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Thursday, June 21, 2018
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2008 Mumbai Terror Secrets Buried in Sharif’s Chest?
In Pakistan, a Prime Minister who refuses to learn to say “Yes Boss” to the Army, his / her life and reputation as a patriot are never safer. See, for example, the fate of the country’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. He agreed to the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) call in 1948 for the ceasefire of India-Pakistan war in Kashmir defying his country’s Army. The Army conspired to overthrow his government. At the same time a campaign began to denigrate his Pakistani stature (he was a Muhajir from India) and his wife, Ra’ana Liaquat Ali’s moral character. Amid this he was shot dead at a public meeting in Rawalpindi in 1951.

Pakistanis believe the history of their country would have been different had it been spared this assassination. This was the beginning of the end of nascent democracy and the rise of the Army’s political domination. Pakistan’s history took yet another turn for the worse on April 4, 1979 when the Army executed deposed Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on charges of ordering a murder. Observer of his trial in the Lahore High Court and the Supreme Court of Pakistan were very sure that the then Army dictator Gen Ziaul Haq was pulling the strings of judges to get Bhutto sentenced to death. During the trial Gen Zia used the national media to the hilt to project Bhutto as immoral and anti-Pakistan. The media went haywire in publishing one-sided “investigative” stores like the reign of terror during his rule and his third secret marriage to a woman who de-facto ran Bhutto’s government and fled to London on the night when Gen Zia overthrew Bhutto’s government on July 5, 1977. The media played up his role in breaking up Pakistan in 1971 without mentioning the Army’s part in it. Gen Zia produced a series of ‘White Papers’ on Bhutto’s administration. One of them was on the Press. It included an article written by Bhutto. In this, he allegedly questioned Pakistan’s claim to Kashmir. Gen Zia’s apparent intention in reproducing this article was to project Bhutto as traitor to the cause of Kashmir.

Twenty eight years later, his daughter Benazir Bhutto, who had two incomplete stints as Prime Minister, was assassinated after her public meeting in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. During her prime ministership she was often taunted as a security risk for Pakistan for her friendship towards India. This means she was considered by a section of the Pakistanis as a traitor. Nawaz Sharif, then considered close to the Army was among them. He often described Benazir Bhutto as a risk for Pakistan’s security. Today’s Sharif, three-time Prime Minister, is being called a traitor by the political opponents. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chief Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) leader Allama Tahirul Qadri had petitioned to the Lahore High Court to try Sharif for high treason under Article 6 of the Constitution. The court returned the petitions because the Constitution lays down that only the government can file such a petition. However, the two petitions must have achieved half their objective by the publicity given to this petition by media.

The basis of these petitions was Sharif’s admission in a newspaper interview that November 2008 Mumbai attack was staged by non-state actors who went from Pakistan. Sharif admitted what others in Pakistan have already said. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rahman Malik during the last Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led government admitted that some part of the Mumbai conspiracy took place in Pakistan. According to a Jasarat edit (Jamaat-i-Islami’s Urdu newspaper), Malik had given details of the apparatus and route used by the attackers. The editorial also recalled President Pervez Musharraf’s admission on national TV that non-state actors were trained and supported in Pakistan to fight in Kashmir.

Now in the case of Nawaz Sharif, The Army immediately called for a emergency meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to discuss Sharif’s interview to DAWN. The meeting rejected his statement. But Sharif stood by it. He said the trial of Mumbai attack perpetrator was not completed although there was enough evidence against the accused. He affirmed what he had said had been said earlier by Gen Musharraf, PPP’s Interior Minister Malik and a former ISI Chief. He suggested setting up of a national accountability commission to decide whether or not he was a traitor.

