Soldier of misfortune - Khaled Ahmed - March 16-22, 2012

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Gen (r) Mirza Aslam Beg, center, leaves the Supreme Court after hearing of the Mehran Bank scandal in Islamabad

The Asghar Khan case was and is against ex-Army Chief General (Retd) Aslam Beg, not against late President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, even though the affidavits from Beg and General (Retd) Asad Durrani might imply that President Ghulam Ishaq, as the supreme commander, was at the root of the matter. As Younus Habib, the banker who carried out the 'operation' has made clear, it was Aslam Beg who was the mastermind; and the president was brought in later when a meeting was arranged at Balochistan House.

The case today is apparently only about Rs 14 crore distributed by ISI chief General Asad Durrani, but hopefully more will be discovered during the course of looking for record till the total sum will reach approximately Rs 1.4 billion. The record was collected by General (Retd) Naseerullah Babar, then Interior Minister in the PPP government. The case was initiated by Air Marshal (Retd) Asghar Khan after Naseerullah Babar had disclosed in the National Assembly in 1994 how the ISI had disbursed funds to purchase the loyalty of politicians and public figures to manipulate the 1990 elections and bring about the defeat of the PPP.

Younus Habib, who has already spent four years in jail for the fraud called Mehrangate, says he was asked to arrange Rs 350 million by the former president and the army chief before the 1990 general elections. Of the Rs 345 million, Rs 140 million was paid through Gen Aslam Beg to politicians - Rs 70 million to former Sindh chief minister Jam Sadiq Ali who was provided another Rs 150 million (from Mehran Bank's funds) for arranging licence to set up Mehran Bank, Rs 15 million to Pir Pagara through Jam Sadiq, Rs 70 million to Younus Memon on the instructions of Ishaq Khan and Aslam Beg for the politicians.

Beg's distributed bounties

Beg stated that Zia had been killed by Russian KGB, Indian RAW and Afghan Khad working in tandem. After a few days, meeting the dead chief's family, he accused the Americans of having killed him

Ardeshir Cowasjee writing in Dawn (11 August 2002) said General Babar gave him more lists of recipients of the Mehrangate money:

These were: Jamaat-e-Islami Rs 5 million; Altaf Hussain Qureshi and Mustafa Sadiq Rs 0.5 million; Arbab Ghulam Aftab Rs 0.3 million; Pir Noor Mohammad Shah Rs 0.3 million; Arbab Faiz Mohammad Rs 0.3 million; Arbab Ghulam Habib Rs 0.2 million; Ismail Rahu Rs 0.2 million; Liaquat Baloch Rs 1.5 million; Jam Yusuf Rs 0.75 million; Nadir Magsi Rs 1 million; Ghulam Ali Nizamani Rs 0.3 million; Ali Akbar Nizamani Rs 0.3 million.

Then after the case was in the Supreme Court another list of recipients pertaining to years between 1991 and 1994 was made public:

General Mirza Aslam Beg Rs 140 million; Jam Sadiq Ali (the then chief minister of Sindh) Rs 70 million; Altaf Hussain (MQM) Rs 20 million, Advocate Yousaf Memon ( for disbursement to Javed Hashmi, MNA, and others) Rs 50 million; 1992 - Jam Sadiq Ali Rs 150 million; 1993 - Liaquat Jatoi Rs 0.01 million; 1993 - chief minister of Sindh, through Imtiaz Sheikh Rs 12 million; Afaq of the MQM Rs 0.5 million; 1993 chief minister of Sindh, through Imtiaz Sheikh, Rs 0.01 million; 1993 - Ajmal Khan, a former federal minister, Rs 1.4 million; 1993 - Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister, Rs 3.5 million; 27/9/93 Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister, Rs 2.5 million; 26/9/93 Jam Mashooq Rs 0.5 million; 26/9/93 Dost Mohammad Faizi Rs 1 million; Jam Haider Rs 2 million; Jam Mashooq Rs 3 million; Adnan, son of Sartaj Aziz, Rs 1 million; Nawaz Sharif and Ittefaq Group of Companies Rs 200 million (photocopies of cheques and deposit slips, etc, already attached with affidavit at page nos. 42 to 73); Sardar Farooq Leghari 12/12/93 (payment set/off) Rs 30 million - 6/1/94 Rs 2.0856 million - 19/3/94 Rs 1.92 million.

