3rd Place – Four Ways to Matter in Pakistan: How Four of Pakistan’s Most Important Politicians Retained Power in Exile, 1984-2014

Former Pakistani President and Chief of Army Staff Pervez Musharraf entered self-imposed exile in April 2009. Given that he knew he’d face criminal charges in Pakistan and that he had limited support and few political allies, why did he come back four years later?

I posed that question to former ambassador Ayaz Wazir, a political veteran, in Islamabad last summer. He considers Musharraf’s misstep so absurd that it must be a sign of divine meddling: “There’s a Quranic ayat [verse] that says Allah can make you blind if He wants to,” Wazir said. “So you step into the ditch willingly.”[1]

Javed Jabbar, a former federal information minister, offered me six scenarios for Musharraf’s future after his fraught return.[2] None involved a political future for the man who had tapped Jabbar to guide his media policy after he took power in a 1999 military coup. The cheeriest outcome Jabbar could imagine for his close friend and one-time boss was Musharraf’s being convicted for treason and then receiving a presidential pardon. “On Article 6 [the treason charge], I don’t think he can be acquitted,” Jabbar said.

Musharraf is, as of this writing, due in court within a week (Feb. 7, 2014).[3] Neither his supporters nor the government prosecuting him believe he can deny culpability. A few days after the government announced its decision to bring the case before a special court, Pakistan’s attorney general told the press that if Musharraf is found guilty, he will face either life imprisonment or the death penalty.[4] The stakes are high for a man once powerful enough to define Pakistan’s recent history by aligning it with the West in the War on Terror.

Niccolò Machiavelli spent his last few years far from Florence, with no statesmen to advise or policies to decide; trapped in exile, he was very much out of place. In a letter he wrote in December 1513 to the Florentine ambassador to Rome, the strategist griped about “pass[ing] time with the wood-cutters”.[5] News from passersby at the local inn was his substitute for that he’d once received from networks of spies.

The strategist’s only respite was pretense. Each night, Machiavelli donned formal robes in his study and mentally conversed with the ancients, being “received by them lovingly”.[6] Machiavelli strove to better strategize. He wanted to believe the years of pain could be useful. Each night, he was distilling knowledge into the text we now know as The Prince. That could be a means, within his strategy of exile, to the end of return. He tells the ambassador of “the desire… that these Medici lords [who expelled him] begin to make use of [him] even if they begin by making [him] roll a stone”.[7] The book could serve as proof of his usefulness. The slippery Machiavelli proved to be what Isaiah Berlin would call a single-minded hedgehog[8]. Seeing exile as a distraction from his political life, he focused on a strategy to escape it—and in the process, produced his finest work.

Exile demands an inventive response from any strategist. She must evolve a way to restore her power even as she confronts challenges like establishing an operation in a new environment, losing popularity at home, and the constant risk of losing her focus on her end. The strategist’s responses to this situation reflect who she is: the means an exile can employ are tied to, and sometimes made possible by, her identity. This means both her personal background and her location within social structures of power. Remembering the connection between identity and options is essential for students of leadership, history, and international relations trying to understand the heirs to Machiavelli—like Musharraf.

Important recent cases beyond the general-president’s prompt a deeper analysis of exiles. There are lessons to be gleaned from Ayatollah Khomeini’s approach to his 14 years in Iraq and Paris,[9] the successful effort by Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi to encourage a U.S. invasion of his home country in 2003,[10] and the strategy of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose influence despite his self-imposed exile has fuelled protests against his sister’s government in Bangkok.[11] Most commonly, the problem of exile in today’s global security environment is a product of a weak political culture—one prone to political victimization, military coups, foreign intervention, or conflicting personal interests—in some nations in the Global South.

This paper uses identity as a prism through which to understand the exile strategies of four of the most important political figures in a quasi-democratic country that is today at the center of global affairs: Pakistan. It outlines the structural constraints these strategists faced both due to who they were and due to their distance from their political home. Their experiences, and the ubiquity of parallel cases, make it clear that strategies of exile must be analyzed as a rich, important sub-field in strategic studies. This paper pushes that effort forward.

My work specifically provides essential insights into modern Pakistani history. The four figures I discuss—Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, and Altaf Hussain—have made choices while living abroad that defined the country’s trajectory. To understand that period, Pakistanis need to look beyond Islamabad. We must account for decisions made in London and Jeddah, Washington and Dubai, even Philadelphia. We must study exile as a factor that has shaped, and will continue to shape, our nation’s future, for it has certainly shaped those who rule us. Understanding the interplay between these leaders’ political plans and their shifting identities is essential for the Pakistani voter and for analysts interested in the country. Given its strategic position, nuclear arsenal, continuing tensions with India and Afghanistan, and potential to be a battlefield in the ongoing sectarian struggle in Islam, Pakistan matters. Because exile has been formative to the country’s development, it must be given serious thought in attempts to map the Pakistani political scene.

Three of the leaders discussed here developed successful strategies to deal with exile—and to secure their ends. An example is Sharif, who was away in Saudi Arabia and London for seven years (2000-2007), long enough for an entire generation to grow up without seeing him as a tangible political presence in their country. Sharif used his time abroad to build himself into the kind of politician who could head what Badar Alam, the editor of the leading Pakistani magazine Herald, calls “a strong personality cult”.[12] In May 2013, voters delivered Sharif’s party the parliamentary majority it needed to make him prime minister for a third time.

The most spectacular failure is the man who prematurely ended Sharif’s last term in power back in 1999: Musharraf. Sharif’s prosecution of his fellow exile is, in some circles, perceived as payback.

I use the cases of Musharraf, Sharif, and their peers to build up a Pakistan-based model for a grand strategy of exile. This strategy works to a precisely defined end. It requires the strategist to parse a flow of information coming through a well-run organization, to develop what Sun Tzu called “moral influence”[13] and a carefully curated public image, and to evolve a good sense of timing. I have spent months conducting interviews with political insiders and reading biographies to draw out components of this model. I gathered material on (with a particular focus on the first two, my best and worst cases):

  • Two-time Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (in exile in London, 1984-1986, and London/Dubai, 1999-2007), leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the strongest strategist,
  • Former Chief of Army Staff and President Pervez Musharraf (in exile in London/Dubai, 2009-2013), leader of the All-Pakistan Muslim League (APML) and the poorest strategist,
  • Three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (in exile in Jeddah & London, 2000-2007), the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and a moderately successful strategist, and,
  • Altaf Hussain (in exile in London, 1992-present), the enigmatic leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a coalition partner in almost every federal government in the last 25 years.

My discussions with aides to each leader helped me understand the menu of options available to him or her given their identity and context. I also traced how changing conditions, from a more democratically-oriented Pakistani electorate to the telecommunications revolution of the late 1990s and 2000s, required these strategists to rethink their approaches. My paper therefore serves as an ancillary probe into a question the academy has just begun to grapple with: how do digital, particularly social, media serve or undermine the modern leader?

Through these four stories, I tell an overarching story about the Pakistani nation. I offer here a sense of the costs, challenges, opportunities, and concerns associated with trying to influence that nation from afar.

Sign of the Times: Pakistani Exiles’ Use of Technology

Given that much of exiles’ strategizing has to do with projecting power despite physical absence, shifts in communications technology are especially important to them. How each of the four Pakistani exiles chose to engage with new options, from increasingly advanced email systems to social media, during the period when they first became widespread, serves as an important measure of their ability to master a potentially invaluable new means—or their failure to adapt.

