General Raheel Sharif saved the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 2014 when he rejected the idea of a military intervention to topple the Nawaz government. This was revealed by well-known author and defence analyst Shuja Nawaz in his latest book titled “The Battle for Pakistan, The Bitter US Friendship and a Tough Neighborhood.” Shuja Nawaz lived in US and brother of former army chief (late) Gen Asif Nawaz Janjua. He is considered as the most authentic writer and analyst on the Pakistan military and US relations.
Shuja Nawaz quoted in his book Former United States Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson as saying that former Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif had thwarted a coup attempt in 2014. “We received information that Zahirul Islam, the DG ISI, was mobilising for a coup in September of 2014. (Army Chief) Raheel (Sharif) blocked it by, in effect, removing Zahir, by announcing his successor…(Zahir) was talking to the corps commanders and was talking to likeminded army officers…He was prepared to do it and had the chief been willing, even tacitly, it would have happened. But the chief was not willing, so it didn’t happen.”
The former US ambassador in Pakistan Richard Olson made this comment in the context of the protest sit-ins, or “dharna”, of Imran Khan in 2014. This has confirmed the revelation of PML-N senator and senior leader Mushah-ud-dullah Khan- who claimed that DG ISI Lt Gen Zaheer ul Islam was trying to destablise the PML-N government during the sit-in of PTI and PAT in Islamabad in 2014. Mushah ud dullah was forced to resign from his ministry after making these comments during a TV interview.
Shuja Nawaz has only confirmed the already existing perception about the PTI sit-in. The real motive was to topple the PML-N government through a military intervention to hold the fresh elections or to install a technocratic government. Imran Khan always denied to have sided with some elements within establishment to topple the PML-N government.
Veteran political leader Javed Hashmi also alleged Imran Khan for acting on the advice of some military officers during the sit-in in 2014. Now it has become clear that 2014 sit in was not against rigging as it was told us but to overthrow the PML-N government through a military coup.
In his latest 373 page book- Shuja Nawaz has covered the US-Pakistan relationship and important political events of the last decade and a half in Pakistan. His previous book, “Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army and the Wars Within,” is considered the most authoritative and accurate history of the Pakistan Army.
In his latest book- Shuja Nawaz provided insight into the American surveillance in Pakistan. The American intelligence targeted several top military officials and leading figures to collect information. There was a wide spread and deep rooted American surveillance network in Pakistan. DG ISI Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha tried to contain this network. General Pasha was a prime target of American surveillance. He was being tracked during his travels abroad. The book provides details on the surveillance of Lt Gen Pasha.
According to the book, he (Pasha) became an activist and an aggressive head of the country’s largest intelligence agency, expanding its operations and remit virtually at will and demanding greater access to information on US operations and operatives inside Pakistan.
Shuja Nawaz also states that during his (Pasha’s) tenure, 3 Pakistan-US joint intelligence fusion cells were shut down. According to Nawaz, Pasha was a bête noire for Americans.
The book says that, after Pasha’s retirement, the new ISI head Lt Gen Zahirul Islam was consumed by domestic issues. Islam spent most of his time on the political turmoil following the 2013 elections, which produced public sit-ins, or “dharnas”, by Imran Khan’s PTI and allies against the government.
Both Pasha and Zaheer’s names were associated with the street opposition to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif; though no solid evidence came to the surface. Gen Zaheer was also a former head of one of the ISI’s wings or directorates, and then had been in the hurly-burly of Karachi politics as the corps commander there,” notes the book. Nawaz adds that Zaheer’s earlier experience at the ISI had been in monitoring Pakistani internal politics. Zaheer’s activism was not “lost on US embassy.”
Shuja Nawaz adds US surveillance of the ISI and its head continued after Pasha. Islam’s successor at the ISI, General Rizwan Akhtar, was a US-trained officer and maintained a good relationship with his US counterparts. However, he struggled to make an impression on his interlocutors, especially when it came to matters of detail discussions about the Afghan war.
American criticism was harsh. One US official recalled that in a meeting on Afghan reconciliation, Akhtar did not even remember the names of leading Afghan Taliban field commanders. He was a hands-on DG ISI and reportedly showed up in Karachi frequently, where he had earlier served as DG Rangers. According to Nawaz, Akhtar took charge of the Karachi operation without even informing the ISI’s sector commander in that city. Due to his hands-on approach, Akhtar was unpopular in the ISI and even in the Army, according to Shuja Nawaz.
While giving details of Akhtar’s exit from the ISI and later from Army, Nawaz adds that “Akhtar failed to win the confidence of the new army chief Gen Bajwa and resigned by taking early retirement.” Akhtar was succeeded by another US-trained officer Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar, a successful and active corps commander in Karachi. Mukhtar was a graduate of the Army War College Carlisle, PA.
The latest book by Shuja Nawaz is filled with firsthand accounts of Pakistani and US officials with direct purview of important political events in Pakistan and Afghanistan for a critical period of the region’s history.
This book provides lot of information and insight into the events in the region and thinking of Pakistani military top brass about US –Afghanistan and security issues. The book also provides deep inside into the troubled relations between Pakistan and US over Afghan policy. The suspicions and mistrust of American officials about Pakistani military officials were also clearly illustrated in the book.
The author Shuja Nawaz has the access to both American and Pakistani security officials. It helps him to get the firsthand information from both sides. This book has lot to offer to all those who wants to get information and insight into Pakistan and US relations.
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17 November, 2019