Former BJP president makes the startling claim at a function to release Marathi translation of MJ Akbar's book on Sunday
As Nawaz Sharif prepares to take over as Pakistan's prime minister for the third time, here is a revelation from former Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari.
When he was ousted in a military coup in 1999 by then army chief, General Pervez Musharraf, it was the intervention of Reliance Industries’ chairman Dhirubhai Ambani that saved his life, claims Gadkari. The latter requested then United States president Bill Clinton to save Sharif’s life as "he was an important friend".
This claim was made by Nitin Gadkari at a book release function in Nagpur on Sunday, and is the first such claim by a senior politician.
Gadkari said Ambani made the request at a meeting in Mumbai during Clinton’s visit to India in March 2000, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister. Clinton and his delegation also had a formal event at the Mumbai Stock Exchange, at which Gadkari was present as the leader of opposition in the Maharashtra legislative council.
"Before that programme, Dhirubhai met Clinton and requested him to use his good relations with Musharraf to save Sharif's life, for it was feared that Musharraf would get rid of Sharif like how Zia-ul-Haq got rid of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Dhirubhai said Sharif was his friend and that he should be allowed to live. He also told Clinton that Sharif was as good as his own countrymen because India and Pakistan were one before partition. Both his sons, Mukesh and Anil, were present then,” Gadkari said at a book release function on Sunday.
The book, Talwarinchya Chhayet, a translation of senior journalist MJ Akbar's book The Shade of Swords, is published by Pune's Sarhad Research Centre.
After his visit to India, Clinton went to Pakistan where apparently he secured a pardon for Sharif's life after discussions with Musharraf. "He even conveyed this to Dhirubhai," said Gadkari. Thereafter, Sharif was exiled from Pakistan and offered asylum in Saudi Arabia.
Sanjay Nahar, founder of the Sarhad Research Centre, was present at the event along with Girish Gandhi of Vanrai, as were Akbar and member of Parliament Vijay Darda, when Gadkari made the statement.
Nahar said, "Gadkari made this statement twice in the course of the day. First, he made the statement in informal discussions in the afternoon and then at the evening function. Coming from a former president of the BJP, this statement assumes importance as it shows his concern for stability in Pakistan."