Pakistan Water Crisis Management

Please see my letters in the daily ‘News’ from May 04 to May 24. The ones from April 11 to May 02 had been sent earlier. These are being sent to disseminate information on the subject – Khurshid Anwer

The left bank canal     May 24
Even supporters of Kalabagh dam are heard saying that if Sindh objects to any canals at Kalabagh dam then let us not have them. If Sindh gets its ‘increased’ share of 37 per cent (by reducing Punjab’s share) of the water stored in the dam, then why should it object if Punjab takes its ‘reduced’ share through the left bank canal? Not to do so would be against the Indus Water Treaty which ceded three rivers to India on the condition that the waters of the western rivers would be available to the areas previously irrigated by the eastern rivers i.e. north and south Punjab.
Could the intent of the Indus Water Treaty have been that henceforth the affected areas of the country would have to manage without the waters of the eastern and the western rivers? I don’t think so


Royalty from dams           May 21
The royalty from dams was meant to be dedicated to the upkeep of the vast
Indus basin infrastructure consisting of dams, barrages, link canals etc. In his efforts to get unanimity on the 1973 Constitution, Bhutto offered royalty from Tarbela dam to Wali Khan. This set up a very bad precedent creating all kinds of disputes on building of dams.
More importantly, the diversion of funds from their real purpose is resulting in neglect of the fast-deteriorating irrigation infrastructure, the biggest in the world at one time.


Indus Water Treaty         May 16       
This is in continuation of my letter on the Indus Water Treaty (May 11). The framers of the treaty saw Pakistan as one country where if some areas of it were deprived of the waters of Ravi and Sutlej, the waters of the Indus from another area would be readily available to make up the loss through the left-bank and the link-canals.
They did not see Pakistan as Sindh and Punjab where when Punjab is deprived of water Sindh would refuse to cooperate with a dam which would integrate the three available rivers into a One Single River Basin for the whole country.


The Indus Delta            May 15            
There are those who say 30 million-acre-feet must flow below Kotri barrage when the total water available to the whole country is 104 MAF. Also what purpose will it serve if this water flows down only during the three flood months? How will sea incursion be checked during the remaining nine months? The delta does not need large quantities; it needs a small steady flow over the whole year. The latest foreign consultants’ study has determined 4.32 MAF per annum or 0.36 MAF per month as sufficient to check sea incursion.
This amount needs to be stored in dams and a regular monthly dose released for year-round protection of the Indus delta. Not building more dams will only speed up the degradation of the Indus delta. Let us put on our thinking caps and stop talking like illiterates.


Mega dams          May 12
Every time a mega dam is mentioned in the press it is said that it will take decades to build. Let us see for how many decades we have been saying this. If Kalabagh dam had started on time it would have been commissioned in 1992. If Musharraf had succeeded it would have been commissioned in 2009. And Bhasha dam would have been on its way to completion. But if we keep saying this then Kalabagh dam will never be built, while Mangla and Tarbela reservoirs will turn into silt lakes. The WAPDA chairman has said that a mega dam takes five years to build and thereafter pays back its full construction cost every year. According to him Tarbela dam is already doing so while Mangla dam is paying back three times its cost every year.
After the construction cost has been paid back, hydel power is almost free. Also the slow-moving water turbines do not require maintenance for many decades. Compare that with the generation and maintenance costs of the RPPs. Plus the dangers of global warming and rapid depletion of glaciers — a real doomsday scenario.


Indus Water Treaty May 11
The Indus Water Treaty was a balancing act. Three eastern rivers – Ravi, Sutlej, Beas — for India and three western rivers – the Indus, Jhelum, Chenab — for Pakistan, subject to transfer of water from the western rivers, by means of dams and barrages, to the command areas of the eastern rivers i.e. north Punjab under the command area of Ravi, also Chenab and Jhelum to a lesser extent, and south Punjab under the command area of Ravi and Sutlej. On the western rivers only one dam could be built in Pakistan on Jhelum River and the remaining on the Indus. Kalabagh dam being the only one which could enable integration of the Indus-Jhelum-Chenab rivers into one single river basin for optimum use through a left bank outlet.
Now if we start disputing the left bank canal at Kalabagh dam for north Punjab and the link canals at Chashma and Taunsa barrages for south Punjab, then we are upsetting the very balance of the treaty, thereby denying north and south Punjab access to the eastern as well as the western rivers. Punjab is the bread basket of the whole country. With large areas of north and south Punjab reverting from irrigated to barani, 50 per cent of national food production will be lost leading to food inflation and adding to poverty.