Beg's own take plus FRIENDS

Nawaz Sharif's finance minister Ishaq Dar disclosed that 'Beg came back from Tehran with an offer of $5 billion in return for nuclear know-how, but Sharif rejected the offer'

The ultimate list pertaining to amounts paid to Aslam Beg appeared in an article written by Cowasjee inDaily Times (22 January 2006) probably because Dawn would not print it. (Note: FRIENDS was a think tank set up by Aslam Beg which ran on the payments made by Younus Habib.)

G/L Account Activity Report. Account 12110101 G. Baig (sic!) The numbered transactions took place between October 23 1991 and December 12 1993. The first transaction listed was "Cash-P.O. Karachi Bar Association A/C Gen. Baig (sic!), debit, 5,05,680" (advocate Mirza Adil Beg, Aslam Beg's nephew, the then president of the KBA, confirms that the KBA received the money). In January 1992 USD20,000 was sold @ 26.50 and 5,30,000 was credited to the account.

Thereafter all debits: "Arshi c/o Gen. Baig (sic.) 2,90,000; Cash paid to Gen. Shab 2,40,000; Cash FRIENDS 1,00,000 [Aslam Beg's organisation, FRIENDS, Foundation for Research on National Development and Security]; Cash TT to Yamin to pay Gen. Shab 3,00,000; Cash TT to Yamin Habib 12,00,000; Cash FRIENDS 1,00,000; Cash FRIENDS 1,00,000; Cash paid through YH 10,00,000 ; Cash FRIENDS TT to Salim Khan 2,00,000; Cash 1,00,000; Cash Towards FRIENDS 5,00,000; Cash Asif Shah for Benglow 35,000; Cash FRIENDS1,00,000; Cash FRIENDS 1,00,000; Cash TT through Yamin for FRIENDS 1,00.000;

Cash paid to Fakhruddin G Ebrahim 2,00,000 [he confirms having received the money from General Beg as fees and expenses for defending him in the contempt of court charge brought against him - PLD 1993 SC310]; Cash paid through TT to Yamin for FRIENDS; Cash paid to Fakhruddin G Ebrahim 1,28,640 [he confirms receipt for fees/expenses for contempt case]; Cash Guards at 11-A 10,500; Cash TT for USD 240,000 Fav. Riaz Malik to City Bank (sic!) New York 68,76,000; Cash FRIENDS 1,00,000; Cash Guards at 11-A 10,500; Cash Major Kiyani 10,000; Cash mobile phone for Col. Mashadi 28,911; Cash TT favour of Qazi Iqbal and M Guddul 3,00,000; Cash Major Kiyani 10,000; Cash TT to Peshawar 3,00,000;

Cash deposited at Karachi A/C EC [Election Commission] 3,00,000; Cash Guards 24,000; Cash TT to Quetta 7,00,000; Cash mobile bill of Col. Mashadi 3,237; Cash TT to Peshawar Br. 4,00,000; Cash deposited at Karachi Br. 4,00,000; Cash Guards 11,520; Cash TT to Peshawar for EC 2,00,000; Cash TT to Quetta for EC 2,00,000 ; Cash Guards 5,760 ; Cash Major Kiyani 5,000; Cash A/C Guards 8,640; Cash. YH 2,00,000; Cash A/C Guards 5,760; Cash TT to Salim Khan 1,00,000.

Aslam Beg was essentially an adventurer and a soldier of fortune shaped by Pakistan's revisionist doctrine of defence who could not win against India playing according to rules of professionalism. In the process of supporting a revisionist Army trying to survive, Pakistan as a state was damaged beyond repair.

Beg's lateral thinking on drugs

Ardeshir Cowasjee (Dawn 21 July 2002) reveals that in 1991 Aslam Beg and Asad Durrani met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and told him that funds for vital on-going covert operations were drying up, but they had a foolproof plan to generate money by dealing in drugs. They asked for his permission to associate themselves with the drug trade, assuring him of full secrecy and no chance of any trail leading back to them.

In 1988, General Zia removed the Junejo government under Section 58-2B. The Supreme Court found that the president had wrongfully dismissed the government, but it didn't restore it. Years later, ex-COAS General Aslam Beg revealed that he had sent a message to chief justice Zullah through chairman Senate Wasim Sajjad ordering the Court not to restore the Junejo government. When a contempt petition against the ex-COAS was brought before the Court, once again the Court visibly shied away from proceeding against him, and the rumour was that the GHQ had interceded for Aslam Beg.

