ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON 21 Nov, 2006 : In a report that could stir a political controversy in Pakistan, a newspaper report has said that former president Bill Clinton saved deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from being hanged by the Pervez Musharraf regime.
In the report from Washington quoting unnamed officials who served in the Clinton administration, Pakistani newspaper The Daily Times said that Clinton had "serious apprehensions about the life and safety" of Sharif and was "afraid that those who had overthrown him might also hang him".
These sources said that Clinton had expressed his concerns to the Saudi royal house, and had asked that it intervene with Musharraf to set free Sharif who had been charged with a range of "grave crimes".
Analysts have pointed to similarities between the post-October 1999 coup scenario and the former Prime Minister Z A Bhutto's fate who was hanged after arrest and trial by the regime of Zia-ul Haq.
They have said that Bhutto was also charged with serious crimes, including one of ordering the killing of a political opponent.
Tried for this crime, he was eventually hanged despite pleas from the world community, including the US and Saudi Arabia.
The Clinton administration officials said the former US president "did not want to take up the matter one-on-one with the new Pakistani military leader, and neither was Clinton initially willing to go to Pakistan because of the October 1999 coup".
They said that the Saudi royal house had interceded and urged Clinton not to leave out Pakistan when he visited India in 2000.
Clinton agreed in the end but kept the visit short and laid down certain conditions that were fulfilled, such as an unedited live address to the people of Pakistan on state television, they added.
The US's then Centcom chief, Gen. Anthony Zinni, a personal friend of Musharraf, had also interceded with Clinton.
According to the sources, Clinton also wished not to be photographed with Musharraf.
The unnamed officials said that had 9/11 not happened, the situation would have been quite "different" from what it is today.
Thus it came to pass that the Saudis negotiated a complicated deal with the Musharraf regime and the former Pakistani leader that eventually saw him and his family flown to safety to Saudi Arabia.