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Saturday, 5 September 2009

General Aslam Beg's Message to Supreme Court

In his letter to Nazir Njai, General Beg admits his implict threat in his message to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

MQM was established to counter Sindhi nationalists: Beg

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: Former army chief Mirza Aslam Beg said on Friday the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was established as a political measure to counter the Sindhi nationalist movement following the hanging of PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Talking to a private TV channel, Beg said the MQM did not exist before 1978 and was established on the directions of General Ziaul Haq, then military ruler, only to counter Sindhi nationalists who had lost Bhutto after Zia’s military coup.

He said the caretaker government under Ghulam Ishaq Khan had decided to support the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) to counter the PPP in order to balance the political atmosphere. “I think the formation of the IJI was a right decision at the time,” he said.

Beg said the IJI were the only means that could create a strong opposition at the time.

He said former president Pervez Musharraf had created and supported the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and the PML-Q to prolong his term in office, but no one had pointed that out.

Beg said he believed the Bahawalpur plane crash that killed Gen Ziaul Haq was “sabotage”.

‘Breaking’ news —Shaukat Qadir

We have been sliding downhill for too long, the slide must stop somewhere. Now is as good a time as any, and better than most, given a COAS who is bending over backwards to establish the principle of civilian supremacy

When I first read in the papers that the intelligence ‘Wonder Boy’ Brigadier Imtiaz Ahmed (retd) alias ‘Billa’ had decided to open his mouth and that he had been running from pillar to post asking people to interview him, I decided he was best ignored. However, I did wonder what treatment succeeded in ridding him of the constipation of years and why. That the disease (or should it be treatment?) was bound to be contagious was a foregone conclusion; and even when asked, I refrained from comment except to ask, “what was unknown that he has now disclosed?”

I have been prompted to write on the subject by PMLN leader Ahsan Iqbal’s ultimatum to the President and the response it has evoked.

What is there about our history that is unknown? Did we not know that the erstwhile IJI was a creation of the Zia-ul-Haq era, to counterbalance the PPP? Did we not know that a number of politicians were bribed to turn-coat and join the IJI? Lt Gen Asad Durrani submitted his affidavit to the Supreme Court naming individuals and sums disbursed by him while he was DG ISI, on the instructions of General Mirza Aslam Beg, then COAS, many years ago. The judgement is still withheld. That one of them has publicly acknowledged it redounds to her credit, but this is not the first time our politicians have been bought or sold, nor is it likely to be the last.

As the DG ISI, Lt Gen Hameed Gul in his first briefing to Benazir Bhutto as prime minister, acknowledged that he and the ISI played a role in creating the IJI.

We all know how the PMLQ took birth with Pervez Musharraf as midwife. We have witnessed the party deserting him and the formation of a ‘Forward Bloc’. We are all aware of how the religious political parties were nurtured by Zia and later by Musharraf. We have witnessed them being bought and sold so many times that it is not possible to predict who they will support tomorrow.

Did we not know that the MQM was another creation of Zia to counterbalance the PPP in the major urban centres of Sindh, Karachi and Hyderabad? Did we not know that when Zia lost control of the MQM and this organisation began to terrorise the two urban centres under its total control, Zia tried to counter it by creating the MQM (Haqiqi)? Did we not know about the MQM’s methods; were we unaware of the Musharraf-MQM nexus? Any doubts as to the latter were put to rest in May 2007.

Did we not know about an announced intention to create a homeland for the ‘mohajirs’? What is the fresh disclosure in the ‘maps of Jinnahpur’? Whether there were any or not, the intent was known publicly.

Who was unaware that Gen Beg made every effort to subvert Benazir Bhutto’s first tenure as PM? Or that he was suitably rewarded by Nawaz Sharif, when he retired, by providing him the funds to set up the organisation called FRIENDS? Who was unaware that, at a time when Benazir Bhutto was seeking reconciliation with India and had ordered the army not to interfere in Indian-held Kashmir, Gen Beg was fighting his private war there, funnelling millions to support it?

However, there is an upside to this public washing of our dirty linen. Whoever had any illusions left about our politicians’ or our military leadership’s role in playing havoc with the country at every given opportunity in our history is likely to lose them. What is more, it throws into stark contrast our current apolitical army leadership.

