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The Castle Entered
Seventy-five minutes before Benazir Bhutto’s flight took off from Dubai airport for Karachi, her security advisor Rahman Malik called and said, "Are you packed? Your visa for Pakistan is ready." I didn’t make that flight. But I did get on the next one, landing straight into the bloody reception that most people had predicted was lined up for Benazir. But, as October 18 dawned, I was reconciled to watching Benazir’s ‘wapasi’ on television just as I had Nawaz Sharif’s. For months, I had walked around with the seven mandatory photocopies of my Indian passport and a stack of passport pictures in readiness for a call from the Pakistan consulate that would say the Pakistan government had taken me off the blacklist it had put me on in 2004, both in Pakistan and in the UAE. The Sharifs had sent a message that September 10 was a no-go. Their clout with Islamabad was minimal at best. But with Benazir there was a qualitative difference. She sent one positive message after another to say efforts were on to get me in. When we met at an Id dinner she and her husband Asif Ali Zardari hosted at their Emirates Hills home in Dubai, she said her party’s political troubleshooter Naheed Khan was trying another tack. Sitting inside Bilawal House (Benazir’s Karachi residence) on October 19, Naheed told me the name of my benefactor—Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri. Malik insisted it was the National Security Advisor Tariq Aziz. Whatever, I was in!