By Umar Cheema
ISLAMABAD: Several high-profile retired generals, air marshals and admirals, who have asked President Musharraf to resign, have announced to seek an unqualified apology from the Pakistani nation for imposing martial laws in the past, abrogating the Constitution several times and not letting democracy flourish in the last 60 years.
They would make this admission of guilt today (Thursday) at a press conference with a request for forgiveness from the people of Pakistan, who have been suffering at the hands of dictatorship for the role played by them and their successors. They have also invited General (retd) Pervez Musharraf to attend the meeting.
But surprisingly despite their apology, which would be a welcome and refreshing departure from the norm, these adventurous generals and admirals of the past are not showing enough moral courage. They have given the task of seeking the apology to a retired brigadier, Mehmood Qazi. "I will apologise on the behalf of all the ex-servicemen for the past misdeeds," Qazi told The News.
He is the convener of the meeting to be presided over by Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan, a man whose role against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is well known. The first speaker of Thursday's meeting will be Lt. Gen. Abdul Majid Malik, a gentleman who was a major in 1956 when he drafted a resignation which General Ayub Khan forced President Iskandar Mirza to sign.
Malik has been a strong Musharraf supporter until the graduation clause for contesting the NA elections was introduced, leaving no option for him but to take a 'principled' stand.
Discriminatory treatment meted out to him by the PML-Q leadership further pushed him into the ex-generals' camp.
His speech will be followed by Mirza Aslam Beg, a former Army chief, whose political ambitions had forced the then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan to nominate the new Army chief three months prior to Beg's retirement. His role in the famous Mehran Bank scandal and misuse of ISI funds for electoral/political manipulation is still fresh in public memory. His then DG ISI, Lt. Gen. (retd) Asad Durrani, who had distributed Rs.140 million to win over 'for-sale' politicians never felt ashamed of his role or offered an apology.
After consuming two ambassadorial positions for four years during the Musharraf regime, Durrani has plenty of time now to criticise Musharraf. Lt Gen (retd) Hamid Gul, former DG ISI, is yet another activist who never thought very high of any civilian prime minister. As master spy, he employed all the dirty tricks to dislodge Benazir Bhutto's first government. These days he can count the damage that the Army's political role could incur on the political fabric of the society.
Another ex-serviceman and sitting President Gen. (retd) Pervez Musharraf was probably right in using the term "good for nothing generals" for some of these ex-serviceman. However, this correspondent came to realise the truth of Musharraf's words only recently when he was handed over a letter addressed to Musharraf for publication.
Initially, none of these generals was ready to name himself as the author of the letter, including those who had authored it. Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan, who had approved the draft of this letter, refused to acknowledge it when contacted. A ghost author and the convener of today's meeting, Brig. (retd) Mehmood Qazi, shifted the responsibility to others, including Gen. Hamid Gul, who was reluctant to own it. He rang up this correspondent to clarify that he had not written it. However, by that time the letter had gone into print.
Brig. (retd) Mehmood requested this correspondent that his name should not be identified. Other co-authors also made the same request, fearing that Musharraf could retaliate.
The truth dawned upon this scribe by accident when he overheard Brig. (retd) Mehmood talking to his colleagues. He was admitting that he gave wrong names to the media. He was heard disclosing to his colleague that the letter was initially written by him and he had used unprintable language.
Mehmood told his colleagues that many ex-servicemen raised objections to his writing and sought a correction. Asghar Khan later formed a committee to redraft the letter, which was subsequently approved by him before it was sent to the press.
When confronted with these facts, Mehmood did not admit that he was sharing the real story of the letter with his colleagues, which this correspondent overheard. Mehmood, however, admitted that Gen. Hamid Gul was not the co-author of the letter and admitted that he wrongly included his name among the list of the authors. Mehmood instead said there was serious resentment shown by the co-authors, who were of the view that Gul's name must not be passed on to the press, as he was a controversial figure.
(Courtesy The News, Jan 31, 2008)