NEW DELHI, India: President Zia ulHaq’s decision to visit India in the still somewhat uncertain situation on the border and the continuing climate of suspicion and distrust in his own country and India was a significant indicator of courage and confidence in his own capacity to get results, observed renowned Indian journalist Prem Bhatia in the leading English daily “Tribune”.

The courage and confidence, he said, were emphatically reflected in the large entourage which accompanied President Zia ulHaq and which included several key members of the federal and provincial governments.

“Can you imagine, in reverse terms, equally loaded visit to Pakistan in the prevailing conditions by Gianji Zail Singh or Rajiv Gandhi”, he said.

Describing the visit very eventful, he said the 70 hours President ZiaulHaq spent on the Indian soil unquestionably helped “us to assess him better as a man, a national leader and undoubted international figure of consequence,”

Paying tributes to the President, he said his politeness and readiness to switch on friendly charms was known to everyone in India who had had the occasion to meet him at close quarters. Those who had interviewed him as journalist were witness to his extreme courtesy and openness. “My own long recorded interview with him at Is.

Islamabad two years ago was terminated at my own suggestion and not by Zia’s reluctance to proceed further with the question answer session”.

Prem Bhatia said that there was no doubt that the President of Pakistan’s sense of public relations was unmatched in the subcontinent and possibly by people of equal status in most other parts of the world.

The fact was that President ZiaulHaq’s devotion to the Islamic faith must carry weight with the Muslim community in this country and as well his own, Prem Bhatia said. President says his prayers six times a day. Special arrangements were made for him at the cricket stadium in Jaipur to offer Namaz’ in the early afternoon on Feb. 22.


“We in India are inclined to underestimate the popular pull Zia still enjoys in Pakistan in spite of the agitation for the restoration of. complete Parliamentary democracy. One of the reasons was his clean track record as a human being. During the 10 years he has held his present office there has not been a single scandal connected with his personal life or family”.

Admiring the puritanism of the President, Prem Bhatia said that no one questioned the image of scrupulous piety he had built for himself.

Concluding, Prem Bhatia said, “let me explain the real purpose behind this complimentary piece. This is intended to stress the appealing qualities of a man with whom we in India are going to have to deal for an unpredictable period in future irrespective of what Benazir Bhutto says. The President of Pakistan has unbounded charm and his friendly attitude carries conviction. We do not have to accept what he says at face value, but we must also learn to play our cards with greater finesse than we have in the recent weeks”.

Prem Bhatia also narrated an interesting story about President Giani Zail Singh’s meeting with President ZiaulHaq at the Rashtrapati Bhawan here on Feb. 21. The host and the guest were talking about the need for greater understanding between the two countries through personal contacts when the former recalled a visit he made to Lahore in midseventies when he was Chief Minister of the Indian State of Punjab. Giani Zail Singh said he remembered a state banquet given in his honored the cultural programme that followed the meal. A singer presented a piece in Punjabi which included the following telling lines:

“ki laina kachairi ja ka kar samjhauta mittra”’

Paraphrased in English, the two lines speak of the futility of litigation and the wisdom that lies in an out of court settlement. The lesson, Bhatia said, was plain in the context of the conversation between the two Presidents and only Giani Zail Singh could have conveyed it through the meaningful words sung by the Pakistani singer in 1975.

Article extracted from this publication >>  March 20, 1987