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LAHORE: Operation Clean-up or Operation Blue Fox against the MQM, initiated during the first tenure of sitting Premier Nawaz Sharif and carried on by his successor Benazir Bhutto through her Interior Minister Major General (R) Naseerullah Babar till August 1994, was launched exactly a year after the alleged abduction and torture of a serving Pakistan Army Major Kaleemuddin on June 20, 1991.
But before we go on to recall the details of the Major Kaleem kidnapping case, let us first rewind our memories and revisit the “Jinnahpur Conspiracy”.During the 1992 Army operation, the MQM was accused of being anti-Pakistan, besides being alleged of hatching a conspiracy to establish a separatist state by the name of “Jinnahpur”.
Numerous national newspapers and media outlets had reported that Brigadier Asif Haroon of Pakistan Army had called journalists from Punjab after the launch of the 1992 operation and had briefed them about the “Jinnahpur Conspiracy.”
As reported by a large section of the national Press about 23 years ago, Brigadier Asif Haroon had stated that the maps of the break-away state “Jinnahpur” and other documents were recovered from the MQM offices.But on October 19, 1992, the same national newspapers had carried an ISPR press release, conveying Army’s denial of the knowledge of the “Jinnahpur” plan.
The ISPR had stated that the Army had no evidence concerning the so-called Jinnahpur plan and newspaper stories in that context were baseless, maintaining that the Army had neither handed over to the government any document or map as reported, nor was it in the possession of any evidence concerning the so-called “Jinnahpur Plan”. The ISPR had clarified that it was also wrong that the matter was discussed at any meeting of the Karachi Corps Commander.
Many years later, on August 24, 2009, some senior army officers, Brigadier (R) Imtiaz Billa and General (R) Naseer Akhtar (pivotal figures behind the 1992 operation in Karachi), had confessed in a television programme that “Jinnahpur” was nothing but a drama against the MQM, adding the military had not found any maps.
Remember, General (R) Naseer Akhtar was the Corps Commander of Karachi in June 1992 when the military-led operation was launched in the port city. An August 24, 2009, report aired by “Geo News” had stated: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement Rabta Committee said the confessional statements by former Director General Intelligence Bureau Brigadier (R) Imtiaz Billa and General (R) Naseer Akhtar have unfolded the truth in accusations on the MQM regarding Jinnahpur.
MQM chief Altaf Hussain had appealed to the then Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, to constitute a “truth and reconciliation commission” in the light of disclosures.
However, the stance of Brig (R) Imtiaz Billa and General (R) Naseer Akhtar was immediately challenged on August 27, 2009, by Major Nadeem Dar—an ISI officer of the time—who had asserted on another television show that he had personally recovered Jinnahpur maps and other material from the MQM headquarters.
Rejecting the statement of Brigadier Imtiaz that no “Jinnahpur” map was recovered, this is what Major Nadeem Dar had stated in a private television channel talk show: “I can swear that General Imtiaz is telling a lie. I had raided the headquarters of the MQM and had recovered published and unpublished maps from there. I had sent the maps to two other military officials, Major Haroon and Major Nadeem. I knew about all the operations, because I was dealing with the MQM and was also familiar with that area.”
Major Kaleem abduction case:
Major Kaleem, an officer of Pakistan Army’s Field Investigation Unit, had lodged an FIR on June 24, 1991, that while he and three of his subordinates were patrolling through the streets of Karachi’s Landhi locality in a jeep at 9.20pm on June 20, 1991, on a fact-finding mission, a group of 15 to 20 armed boys had surrounded their jeep and forced them to come out despite disclosure of their identity, contending further that they were beaten up and taken to a building called the ‘White House, where they were tortured and given electric shocks before the police had turned up and got them freed.
The trial in this case was presided over by Justice Ghazanfar Ali Shah of the Special Court for Suppression of Terrorist Activities in March 1993 and the judgment of June 9, 1994, had convicted Ashfaque Chief, Javed Kazmi and Haji Jalal of the MQM in this case.
Ashfaque Chief, Javed Kazmi and Haji Jalal (a counsellor of Landhi Number 4 in 1987) were sentenced to a 30 years’ rigorous imprisonment and were fined Rs20, 000 each under various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code.
It was the same Haji Jalal, who was shot dead on July 8, 2009, along with two of his sons (Usman Jalal and Abdullah Jalal) and a passer-by (Adnan Sohail) within the limits of Landhi Police Station, after having been detained in Central Jail, Karachi, for several years in the case of Major Kaleem’s kidnapping.
All other accused, including the MQM chief Altaf Hussain, were declared absconders and sentenced to 27 years jail and were fined Rs30,000 each in absentia. The convicts had then gone on to challenge their convictions before the Sindh High Court.