Beg's proliferation

Washington-based journalist Khalid Hasan writing in Daily Times (11 November 2004) quoted a New Republic article referring to a statement made by Dr AQ Khan that Aslam Beg, army chief from 1988 to 1991, had authorised the sale of Pakistan's nuclear weapons' technology to other states.

General Zia died in an air-crash in 1988 and the man first accused of having planned it was Zia's chief of staff, Aslam Beg, who acted in a strange manner after the crash. He declined to sit in the plane that was hit, then changed his statements about where he went after the crash and who had actually killed Zia. Zia's son, Ijazul Haq, who was in the Nawaz Sharif government after the 1990 election, kept accusing Aslam Beg of having killed his father - till many years later he changed his line to accuse the Americans like everyone else.

Beg and Shafiur Rehman Commission

In 1992, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was forced - by accusations of foul play from various quarters - to set up a commission of inquiry into the Bahawalpur crash. The Commission was headed by the Supreme Court judge Justice Shafiur Rehman but it submitted a report of non-performance by clearly accusing the Pakistan Army of obstructing its work. The cover-up from the Army was typical: The Commission was convinced that the air-crash was an act of sabotage. It noted that the evidence was destroyed by the quick removal of debris and by an equally quick burial of the dead bodies without post mortem. The army refused to hand over the door with a hole in it, caused by the explosion in the cargo section where a device was placed by loaders. (This door was noted in the photographs that were appended to an earlier Air Force inquiry.) Gordon Corera, in Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Security and the Rise and Fall of the AQ Khan Network, (Oxford University Press, 2006) examines General Aslam Beg's activity during his tenure as Army Chief and comes to the conclusion that he had never been in agreement with General Zia about not giving nuclear technology to Iran. In fact it was as a part of his 'strategic defiance' worldview that he wanted to shift from a pro-Arab policy to a pro-Iran one.

Beg and AQ Khan

London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies, issued its report Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, AQ Khan and the Rise of Proliferation Networks, in 2007. It noted: In 2000, when General Pervez Musharraf ordered his National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to inquire into the affairs of Dr AQ Khan, NAB relied on an earlier investigation carried out under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by the ISI in 1998-1999 to confirm that Khan was buying too much material for Pakistan's own programme and that he had given a house to General Beg and was paying off numerous Pakistani journalists and even funding a newspaper.

Zahid Hussain, Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam, Columbia University Press, New York, 2007, p.166, states: Nawaz Sharif's finance minister Ishaq Dar disclosed that 'Beg came back from Tehran with an offer of $5 billion in return for nuclear know-how, but Sharif rejected the offer'.

Weekly Karachi magazine Takbeer printed a report in 1992 which reads like a 'leak' from the post-Aslam Beg military leadership. The report was published in the 20 August 1992 issue under the title Saaniha Bahawalpur main chand A'la Fauji Afsar Mulawwis hein (Some High-ranking Army Officers are involved in the Bahawalpur Tragedy). Its editor Salahuddin was later mysteriously killed in Karachi.

Beg and 'Takbeer' revelations

About General Zia's death in an air-crash in Bahawalpur, it noted: When Zia asked Beg to return to Islamabad with him in his C-130, Beg said he had to go to Lahore on some other mission. This statement he gave on 19 August 1988. But on 25 August he told some officers that he actually had to go to Multan and therefore had declined to go with Zia. But the log book of his plane mentioned no planned trips to either Multan or Lahore on the page-entry for 17 August. On 18 August 1988, in the presence of some American officials, Beg stated that Zia had been killed by Russian KGB, Indian RAW and Afghan Khad working in tandem. After a few days, meeting the dead chief's family, he accused the Americans of having killed him!

A recent book by Tahir Malik, Richard Bonney and Tridev Singh Maini, Warriors after War(Peter Lang 2011) carries an interview of Aslam Beg. He states: Jihad is ordained and has bestowed dividends in Afghanistan and Kashmir because of Divine Will behind Jihad. In Pakistan, Pakhtun power has emerged as a reality. There are over three million Pakhtuns in Karachi; their power extends to Balochistan, NWFP and to the Hindukush mountains. Their fight for freedom, since 1980, has galvanised them into a formidable force, combining the forces of Pakhtun nationalism, Islamic idealism (jihad) and the universalism of the Islamic resistance against oppression, with its hard core resting along the Durand Line. 

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