Why not Kalabagh?   May 09

The minister for water and power has said that the government cannot build Kalabagh dam. He did not say why. A minister must never talk in thin air, he must have cogent reasons for what he says. Does he think that Punjab will take more water from Kalabagh dam because the dam is located in Punjab? Does Azad Jammu and Kashmir take more water from Mangla dam? Does Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa take more power from Tarbela dam? Is not the distribution of river water and power centralised? Does he think that the flow in the Indus will decrease because of Kalabagh dam? Did flow in Jhelum decrease because of Mangla dam (which gave Pakistan back the waters lost to India)? Did flow in the Indus decrease because of Tarbela dam (which increased all canal supplies by 25 per cent)?
Wasn’t Sindh’s share in all future dams increased by reducing Punjab’s share? Won’t Kalabagh dam give Sindh 37 per cent or 2.2 million-acre-feet of water additional to what it is getting now? A quantity which Sindh has no other means of getting from anywhere. If none of the above reasons, then the PPP government must be bound to follow the vision of its leader, Benazir Bhutto, who thought that the IPPs were the solution to our power problems for all times to come.


No dams, no storage May 07

Those who are against building Kalabagh dam and even Bhasha dam do not realise that if fresh storage does not replace dead storage, we will revert to the pre-Mangla and -Tarbela dam situation. The Indus and Jhelum River will provide only wet and dry periods of three and nine months, respectively. There will be no transfer from wet period to dry period, hence no Rabi sowing.
There will be no reserve for any, natural or manmade, contingency. The per-capita, per-annum availability of water will decline precipitously. There will never be any flow below Kotri for nine months.


Hydropower        May 06

A reader in these columns recently stated that Pakistan was blessed with abundant natural resources and an ideal geography for generation of hydropower and wind power. But then he talked only of potential sites for wind power and thermal power from Thar coal and waste material. Depending on the type, coal produces 2,791 to 5,685 pounds of carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) per ton. On the recent Earth Hour we were warned about the potential damage from greenhouse gases to the life of glaciers, our main source of fresh water.
Pakistan has potential for 40,000 megawatts of clean and cheap hydel power. "We need to harness the might of our rivers with the help of mega dams, these monuments to science and modern thinking will give us water for irrigation and also electricity", so said the prime minister of our neighbouring country many years ago. The results are there to see.


Power policy mix     May 04

A reader in your column has recently said that hydropower is seasonal and can be very low in the winters. He called for a mix of energy sources. This is the reason why countries do not rely on just two dams. India has 10 mega dams and is building one more on Narmada River despite strong public protest. The US has 900 dams, many of which must be mega ones. The California governor has recently said that the bill for revamping the state water system will not get his signatures unless it includes major reservoir and dam projects.
Let us not forget that dams are seasonal only because the rivers are seasonal. Rivers alone will give us only wet and dry periods. It is only through storage that transfer can be made from wet to dry periods. If fresh storage capacity does not replace the depleting storage capacity, we will end up with no storage, hence no Rabi crops.


Zardari – New dams need of the hour.

by Khurshid Anwer

Pagal oye Pagal                                                                                    aaz185_394665a

I thought may be at last he has decided to leave the apron strings of his deceased party leader to go for Kalabagh dam. But then he directs the Sindh government to step up work on building new dams in the province.

This is the man who stood at the ‘Three Gorges Dam’ in China and said we will build dams like this. Some one should educate him that gorges are found only in the mountains and not is the deserts of Sindh.

One such gorge is the 10 mile long Attock Gorge which will serve as a 260 feet deep reservoir for Kalabagh dam, as also the Sohan river right up to Dhok Pathan on the Dhulian Balkassar road.

In Australia, provinces not having suitable sites for dams have contributed funds for building of dams where they can be built to be able to share the power and water thus produced.

