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October 15, 2020

Ex-DG ISI Zaheerul Islam says he never sought resignation from Nawaz Sharif

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October 15, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Former DG ISI Lt General (retd) Zaheerul Islam said that he had never sought the resignation of the-then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 2014. Talking to The News here on Wednesday, Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam also categorically denied that he had sent any message through any person to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. “I never sent anyone to convey any such message to the prime minister,” he said, adding, “this is absolutely wrong.”

Instead, he insisted that at every stage during the 2014 sit-in, he had been advising the PML-N government to engage the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehrik politically to end the protest. Zaheerul Islam was, however, reluctant to talk further on the subject.

Recently, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had, for the first time, claimed publicly that the former ISI chief Lt Gen (retd) Zaheer-ul-Islam had conveyed amessage to him seeking his resignation “in the middle of the night” during the 2014 anti-government sit-ins. “I received a message in the middle of the night,” Sharif told PML-N members in the party’s central executive committee meeting recently. He added: “It was said that ‘if you don’t do it you will have to face the consequences and martial law can also be imposed’. I said do whatever you want but I won’t resign.”

Nawaz Sharif, however, did not name the person who had brought the DG ISI’s message to him. In 2014, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Tahir-ul-Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek had staged a 126-day sit-in in Islamabad against alleged rigging in the 2013 elections.

Till now, Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam had never commented on the issue but today in a meeting with this correspondent he categorically denied the story besides saying that he never sent any person with a message to Nawaz Sharif.

Although, the-then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his cabinet members and senior leaders have been discussing the alleged ‘plot’ to oust him from power using the PTI-PAT sit-ins in 2014 as a pretext, the government has never got the matter probed.

In late 2015, the then Defence Minister Khawaja Asif in a television show had named former DG ISI General Zaheerul Islam for his alleged role in destabilising the Nawaz Sharif government during the 2014 PAT-PTI sit-ins. Khawaja Asif had said that General Zaheer was behind the ‘London Plan’ conspiracy against the government.

What was being discussed earlier in the closed door meetings of the rulers was made public by the defence minister, who said that the 2014 London Plan against the Nawaz Sharif government was the collective work of two successive ISI chiefs -- Lt General (retd.) Shuja Pasha and Lt Gen (retd.) Zaheerul Islam.

Khawaja Asif in his TV interview had also said that Gen Zaheer had a grudge against the Nawaz government for its stance on the Geo issue after the April 2014 attack on Hamid Mir. To settle his personal grudge, Khawaja had added, Gen Zaheer hurt the national interest. Khawaja Asif was of the view that the situation was handled well by the then prime minister, who remained patient.

The defence minister’s statement was not appreciated by some military quarters. He was asked at the time not to talk on the issue anymore. Later, another cabinet member, Mushahid Ullah Khan, had to resign when he told a foreign news agency that the Intelligence Bureau had telephone recordings of General Zaheerul Islam, “proving” his involvement in the conspiracy.