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l June 2004 l

The Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

l Vol 4, No 2 l


Musharraf and his Khaki Turncoats

Samuel Baid

In January this year it was suggested that it was most convenient to blame jehadis for the two serious attempts on the life of General Musharraf in December 2003, but the real culprits might be in the Army. Army spokesman Maj.Gen. Shaukat Sultan suspected a foreign hand behind these incidents while Information Minister Sheikh Rashid said a network including foreigners could be responsible. It was also suspected that jehadi organizations, which had been banned by Musharraf could be behind these attacks. General Musharraftold a tribal jirga in Peshawar on March 15 that Al Qaeda was involved. But his Government consistently denied the possibility of the involvement of his own constituency men from the Army.

But it took Musharraf about five months to admit that some Army men were involved in the conspiracy to kill him in December. He told a private TV channel (aired on May 27) that a few junior officers in the Army and the Air Force had plotted to kill him. But he was too late in his disclosures. Reports had already started coming about the involvement of ISI and Army men in the plot to eliminate him. A United States defence intelligence source had told news agency UPI as long ago as February 26 that the man who tried to kill Musharraf was 31-year old Mohammad Jameel, a Captain in the Pakistani Army serving in the ISI. Jameel had been sent to Afghanistan to defend the Taliban regime along with other spies in the wake of the US bombing of that country. Later, he was captured in Afghanistan and handed over to the US Government along with others. He was released because the Americans did not find him directly involved with Taliban or Al Qaeda. Jameel was himself killed in the bomb attack on Musharraf on December 25.

Last month the South Asia Tribune reported that six Army officers, who opposed Musharraf's pro-America policies, had disappeared. They included two Colonels, three Majors and one Captain. They were posted in the tribal areas of North West Frontier Province.They had refused to attack local tribesmen "for the sake of foreigners." Musharraf feared their thinking might infect other Army men too. And so they disappeared. The ISI, which does this kind of disappearing tricks, has expressed ignorance about their whereabouts. Now it looks they are among those officers who, according to General Musharraf 's latest disclosure, are under detention for plotting against his life in December. He made this disclosre after the Rawalpindi bench of Lahore High Court repeated its notice to the Government to give its reply by June 4 about the whereabouts of the six Army officers. Families of these officers have filed six separate habeas corpus petitions.

The Pakistani Army has a long history of conspiracies against rulers -civilians and military both. In 1951, a conspiracy was hatched by junior officers, who called themselves "Young Turks", against the very first Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan. Their grouse against the Government was on the promotion policy in the Army and also because Mr Liaqat Ali Khan had agreed to a United Nations ordered cease-fire in Kashmir in 1949. Maj.Gen.Akbar Khan, who organised invasion of Kashmir in 1947, was the leader of this conspiracy. The ultimate result of the confrontation between the Government and the Young Turks was the assassination of Liaqat Ali on October 16, 1951. When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came to power in December 1971, Akbar was put in charge of National Security even as Begum Raana Liaqat Ali demanded action against her husband's killers. Junior officers, who were also described themselves as Young Turks, were badly upset by the easy-going life of General Yahya Khan and his coterie while Dhaka was burning. When Bhutto took over as the President-cum-Chief Martial Law Administrator after the fall of Dhaka in December 1971, he sacked six senior Army officers in August 1972 on charges of causing civil war in Pakistan and disturbing public life just two days before he took over. Later, in March 1973 the Government arrested a large number of Army officers, who, it claimed, had conspired to seize power and arrest Government leaders and Generals. The arrested officers included three Brigadiers, seven Lt.Colonels, 31 Majors, three Captains, three Air Force Wing Commanders and seven Squadron Leaders. In addition, there were some retired officers and civilians. So many arrests exploded the myth that Bhutto was a darling of junior officers. It also showed that despite the loss of the Eastern Wing in December 1971, Pakistani Army had not reconciled itself to the civilian rule. Bhutto was deposed by his handpicked Army Chief Zia-ul Haq in July 1977 and hanged in April 1979.

But Zia himself was not secured despite all the support he was getting from the USA and European countries for fighting their war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. In March 1980, about 20 officers were detained for conspiring against Zia. It was suspected that Deputy Chief of the Army Staff Lt.Gen.Mohammad Iqbal Khan was among the conspirators. Zia's own right-hand man Lt. Gen. Faiz Ali Chisti had also gone against him. Zia tried to keep Army Generals on his side by allowing them to make money through drug and gun-running. Their wives went to Europe on shopping spree on Government expense. But if his son Ejazul Haq is to be believed, Zia's air crash on August 17, 1988,was a conspiracy by Army Generals. He named General Aslam Baig as the man behind this crash. Baig became the Army Chief on Zia' s death. Zia ruled for about 11 years refusing to give up the post of the Army Chief.

General Zi'a's exploitation of Islam to stay in power worsened the state of discipline in the Army. Children who went to schools or madrasas in 1980 at the age of about 5 years are today in their late 20s or early 30s. They were all brainwashed by the jehadi curriculum prepared for schools and madras as during Zia' s rule. Most of them are now employed in different private and public sectors. That a large number of them have got jobs in armed forces cannot be ruled out. It can be presumed that those who didn't get jobs today form the backbone of the jehadi groups live by sectarian, anti-Government and other activities including those in Kashmir.

The British-trained Pak Army officers were not willing to work under civilian leaders whom they had learned to abhor. The 1947 invasion of Kashmir by the Army could be with the q1otive of investing itself with the role of the defender of Pakistan's two- nation theory. It called this invasion jehad although Jamaat-e-Islami described it as haram. But it is a fact that the Army's conspjracies against Liaqat Ali, Bhutto and Zia were not inspired by jehadi urges. The jehadi craze came later as a result of Zia's islamisation programme, which had the support ofUS and Muslim and European countries in the 1980s. It was then the concept of jehad was incorporated into Pakistan's school curriculum. And that suited the Americans then.

Gen.Zia facilitated the entry of jehadi young men into the Army by declaring madras as degrees as equivalent to BA. He also permitted Jamaat-e-Islami tabligi groups (Islamic preachers) to enter the GHQ in Rawalpindi. Influenced by these groups, many Army officers began growing their beard (now even Pakistani cricketers are growing beard).

The very first result of Zia policy exposing the Army Hqrs. was the growth of Khilafat movement within the GHQ. In September 1995, 36 Army officers, all Sunnis, were arrested for trying to exterminate political and military leadership of the country. Maj.Gen. Zahirul Islam Abbasi who led this conspiracy had received funds from somewhere and brought arms from Dera Adam Khel to carry on this operation. Abbasi now leads a Khilafat movement which he calls Azmat-e-lslam movement and supports Al Qaeda. He claims that the junior army men are all for Khilafat.

The writer is Director, Institute for Media Studies & Information Technology, YMCA, New Delhi & formerly Editor, UNI. By arrangement with the Kashmir Images.

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