Is it because the people there are more educated. No, PPP also has many educated people. The difference is that those people have not had a hare-brained leader like Benazir Bhutto who would have put them up against dams.                                       Benazir Bhutto_pic6

This act of hers is so contrary to common sense and logic that it defies description, except by the use of language which cannot be used here.

Now look at the Junior Pagal:                                                                     Yusuf Raza gilani

PM vows to resolve environment issues. He has directed necessary measures for disposal of trash left by the visitors on the glaciers which was polluting the pristine environment of our natural heritage.

Can you beat this? He is worried about the trash on the glaciers but not about the IPPs, the RPPs and Thar Coal which are and will pollute the atmosphere which will do  more damage to his ‘pristine heritage’ than mere trash will. The thought of producing clean power in thousands of megawatts has not entered his mind for reasons well known. 

But the devotees of the Deity remain unfazed. They take all criticism in their stride as long as their party remains in power. "My leader, good or bad".


The News, Tuesday, May 18, 2010
By Shaheen Sehbai

WASHINGTON: Defence Minister Choudhry Ahmad Mukhtar has let the cat out of the bag and the newly visible signs of aggressive confrontation against almost all the badly needed independent institutions in the country by the Zardari-led power dispensation can now be better understood.

The minister has stated on record that Army Chief General Kayani will not be given an extension and he has not sought one, which means Zardari, through his proxy prime minister, will appoint an army general of his choice as the next COAS and Pakistan will become a safe haven for him and the corrupt and the dishonest mostly found in PPP power corridors these days.
Whether the president will be able to use the PM is another matter. According to important people PM Gilani confides in, the PM is very upset, as he has been caught in a trap, whether to become a Farooq Leghari or to respond to his own conscience.


These close circles say Mr Gilani is accepting dictation from Zardari just to prove that he is not another Farooq Laghari but now he has started consulting with close friends. He says he will not ditch the PPP but he may resign.
That will be an honourable way out as he has so far maintained his self-respect despite being caught in the vicious circle of the corrupt PPP leaders.
One example is that he never took any action against state minister for information, Samsam Bukhari, who just days ago said on the Geo TV show of Hamid Mir, that fake degree holders, like Jamshed Dasti, must be banned forever in politics. The PM was asked by Zardari to take action against Bokhari, but he did not respond. Both Gilani and Bokhari belong to the same political region.

But another honourable way for the PM would be not just to resign but to dissolve the National Assembly and let the people elect new leaders, thus finding a constitutional way out of his personal dilemma. He may be accused of stabbing his party in the back but his party colleagues would be more to blame because they are the silent spectators to the rape now going on with Benazir Bhutto’s party and her principles. It is a shame how her murder has been handled by her husband and her party government. By resigning PM Gilani will only end his political career, without the country gaining anything from his sacrifice.
Coming back to the important announcement by Choudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, the minister was reflecting the super-confidence in the Zardari camp and beating the thundering war drums and braying pipes against the judiciary, by categorically stating that the PPP-led government would not write a letter to the Swiss authorities for the reopening of cases against its own president.

But as an afterthought he made another nit-witted statement that there was no confrontation between the government and the judiciary, that the government was not facing any serious problem from the judiciary and that the president could only be removed through impeachment. What could have been more naÔve or misleading cannot be imagined.
These “golden” words of the defence minister have come almost simultaneously as renowned TV anchor and journalist Hamid Mir has disclosed that a PPP, nay Zardari, plan is ready to malign and blackmail the Jang Group, Geo TV and some top journalists working for the Group. Nervous PPP ministers have revealed its outlines, both in private and in public.
President Zardari is said to have given a green signal to launch an attack against the Jang Group and some of its journalists including myself, Ansar Abbasi, Dr Shahid Masood, Kamran Khan, Hamid Mir and some others. Mir disclosed that Dr Shahid Masood might be implicated in some forgery case, obviously manufactured when he had briefly become the chief executive of the PTV.

Hamid Mir has revealed, quoting a minister, that President Zardari, who never allowed any “action” against the Jang Group was now “angry” and the government had collected a lot of material against journalists of the group. What material, has not been disclosed. But what an angry president can do is also not clear.