On February 5, 1998, Advocate-General Shaukat Zubedi had asked for a re-trial before a competent court, but the judges on the division bench didn’t agree with his contention and had acquitted the appellants the following day after finding them innocent and ruling that the case was “of almost no legal evidence.” Since the evidence of the complainant (Major Kaleem) was full of contradictions and the eyewitnesses’ account did not inspire confidence.
On February 20, 1998, the Supreme Court of Pakistan was moved against the decision of the Sindh High Court. Years later, on August 13, 2007, the Sindh Government had mysteriously withdrawn its appeal in the Major Kaleem case and all charges against the 18 MQM leaders and activists were consequently dismissed.
The 18 respondents in the State appeal were late Dr Imran Farooq, Saleemul Haq alias Saleem Shahzad, Muhammad Ashfaque Chief, Dr Safdar Baqari, Javed Kazmi, Haji Jalal Khan, Rehan Zaidi, Asghar Chacha, Sajid Azad, Arshad Naeem, Ashraf Zaidi, Ismail Qureshi alias Sitara, Aftab Ahmed Sabziwala, Ayub Shah Medical Storewala, Yusuf Bakerywala, Nadeem Ayubi, Sarfaraz and Ikram. Major Kaleem’s petition had mentioned Altaf Hussain’s name also.
Problems for Nawaz Sharif’s first government in the months that had followed the 1992 Karachi military operation: Nawaz Sharif’s first government had called shots between November 1990 and July 1993.
The MQM had emerged as the third strongest party in the country after the 1990 polls and had opted to form an alliance with Nawaz Sharif’s PML to establish a provincial government in Sindh.
In 1992, Nawaz Sharif and his aides had passed a resolution in the National Assembly to launch a military operation in Karachi in a bid to target 72 “big fish”.
Just before the 1992 operation, Altaf Hussain had left the country for London after an attack on his life (December 21, 1991).
The MQM-Haqiqi, a break-away faction of the MQM, had surfaced and things were not rosy for Altaf and his lieutenants. As a protest against the Army operation, 12 MQM MNAs had decided to call it a day and their resignations were accepted by Gauhar Ayub, the then National assembly Speaker. Some 24 MQM MPAs sitting in the Sindh Assembly had also followed suit.
With the start of year 1993, Premier Sharif was confronted with a serious constitutional crisis, after he had developed a serious rift with the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.
The president was supported by Sharif’s key political foe and the then Opposition Leader, Benazir Bhutto, from London.
Army Chief General Asif Nawaz Janjua, the man behind the 1992 Karachi operation, had then suddenly died of cardiac arrest on January 8, 1993.
Towards the mid of March 1993, a Faisalabad MNA—Mian Zahid Sarfaraz—had suddenly demanded dissolution of the National Assembly, and on March 27, Hamid Nasir Chattha and three other ministers had opted to step out of the Federal Cabinet to the sheer dismay of Nawaz Sharif.
On March 31 of the same year, one more federal minister had resigned. Within hours, 16 more MNAs and senators from Fata had announced their support for President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. On April 4, 1993, three more MNAs had resigned from the National Assembly and on April 8 not fewer than 92 MNAs had tendered their resignations.
On April 9, 1993, Nawaz Sharif and his party loyalists had formally announced that they would not repeal the Eighth Amendment and had reaffirmed that Ghulam Ishaq Khan would be their presidential candidate. But it was too late by then.
The following day, another minister had quit and by April 17, Sharif’s PML had split into two visible factions.
On April 18, 1993, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan had used his reserve constitutional powers (under Article 58-2b) to dissolve the National Assembly, sack Sharif and appoint Mir Balakh Sher Mazari as the country’s interim prime minister.
Nawaz Sharif had then moved the Justice Nasim Hassan Shah-led Supreme Court of Pakistan and on May 26, 1993, the apex court had ruled that the Presidential Order was unconstitutional. The National Assembly was restored with immediate effect and Nawaz Sharif had returned to power for a brief span only.
The power struggle between Nawaz sharif and President Ghulam Ishaq Khan had continued and finally on July 18, 1993, Sharif had to relinquish charge under pressure from the then Pakistan Army Chief Abdul Waheed Kakar and the then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Shamim Alam.
President Ghulam Ishaq was sent packing too.
The political standoff had ended and Moeenuddin Ahmad Qureshi was appointed country’s caretaker premier.
In Punjab, on April 25, 1993, Mian Manzoor Wattoo was elected chief minister by 137 rebel MPAs of PML, replacing Chief Minister Ghulam Haider Wayne, who was voted out by 162 MPAs on April 22.
History has it that despite all the animosity, Altaf Hussain had again decided to join Nawaz Sharif’s second government in 1997, but this alliance was also short-lived and had fallen apart with the assassination of Hakim Muhammad Said on October 17, 1998.
Sharif’s men had publicly blamed the MQM for the murder of the philanthropist and former governor of the province.