The tragedy of Pakistan is that rulers have so much fed their people on falsehood in support of negative Islamic and security ideologies that truth shakes them as if it is anti-Islam, anti-Pakistan and blasphemous. One wonders if anybody, who matters in Pakistan, is really concerned that the country has no credibility in the world - not even in the eyes of China, its all-weather friend. Sharif told DAWN: ‘We have isolated ourselves. Despite giving sacrifices, our narrative is not being accepted. Afghanistan’s narrative is being accepted, but ours is not, we must look into it’. Belying the common Pakistani’s cherished presumption about China’s and Russia’s blind indulgence towards their country, the former Prime Minister said: ‘It is absolutely unacceptable (to allow non-state actors to cross the border and commit terrorism there), President Putin has said it, President Xi has said it”.

In the past 70 years, Pakistan has produced four prominent Prime Ministers. They were; Liaquat Ali Khan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. Of the first three, two were assassinated on the same spot in Rawalpindi within a space of 56 years while Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged. The fourth, Nawaz Sharif had almost gone to the gallows in 2008 when Saudi Arabia rescued him. All of them had problem with the Army. Liaquat Ali Khan accepted UNSC’s call for ceasefire is just when his country’s Army claimed it was close to occupying the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir. Liaquat Ali accepted the ceasefire in the best interest of Pakistan and the region but that did not suit the best interest of the Army.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had succumbed to Gen Ziaul Haq’s charm of sycophancy when he decided to elevate him as the Army Chief despite protest by outgoing Army Chief Gen Tikka Khan. At the first opportunity as the Army Chief Gen Zia started exploring Islam as the basis of Pakistan. Conversely by implication Bhutto started looking as an un-Islamic ruler. Gen Zia toppled Bhutto’s government but feared him because despite all his efforts he could not break his PPP. Zia feared for his own life if Bhutto was allowed to live. We have seen how the Lahore high Court and the Supreme Court of Pakistan were used to hang him. During the PPP government (2008-2013) then Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani announced that Bhutto’s case would be reopened. After this may be because of stern warning from the Army he never again talked about it.

When Benazir Bhutto came to power, she did not think it was in Pakistan’s interest to fan Khalistan movement in India’s Punjab. She ordered dismantling of training camps for Sikh militants in Pakistan. That earned her the epithet of being a security risk for Pakistan. Sharif told the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on May 23 that he is being punished for having filed, when he was Prime Minister, a case of high treason against Gen Pervez Musharraf under Article 6 of the Constitution. The case was filed in 2014 and then Imran Khan and Allama Tahirul Qadri started their five-month long dharna in Islamabad. Sharif said during the dharna the then intelligence chief said in a message to him to either resign or go on a long leave. He said he wished Liaquat Ali, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto were here to tell how they were treated. Ironically both Bhutto and Sharif received their political tutoring from military dictators – the former from the first military dictator Gen Ayub Khan and the latter from Gen Ziaul Haq. But both fell from the grace of the Army because both despite their grave weakness considered the people and not Rawalpindi as the source of their political strength. The former was sent to the gallows and the latter just escaped it thanks to the intervention by Saudi Arabia.

Sharif has become a source of embarrassment for the Army. He says he has many Kargil secrets buried in his chest. In 1999 Sharif pulled out Pakistan from the shame of his Army’s misadventure in Kargil by rushing to America on its Independence Day to plead with President Clinton to request India to cease fire. By this time India had begun retaliating by killing Pakistani invaders like flies. It was clear from Pakistani newspapers (June-July 1999) that nervous Gen Musharraf had sent Sharif to President Clinton but later accuses him of seeking his half on his own.

During their days of exile Benazir Bhutto and Sharif agreed on a ‘Charter of Democracy’ and vowed to set up a commission to fix responsibility for Kargil operation if they returned to power in Pakistan. Bhutto’s PPP returned to power in 2008 after her assassination in 2007. In 2013 Sharif became the Prime Minister for the third time. But he never whispered Kargil. Obviously he could not think of Kargil because of Imran Khan’s dharna. From his interview to DAWN one will have the sense that Sharif also has a number of secrets about the Army’s role in the Mumbai attack buried in his chest. But like Kargil secrets they, too, will remain buried in his chest.
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