So now the battle plans are ready on these possible lines: We will have our own army chief soon, so the army will be in our pocket; we will not honour the verdicts of the Supreme court, so everyone who believes in justice can get lost; we will attack the critical sections of the media frontally and coerce them into falling in line, so a few who dare to speak will soon be silenced; we will then decimate the Opposition, if any, so an ineffective Nawaz Sharif can stay in London for good; we will then rule for the rest of our lives and make as much money as we can; and we will crush anyone who wants to confront us. This is arrogance of power and poverty of arrogance at its best, or may be worst.

This Zardari plan, based on his personal thinking, as I can claim knowing him from some close quarters, is what he thinks is going to make the PPP popular, last longer and everybody else will declare him as the best and the most popular politician this country ever had and he will rule as long as he wanted. He thinks he has succeeded in using the Sindh card and has politically blackmailed all others into submission because he thinks he has established that if he was attacked the entire system will collapse.
Many serious questions and issues arise after all this has become public knowledge. The basic issue is whether the Pakistan Army will allow a political leader who has a tainted past, who has a tainted present and whose future is evident from what he is doing, to dictate the terms of reference of how this country will be run and by whom, including the future of the army which has the highest stakes in the country.

General Kayani may not be interested in another extension, but he has been in the middle of all the good or bad transitions that we have seen in recent times and he has so far proved that he would put his weight on the right side of the equation.
His role in the NRO, his soft guard-of-honour to General Musharraf after convincing him that he should leave the country, his decision to keep the army and ISI away from interfering in the 2008 polls, his decisive call to restore the Supreme Court judges on March 15, his intervention to stop the Kerry-Lugar fiasco, his quiet meetings with Choudhry Nisar Ali, Shahbaz Sharif and Aitzaz Ahsan to ward off potentially destructive confrontational scenarios, his focus on the war on terror and his successes, his blunt ‘no’ on several occasions to the Americans, and many other yet unknown interventions, only prove that he has the interest of the country at heart and his decisions have not been motivated by personal interest.

So now when he has decided to retire, as the defence minister claims, leaving the country in the hands of Mr Zardari, it is simply unimaginable to believe that he thinks the president is doing a great job, that he is the right person and he will continue to safeguard the interests of the country, which, by the way, President Zardari has not yet displayed he is capable of doing.
The recent reports leaked by the presidency that a new post of Chief of Defence Staff may be created and that Mr Zardari, as in the past, had secret meetings with a top general to offer him the position of COAS provided he went along, especially against the judges of the Supreme Court, only prove that the scheming mind of the president is working overtime to construct and pre-empt future scenarios and make moves to protect his own skin, his own money and power.

What can be said with utter certainty is that the institution of Pakistan Army knows Mr Zardari inside out and how much they can trust him is all but evident. If the same army, which knows what Mr Zardari is capable of, allows him to demolish the only two vibrant and independent institutions – the restored judges and the free Press – then an obituary of the political system and possibly the country can be written, almost prematurely.
If General Kayani, who went out of his way to ensure that the judges were restored at the last minute and the Long March of Nawaz Sharif was called off, now allows Mr Zardari to demolish the same Supreme Court, just because the corruption-tainted President cannot defend the billions of dollars he made illegally, (one proof of his $60 million was given by the president of the Citibank himself in front of the US Congressional Committee in November 1999) it would be such a disservice to the country that all the good that the General may have done in his entire career may not be able to wash it.

In many circles General Kayani is considered to be too soft who has given a long rope to Zardari as institution after institution has been gobbled up by his friends, cronies and relatives, the bureaucracy, state-owned corporate sector including Pakistan Steel Mills, PIA, PSO, KESC, Wapda and Pakistan Railways, the Federal Shariat Court, and numerous others being obvious examples.

