Asghar Khan case verdict: An interesting peek into minds of then military bosses
ISLAMABAD, Nov 8: The Supreme Court’s detailed verdict in the Asghar Khan case also gave an interesting peek into the minds of then top military bosses indicating why they thought the government of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was a security threat.
Former Sindh chief of Military Intelligence (MI) Brig (retd) Hamid Saeed, who had submitted a statement to the apex court, claimed that in the early 1990 Benazir Bhutto had publicly criticised the army for crossing the red line by enriching uranium to a level which was not acceptable to big powers.
His statement has been mentioned in the detailed judgment.
Then president Ghulam lshaq Khan dissolved the PPP government in August 16, 1990, under Article 58 (2b) of the Constitution.
The assertions made by Brig Saeed are now considered by a large segment of society as generally not true and made up only to malign the former prime minister.
Brig (retd) Saeed was commanding an artillery brigade in D.I. Khan in 1990 when both India and Pakistan deployed their forces in the border areas following an indigenous uprising in the Indian-held Kashmir. But he had been sent to the MI in Karachi because of the security situation in Sindh.
In his statement, Brig Saeed claimed that Ms Bhutto had given an interview to BBC in which she mentioned her support to Indian government in its efforts to crush the Khalistan movement. Some time later she criticised the army for conducting the annual exercise in Sindh without her consent.
Later the ISPR had to clarify through a press release that under the law the army chief was not obliged to seek permission for conducting training exercises in any part of the country. The same year, the statement claimed, the government had given attractive jobs to AI-Zulfiqar (AZO) activists in Railways, PIA, Customs, KPT and immigration, excise, taxation and other departments, thus endangering the national security.
The AZO activists had been given training by India in sabotage, arson and bomb blasts, mass killings and other acts of terrorism, the statement said, adding the authentic record of these terrorists was available with all intelligence agencies. These matters were reported to the high-ups through normal command channels.
A general perception then prevailing among the common man, the statement said, was that the ruling party had got the mandate but lacked the vision to run the country.
In 1990, Brig Saeed said, the MQM had quit the ruling coalition and PPP workers resorted to taking revenge from MQM for their political betrayal through the use of force. The MQM reacted even more violently through their armed political workers. PPP, MQM, PPI, JI and JSM activists were relentlessly killing each other.
The daily death toll was 100-110. PSF, APMSO, IJT and JSQM had held activists of their rivals hostage and committed horrendous and inhuman atrocities on them like drilling holes in knee joints and burning their delicate parts with electric soldering machines.
Brig Saeed said he had held meetings with late MQM leaders Tariq Azeem, Dr lmran Farooq and Saleem Shahzad, Prof Ghafoor of JI, Dr Hameeda Khuhro and Mumtaz Bhotto of JSF, Abdul Waheed Aresar of JSQM and Mukhtar Awan of PPI and gave them a strong message that if they did not stop killing, arson and looting, the army would be forced to step in to restore peace.
Initially, the belligerent forces denied their involvement in the unlawful activities, but when irrefutable evidence of their crimes was produced, they took the warning more seriously. Within one week killings reduced drastically from 100-110 a day to 20-30, the statement said.
An exchange of prisoners of the belligerent sides was arranged and it took place at Karachi Corps HQ. All this was achieved through negotiations, the statement said, adding that not a single bullet was fired and nobody was kept in illegal confinement and no torture was committed to extract information. At that time internal security had assumed greater importance.
Soon after, the provincial government launched a police operation against Urdu-speaking people in Pukka Qila, Hyderabad, on a day when the then prime minister and the army chief and Karachi Corps commander were abroad and army units were out for annual exercise.
Police killed dozens of men, women and children in the operation. The matter was reported to higher echelons. President Ishaq had ordered the army to intervene and stop the carnage. The station commander Hyderabad gathered about 300 soldiers from the personnel left behind for guard duties and reached the area and the police force was withdrawn.
After her return to Pakistan, premier Benazir Bhutto had issued a press statement saying that “the army had supplied POF-made weapons to Mohajirs” and that police had besieged Pukka Qila to recover these weapons.
When police were about to reach the cache in Pukka Qila, the army stepped in and took away the weapons in military vehicles.
Everybody was shocked by this statement.
After this mayhem, the MRC (Mohajir Rabita Committee) gave a press statement that they (Mohajirs) were being forced to look towards India for the protection of their rights. India readily responded to this call by stating that Mohajirs were India’s ex-citizens and India was obliged to ensure their safety and protection against state terrorism and genocide, the statement said, according to Brig Saeed.