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January 30, 2014

Major Amir has a murky past

January 30, 2014

ISLAMABAD: Major (retd) Amir, one of the four members of the committee appointed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to hold peace talks with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan on behalf of the federal government, has a murky past being the alleged architect of the infamous “Operation Midnight Jackal” to topple the first government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1989.
Major Mohammad Amir and Brigadier Imtiaz Ahmed were the two main characters of the “Operation Midnight Jackal” which was destined to make the PPP MNAs support a no-confidence motion against their own prime minister.
According to the then director-general of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Major Masood Sharif Khattak, Major (retd) Amir and Brigadier Imtiaz Ahmed were caught on video and audiotapes influencing some of the PPP parliamentarians to vote against Prime Minister Bhutto. The covert operation, however, failed with the arrests of Major Amir and Brig Imtiaz and their subsequent court-martials by the Judge Advocate General Branch (JAG) of the Pakistan Army.
The conspiracy was hatched in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s decision to sack Lt-Gen Hamid Gul as director general of the Inter Services Intelligence and replace him with Shamsur Rehman Kallu.
The court-martial proceedings against Major Amir and Brig Imtiaz were based on the cassettes containing their conversation. The ISI under Kallu immediately arrested the two officers on charges of treason and espionage.
The case against them was directed to the JAG Corps in which, military investigators and military lawyers of prosecution revealed that Major Amir, one of the accusers of plotting a coup against the Benazir Bhutto government, was the architect of the “Operation Midnight Jackal”. Major Amir later testified in the court that it was done under the auspices of Brigadier Imtiaz Ahmad of Intelligence Bureau (IB).
The military lawyers reported that the objectives of the Midnight Jackal were to support Nawaz Sharif,

as the establishment was said to have preferred Sharif as the country’s prime minister. Major Amir told his military lawyers “Nawaz Sharif was more acceptable to the Pakistan Army at that time than Benazir Bhutto.” He further said, “The military believes that in the current circumstances there is no option but to support Nawaz Sharif as we don’t have other viable option.”
However, while Amir (who the PM said today is the son of a renowned Islamic scholar) had claimed during his court martial that he was in fact acting on the specific directives of the DG ISI Shamsur Rehman Kallu to identify the black sheep within the ranks of the PPP, Imtiaz claimed that it was Hameed Gul who masterminded the removal of first Benazir Bhutto government. In an interview with the Geo TV on April 22, 2007, Major Amir had said that the Pakistani establishment likes the leaders who are not backed by the public. “The Pakistani establishment is against every leader who has people’s mandate behind them. The establishment likes leaders like Malik Meraj Khalid, Moeen Qureshi, Sardar Balakh Sher Khan Mazari and Shaukat Aziz. To a question, Amir conceded that he liked Nawaz Sharif as a political leader and was part of his political camp.
The former ISI officer said the ISI principally acts on the orders of the prime minister. But in case of lack of coordination between the prime minister and the army chief, he said, the ISI prefers to seek directives from the army chief. Amir then said that he had acted on the orders of the then ISI chief in the “Operation Midnight Jackal”, adding that the prime aim behind the act was not to remove the Benazir Bhutto’s government. “I was court-martialed and removed from the army service even though I had proved my innocence before the inquiry committee,” he added.
On his part, in an interview with Dunya TV on August 28, 2009, former DG IB Brig (retd) Imtiaz Ahmed said: “The Operation Midnight Jackal was launched to topple Benazir Bhutto’s government. The operation was not a big issue, but the politicians had politicised it in such a way that it became a major issue. He revealed that General (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg, who was the army chief at the time, wanted to bring a change in the National Assembly through a no-confidence motion with the help of the Operation Midnight Jackal, as General Beg believed that Benazir Bhutto’s policies were contrary to those of the Pakistan Army.
Brig Imtiaz said that General Beg did not agree to PM Benazir Bhutto’s Afghan policy. The former DG IB said that after Benazir Bhutto was sworn in as Prime Minister, General Aslam Beg and the then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan had discussed at length the possibility of replacing her, adding that the operation was also launched for that reason. Brig Imtiaz said that his major mistake was his failure to refuse to obey General Aslam Beg’s orders. During a subsequent inquiry, he said, General (retd) Hameed Gul had advised him not to speak against the Army chief as that could raise questions about the institution of the army.

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