Atlantic Council analyst Shuja Nawaz told me this past summer that one factor Musharraf’s supporters liked to quote in the run-up to their leader’s return was that the former president had over 80,000 Facebook followers. Nawaz was not impressed. “That doesn’t translate to votes. They’re all kinds of followers, including people like me who keep track of people I’m following through Facebook.”[14]

Nawaz echoed an idea most of my other sources shared: that the Musharraf team often used new media not as a tactic but as a source of information. A number of those sources spoke of the general’s over-estimating his support because of his popularity on social media. Instead of employing social media as a means to an end, the general’s team seems to have accepted it as a marker of success. They were aware of a need to use social media strategically: Raza Bokhari, Musharraf’s international spokesman and the man who manages his social media presence, told me that over the summer, he felt that he spent most of his time issuing statements to the international press—often through posts on the president’s Facebook page.[15] Bokhari’s activity keeps the general’s online profile vibrant, an important factor given that Musharraf himself was prevented from making media appearances during much of 2013. But the consensus among thinkers outside the party, including some former members of Musharraf’s government, is that for supporters like the Pakistani-American Bokhari, and an establishment with little grassroots support like Musharraf’s young party, online activity promised to be a gauge for views among the faraway Pakistani electorate. It was a dangerously simple measure. “On Facebook and all the social media, [Musharraf] thought he had created a constituency,” said the journalist Badar Alam.[16] “He was neck and neck with Imran Khan [a favorite of young Pakistani voters during the 2013 elections] as far as Facebook popularity was concerned, [but] he did not have any information from the ground.” Excitement precluded an investigation of what Musharraf’s online following really signified.

Musharraf’s failure to effectively handle the most recent wave of media innovations seems especially damning compared to the way Bhutto and Hussain used other communications technologies to great success. But that judgment needs to be tempered—the other two had more time to get used to marginally older methods. Bhutto, for instance, became known as an email and BlackBerry obsessive, committed to a daily turn-around on decisions about everything from legislation to office-bearer appointments, according to top aide Sherry Rehman.[17] Whether Bhutto was in Dubai, London or elsewhere, that machine was a tangible physical link to the country she claimed to represent. She was an old hand at its main function: her personal secretary Naheed Khan told me long-distance calling was, by the period of Bhutto’s second exile in the late 1990s, essential to the former prime minister’s management of her party.[18] She would call multiple party office-bearers to hear their respective versions of meetings held in Pakistan, Khan remembered, or personally call low-level workers to maintain their belief that she was thinking of them even across borders.

Hussain has achieved a connection with his grassroots supporters mainly by using visuals. He has become notorious for addressing crowds of thousands via massive projections at rallies in Karachi. With multiple screens wrapping around a gathering, and a live-stream or recorded address being blasted on television and radio at the same time, Hussain compresses distance. Just how powerful, and potentially problematic, these gatherings can be became especially clear when Hussain delivered a belligerent speech that threatened affluent parts of the city following his party’s disappointing performance in 2013’s parliamentary elections. Karachi citizens called in complaints to London’s Metropolitan Police, and Hussain ended up under investigation for inciting violence[19]. Hussain’s—and London’s—approaches to that incident are a fascinating instance of having to, in one go, address the questions of how to deal with exile, what sophisticated telecommunications enable, and where to enforce particular nation-states’ laws. From a strategy perspective, it will become increasingly important to deal with those concerns conjunctively as exile continues to be significant in world politics. From a leadership point of view, the case illustrates how an exile may become too comfortable in the liminal world of electronic communications—and then risk his position through complacency.

The most significant way in which technological change affected the landscape for these exiled strategists has to do with a choice one of them made while actually in power: Musharraf’s decision to open up private ownership of electronic media, which produced scores of new indigenous television channels in the 2000s. Many of those channels are fiercely independent, if tabloid-like. All four of the leaders have jockeyed for visibility, but the channels make their own decisions about whom to favor. Alam and others, for instance, recalled how electronic media undermined Musharraf during his last two years in power, particularly after he imposed an emergency and strict censorship in November of 2007. (Former information minister Javed Jabbar, who wrote much of Musharraf’s media law, takes offense to the channels’ opposition: “Most media have tended to be hypercritical of Musharraf, in some ways very unfairly… they accuse him of trying to curb the media, and for 95 percent of his tenure, [he did not]. It’s very unfair to take only that period of two weeks or two and a half weeks.”[20]) This attitude persists. It has suppressed lingering fondness for the former military ruler even after his return. When consciously employed by specialized strategists with their own motivations, like media executives looking for profits, telecoms have become a means of which exiled strategists must be wary.

London as a Haven for Exiled Pakistani Leaders

When General Zia-ul-Haq began to hunt down supporters of the PPP in the early 1980s, Benazir Bhutto’s friend Yasmin Niazi needed to escape.[21] Niazi went to the British embassy, asked for the passport she deserved by virtue of being born in the United Kingdom, and left the country. Her friend and political leader joined her soon after, setting up a PPP base in a cramped flat. Bhutto and Niazi knew that in London, they would be part of both expatriate and exile communities. When MQM member Nasreen Jalil traveled to the UK a decade later, fleeing a crackdown on her own party, she felt a similar comfort. “The UK is more familiar to Pakistanis than any other country, and there are many Pakistanis living over there,” Jalil told me.[22] She added, like almost every Pakistani political figure I interviewed, that the UK seems “like a very friendly country as far as asylum-seekers are concerned.” (This is rapidly changing given new British immigration laws.)

All four of the leaders I analyze in this paper chose London as their final destination before a return to Pakistan. (Hussain did not return.) That choice is not accidental. A London headquarters is invaluable to the Pakistani strategist. Atlantic Council analyst Shuja Nawaz told me this is likely because of historical associations, the value of the rule of law, and the guarantee of civil freedoms.[23] Such freedoms are not available, he and many of the politicians I interviewed reminded me, in the Middle Eastern kingdoms where Bhutto and Sharif began their most recent exiles; venues like Dubai and Jeddah, while also familiar to Pakistanis, ban overt political activity. This means that, in Musharraf aide Raza Bokhari’s words, exiles must be “very, very careful” in descriptions of their plans to Arab governments.[24] In addition, being based in London offers the leaders access to networks of expatriate support and Pakistani media outlets, since many have stations in the UK. If Britain will accept the exiled Pakistani leader and they can find a way to fund a life there, it seems like an ideal destination. Meeting those conditions has historically been important to building a successful exile.

I was equally curious as to why Britain would want exiles, not just from Pakistan but from other tattered democracies as well. A senior Western diplomat I interviewed, who has worked closely with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) on Pakistan, suggested that the U.K. has its own interest in serving as a hub for exiles, particularly from strategically important countries.[25] With such leaders based in London, they can keep the FCO informed about, and relevant to, their nation’s futures. What Jalil interpreted as friendliness is also a strategic openness. This policy comes with risks, but also clear geopolitical dividends.

Benazir Bhutto’s Grand Strategy of Exile

Benazir Bhutto returned from her first period of exile on April 10, 1986, to a thousands-strong rally in Lahore that set the bar for Pakistani political gatherings—particularly for the demonstrations to celebrate her second return.[26] Bhutto spent years after that Lahore rally building up her party’s profile across Pakistan’s four provinces,[27] pressuring then-military dictator Zia-ul-Haq to hold elections. After he died in a plane crash, she swept into power as Pakistan’s first female Prime Minister. Bhutto’s strategy for her first exile yielded results.

She was assassinated two months after she came back to Pakistan in 2007, following a second period of exile. There is no clear way to map whether she would have ultimately been as successful in managing that exile and return. But that year, news reports treated Bhutto as a key player in negotiations about then-President Musharraf’s future and the February 2008 elections.[28] The senior Western diplomat I interviewed, who was heavily involved in those talks, confirmed Bhutto’s importance in the planning. Musharraf “knew that he needed political parties, and he knew that the People’s Party remained the most popular party in Pakistan despite” Bhutto’s absence,[29] the diplomat told me this summer. “There was an understanding with Benazir that she would accommodate him at least in the short term.” Such statements indicate that Bhutto was, even before she officially returned, wielding power. Musharraf needed her to bolster his rule. As press reports documented, he was willing to allow her back into the country, absolve her of corruption charges through the National Reconciliation Ordinance, and hold open parliamentary elections that he knew her party would dominate, replacing his own favored political organization of PML-Nawaz defectors.

