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National

August 18, 2015

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Why was Shuja Khanzada made to leave Washington within 24 hours?

DUBAI: The late Punjab Home Minister, Shuja Khanzada, had claimed in 1999 that he foiled a plot in 1994 by the Benazir government to compromise on Pakistan’s nuclear programme and payments of F-16 aircraft for which he was sacked as the military attaché and ordered to leave Washington within 24 hours.
The scene was the-then army chief General Waheed Kakar’s first visit to Washington along with the-then ISI chief Khawaja Ziauddin, General Ali Kuli Khan and Gen Jehangir Karamat.
“When they were coming, the Pakistani community and the embassy were under the impression that he was coming as an envoy of Benazir Bhutto and probably he was going to talk to the Americans regarding (nuclear programme) the rollback or freeze whatever it may be,” Khanzada told me in a telephonic interview from his Attock home back in 1999.
The interview was published in 2002 on a website. “When (Gen.) Kakar arrived, I saw him. He was under tremendous pressure when he landed. He was coming for the first time, as he had become the new (army) chief. He did not know what is going to transpire between him and the Americans. I gave him a short brief. I said you are here and you are going to assist a (nuclear) rollback or freeze.”
“He said, what? I said yes, this is the fix. He said over my dead body. I said you are coming to the embassy tomorrow to address the officers, clarify this point too. He said, yes I will.”
When he came to the embassy next day, in his address to the officers, he said rollback and freeze on my dead body, no question! We will go ahead with our nuclear programme; we will not compromise on anything.”
Khanzada told me that the Benazir government and her diplomats got very furious over that. They asked who had leaked this to the newspapers. Then a senior diplomat handling the media, Zahoor Malik, was made the target and Agha Ghazanfar (another diplomat in economic section) was made the target. Reporter/columnist the late Khalid Hasan (another

journalist) was called to the embassy and asked why this had happened.
“I was asked who had done it but I asked was there a secret about that. There was no secret.”
Khanzada said this turned into a crisis. Agha Ghazanfar (who was recently removed as Aitchison College head), was sacked and so was Zahoor Malik.
“But I took a firm stand on the issue. I said don’t make it into a big fuss, leave it alone. We should actually be very proud that the General made that statement. People’s sagging morale was restored and our grim faces were now OK.”
“When I talked to (General) Kakar that this thing had leaked he was very happy and said it was great. I’m no politician, I’m no man to get credit for these things but what I said I meant it. That completely changed the scenario,” Khanzada told me. As a result, he was sacked and ordered to leave Washington within 24 hours. He complied as a professional and returned to his village.

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