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July 17, 2019

Govt proposed to raise special force

Top Story

July 17, 2019

ISLAMABAD: “I will break your legs. There will be no bone intact. I will make you disappear. Your body will be thrown outside your home. There will be a special squad for the purpose.” The person hurling these threats was a powerful minister and those being threatened were junior officials of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

The incident occurred at the Islamabad International Airport a few weeks ago and initially shared with The News by a passenger who was caught in disbelief, witnessing this scary scene. This correspondent has duly verified contents from different sources. The CAA confirmed the incident without going into details whereas the DG FIA wasn't ready to discuss anything relating to this issue. Instead, he feigned ignorance. Prime target of this wrath was a duty facilitation officer of CAA. The minister was to fly through a special plane that he regularly uses for all his travels.The CAA staff at protocol duty was unaware of his movement. There was no air-conditioned vehicle for transporting him to the plane from VVIP lounge and the minister burst into rage for this reason. He couldn’t register his anger that day as he was getting late for departure. Upon return a few days later, he ordered CAA and FIA staff to appear before him at the Islamabad Airport lounge. It was at that time he rebuked them and shared his “vision of forced disappearances through a special squad.” His anger nevertheless refused to dissipate. The minister summoned the CAA and FIA officials at his office for thorough grilling. It was done. An FIA official who was on duty on the day of the incident was transferred to Gilgit for not according protocol desired by the minister. Meanwhile, both departments are trying to hush up the matter to prevent it from unnecessary “exposure” fearing reprisal.

However, the idea of special squad continues to raise alarms. Those privy to the situation say it is not just a hollow threat. The minister didn’t mention the setting up of special squad only to vent out his anger, a source said. The idea has been discussed at other forums as well. It has been conceived to lessen the burden on other institutions. The News spoke to three different officials who confirm that work is in progress. According to one source, the government isn’t satisfied with the NAB’s “political witch-hunting” as it is hesitant to comply with all orders due to public pressure amid mounting criticism that the accountability bureau is only after the political opponents of the government. It was in this context, an official source said, that federal cabinet has referred the case of Khawaja Asif’s Iqama to the interior ministry, notwithstanding the fact that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has already cleared him of this matter. "A person who served in the capacities of a defence minister, a foreign minister and a water and power minister was found to have drawn a salary from a foreign company. This is a big threat to Pakistan's security," said Firdous Ashiq Awan the other day while briefing the media about the decision taken in the last cabinet meeting.

She disclosed that the matter had been referred to the FIA with instructions to investigate it from all angles — hidden and obvious — to determine as to "how one tasked with safeguarding the country's national security, the defense minister, was working for another country and presenting a security threat. According to another source, the minister’s idea of special squad is premised on his vision of having vibrant and efficient homeland security to deal with internal threats without seeking assistance from the army. In the past, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had raised the Federal Security Force. It was created as a civil task force ostensibly to assist the police and civil administration without the army’s assistance. It was later used against political opponents and disbanded by Gen. Zia-ul-Haq.

The minister has been intolerant towards critics, no matter on social media or mainstream media. Recently, journalist Ahmed Noorani tweeted something critical about him provoking the minister to complain to the FIA for the arrest. Inquiry is still in progress and FIA officials are reluctant to share their future course of action.

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