Sardar Ayyaz Sadiq, a renowned politician, former speaker of the National Assembly, businessman and a philanthropist, was born to a Kashmiri family in 1954. He received his early education from Aitchison College, Lahore where Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, former interior minister Nisar Ali Khan, former Khyber Pakhtunkhawa chief minister Pervez Khattak, Sardar Akhtar Mengal and Zulfiqar Ali Magsi were amongst his school fellows. He received a bachelor’s degree in commerce from Hailey College of Punjab University in 1975.
Sadiq’s family has been involved in business since the time his grandfather established factories of plywood and chemicals. His family is also running the Sardar Trust Eye Hospital and established a school in Garhi Shahu, Lahore, which was nationalized in 1972.
In a candid conversation with Horizon, Sadiq shares intimate details of his student life, his entry into politics and the future he sees for Pakistan and for the PML-N.
Horizon: Sir, how were your youth days?
Sadiq: I was more disciplined, very cautious about hygiene, an average student, and very much interested in sports. I always passed the exams but never got any distinction except for once. I used to play hockey, cricket and table tennis. I loved to fly kites and played table tennis at the provincial level. Once, while playing hockey, I unintentionally hit Imran Khan on the cheek. The media has sometimes made wrong assertions about that incident but it is a fact that Khan and I had good relations until the 2002 general election.
Horizon: Kashmiris normally are foodies. Are you a foodie, too?
Sadiq: Absolutely! Our whole family is fond of eating. My wife is an excellent cook. When we hosted Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) leadership for the historic Lahore Jalsa, she cooked for all the guests herself. We are so much in love with food that we are always discussing it. At the same time, I work out daily to maintain my physical fitness.
Horizon: Tell us about your marital life?
Sadiq: I got married when I was 23 years old. It was an arranged marriage. I was totally a mama’s boy so all these affairs were left to my mother. My mother and my wife’s mother were friends. I am very happy with my mother’s choice.
Horizon: How did you enter politics?
Sadiq: Politics runs in our family. My grandfather was a politician too. He was the deputy mayor of Lahore. He campaigned for Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah during her presidential election. Later, my father also joined politics and was a local bodies representative. But he quit politics on my mother’s insistence. In 1997, Imran Khan requested my elder brother to contest elections from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf platform, but he refused and referred Imran to me. Interestingly, my mother did not stop me from joining politics. I contested my first election in 1997 on the PTI ticket and lost to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Tariq Aziz by a huge margin.
In the 2002 elections, I contested on the PML-N’s ticket and won. As a matter of fact, I was supposed to be a covering candidate but the party later decided to have me as the main candidate. By Allah’s grace, I had a convincing victory and it was the first one against Imran Khan, which is why things never remained the same between us.
Horizon: How would you describe joining PML-N during dictatorship and your journey onwards?
Sadiq: I joined the PML-N in February 2001, after realizing that IK’s actions and statements didn’t match while the PML-N vision of public service was quite appealing. Despite having paid a heavy price for joining PML-N, time has shown that my decision at the time was right. Under Mian Nawaz Sharif’s leadership, we have been able to serve the people.
Even though, it was my first time in parliament, the ruling party offered me a ministry of my choice to change my loyalty but, by Allah Almighty’s grace, I stood firm on my principled stance. It was a tough period for the party and the leadership but by His grace, we passed through it with dignity. I participated in the 2008 election and was again bestowed with the honor of representing my constituents in the National Assembly.
The toughest challenge was the 2013 elections when I ran against Imran Khan, who was contesting on five seats. He had won on four seats but when our result came out I had beaten him with a sizeable margin. After the election, Mian Shehbaz Sharif and Mian Nawaz Sharif called me to Islamabad and, with the consultation of the senior leadership, nominated me as the speaker of the National Assembly. This tenure was quite strenuous due to the anti-government movement and sit-ins.
Horizon: Why you did not accept resignations of PTI parliamentarians in 2015?
Sadiq: I ran the House by the book. I simply followed Rule 43 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007, which makes it compulsory for the Speaker of the House to ensure that the resignation is voluntary and genuine and the Speaker has no information or knowledge to the contrary. Resignations tendered by PTI parliamentarians were submitted with the Speaker’s office and not to the Speaker in person. I, under the Rules, was obliged to determine the genuineness and voluntary nature of these resignations. No PTI member was ready to verify the genuineness and voluntary nature of those resignations. When Shah Mehmood Qureshi along with other members of PTI attended the joint session, they despite being asked to come to speaker’s chamber to discuss the resignations, left the House without any response. I could not accept the resignations without following the due procedure. You can read all the details in Ruling given during Joint Sitting Debate of 6th April, 2015.
Horizon: You were often accused of not allowing MNA Sheikh Rasheed to speak on the floor of the National Assembly. What do you say about it?
Sadiq: Totally wrong. I conducted the House under the rules. After the government, the right to debate was of the main opposition party – PPP, then PTI, and then the other parties as per their number of seats in parliament. Sheikh was the only MNA of his party and his number was always to be last as per the rules. Though, I often adjusted him by requesting the other parties to voluntarily give him their slot, which they allowed.
Horizon: How do you see the current political situation?
Sadiq: Democracy in Pakistan has seen many ups and downs and political parties have learnt a lot and have come a long way. The only goal of the PDM is to ensure the rule of the will of people under the constitution of Pakistan. As I said earlier, political parties have come a long way, I am very optimistic and confident that this movement will succeed in establishing true democracy in our beloved country. Now, there is more inter-party trust and all parties are focused on free and fair elections and I have no doubt whatsoever that we will succeed because we have mass public support behind us. Democracy is the only way forward. All the national issues can be resolved via dialogue without use of any force and this is the beauty of democracy. Democracy is the future of Pakistan.
PML-N has also evolved and this is very heart-warming. Our upcoming young leadership is highly educated and true democrats. I can proudly say that PML-N is better than ever and is always improving. Our vision and criteria have always been merit, performance and public service.