If all this is being allowed in the name of democracy, it may be a logical argument, because people have elected these leaders and voters are to be blamed if they elect dishonest people like Jamshed Dasti again, but what cannot be allowed is that these elected leaders coerce, pressure or beat up the institutions which can keep a check on their nefarious activities.
The judiciary and the media are the best examples. If they are crushed, then no institution will be safe and the Pakistan Army will be the next prime target. This becomes more important because the Opposition is just acting like Nero who was playing the flute while Rome was burning, possibly because the Mian brothers have a much bigger stake in the pie.
What General Kayani can do, before bowing out honourably, is to ensure, like he did playing a subtle behind-the-scene role several times, that no crony of the president is appointed as the next COAS and a transparent procedure is adopted to make that appointment so that the new COAS is not obliged to any person and takes decisions only in the national interests. If Kayani thinks anyone is conspiring behind his back, he can take action now as COAS and stop this conspiracy.

The charges against the Jang Group have been answered in detail and it has been stated clearly on every one of these allegations that the Group has gone to court to seek justice. So the Group is not hiding its case or seeking any concessions. This is what the Zardari camp does not like because the president fears independent judiciary.
As regards the campaign being planned against journalists, including myself, this has been done umpteen times in the past and foolishly so by even Zardari and his PPP. The best that the most vocal crony of Zardari, (Ayatollah) Faisal Raza Abidi, could produce against me in a TV talk show was a fake FIR registered during the Musharraf era when I had started my own web site in late 2002.

That FIR blamed me for stealing a washing machine from the house of a GHQ employee, 18 months after the theft had allegedly taken place. I had supposedly done it when I was the Group Editor of The News then. The people who were involved at that time, later apologised to me in person and confessed they were under pressure. My cousins and relatives, who were arrested and tortured, were honourably acquitted by courts during the Musharraf regime because the prosecution had no case and no evidence. Faisal Raza Abidi was not even born politically then, as he claimed himself in the TV talk show. It was a case like the famous cow theft case registered against Ch Zahoor Elahi, the father of Ch Shujaat Hussain, by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a case which always follows ZAB as his worst acts of vengeance.


Against other journalists like Ansar Abbasi, Hamid Mir or Dr Shahid Masood, who are known critics of the present government, it can be said with full confidence that not one charge can be proved in any court of law by the PPP and Zardari cronies. It is just an offensive, an aggressive tactic to pressure these journalists. They are fully prepared to face these professional hazards and they know the government will face the same humiliation as all others who tried to malign honest and uncompromising journalists in the past. Let them try and taste some dust of their own

Benazir Bhutto’s boys

by Lydia Slater


Prince Nicholas Khan-Roper and Prince Jason Khan

Prince Nicholas Khan-Roper (left) and Prince Jason Khan (right) on The Yacht London in April

Prince Nicholas Khan-Roper and Prince Jason Khan Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto’s  Boys

It’s hard to imagine a more glamorous prospect than lunch on a yacht with a tall, dark and handsome prince. Unless, of course, it’s lunch on a yacht with three of them. Such is the situation as I sit forking down scallops in the sunny dining room of The Yacht London, a 1920s steam vessel moored at Temple Pier, with Prince Nicholas Khan-Roper on my right and Prince Jason Khan on my left. In the background, their father Prince Sidi Mohammed Muzzafar Khan (known to his circle as Poncho) is effortlessly working the dining room, his sunglasses pushed up on to his forehead. With the sunlight twinkling on the water and the Chardonnay glugging into the glasses, this looks like a scene of purest hedonism, but it’s more complicated than that.
The princes are members of the politically powerful and tragedy-stricken Bhutto clan. Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December 2007, was their father’s first cousin. More significantly, she was a second mother to Jason, 37, who lived with her for ten years after the death of his own mother, and was actually on her campaign bus when it was blown up by militants in the autumn of 2007. Two months later, another assassin succeeded in murdering Pakistan‘s first female prime minister.


The yacht, leased by the Khans from the Port of London Authority last February, was once used to entertain dignitaries, including ‘Auntie’herself, so the Art Deco cocktail lounge, the champagne bar on the top deck, the leather chairs and the fine dining are all to be expected.
But what the boys are proudest of is the yacht’s status as a floating office. Meeting rooms, secretarial services, an answering service and conference facilities are all on offer to members, who pay up to £10,000 annually and include HRH Prince Nicholas of Greece (son of King Constantine). Honorary members include the philanthropist Peter Cruddas, one of the City’s richest men, the Conservative MP Michael Ancram and The Carphone Warehouse founder Charles Dunstone. The Khans’idea is to introduce young entrepreneurs like themselves to the sort of wealthy business types who could give them a leg-up.

