All the X-men
What exactly were the ex-servicemen doing while in service?
Shahzada Irfan Ahmed and Aziz Omar
Air Chief Marshal (R) Asghar Khan
Former Air Chief Martial Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Asghar Khan was the first politician to become famous for his remark in 1977 that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto should be hanged by Kohala Bridge near Rawalpindi.
Asghar Khan’s critics, though relatively small in number, call him a power-hungry person who entered politics in 1968 after resigning as chairman PIA. At that point in time, a movement against Ayub Khan had started paving way for new leadership eager to make its mark in the national politics. He is also criticised for accepting a one-year extension in his service from Field Marshal Ayub Khan.
He is known for his hawkish stance vis-a-vis an accord with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, thereby limiting the scope of a political solution and paving the way for a martial law. In May 1977, he addressed a letter to the three services chiefs openly asking them to revolt against Bhutto. He had asked the addressed officers to differentiate between a lawful and an unlawful command and save Pakistan. This controversial letter is considered instrumental in encouraging Gen Ziaul-Haq, the then chief of army staff, to make a coup. Little wonder, Gen Ziaul-Haq offered him a slot in his cabinet after the imposition of martial law in 1977. To his credit he declined to accept this offer.
Lt Gen (R) Faiz Ali Chishti
The head of ex-servicemen society, Lt Gen (retd) Faiz Ali Chishti, had a main role in the military coup of 1977. He was the Corps Commander of Rawalpindi at that time and had worked out the details of the coup. Interestingly, he declares the imposition of martial law by Gen Zia-ul-Haq was right but rejects the way he tried to handle things afterwards.
Chishti says he was against the awarding of death sentence to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. It has been reported that towards the end of Bhutto’s tenure, he sat in one of the cabinet meetings with his feet facing Bhutto. It was again Chishti who reportedly overlooked/interfered in all the local bodies’ elections held from 1979 to 1985 on the behest of Gen Ziaul-Haq. It is believed that Chishti advised Gen. Zia a lot on different matters. He has also confessed that though he could easily remove Gen. Zia he submitted his resignation to him which he tore apart. Gen Chishti (retd) also held the portfolio of Labour and Manpower in Gen Zia’s first cabinet formed after the imposition of martial law.
Lt Gen (R) Asad Durrani
A former head of the ISI and now an active member of the ex-servicemen society, Durrani has confessed to having distributed millions of rupees among the politicians in the 1990 elections. During his career, he held the posts of Director General of the Military Intelligence (MI) and later the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). His role in the formation of Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) is an open secret. PPP’s former interior minister Lt-Gen Naseerullah Babar even announced on the floor of the National Assembly in 1996 that Durrani, then DG ISI, had distributed Rs 140 million among some politicians for this purpose. This amount, he said, had been withdrawn from Mehran Bank and given to Durrani by Mirza Aslam Beg to ensure that IJI was brought to power. Aslam Beg had submitted in the court that it had been routine for the ISI to support the favoured candidates in elections under the directives of successive chief executives. Durrani did not deny the allegations and submitted an affidavit listing the politicians to whom the money had been paid. The affidavit said: “It was in September 1990 that I had received instructions to provide ‘logistic support’ for disbursement of donations for the election campaign of the IJI.”
Durrani has also enjoyed ambassadorial positions in Germany (1994 to 1997) and Saudi Arabia after the military coup of 1999. It was only after completing his term as ambassador during the Musharraf regime that Durrani started criticising Musharraf.
Lt Gen (R) Jamshed Gulzar Kayani
The outspoken Kayani was number two in the ISI at the time of coup led by Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf in 1999. Soon afterwards, he was appointed commander of the 10th corps. He has also held the crucial slot of Corps Commander, Rawalpindi. His recent claim to fame was his interview conducted by Geo TV in which he disclosed that lethal chemical weapons were used in the Lal Masjid operation. He also claimed that Mian Nawaz Sharif was kept in the dark over Kargil operation and he (Nawaz) went to the United States to save Pak Army’s integrity. Kayani has demanded Musharraf’s immediate resignation and inquiry into the above-mentioned incidents.
The presidential camp has condemned him for remaining silent in the past and levelling ‘baseless’ allegations after retiring from service with full benefits.
After retiring from military service in 2003-04, Kayani was appointed chairman of Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC). Gen (retd) Kayani developed difference with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz over postings of senior officials. He had to vacate his FPSC post prematurely on March 30, 2006 after the government reduced his tenure by two-and-a-half years through a presidential ordinance. He challenged the ordinance in Lahore High Court (LHC) but the court rejected his petition.
Lt Gen (R) Hameed Gul
The former head of ISI, Lt Gen (retd) Hameed Gul played prime role in Afghan War against the former Soviet Union. A die-hard supporter of mujahideen, he is often held responsible by many for the spread of heroine and klashnikov culture in the country. Hameed Gul is also blamed for planning the disastrous Jalalabad operation in 1989 in which mujahideen suffered a major loss. The defeat was imminent as mujahideen did not have the capacity to capture a major city.
Gul also boasts of having organised the IJI against the PPP and spearheading ‘Operation Jackal,’ a plot by the ISI to topple Benazir Bhutto’s government in 1990. Gen (retd) Gul had great liking for Nawaz Sharif for being the head of the political organisation engineered by the ISI. On the other hand, he was one of the persons who were accused by Benazir Bhutto of conspiring to kill her after she returned to Pakistan on October 18, 2007. Gen (retd) served a legal notice on Bhutto for falsely levelling allegation against him.
It is said that for his liking for Nawaz Sharif, Gen Asif Nawaz developed differences with him and appointed him DG, Heavy Industries Taxila in 1991. Gul refused to take the assignment after which he was retired from the army.
Senior columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee criticises Gul for taking too much benefits from the army. He has especially talked about his transport business, making ample use of his army connections for the purpose.
These days, Gul speaks vehemently against American policies. But it is said that it was during his tenure as DG ISI that the US ambassador was allowed to attend the meetings of Afghan Cell of Benazir government. The very decision to launch Jalalabad offensive in 1989 is also said to have been made in one such meetings.
Gen (R) Aslam Beg
Some people are never directly in the spotlight but are just skirting the edges whilst influencing events. Mirza Aslam Beg, a retired army general and former Chief, is just one such figure. Having remained a controversial since his taking command of the Pakistan army upon Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s death in a plane crash in August 1988, Beg has never laid out all his cards on the table.
A petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan was filed involving General Aslam Beg in the misappropriation of Rs 140 million of public funds in the so called Mehran bank scandal. These funds were purportedly used for buying out ‘for-sale’ politicians through the then director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in order to manipulate the 1990 general elections so as to bring about the defeat of Pakistan Peoples Party. Interestingly, Aslam Beg was dismissed as the army chief just three month short of his retirement by the then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan apparently to counter the political aspirations of the former.
The retired general Beg attempted to revamp his politically ambitious image by founding a policy think-tank just five days after his dismissal as army chief. Naming it The Foundation for Research on International Environment, National Development and Security (FRIENDS), Aslam Beg his used its platform to establish himself as a political and military analyst.
He has authored several articles in which he has asserted his views regarding the emerging power dynamic in the South and Middle East whilst maintaining that eventually peace is the only solution to the regional tension. Of late, the retired general Beg has come down hard on the trend of military dictators usurping power and has aligned himself with a group of several retired army generals who are asking for the immediate stepping down of President Musharraf.