It was interesting to read General Aslam Beg’s article, entitled Say No To It, in which he described the conduct of army generals who imposed military rule; those who directly intervened but did not takeover, and those who allowed democracy to follow its due course. In this context, he described “intervention by deceit” by ACM Asghar Khan, who encouraged General Ziaul Haq to overthrow Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government. While confirming the fact that I was a witness to the letter written by Asghar to Zia to remove Bhutto, I would also like to elaborate the issue.

I was serving as Advisor to COAS in Psychological Operations Directorate and I take special pride in the creation of the Psychological Operations Directorate, sequel to the loss of East Pakistan. India’s propaganda without any rebuttal from our end finally culminated into the unfortunate surrender of our army at Dakkah in December 1971. Had the then Army Chief listened to Sahibzada Yaqoob Khan, a strategic thinker, who advised him “not to take army action and resolve the crisis through political means”, the country’s history would have been different. On the contrary, in 1977, Asghar advised Zia to impose martial law.

When the PNA movement started, Zia’s initial response was to fully support Bhutto. He told me that “there was no rigging in the elections“ and he was a witness to it. A command communication was also issued on behalf of the Supreme Commanders of the three services, highlighting the constitutional role of the military for supporting the government in power. But later, Zia denied and tasked me to analyse the anonymous letters, which he was receiving in hundreds. They contained some obscene words and I used to put dotted lines saying that they were against the Army Chief. He told me not to be shy and apprise him of the exact words being used…….and I complied.

Why did he ask me to do so? I thought he was looking for some ‘psychological crutch’ to take action against Bhutto. Against this backdrop, the most significant factor that motivated him to impose martial law was Asghar’s letter; in which he warned that if the COAS did not remove Bhutto, the nation would never forgive him. General Hamid Gul, in a TV programme Meray Mutabiq, aired on April 28, 2012, specifically mentioned about it.

Anyway, some major developments occurred in the first few days of July 1977, when the army launched Operation Fair Play. Recalling the operation, I had highlighted some of its aspects in my article, entitled The Tragedy That Was 5th of July, published in TheNation on July 23, 2008. What happened after that is part of history and well known to the people of Pakistan. It is so ridiculous for Asghar to drag Beg in the Supreme Court of Pakistan to cover up his own guilt behind the facade of cooked-up evidence that betrays the conspiracy by the PPP government, so clearly evident. For example, Lieutenant General Asad Durrani was appointed as Ambassador to Germany by the PPP government in 1994. Rehman Malik visited Germany and asked him to submit the details of the funds that were allegedly distributed among the politicians in 1990. Durrani obliged and gave him a handwritten manuscript, confessional statement “for the PM’s eyes only.” According to it, Durrani had stated: “The operation not only had the blessings of the President and the wholehearted support of the Prime Minister, but was also in the knowledge of the military high command. What is the object of this exercise? If it is to target the opposition, it might be their legitimate right to take donations. If the idea is to put General Beg on the mat, he was merely providing logistic support, (to) donations made by a community under instructions from the government.”

Later, this statement was distorted and eventually changed to: “In September 1990, as DG ISI, I received instructions from the then COAS, General Beg, to provide logistic support to the disbursement of donations made by some businessmen of Karachi to the election campaign of IJI. I was told that the operation had the blessing of the government.” The truth, however, is what General Durrani maintained in his initial statement and it shall prevail, Inshallah, in the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to come.

n    The writer is a former advisor         to COAS in Psychological             Operations Directorate, GHQ.