In the diplomat’s words, “all went wrong when she was assassinated.” While the attack did prevent Bhutto’s potential rise to power, she was in an exceptionally strong position when she died. Months on, her party won the mandate to form a government. Her strategizing continued to shape Pakistan even after her death. Bhutto built the most effective grand strategy in exile, during both periods abroad, of the politicians I analyzed.

Identity as Opportunity

Bhutto’s identity—the parts of it that she was born into, and those that she constructed—was the foundation of her strategy. She manipulated possibilities her identity granted her more than any of the other strategists. She was certainly born with more chances to do so than they were. As the daughter of Pakistan’s first democratically elected prime minister and the scion of a powerful family in the province of Sindh, Bhutto was guaranteed name recognition,[30] wealth, a rural vote bank,[31] and a claim to the leadership of Pakistan’s oldest national political party, one magazine editor Badar Alam called “a very stable political machine”. Most accounts of Bhutto’s life, including her own, suggest that her father trained her as his political protégée from her earliest days. That savvy and privilege translated into strong leverage abroad. Studying at Harvard and Oxford, Bhutto forged relationships that later ensured her access to Western political circles. This is a factor Naheed Khan, her personal secretary for 20 years, told me was instrumental during both her periods of exile.[32] Bhutto described the value of these connections extensively in her autobiography, noting, for instance, the role of her Harvard classmate, one-time Hill staffer and eventual first US Ambassador to Croatia Peter W. Galbraith.[33] Working with advice from people like Galbraith and her sense of power flows in transnational elite circles, Bhutto learned early how much influence she could gain by, say, lobbying Congress (given the importance of U.S. aid to Pakistan) or international organizations like Amnesty International.

A final aspect of Bhutto’s identity that enabled her strategy is one she shared with Sharif and Musharraf but not Hussain: the ability to win further influence by virtue of her past position. When trying to win her press time or high-level meetings, her advisor Sherry Rehman said, “you [didn’t] even have to say anything…She’s the former Prime Minister!”[34] Bhutto had a ready-made personal narrative to present at these meetings: she was a democratic politician who had already won electoral mandates to form a government twice and was a victim of military rule. She could reference her personal history—including the story of how General Zia overthrew her elected father—to argue that democracy in Pakistan was tied to her return. Mohammed Ziauddin, a veteran journalist and current executive editor of the Express Tribune newspaper, told me he believes this presentation—and the perceptions of her party’s struggle—was critical to Bhutto’s early success. He even suggested that broad awareness about PPP persecution, and not Bhutto’s choices as a leader, enabled the strategist’s eventual triumph in 1988.[35] Still, this part of her identity eventually became the most difficult for her to take advantage of. By the time of her second exile, Bhutto’s references to her past time in government as a calling-card meant reminding foreign audiences that her name was associated with corruption charges. Shirin Tahir-Kheli, a Pakistani-American who worked on Pakistan at the State Department and the National Security Council during the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, gave me a perspective that covered both of Bhutto’s exile periods—and she recalled that “a lot of people were wary” of Bhutto in the early 2000s.[36] Unlike during her triumphant visit to Washington in 1984, Bhutto could “make the rounds but could not see the senior people,” Tahir-Kheli said. As I make clear, the PPP leader rose to the challenge. She focused on shoring up her image and pro-democracy narrative. Bhutto’s choices reveal a grand strategy close to the ideal laid out above.

A Three-Pronged, Outward-Looking Strategy

Conversations with close observers of Bhutto’s political path and her inner sanctum suggest that her success was the product of a three-pronged grand strategy of exile. Bhutto: i) recognized her end early; ii) both closely managed her party and granted its members some independence; and iii) defined herself in ways she knew would appeal to international audiences.

Bhutto never doubted what her grand strategy was meant to achieve. Both her first and second time away, advisors suggested, Bhutto wanted to go back to Pakistan as soon as possible and seek office. In either case, her departure was a response to a rival’s move. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Bhutto and her mother led cloistered lives under the supervision of General Zia-ul-Haq’s military following the general’s coup against the elder Bhutto. Both eventually left the country for medical reasons.[37] In 1999, meanwhile, Bhutto left Pakistan to avoid jail-time for corruption charges (she maintained that these were politically motivated[38] despite widely circulated evidence to the contrary.[39]) During the first period, Bhutto set up an operation in London that was always meant to be temporary. Yasmin Islam, a close friend who went into exile just before Bhutto, told me “England never became home” for her or Bhutto. The young women would spend their days reading press clippings from Pakistan. Bhutto’s decisions during this period, both personal and political, evince her obsession with going home. When her brother died in France in an apparent murder, Bhutto told Islam and the rest of her party that no matter what General Zia’s forces might do to her or how willing party members were to arrange the funeral in her family’s hometown, “I have to take my brother back myself!” Return eventually meant house arrest.[40] Yet once freed, Bhutto came back to London certain that her final return to Pakistan could soon be reality. She announced this to her party a few months later.[41] A permanent departure would, she believed, grant General Zia what he wanted: a Pakistan with no credible opposition movement.[42]

‘The goal of securing political power at home reportedly defined Bhutto’s second stint in exile as well, starting from her decision to leave. “Party people advised her to stay out,” Bhutto’s secretary Naheed Khan told me. “At least she could give instructions to the party…if she [were] behind bars, she would have been unable to do that.”[43] Khan spoke of the decision to leave as a sacrifice Bhutto made for her party’s future, a product of her concern about where she could be more useful. “She was always desperate to come back,” Khan asserted. Bhutto’s cousin Tariq Islam (Yasmin’s husband) suggested more prosaic reasons for her departure: she had three children, and did not want them to be without either parent if she had to face the corruption cases and go to jail (her husband was in prison in Pakistan). Still, he said she “was acutely aware that you cannot do politics from exile or remote control—you have to be back on your soil”.[44]

Once in exile, Bhutto ensured that the means she employed were firmly under her control. That way, she could use them in proportion and without nervousness about losing them due to her absence. Her large, complex party structure was her chief tool for information-gathering and eventual electoral victory, and she tightened her grip on it in both periods. In the first, she used internal elections to expel the group Yasmin Islam and Shuja Nawaz, the think tank analyst, refer to as “the uncles.” These were party elders of her father’s generation who saw themselves as his true heirs—and a young woman as a poor leader. After this Augustus-style purge, Bhutto recruited loyalists of her own, including London-based students like Khan and expatriate Pakistanis, while she communicated with PPP workers back home to identify sources for information within General Zia’s prisons.[45] The message was clear: “All the power belonged to her… they never questioned her,” Yasmin Islam told me.[46] In the early 2000s, Bhutto used telecommunications technology to be in touch with party leaders throughout the day. This period saw elections in 2002—and PPP representatives moved from organizing against Musharraf in private constituencies to pushing laws in the legislature. Bhutto here managed a balance. Sherry Rehman, a PPP parliamentarian at the time, told me that for grassroots supporters and legislators, it was important that “the work to return to democracy was done in Pakistan.”[47] Rehman said Bhutto retained influence by giving her party leaders leeway to draft legislation at their own meetings in Islamabad, and then reserving final approval and veto power. As Khan told me, Bhutto continued to chair both of the party’s top committees and, in consultation with members still in Pakistan, define its agenda. The exiled leader thought it essential to be personally involved with initiatives that would bear her name, shape her future and potentially lay a foundation for her return. This could lead to complicated maneuvers: PPP leaders flew to meetings abroad, and Rehman described how the hundred of aspiring politicians seeking Bhutto’s support for a campaign in the run-up to the 2008 elections were asked to fly out to London and personally acquaint themselves with the absent leader. But because her identity—her vote bank, for instance, and her name recognition—was so vital to her party and PPP power so centralized in her hands, Bhutto could easily demand such demonstrations of respect.

