ISLAMABAD: Former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg says he had vehemently warned then spy chief Lieutenant General (retd) Asad Durrani against dragging the military into “political engineering” ahead of the 1990 elections.
Beg’s revelations come as part of his statement to a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team probing the alleged distribution of estimated Rs 1.48 billion among politicians to influence the 1990 polls in the country.
“I called [General] Asad Durrani and warned him to be careful in the handling of those funds. After this, I never again discussed this matter with him. I gave him no names of politicians or the money to be distributed, because this was entirely his domain, and he was responsible for reporting to the president,” Beg said in his written statement submitted to the FIA and the apex court.
“Durrani violated the army’s rule by opening several accounts in the name of 202 Survey Section, placed under his command for operational intelligence purposes only. I came to know of this breach of trust only in 1996 when he so deposed in his affidavit before the Supreme Court. I have had no knowledge of who all operated this account. I knew Brig Hamid Saeed as operational commander 202 Survey Section and not as the account holder and funds distributor to the politicians. He [Durrani] claims to have distributed funds, and recorded in his hand-written notes as proof, which have no legality. Similarly, Durrani claims having distributed funds, with no witnesses, no written or verbal proof of such transactions. It is a sheer lie. Durrani involved 202 Survey Section in this game intentionally, to involve the army in his sordid deed, so unbecoming of an officer of his rank,” the statement read.
Beg leveled serious allegations against Durrani by saying that Durrani got so close to the Pakistan Peoples Party’s top leadership, that “while in uniform he started attending PPP central executive committee meetings, which was reported to the then army chief, General Abdul Waheed, who promptly retired him from service due to fault of the officer”.
“In October 1993, when Benazir Bhutto returned to power, she offered an ambassadorial job to Durrani, which he accepted and before proceeding to Germany he discussed the ‘Game Plan’ with her, which was revealed by Durrani himself, in his hand-written confessional letter he wrote from Bonn to the prime minister. In this letter, he talked about the two objectives of the conspiracy: To put General Beg on the mat and target the opposition,” Beg accused Durrani.
In this letter Durrani also gave names of few politicians, who received Rs8 million, while the remaining Rs6 million were given to the Director External Intelligence, Beg revealed. “He [Durrani] further said that the operation was in the knowledge of the army’s high command. As a matter of fact, the election engineering by the ISI, had been going on since 1975, and was in everybody’s knowledge,” Beg claimed.
Beg continued further that Durrani after taking the charge requested him to place the 202 Survey Section deployed in Sindh under his command for better coordination of intelligence in the province. The 202 Survey Section, commanded by Brig Hamid Saeed was therefore placed under Durrani for a period of one year for intelligence purposes only, Beg’s statement read.
The government was preparing to hold the elections when army intelligence informed him that, on orders of the President’s Election Cell, Younis Habib had placed some funds for the logistic support of the coming elections, Beg said.
“I therefore called on the president and gave him the news which he already knew and said, ‘Don’t worry, Durrani will take care of it. He knows how to handle it.’ The president gave me no orders because his election cell was handling those matters,” Beg said, adding, “He [Durrani] was not reporting to me either, because, a new procedure was being followed since 1975, when PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto through a special notification gave ‘political responsibility’ to the ISI. And this ‘political responsibility’ was never challenged by a court of law. That was the reason that from 1990 to 1994 there was a total blank for me about ‘the ISI’s political responsibility’.”
Beg also recalled that it was July 1994 when PPP’s interior minister Maj Gen (retd) Nasirullah Babar broke the news of disbursement of funds to the politicians in 1990 on the floor of the House. “I was shocked and surprised, but couldn’t inquire about it either, because Durrani was posted as ambassador to Germany and the 151-HQ in Islamabad held no record of such transactions,” Beg said.
“Asghar Khan filed the writ petition against me with the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” Beg said, adding that the proceedings started, revealing what all had happened during the intervening period from 1990 to 1996.
“I discovered that: it was a conspiracy hatched by the then FIA director Rehman Malik, at the behest of Benazir Bhutto, which carried the grudge against me, for several reasons: (i) Since I was a close associate of General Zia-ul-Haq, who hanged her father, she considered me equally guilty. (ii) She believed that I supported President Ishaq Khan who dismissed her government in 1990. (iii) She blamed me for manipulating the 1991 elections,” Beg claimed.
Beg explained in his statement how he believes a personal grudge of the former prime minister turned into revenge, stating that Benazir’s ‘grudge’ was shaping into a conspiracy and was executed as a ‘woman’s vendetta’.
“In fact, since 1988, when she took over as the prime minister, she continued to show her dislike for me,” said Beg, adding that Rehman Malik cultivated ties with Durrani, while he was the spy chief from Aug 1990 to March 1992.
Once Nasirullah Babar made the list of beneficiaries public in the National Assembly in July 1994, Durrani got very upset at this breach of trust and expressed his disappointment in his affidavit dated 31-10-1997 submitted with the court later, Beg said in his statement.
A few weeks later Rehman Malik visited Germany for a second time with a typed letter containing the list of alleged recipients of funds.
Durrani signed the letter “under special circumstances,” i.e., under duress, because it was not the list he had given to PM Benazir Bhutto, Beg said. However, that was the quid pro quo for the ambassadorial assignment, he claimed.