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March 16, 2019

Why Asad Munir committed suicide

Top Story

March 16, 2019

ISLAMABAD: “I live in an apartment, don’t own a house anywhere in Pakistan, no business, no commercial property. Only 2005 model car,” this was a message of Brigadier (retd) Asad Munir who committed suicide in the wee hours of Friday after coming to know that NAB has filed a corruption reference against him.

He wrote the above message to this correspondent in 2016 when he was into the 8th year facing inquiry. Coming this from a person who held important positions during his army service and later in civilian bureaucracy seems somewhat a tall claim to a stranger.

For beginners, Asad led ISI and MI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwaand Fata during early years of war on terror. Later, he was secretary to KP governor. After retirement, Asad joined NAB as deputy director general special investigations wing (Rawalpindi NAB) before his appointment as Member Estate of Capital Development Authority (2006-2008).

However, anybody knowing him will testify that his claim being a man of limited means was not an exaggeration. He was true to his words. A father of two married daughters, he was living with his wife these days in an apartment in Diplomatic Enclave, a place he chose on security reasons for the threats he was facing for operations against militants while serving in intelligence.

Asad would jealously guard his intellectual freedom and financial integrity. He was jovial by nature and a generous host. He would crack jokes without throwing insult on anybody. Such was his level of empathy towards others. Then why did he commit suicide, everybody asks.

There was nobody to buy the news that he died through unnatural death. This correspondent wasn’t ready to believe either, until it was confirmed by his younger brother, Colonel (retd) Khalid Munir. The last exchange between the brothers was around 11:00pm. Khalid didn’t smell anything suicidal during the exchanges with his now-late brother.

However, discussions with his close friends suggest Asad was upset after coming to know on Thursday that he has been held co-accused in the reference filed against the CDA high-ups of the past. He had only recommended the restoration of a plot of an applicant in 2008 as CDA Member Estate. His recommendation was in line with the CDA’s Restoration Policy 2007, Asad would insist. The approving authority was the CDA chairman.

While inquiry started in 2008 wherein Asad was called in as a witness, the year 2017 made his life miserable. Interior Ministry put him on the ECL on the basis of an FIR in which he was not named. His review appeal to Secretary Interior went unheard and he remained on the ECL for more than a year. On Thursday, NAB approved a reference against him, among others named, as accused.

Before exchanging some routine messages with Khalid Munir on Friday night, Asad rang a friend at an influential position. He told him about the NAB reference and shared his apprehensions of being arrested. That was nothing less than humiliation for a person like him, he said. A few weeks ago, he had seen two other CDA colleagues handcuffed. As he approached them in court to shake hands, they were pushed away by the constable accompanying them. That scene refused to fade away from his memory.

“How would I face this situation,” he shared his concerns with a friend. Imagine they take me in and out of the court, the media will be there to ask me about the corruption I have never done. He was waking in this state of mind late night as TV tickers popped up again around 1:30am Friday about the NAB reference. This was another depression attack and the fateful.

He picked up his pistol to shoot in the head; his attempt failed. This however alerted his wife who snatched away the weapon and reprimanded him for this extraordinary step. He went to his bed. The wife thought he had slept but he didn’t. In fact, he waited for his wife to sleep.

As his servant woke up at 4:00am for tahajjud prayer, he found smoke coming out of an ashtray in the living room; a cigarette was extinguished there a while ago. He wondered who would have smoked other than Asad but he should be in his bedroom. The servant’s guess was wrong. Asad was found hanging in the store with a ceiling fan; his foot trapped in a chair he used to climb.

He left behind a typed suicide note addressed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan. On top of it was a handwritten message Asad dropped for his wife to pass it on to the intended recipient through Justice Yahya Afridi, a judge of the Supreme Court. Other than the background of his case and the harassment he faced on the hands of NAB investigators, he mentioned the cause: “I am committing suicide to avoid humiliation, being handcuffed and paraded in front of media.”

Then he requested the CJP to clear his name in case he was not found guilty and shared his thoughts what purpose this suicide should serve: “I am giving my life in the hope that you the honorable Chief Justice will bring positive changes in the system where incompetent people are playing with the life and honour of citizens in the name of accountability.”

His wish is reminiscent of a Chinese editor who wrote a piece a few days before committing suicide in 2012. Where he mentioned the curse of censorship as a cause of frustration, he also wrote: “Death is a heavy word but in many cases, without deaths society will not sit up and pay attention, and problems won’t be resolved.” Let’s see whether Asad Munir’s death wish is granted through bringing about any change in the attitude of NAB or not.

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