Bhutto supplemented her insider’s view of the PPP by gathering various perspectives on the party’s performance, and used that information to ensure that it operated in a way that would enable her eventual return. She was wary, for instance, of alliances being formed without her knowledge, and so sought various office-bearers’ versions of events: “she would not believe me, she would not believe you,” Khan explained—she built her own understanding of each development. That included criticism, according to the editor Muhammaed Ziauddin.[48] He described Bhutto quizzing him on the PPP when he came to London as a correspondent for another paper, DAWN. Ziauddin told her he believed that despite her efforts, her absence and her deputies’ ambitions were pushing the party toward collapse. With those notes, a feed of updates from the party, and regular policy meetings in her bases in Dubai and later London, Bhutto “ran a parallel shadow government” from exile, according to Rehman. She also recognized that beyond policy, the party had to rely on supporters making its work possible outside conference rooms: party workers. The Bhutto cult of personality drew rural Sindhis and under-educated volunteers from assorted parts of the country to the People’s Party. To ensure that its charm did not fade in her absence, Bhutto personally called or corresponded with volunteers, Khan explained. Even when removed from the party, Bhutto made certain it was hers from top to bottom.

The third part of Bhutto’s grand strategy of exile was a thoughtful approach to people outside her circle. She crafted a public image as an involved, aware and well-loved leader, commenting on Pakistan in international media and at conferences on leadership or global affairs. Enhancing her profile in the West, which during both her periods in exile was involved with Pakistan because of investments in Afghanistan, was a chief means to her end of destroying the hurdles to her return. This worked. Both Zia and Musharraf, close allies of Washington, eventually allowed her back into Pakistan without victimizing her significantly. Mahmud Ali Durrani, a retired Zia aide and general who interacted with Bhutto in Washington when he was Musharraf’s ambassador there and served as National Security Advisor in her party’s government after her death, told me, “She did a lot to present herself as the legitimate heir to power”.[49] These efforts included hiring a Washington lobbyist[50] and sending sophisticated emissaries like the award-winning journalist Rehman to communicate with foreign governments. Often, she would lobby for herself with former classmates like Galbraith or notables who had known her father, such as former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark.[51]

When she was faced with challenges to the image she chose to project, Bhutto doubled down on her message. In the 80s, Yasmin Islam told me, some international figures treated the young exile with suspicion because of her brothers’ connections to militants in Afghanistan; in the 2000s, as Tahir-Kheli explained, Bhutto was less popular in Washington than ever, and suspected of having have stolen millions from her nation. Both times, Bhutto talked about something else, a topic she knew would pull at her listeners’ heartstrings and bolster her appeal: the return of democracy to Pakistan. She underscored her symbolic value to a civilian-ruled Pakistan. In the 80s, she had linked her cause to humanitarian worries about General Zia’s rule: she wrote, “I learned the value of providing information to Amnesty International when I saw how the human rights organization could mobilize world opinion.”[52] With constant lobbying in the second period, Tahir-Kheli and the senior diplomat I spoke with said, Bhutto eventually convinced policymakers in the West that her return was in their interest. Retooling her appeal for a domestic audience, Bhutto valued the ‘democrat’ label enough to sign a Charter of Democracy with her former nemesis, Sharif. The document condemned military interference in politics and helped both exiles supplement their “moral influence”[53] Bhutto’s focus on public relations management was a crucial means in her strategy. It ensured that those in a position to give her what she wanted saw that end as valuable for themselves. It won her their investment, concern, and sympathy. She became essential to them. So, then, did the strategic goal she very nearly accomplished. 

Pervez Musharraf’s Grand Strategy of Exile

Musharraf did not get a Bhutto-style welcome when he came back to Pakistan on March 24, 2013.[54] His two-and-a-half-year-old political party, which he had formed in London,[55] lacked numbers on the ground. Less than a month later, he was placed under house arrest on the order of the Islamabad High Court.[56] Musharraf rapidly built up a legal team, both to disprove the five charges against him—including Bhutto’s murder and a treason charge for his declaration of an emergency in 2007—and to keep his story in the public eye.

Political observers told me they were confident that the Musharraf team could invalidate four of the cases. The treason charge would be the challenge. Still, Ahmad Raza Kasuri, Musharraf’s top lawyer and a leader in his APML party, said he believed that Prime Minister Sharif was avoiding the process after feeling pressured to promise a trial during its election campaign. “Since the 11th of May, the elections, the demeanor and style of the Muslim League-Nawaz has changed; they’re putting the whole muck on the shoulder of the court,” Kasuri said, referring to the government’s reliance on judges to consider private citizens’ petitions about the treason charge. Other than launching a Federal Investigation Agency probe in July,[57] the government took few steps towards a trial. Court after court granted Musharraf bail in the other cases. By November 6, the former president was set freed from house arrest. With the general’s ability to leave Pakistan still dependent on the courts’ and government’s say-so, rumors swirled about a deal with Sharif that would enable his withdrawal into permanent exile.[58] Unclear as Musharraf’s ultimate end remained, his immediate end, to escape the consequences of his botched homecoming, seemed attainable.

Then on November 18, the government announced that it was ready to try the former dictator. Like so much about Musharraf’s grand strategy of exile, the news came as a surprise even to those meant to be preparing for it: as late as November 7, Kasuri told the press that the government’s failure to move forward proved that no evidence was available.[59] When I spoke with Musharraf’s spokesman, Pakistani-American Raza Bokhari, three days after the government announcement, he said the trial “weakens the country, weakens the Pakistan military [and] is also an attempt to distract the nation and the world from other serious issues faced by Pakistan.”[60] He could not offer details on Musharraf’s future strategy. Bokhari wanted to talk about his leader’s strengths. “This is but a walk in the park compared to many other challenges that he has faced!”

Musharraf’s failure to manage exile has much to do with talk and exaggeration about his abilities. I see his strategy as the most flawed among those of the four exiles. Conversations with outside analysts, confidantes not involved with the ex-president’s party, and with the leadership of the APML, showed Musharraf to be an exile whose approach was marked by uncertainty, disorganization, and, above all, a lack of realism.

What Musharraf’s Identity Crisis Cost Him

Musharraf capitalized on who he was—or had been—in securing a position for himself in exile. As a speaker represented by the well-known Harry Walker Agency,[61] he won exposure across Europe and North America and could fund his lifestyle largely using speaker’s fees. But when he turned his focus to Pakistan, his identity was more a handicap, one he did not fully understand. As a military man entering electoral politics for the first time, Musharraf lacked the expertise that leaders like Bhutto, Sharif and Hussain gained through cycles of victory and defeat. Instead, his friends and advisors suggest, he operated off assumptions about Pakistani politicians that are common in the Pakistan Army. General Mahmud Durrani, who considers the ex-president like a brother, said Musharraf told him a “theory which has been repeated again and again”,[62] one linked to the Army’s disappointment with the Bhutto- and Sharif-led elected governments of the 1990s. “The PPP [Bhutto] and the Muslim League [Sharif], they have both failed and there is a need for a third path…he obliquely implied being part of that third force,” Durrani said. That ‘third party’ idea was one I heard parroted by Musharraf spokesman Raza Bokhari and another army friend of the general-president’s who now supports his political aspirations as a top leader in the APML: retired Major General Rashid Qureshi.[63] What is missing from this calculus is how a general could build up that third force when he no longer had the Army behind him. “Both Benazir and Nawaz left behind political parties and allies who were badly treated by the government and therefore kind of coalesced around a leader in exile,” Atlantic Council analyst Shuja Nawaz, whose brother served as Chief of Army Staff in the early 1990s, told me. “Musharraf’s party was the Pakistan Army, and the Pakistan Army was lost the day he docked his uniform.”[64] Musharraf might have assumed that he would receive a deux ex machina from the military. Speaking in June, Nawaz predicted that this could never be the case. General Durrani agreed. Though he knew that he needed a ‘force’, Musharraf—precisely because he had spent his career in the military—had no way to develop one. He believed in a means that, for him, did not exist.

