ISLAMABAD: Several hundred retired armed forces men on Thursday urged their colleague, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, to hand over power to the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and join their ranks but most of their leaders refused to apologise for their past roles against democracy.
Led by some high-profile generals, air marshals and admirals, these ex-servicemen also demanded that retired Justice Bhagwandas be appointed as the Chief Election Commissioner and the detained nuclear scientist, Dr AQ Khan, be either released or tried in a court.
Except for retired Lt-Gen Hamid Gul, none of the leaders showed moral courage by making an admission of guilt or apologising to the nation for their past. They did not even feel any embarrassment on their roles when asked by newsmen at a press conference.
The former DG of ISI, Lt-Gen (retd) Hamid Gul, not only admitted the wrongdoings he had committed as a spy chief, he also submitted an apology to the nation and said he was ready for any punishment, even to be hanged.
“I am ready for a trial or even hanging,” Gul told the gathering of ex-servicemen in open door proceedings. His words, however, failed to move the other architects and supporters of martial law who were sitting on the stage. They included retired Lt-Gen Faiz Ali Chishti, Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, Air Marshal Asghar Khan, Lt-Gen Majid Malik and Lt-Gen Asad Durrani. They showed no remorse for their past conduct.
Air Marshal Asghar Khan, who awas presiding over the meeting, was annoyed when he was asked about his past role and whether he was ready to apologise. “These were individual acts of different individuals,” he responded.
He did not respond when a journalist questioned their moral authority to preach others when they did not feel embarrassed on the wrongdoings of their past. The convener of Thursday’s meeting, Brig (retd) Mehmood, who had said only a day earlier that he would offer an apology on behalf of all the ex-servicemen, remained seated on the stage with his head down, as if trying to avoid the media and had no courage to act on his words.
Although, the retired servicemen expressed solidarity with lawyers and journalists community, vowing to participate in their rallies, they gave no timeframe for launching a movement against Musharraf on their own. They instead said nothing had been decided as yet.
They even conceded that they might not do anything concrete in future. Asghar Khan said many of them had their near and dear ones in the government, a major hurdle in their way to call the spade a spade. Asghar Khan’s own brother, Farooq Rehmatullah, is the DG Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
A demand raised by a retired navy commodore, Shahid Nawaz, also went unheeded. He had asked for en masse resignations of all ex-servicemen presently working in government departments. “If this strategy is not feasible, then out-of-job ex-servicemen should surrender all medals, awards and pension books to protest against Musharraf’s stay in power,” he demanded, but this demand also went unheard by the retired generals.
The Thursday’s meeting virtually turned into a comedy programme as it was marred by indiscipline largely by ex-servicemen, who would pick up quarrel with journalists when questions regarding their own accountability were put to the Chair Asghar Khan.
However, they did at least one job by hooting down a proposal that Lt-Gen (retd) Abdul Majeed Malik should be included in the committee that was to make a list of demands of Thursday’s meeting during the lunch break.
Air Marshal Asghar Khan, who was chairing the meeting, told a press briefing that ex-servicemen demanded stepping down of President Musharraf and that power should be handed over to the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to hold elections under a neutral caretaker set-up.
Khan also demanded the re-constitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan with Justice Bhagwandas as its chief. Khan said the ex-servicemen would extend full support to the protest rallies staged by journalists and lawyers. The meeting demanded that disgraced hero, Dr AQ Khan, should be either released or tried in a court of law, instead of being kept under illegal detention.
Khan, however, remained uncomfortable while facing critical journalists with his colleagues sitting in the hall, yelling ‘planted question’ whenever a query about their accountability was put to him.
In most cases, he said: “We have not decided yet”. He refused to take questions on self-accountability and was pressed time and again that he himself was among the strong supporters of General Zia’s martial law and the person sitting next to him, Lt-Gen (retd) Faiz Ali Chishti, was Commander 10 Corps when Zia had taken over and later collaborated with him in all his acts.
Questioners also mentioned Gen (retd) Beg under whose stint as Army chief the Mehran Bank scandal took place and the then president had nominated his successor three months before Beg’s retirement as a pre-emptive measure keeping in view his political ambitions.
But neither Asghar Khan showed the grace to admit any wrongdoing nor did Chishti and Beg. Speaking on his own behalf and the two others, Khan said: “Whatever happened in the past has happened. There were individuals involved, not all ex-servicemen.”
Lt-Gen. (retd) Abdul Majid Malik, who spoke earlier, said many blunders were committed in the past but regretted that only the blunders committed by the Army had been exploited. Malik left the venue before the press conference when the majority of those present said ‘no’ to the proposal of nominating him as a committee member for furnishing the list of demands.
United4Justice: Its great to see our soldiers (a soldiers remains a soldier for life unless he becomes a dictator) back in the field (this time the right way and for the right cause) to save the country from a dictator.
KEEP IT UP!