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Pakistan: Mehrangate scam

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By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
The US has been supporting military dictators in pursuance of its strategic interests. The US also has a history of playing a double game and ditching Pakistan at critical stages when its support was needed the most. Yet our successive governments in the last 65 years have been clinging to the aprons of the US. Even now when the US has bared its teeth and is hell-bent to denuclearize Pakistan and to make it a compliant state of India, our rulers and the elite class remain infatuated to USA. Its haughtiness and insulting attitude is ignored. Pakistanis have all along been complaining about foreign involvement in our domestic affairs but their concerns brought no change in our US centric policies.
Notwithstanding the deleterious role of USA and our rulers, it is indeed painful to learn that even GHQ and ISI have remained involved in gerrymandering elections to make the political party of choice win the contest. Mehrangate scam in which Rupees 30 million were distributed among certain politicians in 1990 has exposed their role. Even though President Ghulam Ishaq Khan was the decision-maker, the implementers of his immoral plan were the former COAS Gen Mirza Aslam Beg and DG ISI Lt Gen Asad Durrani. They should have simply excused themselves and refused to undertake this disgusting act which ran contrary to the constitutional norms, rule of law and ethics.
Looking deeper into the case, none can deny that Benazir was prevented from winning elections in October 1990, not because she was inept and corrupt but because she was a security hazard. This label had not been given by the President but by the security apparatus and reconfirmed by the Army Chief. The ISI and MI had gathered information about her doings during her period of exile in London. Like her brothers and mother; she too was extremely hurt and desperately wanted to avenge the hanging of her beloved father at the hands of Gen Zia. Al-Zulfiqar led by her two brothers Murtaza and Shahnawaz, and patronized by Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Russia and India had got linked with KGB, KHAD and RAW and was actively involved in sabotage and subversion throughout the Afghan Jihad against the Soviets till as late as return of Murtaza Bhutto in 1994.
Benazir wanted to gain power to settle scores with all those who had played a part in sending her father to gallows and also to resettle her brother Murtaza in exile. This burning desire impelled her to gain contact with foreign agencies as well as with high officials in USA and Britain. She also revived her friendship with Rajiv Gandhi, her Oxford friend, who used to address her as ‘Pinkie’. Reportedly, the US helped her in returning to Pakistan in April 1986 and in arranging a historic reception at Lahore. Seemingly, the CIA had a hand in mysterious air crash on 17 August 1988 in which Gen Zia and large number of senior Army officers died. Washington prevailed upon Gen Beg not to declare martial law and advised him to hold elections. The US played its part in bolstering PPP campaign to win October 1988 elections. Besides her personal agenda, Benazir was obligated to fulfill Washington’s agenda of rolling back Pakistan’s nuclear program, cutting ISI to size, sidelining Kashmir issue and befriending India.
During her first tenure, Benazir appointed retired Lt Gen Kallue as DG ISI mainly to cut ISI’s long arm and bringing it under civilian control. Murtaza Bhutto’s file was whisked out of ISI’s record. She released hundreds of hardened criminals belonging to Al-Zulfiqar and rehabilitated 54 criminals who had been sent in exile following PIA plane hijacking in March 1981. They were accorded hero’s welcome in PM House and rewarded. Weapon licenses were issued to Jayalas in Sindh liberally to keep growing influence of Urdu speaking Mohajirs in check. MRD movement in interior Sindh in 1983 gave birth to Muhajir Qaumi Movement in Karachi in 1984. In 1986, militant wing was added to it to overwhelm Karachi and Hyderabad. It led to hideous practices of dead bodies wrapped in sacks, extortion and target killings in urban areas and armed dacoities in rural Sindh.
When Rajiv visited Pakistan in 1989, Benazir got the sign board of Kashmir removed from the gate of Punjab House in Islamabad. During a briefing at Kel in Azad Kashmir, Benazir asked the brigade commander to display the same marked operational map which she had seen earlier on. Gen Beg had to diplomatically parry the awkward situation. In her bid to please Rajiv, she acquired list of Sikh leaders waging Khalistan movement from Gen Kallue and sent it by hand to Delhi through Ahtezaz Ahsan. She confirmed it in her interview to BBC in London when in self-imposed exile. Nuclear program that was proceeding on a fast track was put on hold, which amounted to rollback.
In this backdrop, security factor outweighed ineptness and corruption factors which impelled President Ishaq to sack her government prematurely on 6 August 1990 and form a caretaker government under Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi to hold next elections. However, when the assessment by military intelligence and IB indicated that PPP is likely to win again, Mehrangate was conceived by the troika. It was operationalised to safeguard the nuclear program that had become an eyesore for India, Israel and USA.
Decision of the apex court in October 2012 on Asghar Khan’s petition which he filed in 1996 has overjoyed the PPP currently under fire from all quarters owing to poor governance, record breaking corruption and lackadaisical approach toward state affairs. They are beating drums that victory had been snatched away from PPP in 1990. Jayalas feel that had PPP formed a government at that time, Nawaz Sharif would never have emerged as a national leader and no other party could have beaten PPP. PML-N got embarrassed since their leader was accused of accepting graft. Nawaz to some extent lost high moral ground but partially recovered it after PML-N candidates won seven of the eight by-election seats recently. The whole muck came on the Army and gave ready-made grist to anti-Army propagandist mills, both at home and abroad to intensify their propaganda war, particularly when NLC and railway scams involving Army generals have been making headlines.
The judiciary is being questioned as to how come it decided the 1996 petition lying in pending tray for sixteen years with such promptitude when no NRO defaulter has been punished, no convict on death row has been hanged, no target killer or terrorist caught by law enforcers has been indicted and convicted, and no crony of higher ups involved in corruption and responsible for destroying state institutions taken to task. None of the 300 parliamentarians with forged degrees have been penalized. Parliamentarians holding dual nationality have remained in power for long. Tax evaders roam about freely; only .03 % pays taxes. Memogate accused Hussein Haqqani has been allowed to flee.
System of accountability for all practical purposes has been blunted and hand of law falls upon the have-nots only. Rule of law and directions of SC are being brazenly defied by the rulers but they are getting away with their wrongdoings. The judges validating military takeovers four times and allowing each military dictator to abrogate, or suspend or amend the constitution have not been brought to justice. Nor the politicians who enticed the Army chiefs and welcomed them when they booted out elected governments.
It is also being discussed as to why Lt Gen Hamid Gul, the architect of IJI, has so far not been called by apex court despite the visionary General throwing a gauntlet to summon him and listen to the secrets he carries in his heart. There must be some strong reasons as to why the SC has not summoned him. Another question being asked is as to why those who pocketed graft money have not been implicated?  Yet another query posed to the judiciary is as to why the two Generals were indicted but not sentenced and why the discredited FIA been asked to investigate? Moreover, why the verdict has been announced at a time when the nation is looking forward for elections in March 2013?  Had Asad Durrani not committed the blunder of signing an affidavit, he and Mirza Beg could not have been indicted. Has Rahman Malik been asked as to why he pressured Durrani to sign the written affidavit in Jeddah when he was serving as ambassador?
Faced with grave external threats both from the west and the east, internal threat posed by extremists in the northwest and separatists in the southwest, Karachi dying an economic death due to extreme insecurity of life and property, debt ridden national economy falling into an abyss and political situation in a terrible mess, will it be desirable to ratchet up 1990 case in which the two principal accused are in advanced stage of their lives and have neither pocketed money nor caused harm to national security. Above all, why the image of Army as an institution is being sullied under a calculated program?
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