhas Bose, whose aim was to liberate India from Britain with assistance from Imperial Japan. The INA was mostly recruited from the ranks of exiled Indian nationalists, volunteers and troops who had deserted the British Indian army.
In 1945, with the Japanese clearly losing the war and the Allies closing in on the Japanese home islands, the INA was falling apart. Bose tried to reach Japan to make another appeal for assistance. Habib-ur-Rehman was in an aircraft with Bose, which took off from Taipei in Formosa (now Taiwan). This aircraft crashed. Habib-ur-Rehman told me that while he himself survived the crash, and rushed to the side of his leader, Bose was close to death. According to him, Bose died because his clothing caught fire from the flames of the burning aircraft. He was taken to a nearby hospital but died from his burns. I have no reason to doubt Habib-ur-Rehman's story of Bose's death, and I believe it ought to put to rest many of the theories (and conspiracy theories) regarding the death of the charismatic Indian nationalist leader.
. . . . In 1966, the decision was taken to build the Karakoram Highway through the Khunjerab Pass, between northwestern Pakistan and the Sinkiang Autonomous Region in China. I was part of the negotiations and communication taking place to bring the plan to fruition.
We were members of a delegation led by General Faruqi, who was the head of the Engineering Corps of the Pakistani military. The Chinese delegation was led by his counterpart, a general from the PLA (People's Liberation Army). The idea was that the Pakistanis would build the highway through our side of the Khunjerab Pass, while the Chinese would build it from their side of the border.
When the time came to make a commitment on how long it would take each side to complete their part of the construction, General Faruqi estimated that it would take us twelve years. He explained that we could not work more than three or four months every year at that altitude, given the climate and other factors. We then asked the Chinese delegation how long it would take them. We were taken aback at their confident response: it would take them three years! The Chinese general said that his men would work throughout the year, despite the climate.
A shocked General Faruqi took us aside for a private conference. We decided that we too would match the Chinese, and build our part of the highway by working throughout the year, and complete it in four to five years. And that is just how we did it.
I was with the Pakistani diplomatic mission to the UN in Geneva when the East Pakistan crisis broke out. In 1971, with the situation in East Pakistan getting worse, I was sent to the Pakistani High Commission in London, as Counselor (the number three position there). Later, after Daulatana became the High Commissioner in London, I was made Deputy High Commissioner.
With Bangladesh having declared independence, Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman was released from incarceration by the Pakistani authorities, and he flew to London for a short while before returning to Bangladesh. Since he had been released by our government and no other Pakistani representative was going to receive him, I thought it appropriate to be present when he arrived at the airport.
In 1972, with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto at the helm in Pakistan, our foreign policy was such that we withdrew from the Commonwealth. This would have deprived Pakistani citizens of their special rights as members of the Commonwealth, and it would have especially affected the large Pakistani expatriate community in Britain. The British government wanted to extend the privileges enjoyed by Commonwealth citizens to the Pakistani expatriate community in Britain, so they decided to pass the Pakistan Act in Parliament, in order to legally fill the gap left by our departure from the Commonwealth.
This led to a problem, though. Many Pakistani expatriates in Britain were of Kashmiri origin. Their passports indicated that they were "citizens of Azad Kashmir" since the Pakistani government hoped that they would vote in an eventual plebiscite to decide the future of Kashmir. The Parliamentary sub-committee working on the Pakistan Act in London informed us that the privileges extended to Pakistani citizens under the Act could not legally apply to citizens of Azad Kashmir, due to the information on their passports. To get over this problem, I dug out a document from Parliamentary records which proved that in earlier cases, the British government had a precedent for considering Azad Kashmiris to be citizens of Pakistan. When I produced this document, the Parliamentary sub-committee agreed to extend the same rights to Azad Kashmiris as it did to other Pakistanis under the Pakistan Act. The British government, however, later reprimanded me for this effort, as they did not consider it appropriate for diplomatic staff to present Parliamentary records to the sub-committee.
In 1975, I returned to the Foreign Service Headquarters in Islamabad, and for the next two years I was in charge of the East Asia desk. I was part of two delegations led by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to China, once in 1976 and then again after Mao died and Hua Guofeng became the Chinese premier. During our visit to China in 1976, Mao Zedong was close to death. His mental faculties were no longer as sharp as I had once known them to be. During a meeting with Bhutto, he even thought for a moment that Bhutto was the leader of India, until a Chinese aide explained to him that this was not the case.
I recall that Mao came down to escort Zulfiqar and Nusrat Bhutto to their waiting car. As the tall Mrs. Bhutto got into the vehicle, I remember how Mao put his hand on the top of the door, so that her head would not hit it. I found this to be a very human side of the great revolutionary leader, even at a time when he was close to death. These remembrances of things past are such that one is filled with nostalgia when one recalls them today.