Beg Sahib, You Can Fool the People Some Time...
By Wajid Shamsul Hassan
London, UK

London: Pakistan is one unfortunate country where majority of its army generals have never been forthright. Besides the fact that they have been acting as mad bulls in Mr. Jinnah’s Pakistan, their whole lot is mostly megalomaniac suffering from psychopathic aversion to truth.
Much alike women of easy virtue who believe themselves to be chaste, Pakistani generals have mastered the psychopathic art of deceiving themselves that they are the best in waging war, making peace and running a civil administration.
This description is extremely relevant when one sees the sad plight of nuclear icon Dr A.Q. Khan at the hands of the Pakistani generals. While they have been, more or less, the nuclear mafia dons in Pakistan they have singled out Dr A.Q. as their scapegoat to pay internationally for their acts of omission and commission. As I apprehend it seems soon a shady curtain on his life would be drawn. Conflicting reports about rapid deterioration in his health do not augur well for the great man. While his family members insist that he is sinking, the Inter-Service Public Relations Department continues orchestrating that he is hale and hearty. The apprehension is that A.Q. is being allowed to die slowly and deliberately so that the nuclear mafia among the generals does not get exposed. After all A.Q. has hidden in his chest tons of secrets about nuclear proliferation carried out by the generals through him — a factor that would see him dead on Pakistani soil rather than be pressured by the Americans to hand him over to them.
Author Gordon Corera in his latest book “Shopping for Bombs” (2006, published: Hurst & Company) has done a great deal of research that picks up the pieces of Pakistan’s nuclear trail over the years, the pivotal role of Dr A.Q. Khan, Pakistani generals and others. While the book deserves a wider and in depth review at some later stage, it does throw enough light on the bizarre nuclear proliferation drama staged by Pakistan and its generals. While Dr A.Q. Khan has no doubt been singled out as the main villain of the piece, Gordon has not done enough justice in exposing the generals right from Mirza Aslam Beg to General Pervez Musharraf who had been head over heels allegedly involved in the clandestine export of nuclear technology. May be it is inadvertent or it could as well be advertent since the West needs Pakistani generals especially General Musharraf. However, in this connection revelations made by Mian Nawaz Sharif after he was sacked in 1993 to Washington Post that he was approached by Army chief Aslam Beg and his intelligence chief with a blue print suggesting clandestine export of drugs and other things to overcome Pakistan’s balance of payment problems need to be recalled. I may add here that his minister Ch. Nisar Ali Khan confirmed after the AQ n-export media explosion that General Beg had approached Mian Sahib to have his blessings for the export of nuclear know how. Mian Sahib firmly turned it down.
It is known that Washington would continue to put pressure on General Musharraf to let its investigators have access to Dr A.Q. Khan for interrogation. After all they have information from the horse’s mouth as to who were the army personnel who used to accompany A.Q. on his marketing trips to North Korea, Libya and Iran to name a few. His 12-page affidavit that forced General Musharraf to pardon him has lot of incriminating material and big military names that would make many of Pakistani general — in the eyes of the Americans-- fit cases to rot in Guantanamo Bay.
Moreover, it is rightly said that Washington cannot be taken for a ride by the generals who feign innocence. They are also aware of their quixotic dreams to have Afghanistan as Pakistan’s strategic depth. I am sure they must be having on record Selig Harrison’s conversation with Musharraf’s god-father Gen Zia-ul Haq of Pakistan. Selig recalled in 2001: "Gen Zia spoke to me about expanding Pakistan's sphere of influence to control Afghanistan, then Uzbekistan and Tajikstan and then Iran and Turkey." That design continues to this day, he believes.
This brings me to a recent statement by General (Retd.) Aslam Beg published in a section of the press in which he has while giving a clean bill of health to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, denying the allegations that nuclear proliferation started during her first tenure, has instead accused her of urging upon him in 1991 to oust Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and take over from him. The time he has mentioned about the takeover is early 1991 when Ms Bhutto was on a lecture tour of the United States and I was accompanying her. Without fear of any contradiction I can lay bare what transpired then since I am privy to lot of exchanges that mostly took place between his emissaries and me and not Ms Bhutto as she would not take any direct calls from them.