This military part of the former president’s identity had important ramifications for how he could present himself to the Pakistani voter. Unlike Bhutto and Sharif, who vilified Musharraf for keeping them away during their periods in exile, this strategist could not speak of being victimized—he chose to leave Pakistan of his free own will. Javed Jabbar, who advised Musharraf on media policy, conceded that his friend “couldn’t possibly use a sympathy-based appeal”.[65] He was therefore unable to use a means that had been found effective by various other exiles, and one that Pakistani audiences had shown that they were receptive to. Again, Musharraf stood out from other Pakistani exiles—and suffered for it.

Taken together, the various strands of Musharraf’s identity left him unable to offer a political option that could appeal to the changed mood in a Pakistan he had helped shape. This was why Musharraf and his surrogates continue to reference his track record. His case shows that memories fail to ignite significant popular support for a leader if he lacks the capabilities and the political imagination to build a “third force” to compete with his rivals. While Musharraf was talking about economic growth during his rule, Durrani told me, regular Pakistani voters remembered the general-president more for mistakes: voters “don’t think this cellphone is with me because Musharraf was there,” Durrani argued. “For him, he feels that he’s done a great job and people remember that and respect him…the regular chap says this guy signed the NRO [the bill absolving Bhutto and Sharif of corruption charges, which enabled their 2007 return], brought in all those crooks, he mismanaged Lal Masjid.” Most commentators I spoke with said that Musharraf’s rule had left Pakistanis hungry to give democracy another chance. They were not, then, keen to elect the man they mentally associated with suppressing it for a decade. So while Musharraf’s policies “created a middle class that hates traditional politics, and a middle class that believes in politics only as a means of delivery of services… and he thought that these people would vote for him,” according to journalist Badar Alam, the support that Musharraf was looking for instead went to another contender in the elections: the never-exiled Imran Khan, who has selected technocrat advisors similar to those Musharraf brought in to help him rule in the early 2000s.

The general might have avoided his dramatic failure, sources said, had he listened to those around him. The senior Western diplomat I interviewed, General Durrani, former minister Jabbar and others spoke of warning Musharraf before his return that he could no longer be the right man for Pakistan. But another fatal element of his identity prevented from heeding their counsel: pride. According to Durrani and Jabbar, who both advised the General closely during his time in power, eight years of near-absolute control left Musharraf impatient with disagreement, even from friends. Jabbar recalls that when he told Musharraf not to return, he prefaced the recommendation by telling the then-exile, “As in the past, you will often not take good advice.”

A Fragmented Strategy

Launching into a strategy of exile without a specific outcome in mind was, according to interviews I conducted and comparisons to successful strategist’s, Musharraf’s fundamental mistake. The other flaws in his planning were linked, together reinforcing the lack of realism mentioned above: i) his selection of uninformed, sycophantic advisors; and ii) his weak information-gathering effort.

I have yet to discern a specific end Musharraf identified when he planned either his exile or his current return, beyond some vague conception of being in power again. That Musharraf chose to return prior to the 2013 elections grants credence to his party’s argument that Musharraf wanted to be the third option. According to Qureshi, he envisioned forming a coalition with smaller parties like Hussain’s MQM (Senator Nasreen Jalil, an MQM decision-maker, chuckled at the suggestion during our interview) and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf. With their backing and that of independent candidates, Musharraf apparently planned to bring together enough National Assembly votes to be elected Leader of the Opposition or Prime Minister.

Fawad Chaudhry, a former spokesman for the Musharraf operation who very publicly resigned from it last year,[66] told me the APML considered another path to that number: an alliance with the Sharif defectors who had served as ministers with Musharraf.[67] This is evidence of some level of grand strategizing. If placing securing the PM job for Musharraf was the party’s end, the combined voting numbers and legislative alliances needed to vote in a PM were its essential means. But that strategy does not incorporate any explanation of why one-time Musharraf supporters might return to the fold of the terminally unpopular former ruler. In addition, the position Musharraf allegedly sought would likely not satisfy him as an end. Even as Prime Minister, he would not be able to operate with the same leeway he had when he was both President and Chief of Army Staff. Securing this end might leave him worse off, overburdened, limited, and frustrated. It is unclear whether Musharraf anticipated that even his ideal outcome would not have been a significant triumph.

Musharraf might have developed a more appropriate grand strategy had he been working out of, and with advice from, political structure that had been tested. Instead, he spent much of his time abroad with expatriates like his Pakistani-American spokesman, Bokhari. Lt. General Talat Masood, a one-time Musharraf advisor and political commentator, told me such supporters could prepare the general-president for the zeitgeist he wanted to return to. Indeed, they seem to have instead encouraged positions views that are anathema to the Pakistani mainstream. Bokhari, for instance, told me twice in our first interview that he supported drone strikes and military rule. While such individuals populated the higher ranks of the APML, Musharraf’s Pakistani political operation was stocked with Pakistanis on the ground whom Bokhari called “executors, operators.” Those representatives were not meant to be eventual candidates for office, Bokhari told me. This structuring some sense given the APML plan to gain independent candidates and ally with other parties, but it was a source of institutional weakness: what was meant to motivate these operators? Again, the party had little to offer in terms of incentives, given its weak electoral prospects. This could be an important reason behind its organizers’ ineffectiveness. As an uninvolved friend who says he heard political gossip about the party, Durrani said he believed Musharraf “overrated the strength of his party structure, which was nowhere.” Durrani, Chaudhry and Qureshi all suggested that APML representatives were hiding their failure to rally support, and the poor public reception they received, from their leader.

With this limited ground presence, it is no wonder that Musharraf’s grand strategy of exile also failed him in terms of information gathering. Musharraf cannot have anticipated the level of change that went on in Pakistan after his departure, my sources told me. Nor did he fully grasp how regular Pakistanis perceived him. Hearing limited voices from Pakistan, Musharraf was not able to tailor his means, his timing, or his message to shifts in public sentiment.

Musharraf could have done a far better job presenting himself and learning about where he was headed had he identified an end, something to work towards once he landed. For now, as he waits for his trial to begin, the best result he can hope for may be what Jabbar suggested back in June—and his entire grand strategy of exile, from departure to return, could have been for naught. 

Nawaz Sharif’s Grand Strategy of Exile: An Identity Born Abroad but Fiercely Homegrown

For Nawaz Sharif in exile, identity was strategy. The man who is now Prime Minister of Pakistan used his time abroad to rethink his political approach and public persona. As almost a new leader with a new party, he has now met resounding success. Lessons from Sharif’s absence had shown him the necessity of that overhaul. Following his forced departure from Pakistan in 2000, Sharif watched from Saudi Arabia as aides abandoned his party en masse. Many joined a rival organization established by the general who had overthrown him, Pervez Musharraf. Suddenly, his end—returning to Pakistan, and to power—seemed less feasible than ever. Because Sharif always wanted to come home, as party insiders and journalists told me over the summer, he evolved a fresh approach to doing politics in Pakistan, and a modified grand strategy of exile, fast. Two days after Sharif was sworn in this past summer, the journalist Badar Alam told me that spending seven years abroad had driven the country’s new leader and his chief political deputy, his younger brother Shahbaz, to reform their political operation: “When the Sharifs were away, it was the first time they realized the limitation of politics for money. … They started creating a political machine, with a strong ideology and a strong personality cult.”[68] That party now controls the federal government.

The exiled Sharif both remade his party internally, by trying to shift its model from patronizing local power players to centering on his own story, and reshaped its alliances in the broader world of Pakistani politics. According to Alam and Atlantic Council analyst Shuja Nawaz,[69] Sharif had been accustomed to recruiting Punjabi politicians known as “electables,” who could use family loyalties to deliver their districts in successive election cycles. He would grant them cabinet positions or lucrative government contracts in exchange. He and his brother had, unlike their rival Benazir Bhutto, established civilian governments that usually received some approval from the powerful Pakistan Army, part of what Pakistanis call “the establishment.” Indeed, they had begun their careers under the wing of the military dictator preceding Musharraf, General Zia-ul-Haq. They were unprepared for either a military coup or an election like that of 2002, in which only Lahore, the capital of their own province, still voted for their party. “They initially thought that two things would keep them in power forever,” Alam told me. “One was money, the second was the establishment’s backing. In 1999, [with Chief of Army Staff Musharraf’s coup] the establishment’s backing went away. In 2002, they realized money wouldn’t help so much.” Their old identity no longer offered them the means they needed for their end. So Sharif worked on internal control and tied his party to a popular, increasingly influential institution not part of the traditional establishment: the judiciary. The man whose cabinet ministers and party workers had attacked the Supreme Court in 1997 when their leader was summoned for contempt charges, who had used military support to remove both a President and a Chief Justice, sent the Pakistani press statement after statement about the rule of law.

