Taking on the establishment

Sultan M Hali

FEW people take on the military establishment, especially during their service. Some, who pick up the gauntlet, dare to do so only after their retirement. Tariq Khosa, a retired police official, who joined the service in 1976, has held important positions including the Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency. He has led investigations into high profile criminal as well as corruption cases including the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007.
Following his retirement, Tariq Khosa has taken up writing op-eds regularly. Some of his pieces are fairly scathing and incisive. Subsequent to the meeting between the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India at Ufa last year, the decision to probe the Mumbai attacks by Pakistan prompted Tariq Khosa to write an op-ed on the subject. He revealed that Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving assailant, who was later sent to the gallows, was a Pakistani national, whose place of residence and initial schooling as well as his joining a banned militant organisation was established by the investigators. Second, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) terrorists were imparted training near Thatta, Sindh and launched by sea from there. The training camp was identified and secured by the investigators.
The casings of the explosive devices used in Mumbai were recovered from this training camp and duly matched. Third, the fishing trawler used by the terrorists for hijacking an Indian trawler in which they sailed to Mumbai, was brought back to harbour, then painted and concealed. It was recovered by the investigators and connected to the accused. Fourth, the engine of the dinghy abandoned by the terrorists near Mumbai harbour contained a patent number through which the investigators traced its import from Japan to Lahore and then to a Karachi sports shop from where a LeT-linked militant purchased it along with the dinghy.
The money trail was followed and linked to the accused who was arrested. Fifth, the ops room in Karachi, from where the operation was directed, was also identified and secured by the investigators. The communications through Voice over Internet Protocol were unearthed. Sixth, the alleged commander and his deputies were identified and arrested. Seventh, a couple of foreign-based financiers and facilitators were arrested and brought to face trial. This particular exposé by Tariq Khosa was hailed by Indian media as bold and perceptive.
The author’s recent essay titled ‘Power of the establishment’ addresses Pakistan’s military organisation, which is commendable, since it takes grit to write critically about the establishment. His musings cover a lot of ground, from the alleged emails sent by Pakistan’s current envoy to the UN Maleeha Lodhi, who reportedly acted as an informal messenger between the US administration and former army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, going by the contents of an email to secretary Clinton from Vali Nasr, then a senior adviser. Tariq Khosa comments that the entire message that Ms Lodhi shared with Mr. Nasr was edited out of the text. It was sent three days after Raymond Davis’s arrest in Lahore on January 17, 2011, on charges of killing two men. The incident had caused a serious rift in US-Pakistan ties. Mr. Khosa demands that the entire conversation be made public by the military establishment or the Foreign Office. The US establishment has redacted the email, but Mr. Khosa expects Pakistan to reveal the exchange in its entirety.
The aspect of the May 2, 2011 US Navy SEALs attack to eliminate Osama bin Laden has also been mentioned while the author says that no one asked tough questions from the military in the investigations. He glosses over the fact that the inquiry commission found the ISI guilty of neglect although not culpable of harbouring the world’s most wanted fugitive.
The inquisition does not stop here, as the Memogate Scandal has been discussed in detail questioning the veracity of the alleged correspondence. The question raised bluntly is “Who in his right mind would offer such terms of abject surrender to the US interests and that too in writing? What was the Zardari-Haqqani duo up to? Could a Pakistani ambassador ever write such a petition?” Ambassador Hussain Haqqani was provided the opportunity to clear his name before the government appointed inquiry commission but when he felt the noose tightening around his neck, Hussain Haqqani found discretion to be the better part of valour and hastily returned to the US. He is now toasted and dined by Indians for his criticism of Pakistan’s military establishment. The military in Pakistan has had its fair share of rogues, who usurped power, hanged popularly elected politicians and clung to the mantle of authority under various pretexts.
The erudite scholar forgets that the military establishment is the only reason this country still exists on the world map and why Pakistan has not been turned into rubble like Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen or Afghanistan. Pakistan’s nuclear assets are a thorn in the sides of India and the sole super power, US. Pakistan’s nukes continue to exist and have not been snatched and grabbed by vested interests because their custodian is Pakistan’s military. It is the same military that is no pushover when it comes to deep geo-politics, it is the only reason the US has been unable to force Pakistan to its knees and has kept archrival India at bay. There have been corrupt military officials in Pakistan but the current disposition is serious in exercising accountability across the board, including military and civilian progenitors of sleaze, corruption and fraud.
Kudos is due to Tariq Khosa for his investigative journalism. He is a champion of social justice in Pakistan. Traits he must have picked up while heading the National Central Bureau, Interpol and having been elected at the General Assembly Session in Singapore to be the member of Interpol Executive Committee Delegate from 2009 to 2012. However, he must take cognisance that the current military dispensation is committed to following the constitutional role of the armed forces and steer clear of politics and power rather than sully the waters as he surmises.
— The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.

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