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Sunday May 26, 2024

Pakistani generals who faced law during service or after retirement

By Sabir Shah
February 28, 2023
An undated image of Pakistan Army headquarters gate to represent Pakistan Army. — AFP/File
An undated image of Pakistan Army headquarters gate to represent Pakistan Army. — AFP/File

LAHORE: Numerous Pakistan generals have been handcuffed, sentenced and booked to date on allegations ranging from provoking masses against the state, for voicing dissent against the rulers of the time, espionage, corruption, on charges of violating the Army’s code of conduct and on accusations of plotting coups against elected regimes, research shows.

While a few of these Generals were taken to task by the long arm of law while they were donning the khaki uniform, others were apprehended after they had hung up their boots. Former Director General Military Doctrines and Adjutant General, Lt General (retired) Amjad Shoaib is the latest addition to the list.

Following his arrest on charges of inciting the public against the state institutions, he was sent on a three-day physical remand by a magistrate Monday. Here follow some incidents that readily come to mind, where Pakistani Generals in uniform and a few veterans were held culpable for crimes and allegations:

Major-General Akbar Khan, Pakistan Army’s Chief of the General Staff, was accused of plotting a coup against Premier Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951. General Akbar was alleged of masterminding the bid in connivance with 11 other military officers and some left-wing Pakistani politicians including eminent poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Sajjad Zaheer, General Secretary of the Communist Party. General Akbar’s wife, Naseem Shahnawaz, was also believed to have motivated her husband. This coup attempt, also known as the “Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case,” was foiled on information provided by one of the confidants of General Akbar.

A trial was held for the 15 individuals including Major General Akbar Khan, Air Commodore Janjua, Major General Nazir Ahmed, Brigadier Sadiq Khan, Brigadier Latif Khan, Lt. Colonel Zia-ud-Din, Lt. Colonel Niaz Arbab, Captain Khizar Hayat, Major Hassan Khan, Major Ishaq Muhammad, Captain Zafrullah Poshni, Mrs. Naseem Shahnawaz, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sajjad Zaheer and Hussain Atta. After an 18-month trial conducted in secrecy, General Akbar and Faiz Ahmed Faiz were both convicted and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. The accused were defended in court by noted lawyer of the time, Huseyn Shaheed Suharwardy. When Suhrawardy became the Prime Minister in 1957, he obtained a reprieve for most of the conspirators. General Akbar rehabilitated in Pakistani political arena, becoming an adviser to Premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, while Faiz Ahmed Faiz was appointed to the National Council for Arts by the same government.

In 1980, Major General Tajammul Hussain Malik (1924-2003) headed a failed coup attempt against General Zia-ul-Haq. His move consequently resulted in his Court-Martial. He was a former General Officer Commanding. He was the only Brigadier, out of the 32 who had fought the war in East Pakistan, to be promoted to the rank of a Major General following his release/repatriation to Pakistan and after having undergone the Hamoodur Rehman Commission inquiry.

Reportedly, General Tajammul’s plan was to kill General Zia on the Pakistan Day Parade of March 23, 1980. However, the plot was exposed and General Malik, his son (Naveed Tajammal) and the other conspirators were arrested and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment. He was released in 1988 following General Zia’s death. He had actually organized two coups, the first of the two on June 26, 1977 (which was aborted later).

We can all recall that in the failed 1995 “Operation Khilafa” coup attempt, Major General Zaheerul Islam Abbasi (1943-2009) had planned to take over the GHQ at the time of the Corps Commanders Conference. He was serving as Director General Infantry Corps GHQ at the time of this incident. General Abbasi was convicted for seven years in 1995 for being a party to the coup against the second Benazir Bhutto regime and the then Army Chief, General Waheed Kakar.

Acting on a tip-off from then Major General Ali Kuli Khan, the Director-General of Military Intelligence, Chief of General Staff, General Jahengir Karamat, suppressed the coup by arresting 36 army officers and 20 civilians.General Abbasi was arrested and sent to Haripur Jail. Convicted and dismissed along with Major General Abbasi were the likes of Brigadier Mustansar Billah (convicted for 14 years), Colonel Inayatullah Khan, Colonel Azad Minhas, Colonel Abdul Hamid, Colonel Iqbal, Lt Colonel Shamsul Islam Tahir and Lt Colonel Liaquat Raja etc.

On November 4, 2007, former chief of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), General (retd) Hamid Gul was arrested in a continuing crackdown by the General Musharraf-led government. His arrest came amidst a crackdown by the government of President Musharraf on opposition leaders, senior lawyers and rights activists following the clampdown of an Emergency in the county.

Days after the 2007 Karachi bombings, Benazir Bhutto (in a letter to President Musharraf) had named Hamid Gul as one of the four persons she had suspected were behind the attempt to kill her. The other three names were Brigadier (retd) Ijaz Shah, Pervaiz Ellahi and Ghulam Arbab Rahim.

In April 2016, in a rare display of accountability by the institution, Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, dismissed six army officers, including two generals, from service over alleged corruption. These Generals were Lt General Obaidullah and Major General Ejaz Shahid, Following the investigation conducted by then Adjutant General, Zubair Mahmood Hayat, on the orders of the Army chief, the charged officers were asked to return all money accumulated through corruption. Perks and privileges of these two above-mentioned generals were withdrawn, though they were allowed to take pensions.

In August 2015, two retired Army generals and a civilian officer of the National Logistics Cell (NLC) were sentenced by an Army court for violating official rules that caused financial losses.

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), in light of the probe findings, two accused generals — Major General (retd) Khalid Zahir Akhter and Lt General (retd) Afzal Muzaffar — were awarded punishments under the Pakistan Army Act for illegally investing Rs 4.3billion in the stock market and causing a loss of Rs1.8 billion. According to the ruling, Major General (retd) Khalid Zahir was ‘dismissed from service,’ which implied forfeiture of rank, decorations, medals, honours, awards, seizure of pension, recovery of personal gains, cancellation of service benefits and all other allied facilities including medical etc. Lt General (retd) Afzal Muzaffar was awarded ‘Severe Displeasure (Recordable),’ which in essence is a disciplinary award due to an offence of a lesser degree i.e. violation of procedures but no personal gains.

In 2016, Lt General (retd) Zahid Ali Akbar returned Rs200 million of misappropriated funds in a plea bargain to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). General Zahid Ali Akbar commanded the Rawalpindi Corps and remained Wapda chairman from 1987 to 1992, besides serving as the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman. He was accused of corruption and possessing assets beyond his known sources. Remember, General Zahid Ali Akbar was arrested through Interpol while he was trying to enter Bosnia from Croatia, but due to his British citizenship, he was shifted from Bosnia to Britain.

According to NAB documents, Lt General (retd) Zahid Ali Akbar had 77 bank accounts in which more than Rs200 million were deposited. In February 2018, the NAB reportedly decided to reopen a Rs2 billion corruption reference against four former senior army officers, including an ex-chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Lt General (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi. A NAB spokesman said: “The meeting authorized the filing of a reference against former Railways minister Lt General (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi, former Railways Chairman Lt General (retd) Saeed Uz Zafar, Major General (retd) Hamid Hassan Butt, and a former Member Railways, Brigadier (retd) Akhtar Ali Baig.”

Along with some civilians, these Army veterans were accused of misusing their respective authorities and causing a loss of over Rs2 billion to the national exchequer. The Army officers were alleged of transferring tens of hundreds of acres of prime Railways land in Lahore to a Malaysian firm during General Musharraf’s regime in 2001 to develop a golf course called the “Royal Palm Gold and Country Club” at throwaway rates. During a hearing, the Islamabad High Court held that retired military officers could not hide behind the Army’s accountability process.

In May 2019, according to “BBC News,” a Pakistani general, Lt. General Javed Iqbal, was sentenced to life for spying by a military court that also gave death sentences to a brigadier and a civilian official. The trio were charged with espionage and leaking “sensitive information to foreign agencies,” Pakistan’s Army said in a statement. The then Army Chief, General Qamar Bajwa, had endorsed” their sentences.

The “BBC News” had reported: “Lieutenant General Javed Iqbal (retired) will serve 14 years of “rigorous imprisonment” - a life term in Pakistan. It is rare for someone of such a senior rank to be convicted of spying in Pakistan, correspondents say. Lt Gen Iqbal held key positions in the military during his active service, including the director-general of military operations, which is responsible for planning and executing all operations inside and outside of Pakistan. He also held the post of adjutant-general, who supervises discipline and accountability within the forces. Brigadier Raja Rizwan (retired) was given a death sentence, as was Wasim Akram, an official who worked for a “sensitive” organization which has not been named.”

The British media house had added: “It is not clear if officers above the rank of brigadier have in the past been convicted of spying for another country, but some senior officials have been convicted either for planning military takeovers or for links to militant groups. Pakistan’s army has its own court system and those convicted are able to appeal.”

In February 2019, the-then Director General of ISPR, Major General Asif Ghafoor, announced that Lt. General (retd) Asad Durrani, the former chief of the ISI, was found guilty of violating the military code of conduct after he had co-authored a book ‘The Spy Chronicles’ with A.S. Dulat, the former chief of India’s spy agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

And on December 17, 2019, a special court, comprising Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Seth, Sindh High Court’s Justice Nazar Akbar and Lahore High Court’s Shahid Karim found General Musharraf guilty of high treason and sentenced him to death. However, on January 13, 2020, the Lahore High Court annulled the death verdict.