Sharif’s identity transformation went beyond logistics to ideas. He began to re-define what his party would look like back in Pakistan. He cultivated a solid, nationalist, fiercely democratic ideology that was a far cry from the brutal opportunism that marked his last term as Prime Minister. The means he employed reflected those Pakistan-centric beliefs—foreign support was not a priority. Sharif’s identity had to be consistent. Only that way could he manipulate it well enough to land himself back into the Prime Minister’s residence.

With a New Persona, New Strategies

As Sharif ascended to the premiership for the third time this past summer, the man who rudely expelled him from that office 14 years ago was trapped inside his home, probably watching the inauguration on television. Sharif’s position is the culmination of a long, well-constructed grand strategy: he attained his end. My interviews suggest that Sharif never wavered in that regard. Though he had to leave the country under a deal—whether with Musharraf or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a disputed question[70]—that included a pledge to leave Pakistani politics for at least a decade, Sharif continued to publicly state his intent to return. “It was always clear that [Sharif and Benazir] would come back to Pakistan at some point, and they would be the people” to negotiate with, the senior Western diplomat told me, noting that he had met with Sharif multiple times both in London and Islamabad (“It was part of my job.”).

With this end set, Sharif used exile to focus on Pakistan more than perhaps any of the other leaders I analyze. Discussing why these exiled leaders choose to return to a Pakistan that had rejected them once, analyst Shuja Nawaz asked me to consider the confluence of different factors. These invested were drive and political background, but also investment—particularly in people. Even a top PPP leader, Senator Safdar Abbasi, conceded that the Sharif brothers used exile to hone their core team. “Sharif has this advantage of having people around him who are now pretty seasoned,”[71] Abbasi told me. This was particularly notable given Musharraf’s poaching of many Sharif stalwarts. Sharif focused on giving his leaders the experience to enter government again, and a reminder of what Bhutto aide Sherry Rehman called the “hierarchical” model of establishment Punjab, referring to the strong traditional values of the Sharifs’ home province. He wanted to cultivate a political team he could rely on, one he would not be worried about losing, even if this meant enforcing the hierarchy more than his rivals. Sharif’s focus on his internal leadership confirms that his end was always related to Pakistan. So does his reported ambivalence towards foreign actors, particularly in the West. Shirin Tahir-Kheli, who worked on South Asian issues in the White House for much of the Bush period, called him “a bit of an enigma.” While his lieutenants attempted lobbying in Washington, she said, no memories stood out. This reflects Sharif’s thinking: as a center-right nationalist, Sharif did not want to locate the solution to exile in foreign influence. This principle potentially cost him a smoother return: most of my sources credited Western pressure on Musharraf for his willingness to negotiate with Bhutto. But owing to his past with Musharraf, Sharif had reasons to avoid any mediator too closely linked to the general, which meant most Western powers. Though he wanted to return home as soon as possible, Sharif was careful about the way he would get there.

The main tactic in Sharif’s grand strategy illustrated how an exiled leader can build what Sun Tzu called “moral influence”[72]: marketing himself as a victim. Sharif entered exile with his family, his possessions, little dignity and a party bereft of some of its leading lights. He developed an anti-military, pro-democracy ideology that, according to Alam, relied on deputies like Javed Hashmi, a parliamentarian whose three-and-a-half year sentence for reading out an anti-Musharraf speech in the legislature reminded Pakistanis that Musharraf’s relatively benevolent rule was predicated on force. Sharif strove to shape public opinion, as his statements against the military in his saccharine approved biography evince. “The Chief of the Army Staff, after taking over the charge, starts thinking of himself as the king or the super prime minister,” he observed in an interview early in the Musharraf period.[73] The tactic of building support around an idea gave Sharif more than a way to boost his legitimacy. He made statements encouraging the growth of anti-Musharraf sentiment within Pakistan, despite his and Bhutto’s absence—one example: “many movements have run without leaders”[74]—so that he could publicly explain why his exile should not kill the hopes of his supporters or other pro-democracy citizens. Such rhetoric neatly tied him to the democracy movement, and he anointed himself as its leader in absentia. Sharif followed this trend with his later activism in support of the dismissed Chief Justice. He ramped up his involvement in the movement to restore the top judge once he was back in Pakistan full-time. In exile, then, he found a new way, and a new motivation, to engage in politics.

A further significant Sharif tactic was his cooperation with the other exiled national leader, Bhutto. This extended from the Charter of Democracy,[75] which committed both their parties to never again siding with the Army against each other, to joint planning sessions in London, where Bhutto aide Sherry Rehman said Sharif aides attendees would absorb the lessons for a successful exile operation that the PPP had already enshrined during Bhutto’s first stint abroad. The leaders’ decision to combine the two forces where possible amplified their moral authority as democratic leaders-in-waiting. Considering their very visible animosity in the 1990s, such amity was a big development. With his moral authority growing, while Bhutto saw corruption allegations continue to undercut hers, Sharif could afford to make this kind of concession as part of his grand strategy. He knew it would serve his end, by helping to guarantee the survival of democracy—and his chance to enter office.

Altaf Hussain’s Grand Strategy of Exile

Altaf Hussain is not a national leader. He has never held public office at even the provincial level. He has not as much as set foot in Pakistan since his abrupt departure in January 1992, in advance of a military offensive against his party’s military wing and following multiple death threats.[76] Still, the party he leads, the MQM, has significant influence in the federal government, often serving as an essential coalition partner (though not in the current Sharif set-up). In Karachi, the MQM uses members of the ethnic group it represents, the Mohajirs, to run strikes that can instantly paralyze the flow of much of Pakistan’s GDP. Hussain matters, because he dictates how the party behaves. All parliamentary actions and political negotiations are discussed with him, I learned from Senator Nasreen Jalil, a deputy convenor for the MQM’s central committee,[77] and he alone can unilaterally demand a reshuffle within party ranks, as he did following the MQM’s disappointing performance in the May elections.[78] The MQM is a party unlike any other in Pakistan, Jalil claimed: “it’s not running on personalities.” Instead, it centers on one personality. Jalil continued: “Everybody in the MQM, however much he might have a high profile… they’re all workers of the MQM and can be asked to leave work or stay at home” by Hussain at any time. That includes her, a 71-year-old woman. If her exiled leader told her to do so over Skype, she would restrict herself to conducting his correspondence from her bedroom, she joked.

Hussain has developed a grand strategy that makes exile work as a permanent state. His end may well be his status quo: supreme power and influence with no requirement to perform any duties in Pakistan. Other political aspirants who want to enact change on the ground are welcome to do so through the MQM—and improve Hussain’s image along the way. He here has a built-in tactic to strengthen his base, so long as he can continue to issue an ethnically tinged rallying call to ambitious, capable young people from his well-educated Mohajir community. Political commentators told me that the party’s standing rose significantly when a young crop of party politicos took control of the local government of Karachi in the late Musharraf era. “There was a chance for the MQM to show it can govern,” said Jalil, who served as the deputy mayor for the city at large. Current party spokesman Wasay Jalil (no relation) ran one of Karachi’s constituent towns; he told me he was “given tremendous power” without interference from Hussain, and felt that he could demonstrate the MQM’s ability to serve very local needs, such as fixing roads.[79] This tactic of granting people within his party the agency to pursue projects that matter to them permits Hussain to satisfy his base by doing nothing at all. Surely this is the acme of Sun Tzu’s economy of force.

