Tuesday December 05, 2023

TLP’s 2017 Faizabad dharna: Ex-PM, interior minister had no direct evidence to implicate Gen Faiz

As PM at that time, Abbasi said, he neither had any evidence nor any official report to suggest that Gen Faiz was behind TLP’s protest

November 21, 2023
Protestors gather at the site of the Faizabadsit-in in Islamabad. — AFP/File
Protestors gather at the site of the Faizabadsit-in in Islamabad. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The 2017 PMLN government had no direct evidence or official information that former DG ISI Lt-General (retd) Faiz Hameed was behind the TLP’s Faizabad Dharna.

The-then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and interior minister Ahsan Iqbal, when approached, said that they had no evidence or official information to name former DG ISI Lt-Gen (retd) Faiz Hameed as the person behind the organization of TLP’s Faizabad Dharna in 2017.

When approached by The News on Monday, both the former prime minister and ex-interior minister said that there was some circumstantial evidence showing some extraordinary facilitation of the TLP sit-in (Dharna) at Faizabad but it would be speculation to name Faiz Hameed, who was then a Major General and serving in the ISI as DG(C).

As the prime minister at that time, Abbasi said, he neither had any evidence nor any official report to suggest that Gen Faiz was behind the TLP’s protest. To a question, he said, if he is summoned by the recently constituted commission on the Faizabad Dharna, he would appear before it and share whatever he could offer.

Abbasi, who had led the PMLN government after Mian Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court in the Panama case, said that the then interior minister Ahsan Iqbal was directly dealing with the TLP leadership to end the Dharna.

Hours before the late-night agreement reached between the two sides, he recalled, he had talked to the interior minister and told the latter that the deputy commissioner, Islamabad, or some senior police officer of the capital police should sign the agreement with the TLP.

The next morning, he said, he was briefed by the interior minister about the agreement and was told that he (Ahsan Iqbal) and Gen Faiz had signed the agreement on behalf of the government because of TLP’s insistence.

Abbasi said that he was told that the TLP leadership was not ready to accept the agreement signed by the deputy commissioner and police officer. Ahsan Iqbal, when approached, said that being the interior minister, he had no official information about the involvement of Gen Faiz in the TLP’s Dharna. He, however, said that there was circumstantial evidence.

Ahsan Iqbal has already said that Gen Faiz Hameed had become a signatory of the agreement signed with the TLP to end the Faizabad protest despite his and the PM’s (Abbasi) view that the general should not sign the agreement. Iqbal said that Gen Faiz insisted that the protesting TLP wouldn’t accept the accord if he didn’t become a part of it as guarantor.

In the Faizabad Dharna case judgment, authored by Justice Qazi Faiz Isa, the SC had referred to the perception that ISI may be involved in or interfered with matters with which an intelligence agency should not be concerned with, including politics, but such speculation was not put to rest. The SC judgment added, “Pursuant to the judgment in Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s case, the involvement of ISI and of the members of the Armed Forces in politics, media and other ‘unlawful activities’ should have stopped. Instead when TLP’s dharna participants received cash handouts from men in uniform, the perception of their involvement gained traction. The Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) has also taken to commenting on political matters.”

It further said: “The Armed Forces, and all agencies manned by the personnel of the Armed Forces, including ISI, Military Intelligence (MI) and ISPR serve Pakistan, and thus all its citizens. They must never be perceived to support a particular political party, faction or politician. If any personnel of the Armed Forces indulges in any form of politicking or tries to manipulate the media, he undermines the integrity and professionalism of the armed forces. The duties of the armed forces are clearly spelt out in the constitution, they, ‘shall under the direction of the federal government defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so’. We must not allow the honour and esteem of those who lay down their lives for others to be undermined by the illegal actions of a few.”

The SC had ordered, “The Government of Pakistan through the Ministry of Defence and the respective chiefs of the army, the navy and the air force are directed to initiate action against the personnel under their command who are found to have violated their oath.”