Confessions of a spymaster
By Imtiaz Gul
Weekly Pulse, Islamabad May 26, 2008
Here is a shocking but sad account of an encounter with a senior officer of one of the army intelligence agencies. While it shows the deep involvement of the intelligence agencies in national politics, the revelations also reflect on how Pervez Musharraf abused his authority as the chief of army staff (COAS) for self-perpetuation, and in the process peddled one justification after the other – all in the name of National Interest. On the other, these admissions also reflect positively on the new COAS, who apparently is quickly moving his men away from politics and that is why took certain decision including unexpected postings and retirements, which some of the affected people describe as an attempt to “purge the establishment of pro Pervez Musharraf lobbies.”
Let us read the following excerpts from the conversation:
“I feel sorry for what we did for General Pervez Musharraf. It was a fire-fight for the perpetuation of one person and in the process, the country continues to suffer.”
This startling admission comes from a man who has been part of what we call the Musharraf-led establishment.
When confronted with the question, “did you believe your actions were in the national interest,” the officer from one of the prime military intelligence agencies gave an explanation that runs contrary to what Musharraf has been telling us i.e. Pakistan First.
“No body really believes in the national interest, they have all been fighting for saving their own skin,” came the reply from the officer who sounded bitter and disgruntled in view of the dog-fight going on between Nawaz Sharif and the people (read Asif Zardari, Farooq Naek, and most of the PML-Q stalwarts) attempting to save Musharraf’s grace by dragging their feet on the judges issue.
It was all about this crude game of power – with one player trying to out do the other – regardless of the consequences for the country and its system of governance, lamented the officer.
Being in service, we were forced into a continuous fire-fighting mode for a person, who was handling national institutions like his personal fiefdoms.
Example: Ejaz Shah, a close retired brigadier friend of the president, was leading the civilian Intelligence Bureau and also looking after the Punjab. (If the press reports were true, following his sacking, Shah has moved to Australia. He was among the four people Benazir Bhutto had nominated as possible threats to her shortly before her travel back to Pakistan in October).
On the other hand, the Military Intelligence had been tasked in Balochistan and Sindh in particular, to look after the ruling coalition as well as fend off opposition as and when necessary.
Essentially, managing the friendly coalition and controlling the hostile opposition, were the two task the services remained focused on all these years under Musharraf. We also kept warning of the consequences of actions such as isolation and eventual murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti but the coterie of a few people around the president blunted all these efforts.
Musharraf used to flare up whenever we informed him of the opposition view or spoke of the possible adverse impact of his policies.
Practically in tears, and the sense of remorse and regret writ large on the face, the officer also made another shocking admission on the May 12 2007 carnage in Karachi.
“Once we received the instructions to prevent Iftikhar Chaudhry from reaching the bar via road, we had to make elaborate arrangements.”
Every pro-Musharraf person and party, including the MQM, were taken on-board for consultation and the people saw how “successful we were in preventing Chaudhry from getting out of the airport, we were successful but at the cost of over 40 people.
Once we knew over 40 people have been lost we also advised the president not to address the rally in front of the parliament house. But his people turned down the advice and, prompted by Ch. Shujaat Hussein and the likes of him, the President boasted with his fists raised in the air “that we have shown to the opponents peoples’ power.”
Until General Musharraf finally came out of his uniform and moved into the civis, the MI in particular and the ISI were also gearing up for playing an “effective role” in the next elections.”
But with the arrival of General Kiyani as the new COAS, the mandate, which had been given to the army intelligence agencies, particularly since shortly before the Oct 2002 elections, also underwent massive changes. Both the ISI and MI in particular have been massively involved in what the officers refer to as “managing the friendly coalition and controlling the hostile opposition.”
That the president kept mum and indifferent on solid evidences of corruption against Liaqat Jatoi, former minister for water and power, or against the misdeeds of former chief minister Arbab Rahim, make it abundantly clear that Musharraf treated them as “vital body parts” and didn’t want to lose them at all.
“Kiyani told us point-blank – both in general meetings as well as through official communications, that the army had nothing to do with the conduct and results of the elections,” recalled the officer.
We must not interfere and our role is only to observe, the officer quoted the COAS as saying.
Recent postings and retirements also underscored that the COAS thought, “ We knew too much and might attempt to undermine the new system.” Hence, the reshuffle.
At least for the time being, the ISI and MI have been told to act as silent spectators.
It sounds pretty encouraging and one would wait with anxiety to see for how long can the military outfits restrain themselves from the Machiavellian plays that a spineless presidency is currently staging to outshine the likes of Nawaz Sharif.
This also brings us to the notorious phrase that Musharraf had invoked about Iftikhar Chaudhry i.e. the scum of the earth. This is how Musharraf had scoffed at Chaudhry. But in view of what one of the officers under his command told us, one wonders as to who is the scum of the earth; the former chief justice, who rose against the general’s tyranny, or the general himself, whose lust for power knows no ends and is still acting as a Machiavellian character – given to personal power and survival rather than to the interests of the over 170 hapless people of Pakistan.
(The author heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad.