Been there, Done that

He fought World War II, coordinated the first military coup in Pakistan, missed an opportunity to become the army chief, tried to persuade Gen Zia to spare Mr Bhutto, remained a close confidant of Nawaz Sharif, joined the Musharraf bandwagon, reverted to Nawaz Sharif and – at the age of 96 – Lt Gen (r) Majeed Malik still remembers his childhood in a village near Chakwal.

In his yet-to-be-released memoir titled Hum Bhee Wahan Maujood Thay, (I was there too) – the veteran soldier and politician gives concise and candid accounts of events that shaped the destiny of Pakistan.

Among them is an insider story of the Kargil debacle. He holds Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf, Lt Gen Mehmood, commander of 10 Corps, Maj Gen Javed Hassan, commander Northern Areas, and Lt Gen Tauqeer Zia, director general of military operations, responsible for the botched operation. But he did not absolve Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif entirely of what happened before, during and after the operation. He assumes Gen Musharraf might have briefed the prime minister informally on the Kargil operation.

Pakistan Army captured several strategic summits in the Kargil sector in February 1999, he writes. The operation must have required months of advanced planning, but the federal cabinet never discussed the matter. The first formal briefing on Kargil took place on May 17.

“The prime minister, who was chairing the meeting, listened to the debate with full concentration. If Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was unaware of everything, he would have asked Gen Musharraf why he was kept in dark… Nawaz Sharif neither expressed a sudden reaction nor asked more than a few questions,” the author writes.

What he did not mention is that after the meeting, the prime minister had requested one of the senior generals to pray for the success of the operation.

Gen Malik expresses disappointment that there has never been an independent inquiry into the Kargil debacle. It used to be part of the PML-N election manifesto, but like many other promises, it is yet to be fulfilled.

He seems to regret his decision of joining the pro-Musharraf PML-Q after the October 1999 military coup, but makes it clear that he was not bribed or coerced. According to him, it was his own decision, right or wrong. Gen Musharraf had first invited PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq to offer him to form a government. He refused, compelling Gen Musharraf to approach Mian Azhar and the Chaudhry brothers. Gen Malik recalls that several senior party leaders were perturbed over Mr Sharif’s decision of appointing Javed Hashmi as the acting president of the party. He did not criticise Mr Sharif’s decision of leaving the country under a secret agreement for 10 years.

In the early chapters of the book, Gen Malik reveals he had briefly served with Gen Ajeet Singh Arora during World War II. He was a junior captain in 6th Punjab Regiment, while Gen Arora was second-in-command. The famous Indian general – who oversaw Gen AK Niazi sign a document of surrender in east Pakistan – hailed from Jhelum and therefore developed a rapport with Gen Malik.

The first lady broke the silence. “What would happen to my cats?”

Gen Malik says he was commanding the 12th Division in 1975 when he received a midnight call from Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The prime minister informed him of his new duties as chief of general staff, and hinted that he might succeed then Chief of Army Staff Gen Tikka Khan. Gen Malik was sixth in the seniority list of serving generals, while Gen Ziaul Haq was the seventh.

According to Gen Malik, the Attock Mutiny Case provided Gen Zia an opportunity to develop good ties with Prime Minister Bhutto. Some young officers, deeply disgruntled because of the Fall of Dhaka, had tried to dislodge his government. The conspiracy was detected and all perpetrators were arrested. Gen Zia was chosen to try the accused. Since the prime minister was taking an extraordinary interest in the trial, Gen Zia used to update him every evening.

Once, Prime Minister Bhutto was visiting Multan city, he recalls. Gen Zia, then Corps Commander of Multan, ordered all the officers to line up on both sides of the road to welcome the prime minister.

Then, Gen Zia announced making the prime minister an honorary colonel-in-chief of the Armoured Corps. Normally, such an honour was given to a retired military officer.

Gen Malik says a certain lobby in the military establishment conspired to create a rift between him and Bhutto. He was also accused of providing sanctuary to Ghulam Mustafa Khar, who by then had developed serious differences with Mr Bhutto.

The author dedicates a whole chapter to the first military coup in Pakistan. He admits he was among those who executed the martial law while serving as chief of staff of planning at the General Headquarters. He say there had been a consensus between Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan that martial law should be imposed. Several other senior army officers, including Gen Yahya Khan, Gen Abdul Hameed, Brig Attiqur Rehman and Brig Pirzada, were part of the plan.

It was Gen Malik who had been given the responsibility of transferring the documents and details of the plan to Karachi, then federal capital of Pakistan. There was risk involved, because Ayub Khuhro was the defence minister in Prime Minister Feroz Khan Noon’s cabinet. Mr Khuhro belonged to Sindh and could have jeopardized the entire plan. Just before leaving, Gen Malik asked Brig Attiqur Rehman: “Sir, I understood that if I am caught I would be the only one to face the music. Rest would easily escape.” Brig Rehman replied: “Yes, you have understood it correctly.”

Soon after the military coup, Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan developed serious differences. In fact, several generals wanted to curtail the powers of President Mirza. Once, Mirza called the Brigade Commander of Malir Cantt and asked him to arrest some generals. The call was intercepted, he says, and Gen Ayub made his decision to get rid of the president. Gen Malik was tasked to obtain the official letterhead of the President of Pakistan, which he did through the president’s military secretary. A resignation was typed on behalf of President Iskandar Mirza, of course without his knowledge. Ayub then sent three of his trusted generals to get it signed. President Mirza was shocked to look at the resignation letter. There was a mysterious silence for about 10 minutes. It was the first lady Naheed Mirza who broke the silence. “Oh! What would happen to my cats?” she asked. The president had no option but to sign the letter, since military personnel had already encircled the Presidential House in tanks and armoured vehicles.

Shahzad Raza is an Islamabad-based journalist
Twitter: @shahzadrez

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