The most frequent caller was from Lahore, a barrister by profession, very close to General Beg and who later was also part of President Leghari’s conspiracy to oust Ms Bhutto in her second term too. He would beseech me for support and ask me to urge upon Ms Bhutto to return to Pakistan and lead just one single anti-Nawaz procession in Lahore and that would be the end of him. This was a crucial time.
The Iraq war had begun and General Aslam Beg playing on the anti-American public sentiments to become a national hero, had come up with his theory of strategic defiance of an alliance between Pakistan, Syria, Iran and Iraq to defend the Islamic world.
One could see through his game. It was not a dream to pursue a wider Islamic goal but to establish himself as a hero to replace Mian Nawaz Sharif since Mian Sahib was supporting the American line. It is a matter of record that at no point Ms Bhutto called upon Beg to take over the government as he has claimed. Rather, her constant query would be what next if he takes over? The answer from his emissary used to be an interim government headed by one of the old guards earlier tried as interim prime minister by GIK, general elections in three months and inevitable return of Ms Bhutto as the prime minister.
Every time she was approached her answer was a big and firm NO to getting involved with Beg and his scheme of things. As a political leader she maintained that for her it was easier to tackle Mian Sahib as a politician and sort out things with him politically. And we used to discuss that if General Beg has decided to take over, who would guarantee that there would be general elections in three months and the country will not end up with yet another general in power for ten years. Since it sounded essentially more of a plot to teach Mian Nawz Sharif a lesson for annoying Beg and his cronies rather than a sincere move to serve democracy, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto did not hesitate a wee-bit to show indifference to his repeated offers. Moreover, being a politician and a Bhutto, her party did not believe in coming into power through the backdoor. Secondly, Generals cannot be trusted. To us Beg’s messages did not entail a promise for general elections but was more of a plot to bring the general in power.
Ms Bhutto’s lecture tour was soon over and we returned to Pakistan. It was at his family wedding held at the Polo Ground’s Moghul Baradri that I was once again approached by his and the emissary of the interim prime minister in waiting. These gentlemen — separately-- took me aside and beseeched me to convince Ms Bhutto to accept Aslam Beg’s offer of intervention with the ultimate goal of “facilitating her return as prime minister” after three months.
I may add here that while we were in the United States I was also getting telephone calls from my dear journalist friends from Pakistan and they would all say “ask Bibi to cut her visit short, there is an anti-Nawaz wave and one procession against him in Lahore would send him home”. And some of them disappointed by my negative answer advised us not to return to Pakistan. As in America, I discussed the proposal again with Ms Bhutto in Karachi and she was firm in her no to it as usual.
I am sure those with strong memory would recall how annoyed by her obduracy, General Beg, President Ishaq and the gang sent a strong emissary — a minister in Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi’s interim government-- to tell her that she should leave Pakistan otherwise her husband Asif Zardari, then incarcerated on unproved charges, would meet the fate of ZAB. Even with these threats she could not be browbeaten. I remember the day when one of Beg’s emissaries told her on the issue of Jam Sadiq Ali that it shall be ensured that he calls on her on his knees, seeks her forgiveness and that everything will be telecast on PTV.
All these cajoling offers backed by threats of extermination did cause lot of dismay and depression even among her supporters like me. Everyday there were leaks in the media that Bibi has succumbed to retire from politics and go into exile obviously to save her husband from death. And a time came when I could not resist asking her the question -- since we had burnt our boats for higher ideals — after all such stories meant end of the world for people like me who had stood by her because of our political convictions and unflinching faith in Bhutto leadership.
I will never forget her answer to my question. It was very candid and forthright. I do not remember her exact words but they were almost as follows. “Yes. I feel grievous pain when I see my husband’s sufferings but do you think that I will sacrifice my father’s shaadat (martyrdom), his commitment to the poor masses and his last commandment to me to serve them. I’m not that selfish. After all I have to live and uphold the great legacy of my father whose last words to me were, ‘It is the cause that makes a man or a woman great’ ”. After that no questions were ever asked. Ever since, she has bravely withstood the onslaught of her adversaries. While likes of Aslam Begs and GIKs have moved into dustbin of history from position of their absolute authority, Benazir Bhutto remains the unchallenged leader of the people.
I am sure the facts mentioned above will bury deep down Beg Sahib’s claim that Ms Bhutto urged him to take over in 1991. Beg Sahib, you can fool the people some time but not all the time.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.