A master at political wheeling, dealing

March 07,2021

Tikka Iqbal Khan will be remembered as an interesting character from Pakistan’s millennial-era politics

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The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has lost another memorable leader with Tikka Muhammad Iqbal Khan’s death after a severe heart attack on March 1. Khan’s death may not have caused a noticeable void in national politics as he had stepped back from active politics many years ago. His demise, however, brings an end to an epoch of political wheeling dealing.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto has expressed grief over the ’90s’ leader’s passing and extended condolences the beeraved. “The late Tikka Muhammad Iqbal was a noble man. He was a fearless person and will always be remembered,” he said.

The deceased is survived by his wife, two daughters and brothers, including Tikka Muhammad Azam Khan, Tikka Mukhtar Khan, Tikka Hammad Khan and scores of devoted workers in his hometown of Arifwala, particularly, and the Punjab generally.

Tikka was a veteran political leader to whom loyalty was not a virtue. He had been close to the then Punjab chief minister Nawaz Sharif and served in his government as a special assistant. Later, he switched sides and emerged as a strong supporter of the PPP chairperson, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

He pretended to be close to the military establishment and claimed the acquaintance of some generals. However, none of them helped the PPP.

Later, he was close to Gen Pervez Musharraf who took over after dismissing Nawaz Sharif in 1999. At one point he was picked by Musharraf to replace Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool as the Punjab governor. However, there was an attempt on the life of Musharraf, and the scheduled replacement was postponed after terrorists attacked the president’s convoy on December 25, 2003.

Many who had known him in life describe him as foxy in dealings with opponents and potential rivals. They say his political ideology was Machiavellian and he was never above resort to deception.

In December 2007, Tikka made another surprising move. He filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the November 3 actions Musharraf that had come in the form of a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO).

He sought a declaration from the court that the army chief had no legal authority to impose an emergency in the country or suspend the constitution. The imposition of a national emergency, he argued, was the president’s prerogative. The SC judgment was against his argument and provided a quasi-legal validation for the PCO.

Tikka also came to be very close to the inner circle of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. In 1993, he was appointed a fderal minister.

Earlier, he had had the privilege of serving her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as his adviser with a federal minister’s status in the 1971 and 1977 governments of the PPP.

He once told this scribe that Osama Bin Laden (OBL) had visited Punjab House in the late ’80s and handed over 40 bags containing money to Nawaz Sharif. He said during the meeting he (Tikka) was asked to stand outside the room. “Punjab House was surrounded by Al Qaeda men during the meeting. OBL supported Nawaz Sharif against Benazir Bhutto,” Tikka had said.

A PPP flag still flies over his house in his native Arifwala and his family proudly associates itself with the PPP.

Many who had known him in life describe him as foxy in dealings with opponents and potential rivals. They say his political ideology was Machiavellian and he was never above resort to deception. Most of his associates therefore never entirely trusted him or relied on his commitment.

Tikka Iqbal Muhammad Khan will be remembered as an interesting character from Pakistan’s millennial-era politics.


The writer is a journalist based in Lahore. He reports on politics, economy and militancy. He can be reached at shrnaqvi3gmail.com


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