‘I’ve owned my own company since I was 26. If I’d had a few introductions, I’d have progressed more rapidly,’explains Nicholas, 31, though you would have thought his connections could have brought him all the introductions necessary. He works as an independent financial adviser and looks like an old-fashioned film star. (Sadly, he’s engaged, to the daughter of an ex-wife of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.) ‘That’s why this project is so important to us. It will allow us to open doors and have more influence than we might by just being businessmen.’

The brothers also plan to use the yacht to host charitable events and allow the charities access to their well-heeled members. The yacht’s other purpose is to act as a hub for the numerous members of the Bhutto family who live in the UK. ‘Benazir kept us all together,’explains Jason, a slightly chunkier, more dynamic version of his brother. ‘Whenever she was here, everyone went to her house.’

‘I remember sitting in her living room, having a glass of wine and a cigarette and gossiping with her,’says Nicholas. ‘We used to gossip about girls and who I should marry – she was a great matchmaker. So, for our generation, the boat will be our new focus. We’re going to have family meals here on a regular basis.’

Several family members are involved with the yacht already: Nicholas is managing director of the club, Jason’s wife Juliette is the marketing director, and their father has an advisory role.
Last October, the boat was the location for the 21st birthday party of Bilawal Bhutto, Benazir’s son and political heir, who has been the chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party since his mother’s death, and is also a student at Christ Church, Oxford. ‘What I like about him is that he has a fun side, he lets his hair down with us,’says Nicholas. ‘But it’s hard for him to know who to trust.’

AAZ 002

Bilawal’s sisters Bakhtawar, 19, and Asifa, 17, are both studying in Edinburgh and see their cousins regularly. ‘They are like my sisters,’says Jason, who was living with Benazir Bhutto when Asifa was born. Sanam, Benazir’s sister, attended a party on the boat last week.
Not every Bhutto is on board, however. Their cousin Fatima, a glamorous poet and newspaper columnist who lives in Karachi and who allegedly dated George Clooney, recently published a book, Songs of Blood and Sword, a savage indictment of her aunt Benazir, whom she blames for the shooting of her father when she was 14. When the launch party was held last month (attended by Bob Geldof and Jemima Khan), it was not at The Yacht London but the Langham Hotel on Portland Place.
‘Fati’s father was the most important thing in her life,’explains Jason, who is fiercely loyal to Benazir. ‘The unfortunate thing was that her aunt was the prime minister. If she hadn’t been, I don’t think the logical train of thought would have led there. One can understand why she is upset, but I was there when Fati’s father was killed and I saw Benazir. Devastated is not the word. She collapsed, she had to be carried. But Fati wasn’t there so she doesn’t know that. They will definitely reunite, maybe not today or tomorrow, but soon.’Is he on good terms with Fatima? ‘I am. I don’t speak to her every day, but I’d definitely go and see her when I’m there.’

