The politics of Brigadier ‘Billa’

By Tahir Hasan Khan, Karachi, Sindh

Courtesy: The News, Monday, August 31, 2009

Brigadier (Retired) Imtiaz, also known as “Billa” is not new for the people of Sindh. He was Sindh ISI chief when political activist Nazeer Abbasi was murdered and a PIA plane was hijacked in early 80’s. The purpose of the murder of political activist Nazeer Abbasi was to warn political workers and the hijacking incident was to sabotage the MRD (Movement for Restoration of Democracy) action launched against Gen Zia-ul Haq. As a result of his work, Billa was promoted as brigadier in the army.

Predictably, his services were terminated in the first tenure of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Mian Nawaz Sharif who was the then chief minister of Punjab, however, appointed Billah as his security adviser and later made him IB chief when Sharif became prime minister in 1990.

The disclosure of a secret visit of Imtiaz Billa in Sindh in 1992 was reported in this newspaper and I was very much under pressure when this was published. There was a warning for me not to publish such reports about the IB chief’s secret activities in Sindh.

The purpose of the secret visit was to convince the MQM to withdraw its support to Jam Sadiq Ali, a nominee of then President Ghulan Ishaq Khan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was not happy with Jam Sadiq and was in favour of Liaquat Jatoi, a finance minister in Jam Sadiq’s cabinet.

Ironically, Jatoi was dismissed by Jam Sadiq after his activities were disclosed by the intelligence agencies to the CM. It was the cold war between President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif which eventually led to the military operation in Sindh. Nawaz Sharif had the backing of Chief of Army Staff Gen Asif Nawaz who launched the operation. Kidnapping for ransom was at its peak at that time and the federal government blamed most of the sitting provincial ministers in Jam Sadiq’s cabinet who were said to provide shelter to dacoits and criminals. The military operation was seen as the only solution against dacoits.

But the operation was diverted and re-launched against the MQM to crush the party. This changed the whole political culture of the Sindh and a politics of hate was generated in the province.

Four democratic governments (two each by Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto) were dismissed due to such operations and General Asif Nawaz and his team were held responsible for this damage. A number of youth were killed in the operation while the law and order situation remained very disturbed in this time. There was also a flight of capital from Sindh to Punjab.

The role of the intelligence agencies is not new neither is it a secret. PPP’s founder chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 70s blamed the agencies for funding politicians in the election against him in Sindh and Punjab. Sindh was the main target of the intelligence agencies and the purpose of all plans and conspiracies was against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and the PPP.

The state sponsored actors were behind the formation of Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) and then the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) against Bhutto and Benazir and huge funds were distributed among the politicians. Politics is still hostage in the hand of ‘State Sponsored Actors’. These actors have absolute power and funds. They were free to do whatever they want.

There is no law and restriction for them and they openly and proudly boast of their crimes. There is no punishment for these characters from any quarter.

The disclosures of Brig Imtiaz are not new. Perhaps Pakistan is the only country in the world where the “state sponsored actors’ always act against the popular political forces. Everybody knows the role of all dictators from General Ayub to General Pervez Musharraf and the victims who are popular political forces like the PPP, the MQM and the PML from Muhammad Khan Junejo to Nawaz Sharif.

Conspiracies hatched by General Ayub, General Yahya, General Ziaul Haq, General Aslam Baig, General Asif Nawaz and General Pervez Musharraf against the elected and political leadership are neither secret nor new. The tactics of every dictator was different but they used the intelligence agencies (state sponsored actors) to damage the political leadership and system as well.

A few newspapers published stories about these conspiracies in the past but the majority of the media has avoided to publish these facts because they were very much under pressure from these state sponsored actors.

Now it is time for the electronic media and the disclosure of these state sponsored actors on TV channels is a surprising development, especially for students of political science and political observers. There must of some reason behind the activities and disclosures of state sponsored actors.

Similar tactics was used in the past and dictators derailed the democratic system after launching a character assassination campaign of the political leadership. The purpose of this campaign may be the same. The political leadership must realize and learn from their past mistakes. Nelson Mandela apologized for his mistakes and there will be no damage for our politicians if they apology for their mistakes. The involvement of state sponsored actors in the affairs of the politics is a major mistake of political governments and they must learn from this lesson. Only a judicial commission and punishment of state sponsored actors is the solution to save democracy and the system.

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