ISLAMABAD: GHQ had strongly opposed handing over Pakistanis to US, says Lt Gen (retd) Shahid Aziz

By Ansar Abbasi
Lt Gen (retd) Shahid Aziz, who served as the Chief of General Staff (CGS) from Oct 2001 to Dec 2003, revealed that the Army as an institution was in complete dark about what was going on between Washington and Islamabad on the war on terror and the GHQ and top Army commanders had strongly opposed the handing over of Pakistanis to the US, but Musharraf did so on his own.

Shahid Aziz confirmed that though the office of the CGS in the GHQ was considered to be the nerve centre in the Army, the GHQ did not know most of the controversial things Musharraf did, including the handing over of Pakistani nationals to the Americans.

All attempts to get an official version of the Pakistan Army through the director general of the ISPR could not succeed until the filing of this report.

The retired general told The News on Saturday that while the Pakistan Army used to catch the targeted foreigners and locals and handed them over to the ISI for interrogation, they were handed over to the Americans without the knowledge of the Army.

The Army, he said, had made it clear that no Pakistani would be delivered to the US authorities while the problematic Arabs would be deported to their respective countries.

“We did not know for a long time that the Pakistani nationals were being handed over to the Americans by the ISI,” he said, adding that it caused a lot of resentment in the top echelons of the Pakistan Army when they found this was happening. He said that Musharraf had got the ISI engaged to collaborate with the American CIA without the knowledge of the rest of Pakistan Army.

Musharraf, during his rule, had also allowed the US drones to use the Pakistani airspace for intelligence sharing besides permitting the American intelligence agencies, the CIA and the FBI, to recruit their agents in the tribal belt of Pakistan, he said.

Shahid Aziz disclosed that the drones were permitted to use the country’s airspace despite strong opposition from the GHQ, but still General Musharraf granted this permission.

Interestingly, the same drones have carried out most of the US-led coalition strikes inside Pakistan, killing hundreds of people, including innocent women and children. He disclosed that during his tenure, there had been no agreement between the Pakistan Army and Washington on the war on terror, rather Musharraf was directly dealing with the Americans.

Shahid Aziz, who enjoyed an exceptional reputation in the Army, disclosed that when initially consulted after 9/11, the top commanders had decided that the Pakistan Army would remain out of the conflict.

However, later because of compromises by Musharraf, the Army was dragged in and the situation was such that one hand of the Pakistan Army did not know what the other hand was assigned or doing.

Musharraf had compartmentalised the Army to such an extent that even the CGS would not know many things directly assigned by the Army chief to other departments.

Shahid Aziz, who also served as the chairman NAB but resigned early last year when asked to close the special NAB cell probing corruption cases against Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari, explained that since the former Army chief was also in the government, the Army as an institution was not consulted on many things that were being agreed between Islamabad and Washington.

After 9/11, he said, the Army was told that Washington did not want foreigners like Arabs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, etc in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

When the issue was discussed in the GHQ, he said, the Army decided to ensure that these foreigners, most of them had settled in Pakistan, were forced to remain quiet.

The News, 14/9/2008

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