When one considers the trivial spats that lead British families to cold-shoulder each other for decades, it would seem ludicrous to suggest that a public accusation of murder could be forgiven. But the Bhutto family history is so steeped in internecine blood and violence that its members have simply had to get used to it.
The Khans’ paternal great-grandfather was the Nawab of Sachin, an Indian princely state near Mumbai. After Partition, when Pakistan became independent from India, their grandfather Colonel Mustafa Khan joined the Pakistani army, while two of his brothers fought on the Indian side. ‘There was a battle in which the youngest brother was shot, and they stopped the battle so that my grandfather could go and pick up his dead brother,’says Jason.
Colonel Mustafa married the eldest daughter of Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto, sister of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s president and then prime minister before his execution for a trumped-up charge of authorising the murder of a political opponent in 1979. He was Benazir’s father. Of Zulfikar’s four children, only the apolitical Sanam, who is based in West London, has been allowed to live in peace: the other three all died violently (the youngest brother, Shahnawaz, was poisoned in his villa in Nice in 1985, with French police suspecting his Afghan wife’s involvement). It was clearly a blessing in disguise that the Khans had to leave Pakistan after Zulfikar’s arrest in 1977 by the military dictator General Zia.
Poncho was already married to Stephanie, a half-Polish beauty who was literally the girl next door in Dolphin Square, where his parents had an apartment. The couple’s three sons (Alexander, 35, is also in finance) were born in Blackpool, Liverpool and Southport where, incongruously, their parents owned small hotels. Poncho also took over the Penthouse Club and, in partnership with Bob Guccione of Penthouse and ‘seducer of the Valleys’Dai Llewellyn, turned it into the Club Royale. But then Stephanie died of a severe asthma attack and Poncho fell ill with meningitis. Jason, then eight, and his younger brother Alexander, six, were looked after by their grandparents, while Nicholas, who was still a toddler, was taken in by friends. As if the family tree wasn’t confusing enough, when Nicholas speaks of his mother, he means Professor Gerda Roper, Dean of the School of Arts and Media at Teesside University, who brought him up.
Nicholas lived first in Wales, then Newcastle, and only came down to London to take his A levels at City & Islington College. By that time, Jason had gone to live with Benazir Bhutto after the death of his grandparents. ‘In 1992, Benazir invited me to work in her office. She was leader of the opposition, she had two young children, her husband was in jail and things were bad. Why would you invite someone else to live with you under those circumstances? But that was the sort of woman she was.’

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Bilawal recently found a two-page handwritten letter among his mother’s papers, headed ‘Tough Love’, and detailing the house rules Jason needed to follow and why. ‘We read it the other day and we were all sitting there in floods of tears,’says Nicholas.
During Jason’s ten years with Benazir, she took him on numerous state visits. ‘I’ve been to China, I’ve met Bill Clinton. North Korea was a strange experience,’he recalls. ‘I was sitting at a table with seven generals. Kim Il-Sung spoke for two hours and Benazir was given five minutes to respond.’When jet lag caused Jason to oversleep one morning, a guard was sent to wake him up and, failing to spot him in bed, reported him as a suspected spy.

The family lived on a knife edge. In 1996, Jason went to bed the prime minister’s nephew and woke up four hours later to find himself under house arrest. ‘We were in jail for five days, and her husband [Zardari, now president of Pakistan] was from that day on in prison.’

Benazir moved with her family and Jason to Dubai in 1999, shortly before Pervez Musharraf seized power. Understandably, when Musharraf granted her an amnesty and the withdrawal of corruption charges in 2007, Jason wanted to be with her for her return. He took his brother Alexander with him, Nicholas having failed to get a visa.
The triumphal procession was driving through Karachi in the middle of the night and the brothers were on the top deck of the open-top bus. ‘One minute I was looking at these very brave young security guards from our village,’says Jason, ‘and the next minute, there was nothing there. My shirt felt hot, and there was a hot, red rain. It was blood and guts. Then our boys saw another guy wearing padded clothes and they ran and dragged him away from the bus to protect her. They gave their own lives to protect Benazir.’More than 130 people were killed in the attack.
‘The luckiest thing that happened to me was that my younger brother was with me, so instead of seeing things, I went into protection mode. I knew the guards, the people, the language and I could get him off the bus.’Sometimes Jason gets nervous on the Tube these days. ‘I hate it about myself,’he says. Two months later, on 27 December, Jason was having a post-Christmas break at The Dorchester when the family heard that
Benazir had been assassinated.

Rather surprisingly, the experience hasn’t put Jason off politics. But with two young sons, Zachary, four, and Jago, two, he has revised his ambitions for a political career in Pakistan, and recently stood (unsuccessfully) for selection as a prospective Conservative candidate in the UK. ‘Politics is an honourable profession,’he insists, looking out of the window towards the Palace of Westminster. ‘When you’ve seen a 15-year-old boy blown to smithereens in front of you, you understand what people are willing to give up for politics. Of course I understand the apathy at the moment but it’s annoying that politicians here have created so much ill-will. The basic incentive to be a politician should be one of service.’

Meanwhile, Jason is using his political connections to fill the family club with movers and shakers. ‘Having seen Benazir close up through good and bad times, if I could make a thousandth of the difference, it would be great,’he says. ‘Being a banker and owning a yacht is all good stuff, but you don’t want to get to the end of your life without having made a difference.’