Hussain’s relationship with his exile—his reasons for staying away, and his willingness to return—are kept deliberately vague: obfuscation is part of this grand strategy. Jalil told me that he constantly yearns for his city, and that she and other leaders of the party must exhort him to stay in London, for safety’s sake. Others with some experience of the party have different theories. “I don’t think Altaf has ever really showed any signs of wanting to come back,” the senior Western diplomat I interviewed told me this past summer. He has had conversations about the matter with officials at the British Home and Foreign Offices, he explained. Their recommendation is to leave Hussain to his own business, “not to dignify him” with diplomatic calls but to correspond through his deputies within Pakistan. Beyond that, the British government gives Hussain a wide berth, for he has taken steps to ensure that he would be difficult to directly challenge. To secure his position in London, he has married a British Pakistani woman. In Pakistan, he has developed what the Express Tribune editor Muhammed Ziauddin described to me as a “mafia.”[80]

Hussain’s approach is striking because of the leeway it offers him. He can conduct Pakistani politics as he pleases so long as he does not break British law. As I mentioned, the leader chose to test that barrier in 2013 with a vitriolic speech to Karachi residents that the London Metropolitan Police is exploring as an incitement to violence. The police are also investigating Hussain’s potential involvement in the murder of another exiled senior leader in the MQM in London in 2010; over the summer, his home was raided.[81] If damning revelations emerge, Hussain may well regret the limited attention he has paid to a core component of my proposed model for a grand strategy of exile: managing public perceptions. Currently, much of Hussain’s authority rests on a general awareness of his unquestioned leadership and blind faith among members of a particular ethnic group. This could change. How the accusation is covered and discussed in Pakistan will, therefore, matter for Hussain’s support base and capabilities. It will be important to follow this permanent exile’s moves carefully as the Scotland Yard investigation continues, to see whether he evolves new tactics as police work threatens his comfortable status quo-cum-end.

That pages worth of strategic analysis can be drawn out of simply four cases of exile in one nation suggests that much has yet to be discovered and explored about strategists’ approaches to the condition. This paper emphasizes the importance of a clearly defined end, a support structure—particularly in the home country—that the exiled leader can rely on for information, and careful management of relationships with global players. It highlights how going into exile forced even leaders with experience as chief executives of a sizeable, nuclear-armed country to reformulate their operations. It also explores exiles’ struggles to make modern strategic means, like social media, make up for absence as effectively as we are often told these technologies can. By opening up the topic of exile in a country of singular global import, my work invites further analysis of what makes Pakistan and similar states in the Global South sites inhospitable to some kinds of strategists. It prompts more analysis into how the experience of being based abroad can reshape an important global leader, like Musharraf and now Sharif. Above all, the triumphs and mistakes described here contribute to a base of knowledge for strategists who want to wield power in Islamabad—and shows how much could be gained from further detailed considerations of Pakistani leaders’ decision-making. Perhaps a model for not just exile but governance can be evolved. My nation recently saw its first transfer of power between two democratically elected governments. Now is the moment for a Pakistani leader to devise a grand strategy that works. In the words of the patriotic Florentine statesman mentioned near the beginning of this paper, “one should not let this opportunity pass, for [Pakistan], after so much time, to see her redeemer.”[82]

Akbar Ahmed (’14) is a Global Affairs major in Davenport College.



Berlin, Isaiah. “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” in his The Proper Study of Mankind. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997.

Bhutto, Benazir. Daughter of Destiny: An Autobiography. New York: Harper Perennial, 2008.

Everitt, Anthony. Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2007.

Hussain, Altaf. My Life’s Journey. Original Urdu version compiled by Khalid Athar. Oxford University Press: Karachi, 2011.

Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince, translated and with an introduction by Harvey C. Mansfield, 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Musharraf, Pervez. In the Line of Fire. New York: Free Press, 2007.

Sun Tzu, The Art of War, translated by Samuel B. Griffith. New York: Oxford UP, 1963.

Warraich, Sohail. The Traitor Within: The Nawaz Sharif Story in his own words, translated by I. G. Aawan. Lahore: Sagar Publishers, 2008.



Major General Mahmud Durrani—close friend, former ambassador to Washington under Musharraf (and later national security advisor under PPP Prime Minister Gilani).

Javed Jabbar—friend, former information minister, former PPP member & minister.

Fawad Chaudhry—former spokesperson and general secretary for All Pakistan Muslim League; currently a member of the Pakistan People’s Party.

Major General Rashid Qureshi—close friend, current spokesperson for All Pakistan Muslim League, former director general of Inter-Services Public Relations.

Lieutenant General Talat Masood —friend & mentor; briefly a Musharraf advisor; defense analyst.

Dr. Raza Bokhari—friend; top spokesperson for North America

Parvaiz Mahmood—relative; APML chapter leader for New York.

Ahmed Raza Kasuri—senior counsel; APML leader; veteran Pakistani politician.

Lieutenant General Munir Hafeez—close friend; former chairman, National Accountability Bureau.

Humayun Gauhar—close friend (ghostwriter for autobiography); noted newspaper columnist.

Syed Zaheer Ahsan Jafri—leader of APML breakaway youth wing; aide to Kasuri.


Tariq Islam—cousin; in exile with her in 1980s.

Yasmin Islam (néeNiazi)—close friend; in exile with Bhutto in 1980s; cousin by marriage (wife of Tariq Islam).

Ambassador Sherry Rehman—close aide; former member of national assembly, information minister & ambassador to Washington; one-time journalist/editor.

Naheed Khan—very close friend; in exile with Bhutto in 1980s; former personal secretary and member of national assembly; helped run PPP during second period in exile.

Senator Safdar Abbasi—family friend; with Bhutto in exile in 1980s; current senator.


Lord Nazir Ahmed—British Pakistani peer; advisor to Sharif brothers and Bhutto when in exile in London.


Senator Nasreen Jalil—deputy convenor of MQM’s Coordination Committee; former deputy mayor; spent time in exile in early 1990s.

Wasay Jalil—member of MQM Rabita (communications) committee & chief spokesperson.


Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli—international relations academic; former senior advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Council staffer.

Senior Western diplomat—requested anonymity for purposes of discussing sensitive foreign policy meetings; formerly posted in Islamabad.

Shuja Nawaz—director, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council.

Imran Aslam—leading Pakistani journalist; President, GEO television.

Muhammad Badar Alam—editor, Herald magazine.

Muhammad Ziauddin—managing editor, Express Tribune daily newspaper; formerly correspondent for DAWN.

Asif Rangoonwala—British-Pakistani entrepreneur; chair, British Pakistan Foundation.

Saira Awan-Malik—British-Pakistani attorney; board member for British Pakistan Foundation.

Kashif Zafar—British-Pakistani banker; board member, British Pakistan Foundation.


[1] Ayaz Wazir, former Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan, interview with author, Islamabad, Pakistan, Jun. 5, 2013.

[2] Javed Jabbar, former federal information minister, Bhutto aide & senator, interview with author, Karachi, Pakistan, Jun. 12, 2013.

[3] “Special court denies Musharraf’s appeal for treatment abroad,” Express Tribune, Jan. 31, 2014, accessed Jan. 31, 2014, <http://tribune.com.pk/story/665813/special-court-issues-bailable-warrant-for-musharraf-in-treason-case/>.

[4] “We have strong evidence against Musharraf in treason case: prosecution,” Express Tribune, Nov. 20 2013, accessed Jan 28, 2014, <http://tribune.com.pk/story/634319/there-is-strong-evidence-against-musharraf-in-treason-case-prosecution/>.

[5] Ibid.,108.

[6] Ibid., 109.

[7] Ibid., 111.

[8] Isaiah Berlin, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” in his The Proper Study of Mankind, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997): 436-98.

[9] “Khomeini returns to Iran,” BBC, Feb. 1,1979, accessed Jan. 18, 2014, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/february/1/newsid_2521000/2521003.stm>.