Other retired friends tell me they feel bad about the damage all this is doing to the army’s reputation. In my view, that is the best part of it all. No institution should be considered to be, or be, above the law. It is time, and more, that senior military officers again become accountable to the people and to the representatives of the people — however contemptible or reprehensible the elected representatives might be. It is also high time that the people begin to hold their representatives accountable.

We have been sliding downhill for too long, the slide must stop somewhere. Now is as good a time as any, and better than most, given a COAS who is bending over backwards to establish the principle of civilian supremacy. I am sure he will pass this test with flying colours, as he has done every one in the past. (Daily Times)


Democracy deficit? —Abbas Rashid

Meanwhile, a former spook with the most unsavoury of reputations has been a feature on the airwaves, making revelations that are clearly politically motivated. What Brigadier Imtiaz Ahmad (retd) has to say about the 1992 operation against the MQM and the absence of any Jinnahpur maps as well as other matters is largely geared to embarrass Nawaz Sharif. The Nawaz camp thinks this is a manoeuvre by the PPP to get them to back off on the issue of the NRO or the minus-one option (PPP minus Zardari). Hopefully, they are wrong.

Again on the issue of General Musharraf’s trial, the PPP regards this primarily as a move to put them in a difficult spot by pitting them against the army. So, there is a pragmatic consideration here on the part of the PPP not going forward on this. At the same time, while Musharraf may have illusions of leading at least a faction of the PML back in Pakistan, it is more likely that given the serious charges against him, he will come to prefer exile to his day in court.

There are also calls to proceed with another case that impinges crucially on the area of civil-military relations, and has been before the Supreme Court for around thirteen years, since 1997. The petitioner, a well-respected former military officer, Air Marshal Asghar Khan (retd) had brought the case against former Army Chief General Aslam Beg (retd), ex-ISI chief Lt Gen Asad Durrani (retd) and ex-chief of Mehran Bank Younis Habib. Essentially, Beg is accused of instructing Durrani to disburse money provided by Habib to the newly formed IJI by way of ‘logistic’ support.

The interesting thing about this case is that in an affidavit before the court, Durrani has admitted to disbursing the money and named the politicians as well as the sums handed over. And, as Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui reminded us in a recent appearance on TV, none among the recipients had denied getting the money. More recently, though, some have.

Regardless, it is Durrani’s claim that he was only obeying a superior officer’s orders and Beg would have us believe that the orders had actually come from the chief executive at the time, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. And was anyone trying to determine the legality or otherwise of such orders, before carrying them out? How disposed the Supreme Court is to take up this case again remains to be seen.

PM doesn’t mind!

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has taken the tension out of the political atmosphere in the country by telling journalists in Karachi on Thursday that he took opposition criticism in his stride. His view was that governments did not fall by “disclosures” of the sort being made on TV channels these days.

Mr Gilani said something more meaningful after coming out of a meeting of the Sindh cabinet. When his attention was drawn to remarks made by PMLN leader Mr Nawaz Sharif that “failure of the PPP-led coalition was becoming failure of democracy”, he said: “I don’t mind what Nawaz Sharif Sahib says”.

He was right in conceding that the party in power has to be long in patience and that the opposition is always more strident in its criticism. Also he can ignore a lot of the criticism being bandied about these days about his government being “inactive”. Being rash in action simply to satisfy a few politicians and some partisan TV anchors might land him in trouble.

Most of the problems facing him are issues of either long gestation or of slow resolution. That the economy is in trouble and terrorism forces the state to lean on international support is also not his fault. There are signs of slow improvement in the economy; and the military operations against the terrorists are not going badly at all. As for Mr Sharif, he is a “friend in opposition” as he himself likes to admit.

The Raza Rabbani committee in parliament is shortly going to present the constitutional amendment that will get us rid of the universally abominated 17th Amendment. After that, the only issue left would be the trial of General (Retd) Musharraf. We hope that the PMLN will not insist upon it to the exclusion of everything else in the longer term interest of political stability in the country, as Saudi King Abdullah is wisely advising. (Daily Times)

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