While my first contact was with then army chief Gen Tikka Khan, it was followed by my contact with Gen Ziaul Haq, who became army chief in April 1976, Gen Arif, Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, Gen Asif Nawaz, Gen Abdul Wahid Kakar, Gen Jehangir Karamat and last, but worst of all, Gen Pervez Musharraf. Gen Aslam Beg and Gen Kakar stood out above all the others. I also had close contact and meetings with Gen Haq Nawaz, Gen. Tanvir Naqvi, Gen M. Akram Khan, Gen Akhtar Abdul Rahman, Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, Gen Sharif Nasir, Gen Ali Kuli Khan, Gen Shamim Alam, Gen Ahmed Jamal, Gen Mustafa Kamal, Gen Arshad Chaudhry, Gen Ali Nawab, Gen Moinuddin Haider, Gen Saeed Qadir, Gen Javed Nasir, Gen Ghulam Mohammad, Gen Ashraf Qazi, Gen Afzal Janjua, Gen Abdul Qayyum, Gen Zamin Naqvi, Brig Ibrahim Qureshi and Brig Iqbal Tajwar, to name but a few. All of them were thorough gentlemen, as well as highly professional.
However, this does not mean that there were no others whose character, performance and attitude were abhorrent. Of the army chiefs, only Gen Asif Nawaz was short-tempered, and sometimes even rude. After meeting him a few times I wondered how the army’s evaluation system could allow people like him to reach such heights. After meeting Gen Musharraf, my wondering turned to shock. In my evaluation he should not have been promoted beyond the rank of major. Not only the jawans and army officers at large, but also the public, were aware of his undesirable behaviour. When I once asked Gen Hameed Gul how he, as director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and corps commander of Multan, gave positive annual reports about Musharaf, he admitted that this had been a mistake. He was misled by Musharraf’s behaviour of a “brave commando,” he said.
Once again, please don’t judge the whole army by the misdeeds of a few high-ranking officers. It is our prime institution. The jawans and young officers never hesitate to sacrifice their lives for the country when called upon to do so. I personally had marble graves constructed for Mahfooz Shaheed and Karnal Sher Khan Shaheed. They are our heroes and always will be. The martyrs of 1965 are still remembered by the whole nation and will never be forgotten. The wars of 1965 and 1971 and the Kargil conflict were started by adventurist generals, but were paid for with the lives of brave jawans and junior officers. In all armies of the world one can always find some misguided opportunists. Our army is no exception. The command structure is such that jawans and junior officers have to obey orders. Nobody can refuse, disobey or question. It is difficult, but an army must allow a culture of freedom of expression and discussion to develop. That would make it strong and more popular.
In the 25 years that I worked at Kahuta, nobody ever said anything unpleasant or challenged my authority. They knew that, though I was their boss, I was more of a friend and colleague who had their interest at heart. They could frankly discuss all matters with me, even their personal problems – whether they were Grade 1 or Grade 22 colleagues. One can ask any of my former colleagues how I worked and behaved with them.
One bad thing in our class-ridden society is the presence of those who behave like “Firauns” with their juniors and those of lower standing , treat them like chaprasis and don’t allow them to even give their views. The culprits are least bothered about, or even conscious of, their objectionable behaviour. However, someone of a decent family background would never act like that.
The biggest damage to the reputation and respect of the army is being done by the intelligence agencies. Many incompetent, superseded officers considered unsuitable for promotion, are subsequently retired and posted there. They vent their anger and frustrations on their juniors (or even on those who were their benefactors, as in my case). The army, the air force and the navy should do all their intelligence work through Military Intelligence, Air Intelligence and Naval Intelligence and then coordination should be done at the Joint Staff Headquarters. The ISI should be dissolved and a new National Intelligence Agency be established. This new body should not employ serving armed forces officers, for obvious reasons of conflict of interests. It should be established under a non-controversial, well-educated and experienced civilian or former chief of one of the services (with the rank of a federal minister) with competent civilian sleuths. This would go a long way in relieving the army of dirty extra baggage like kidnappings, abductions, murders and harassment which the ISI has continuously dealt in and is accused of by every segment of society in Pakistan and by foreign countries as well. I am sure the army chief does not know what goes on in the ISI behind his back and without his knowledge. Let the civilian government be responsible for the new organisation and all their acts be accountable to the judiciary and the public.
A few words here about a very brave and competent army officer, the late Brig Ibrahim Qureshi. He died on July 5, 2010. When I stayed back in Pakistan at the personal request of Mr Z A Bhutto, he made me head of the autonomous project named Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL) after a few months. He also established a coordination board to oversee the activities of ERL and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and their coordination. The Board consisted of Mr A G N Kazi (secretary general, finance), Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan (secretary general, defence) and Mr Agha Shahi (secretary general, foreign affairs). I had very cordial and close relations with all of them. At that time, travelling abroad was not easy for government officers. This problem was solved by Mr Agha Shahi, who provided my colleagues and me with diplomatic passports – an excellent arrangement. He introduced me to one of his officers, Brig Ibrahim Qureshi, who was director general of administration at the time. He was a soft-spoken, highly efficient, thorough gentleman, and very helpful. He assisted us for many years until we were a fully-fledged organisation, all the while making things easy for us. He was later posted as high commissioner to Kenya.
I request all Pakistanis to show love, affection and respect to the defenders of our country – they who are there to be the first to give their lives for you, me and Pakistan. Long live the brave, patriotic defenders of our motherland! Long live Pakistan!