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State sponsored 1981 PIA plane hijack: Brig Imtiaz

Moayyed Jafri

LAHORE: Brigadier (retd) Imtiaz Ahmed, former director-general of Intelligence Bureau (IB), who also served as the in-charge of ISI’s Internal Security Wing, has said that terrorism was introduced for the first time in the history of Pakistan with the hijacking of a PIA plane from Peshawar to Kabul in 1981, not by a stand-alone terrorist outfit, but through an organised state-sponsored terrorist act.

This information coming from someone perceived as a pro-establishment military and intelligence operative seems unusual, but the views expressed by once very powerful spy chief in an exclusive interview with The News challenge the tag associated with him, and even more.

“I disagree with the theory propounded with the purpose of convincing the general perception that there is an element left of the Centre which is aligning with the leftist world,” he said, adding the fact that the then military and intelligence leadership confused moderate individuals to be leftists and set out to protect and empower the rightist bloc, caused serious damage to the political and social future of the country.

“The irony of the matter is that when DG ISI or the CAOS says or does something, the recipients believe that it’s the voice of the organisation, but it is not true in all cases. There may be occasions where he is totally neglecting the consensus of his team and going by his personal opinion. Sometimes, he doesn’t even bother to consult his associates,” said the former senior operative of the ISI.

Contrary to this, he said, it is for the first time in the last three decades that the current chief of the Army staff takes into confidence his entire senior command over every challenge facing Pakistan. This determination of the establishment to insulate the Army from any kind of political interference came as a brute rebuff to those political forces, who misconstrue the ever-expected constitutional commitment of the current military leadership.

Imtiaz said: “With the Army and the intelligence agencies out of the political picture, the beneficiaries of the PNA (Pakistan National Alliance) and IJI (Islami Jamhoori Ittehad) will need to snap out of that dream world and learn to finally stand on their own feet.”

He said, “The political culture (in Pakistan) is infested with the fatal symptoms of self-centralism, greed, lust for power and instinct of circumventing the democratic principles as well as personality orientation in handling of national issues.

“In this perspective, I had always found the Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) psychologically obsessed about the uniform and the service intelligence. After a series of around six eyebrow-raising meetings between the two, the political romance of yesterday has suddenly turned into envy, with some ground realities, which are much different than being expressed or perceived,” he maintained.

“However, the PML-N is one of the national-level political forces and its extensive sudden onslaught is a matter of concern for any Pakistani. Criticism is the democratic right of any political leadership or individual, but the line has to be drawn between criticism and hate-speeches, because such a syndrome attitude by a domestic political force provides fertile hunting ground to foreign forces involved in anti-Army and ISI malicious campaigns. Such a situation is not being taken well by the people at large,” the retired brigadier said.

“The grand alliance being talked about in the prevailing scenario is overloaded with serious challenges, covering a wide range of economic problems, national sovereignty and people’s ever-growing magnitude of socio-economic plight. Such an exercise to destabilise the government outright goes against the national interest.

“In fact, if we look at the history of our political alliances, including the PNA Movement, MRD (Movement for the Restoration of Democracy), ARD (Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy), MMA (Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal), and much talked-about CoD (Charter of Democracy), these alliances either ended up in reimposition of dictatorship or aggravating the magnitude of people’s miseries and socio-economic problems and, above all, germinating the national polarisation,” he added.

Being Brigadier Imtiaz is a choice not many would want to opt for, as it entitles one to enviable authority, but that, in the middle of clashing civilian and military establishments, both of whom only care enough to score through you, yet love to hate and disown you.

There are many who hold him at fault for not dissociating himself from the system if he did not agree with what was being asked of him. Imtiaz, however, sees it differently, saying, “It would have been much worse, had I stepped down, giving way to someone else. I did submit my resignation to Gen Naseerullah Babar, who put my resignation in the cold storage, as they wanted to keep a check so that I would not create any problems for them,” he added.

“I fail to understand as to why every critic sees resignation as a solution to every problem. It’s almost as if they are blind to the number of opportunists, each worse than the other, waiting to become a better and more unconditional yes-man.”

“The troika of power, namely the then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the then COAS Mirza Aslam Beg and the then DG ISI Hameed Gul, were calling the shots with or without regard to the popular institutional opinion,” he said.

Answering a question regarding the recent failures of security and intelligence, he said: “Our national horizon is overcast with the fallout of the attack on PNS Mehran and the perception in the post-Osama bin Laden scenario. A common man is suffering from some distortion about the professional capability of our intelligence system. Why is the ISI being blamed for everything whereas the IB and other networks are spread right down to tehsil level and are equally responsible?” he questioned.

Sharing his perception of the situation, he said the menace of terrorism cannot be associated with isolated incidents, which require isolated counter operations. We are fighting a war on terror for the last eight years and the intelligence system is operating in the war so there human resources are heavily overstretched and professional endurance has its own limits.

“In this perspective, there is a need to mention two dimensions: we are not fighting a war against terrorism, against terrorists because there are foreign sponsored terror activities taking place on our soil through the well-known channel of terrorist organisation,” he concluded.

The interview which had then become an intriguing discussion, drifted to the topic of Pakistan’s popular obsession with the blame that foreign elements are always at work to bring this country, especially its nuclear assets, down.

Imtiaz, as if almost anticipating this question, said, “The American CIA’s obsession with Pakistani nukes knows no bounds, although it has already caused them enough discomfiture in the 1980s when their diplomats were deported by Pakistan. The US launched an extensively expensive and widely based CIA covert operation to damage our nuclear program. They had placed a wide network of high-level CIA operators and had placed them in Islamabad and Karachi. They had even succeeded in cultivating a Pakistani engineer as their principal agent in Karachi. Seeking to obtain progressive information on the progress on nuclear program, the US operations were assuming steady progress when I single-handedly not only managed to pick up the lead, but also ran a counter-operation for about eight, nine months to the utter dismay, frustration and total embarrassment of the USA.”

He went on to say that despite this, and other occasions where the CIA has been caught red-handed aspiring to meddle with Pakistan’s nuclear program, they are currently pursuing the same motive with added conviction. To further their nefarious designs, they have now found a friend in India, we know it as RAW, and both are now collaborating for a highly dangerous and well-planned conspiracy to hit at the roots of the national security of Pakistan by targeting our nuclear program, armed forces and the ISI.

Lately, in the last seven days, three major articles have appeared in the ‘New York Times’ and ‘The Washington Post’ in which they have very ruthlessly and maliciously involved the armed forces in selling out the nuclear secrets to North Korea and involvement of the ISI in the killing of Saleem Shahzad and have labelled the Pakistan Army as the biggest danger to the people around the world. Above all, since after the Abbottabad operation, they have vigorously intensified their media campaign to make the international community believe that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are not in safe hands, he added.

With a lot said in between, Brigadier Imtiaz concluded by saying, “I am very unfortunate in the sense that I am the most misunderstood person in my own country whereas people outside my country, like the CIA, MOSSAD, RAW and KGB, not only understand me better but are aware of my achievements for my country more than my own people recognise and appreciate them. But I have no regrets because I learn a lot from what people have to say about me.”

Courtesy: The News


1 thought on “State sponsored 1981 PIA plane hijack: Brig Imtiaz”

  1. What caused Brig(r) Imtiaz Ahmed to claim 1981 highjacking was State Sponsered? I
    knew this fact much before and having met most of the foreign passengers in US and Canada who survived the ordeal. I was left with no doubt that my late brother Major Tariq Rahim was deliberately made Sacrificial Item for vested interest of General Zia ul Haq and his coterie.

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