[10] Ron Synovitz, “Icons Of The Iraq War: Ahmed Chalabi And The Case For War,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Mar. 17, 2013, accessed Jan. 28, 2014. <http://www.rferl.org/content/iraq-war-chalabi/24930919.html>.

[11] “Thai PM Yingluck probed over ‘rice subsidy scheme’,” BBC, Jan. 16, 2014, accessed Jan. 28, 2014, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25759007>.

[12] Badar Alam, editor, Herald magazine (Pakistan), interview with author, Karachi, Pakistan, Jun. 7, 2013.

[13] Sun Tzu, The Art of War, trans. Samuel B. Griffith (New York: Oxford UP, 1963): line 4, Book 1, 64.

[14] Shuja Nawaz, chair, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council, interview with author, over phone from Washington, D.C., Jun. 4, 2013.

[15] Dr. Raza Bokhari, Musharraf spokesman and friend and Philadelphia entrepreneur, interview with author over phone, Jun. 22, 2013.

[16] Badar Alam, interview with author.

[17] Ambassador Sherry Rehman, former advisor to Bhutto, federal minister of information, and Pakistani ambassador to the United States, interview with author, Karachi, Pakistan, Jun. 11, 2013.

[18] Naheed Khan, former personal secretary to Bhutto and parliamentarian, interview with author, Karachi, Pakistan, Jun. 9, 2013.

[19] Paul Vale, “Altaf Hussain Faces British Police Probe Following Accusations of Threats Against Karachi Protesters,” The Huffington Post UK, May 20, 2013, accessed Dec. 10, 2013.

[20] Javed Jabbar, interview with author.

[21] Yasmin Islam, close friend and relative of Benazir Bhutto, interview with author, London, United Kingdom, May 28, 2013.

[22] Nasreen Jalil, senator, and MQM committee deputy convenor, interview with author, Karachi, Pakistan, Jun. 9, 2013.

[23] Shuja Nawaz, interview with author.

[24] Dr. Raza Bokhari, interview with author.

[25] Senior Western diplomat (requested anonymity), interview with author, Jul. 1, 2013.

[26] Irfan Ali, “PPP insists rally broke 1986 record,” Daily Times, Jun. 19, 2007, accessed Dec. 10, 2013. <http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007%5C10%5C19%5Cstory_19-10-2007_pg7_2>.

[27] Benazir Bhutto, Daughter of Destiny: An Autobiography, (New York: Harper Perennial, 2008): 273-8.

[28] Dawn.com, “Musharraf uniform decision positive step: Benazir,” DAWN, Nov. 28, 2008, accessed Dec. 10, 2013, <http://www.dawn.com/news/277834/musharraf-uniform-decision-positive-step-benazir>.

[29] Senior Western diplomat, interview.

[30] Shuja Nawaz, interview with author.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Naheed Khan, interview with author.

[33] Bhutto, 214.

[34]Sherry Rehman, interview with author.

[35] Muhammed Ziauddin, managing editor, Express Tribune newspaper (Pakistan), interview with author, Islamabad, Pakistan, Jun. 5, 2013.

[36] Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli, former senior advisor for women’s empowerment to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, interview with author by telephone, Jul. 18, 2013.

[37] Bhutto.

[38] Peter Popham, “Benazir Bhutto to stay in exile,” The Independent, May 15 1999, accessed Dec. 10, 2013.

[39] John F. Burns, “HOUSE OF GRAFT: Tracing the Bhutto Millions—A special report; Bhutto Clan Leaves Trail of Corruption,” The New York Times, Jan. 9, 1998, accessed Dec. 10, 2013, <http://www.nytimes.com/1998/01/09/world/house-graft-tracing-bhutto-millions-special-report-bhutto-clan-leaves-trail.html>.

[40] Bhutto, 252.

[41] Ibid., 263.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Naheed Khan, interview with author.

[44] Tariq Islam, Bhutto’s cousin and advisor, interview with author, Karachi, Pakistan, Jun 9, 2013.

[45] Bhutto, 218.

[46] Yasmin Islam, interview with author.

[47] Sherry Rehman, interview with author.

[48] Muhammed Ziauddin, interview with author.

[49] Gen. (R) Mahmud Ali Durrani, former National Security Advisor, Pakistani ambassador to the United States, and military aide to General Zia-ul-HAq, interview with author, Islamabad, Pakistan, Jun. 5 2013.

[50] Shuja Nawaz, interview with author.

[51] Bhutto, 219.

[52] Bhutto, 214.

[53] Sun Tzu, line 4, Book 1, 64.

[54] “Musharraf lands in Karachi, alleges conspiracy,” DAWN, Mar. 24, 2013, accessed Dec. 5 2013, <http://www.dawn.com/news/797759/musharraf-lands-in-karachi-alleges-conspiracy>.

[55] “‘Sorry’ Pervez Musharraf launches new Pakistan party,” BBC, Oct. 1, 2013, accessed Dec. 5, 2013, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11450507>.

[56] Jethro Mullen, Nic Robertson and Laura Smith-Spark, “In Pakistan, Musharraf placed under house arrest,” CNN,Apr. 18, 2013, accessed Dec. 5, 2013. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/18/world/asia/pakistan-politics/>.

[57] Zahid Gishkori, “Judges detention case: FIA to record judges statements,” Express Tribune, Jul. 15, 2013. Dec. 10, 2013. <http://tribune.com.pk/story/576989/judges-detention-case-fia-to-record-judges-statements/>.

[58] “Lal Masjid murder case: Bail approved, but Musharraf awaits release,” Express Tribune, Nov. 6, 2013, accessed Dec. 10 2013, <http://tribune.com.pk/story/627875/lal-masjid-murder-case-bail-submitted-musharraf-to-walk-free/>.

[59] Ikram Junaidi, and Mohammad Asghar, “Musharraf now a free man,” DAWN, Nov. 7, 2013, accessed Dec. 10, 2013, <http://www.dawn.com/news/1054674/musharraf-now-a-free-man>.

[60] Dr. Raza Bokhari, interview with author.

[61] Kelly Eger, chief operating officer, The Harry Walker Agency, correspondence with author, Jul. 11, 2013.

[62] General Mahmud Durrani, interview with author.

[63] Maj. Gen. (R) Rashid Qureshi, former military spokesman at Inter-Services Public Relations and current spokesman for All-Pakistan Muslim League, interview with author, Islamabad, Pakistan, Jun. 6, 2013.

[64] Shuja Nawaz, interview with author.

[65] Javed Jabbar, interview with author.

[66] “Ex-APML spokesman joins PPP,” Mar. 9, 2012, accessed Dec. 10, 2013, <http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2012/03/09/news/national/ex-apml-spokesman-fawad-chaudhry-joins-ppp/>.

[67] Fawad Chaudhry, lawyer and former APML spokesman, interview with author, over phone, Jun. 9, 2013.

[68] Badar Alam, interview with author.

[69] Shuja Nawaz, interview with author.

[70] Warraich, 205.

[71] Safdar Abbasi, PPP senator and advisor to Bhutto, interview with author, Jun. 11, 2013.

[72] Sun Tzu, line 4, Book 1, 64.

[73] Warraich, 169.

[74] Ibid., 170.

[75] “‘Democracy charter’ for Pakistan,” BBC.

[76] Altaf Hussain, My Life’s Journey, Original Urdu version compiled by Khalid Athar, (Oxford University Press: Karachi, 2011).

[77] Nasreen Jalil, interview.

[78] “Altaf Hussain announces new MQM Coordination Committee,” Express Tribune,May 26, 2013, accessed Dec. 10, 2013, <http://tribune.com.pk/story/554651/party-to-emerge-stronger-than-before-altaf-hussain/>.

[79] Wasay Jalil, member of MQM Rabita (Communications) Committee and chief spokesperson, interview with author, Dec. 5, 2013.

[80] Muhammed Ziauddin, interview with author.

[81] “Imran Farooq murder case: MQM London office raided, reports BBC.” BBC.

[82] Machiavelli, 105.


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