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Lt. General Shahid Aziz – a hypocrite and a liar

By Zahid Hussain

The recently-published memoirs of Lt. General (Retd) Shahid Aziz is more of an apology than an honest documentation of his life and time in the Army. At best, he comes across as a self-righteous retired general.  The voluminous and somewhat elegiac memoirs, titled  ‘Yeh Khamoshi Kaha Tak, Ek Spy Ki Dastan-e-Ishaq-o-Janoon,’ gives some insight into a twisted mindset of a man who was until recently a part of the highest echelon of the country’s national security establishment.

His narrative brings out a deeply conflicted and hypocritical worldview, though not uncommon among many of our retired senior military officers. It is all about self-aggrandizement of his religiosity and   uprightness that sounds a bit hollow, given the general’s past. His sympathy for the militants fighting the Army and who are found beheading Pakistani soldiers raises questions about his allegiance.

The general opposes the military campaign against insurgents in the tribal areas. Yet there is no criticism of militants who orchestrate the violence and suicide bombings that have killed thousands of innocent Pakistanis. He attributes terrorist violence entirely to the US and Western conspiracy to destabilize Pakistan.

The apologists of the Taliban often present such conspiracy theories, but this coming from a man who held important national security responsibilities is quite chilling.  The paranoia and the weird discourse that he puts across should give little confidence to Pakistanis about their national security apparatus.

He presents his own vision of an Islamic system devoid of democracy where pious and religious men will run the country. He brags a lot about his love for Islam and his piety. But he was not known to be as pious as he pretends to be in the Army. I recall seeing him in early 1999, soon after he joined the ISI, at a top businessman’s party in Islamabad whose salon was frequented by top military officials. He was obviously intoxicated—and believe me not by a soft drink. He was a regular guest at such parties.

The General sees most of Pakistan’s problems caused by its alliance with the US. But it was intriguing that many Western diplomats who I met in 2004 were anxious to see him promoted to the position of Vice Chief of the Army Staff. Coming from a military-family background, General Shahid Aziz held some pivotal positions during his career in the army spanning over 37 years. His rise to the top came after the 1999 military coup in which he played a critical role as Director General Military Operations (DGMO). He shows no remorse for the part he played in ousting an elected government. He considers democracy “a corrupt and un-Islamic system.”

The general’s contempt for the civilian rule was so strong that he considered resigning from the Army in mid-1990s because he felt humiliated that he saluted to the country’s elected Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. That says a lot about the mindset of a born-again Islamist general.  Such attitude towards the civilian leaders is not uncommon among other senior military officers. That also explains his role in the plot to overthrow an elected government a few years later. Shahid Aziz was appointed to the powerful position of the Chief of General Staff (CGS) soon after 9/11. It was the time when Pakistan was forced to abandon its longstanding support for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and align with the US in the war on terror.

Several senior army commanders who opposed the turnaround in Pakistan’s policy were purged out by General Musharraf and the Army high- command was overhauled. Shahid Aziz benefitted from the reshuffle and was elevated as the CGS. This made him a critical cog in Pakistan military’s support to the US war in Afghanistan. It is obvious that he had the full confidence of General Musharraf who, by the way, is related to him. The pious general now wails over what he describes as Pakistan’s “betrayal of Taliban and support for infidels in spilling the blood of Muslims.”  He spends “restless nights and prays for forgiveness of Allah for his sins.” Obviously, he could not have stayed as the CGS for long if he had been critical of Pakistan’s cooperation with US.

The question is: why did he accept to become the CGS in the first place if he did not agree with the policy? Why was he not purged out as many did because they showed dissent to the policy? It sounds ludicrous that as the CGS he did not know about the bases that Pakistan had given to the US forces for logistical support. It seems bizarre when he narrates, quite dramatically, how he felt when a junior army officer told him about the US troops landing near Gwadar. If he was so piqued by it why did not he resign, one may ask. Not only did the ‘upright’ general stay on, but he also got the prized posting of the Corps Commander, Lahore. He remained part of the military hierarchy when the Pakistani troops were sent to the tribal areas. The operation was launched after Al Qaeda and other militant groups made the tribal areas as their base for attacks in Afghanistan. But the general now believes that the operation against the insurgents was part of the US conspiracy to pit “Muslims against Muslims.”

 He fails to show any remorse for the terrorist attacks on innocent citizens and his former colleagues in uniform. The General reserves the most scathing attack for his former patron, General Musharraf. He accuses him of taking away Pakistan from the path of Islam and encouraging an “immoral Western culture.” He sees Musharraf’s enlightened moderation as part of a US conspiracy to subjugate Muslims culturally.  The paranoid general believes the media freedom in Pakistan serves US interests. Of course, it does not prevent him from frequently appearing on TV channels to air his twisted worldview. The writer is a senior journalist and author of two books on security and terrorism.

The author is a senior journalist and author and writes regularly for DAWN

Courtesy: The Spokesman

 

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8 Comments

  1. when i first saw his interview with mehar bukhari i some how felt some fakeness in his mannerism i agree with mr zahid hussain in his analysis

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  2. Mr. Zahid!
    I respectfully want to tell you that the above piece of art is well written but is just “What you think”. It is just your perception about this man, and I am sorry to tell you that your perception i.e. your reality about Shahid aziz is flawed :)

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  3. Mr Zahid!
    I agree with Mr Shehiryar Ahmed. Whole commentary is biased as on one side you stated the person as a drinker, hypocrite and a liar and on the other side you placed him as an Islamist. This is the way, secular fascists deal alike. One thing is enough about his character that he bravely accepted all his errors. Mr Shehiryar Ahmed is correct, your assumptions are flawed.

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  4. I REALLY DON’T KNOW THIS GENERAL BUT I KNOW GENERAL PERVEZ MUSHARRAF. I HAVE SEEN HIM FROM A VERY CLOSE DISTANCE WHEN SERVING UNDER HIS COMMAND AS 2IC. HE MIGHT HAVE GONE WRONG IN MANY OF HIS DECISIONS BUT I KNOW HE IS AN EFFICIENT, TRUSTWORTHY AND PATRIOTIC PERSON. I PERSONALLY FEEL HE SHOULD NOT HAVE PLAYED IN THE HANDS OF CORRUPT POLITICIANS ESPECIALLY THE NRO SCENARIO. I FEEL VERY SAD WHEN A BRAVE SOLDIER LIKE HIM IS RIDICULED LIKE THIS.

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  5. I have had the privilege of working with Lt. Gen Shahid Aziz. He is neither a liar, nor a hypocrite. He is a typical soldier, perhaps at some point in his life had a narrow vision, but he is an honest, balanced and bold man – of course that does not make him perfect. On the one hand Mr. Zahid Hussain calls him just a cog in the military machine and on the other he expects him to have stood up and resigned. I must confess I have not read his book, but I feel if someone is honest, accepts his mistakes, repents for his misdeeds, begs forgiveness, even Allah gives him a second chance.

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  6. I have read the book and it does raise some valid points, like bowing down to US after 9/11. and you say that these terrorists kill Muslims but I want to ask you that who was it that stabbed them in the back just to please US?and who is responsible of thousands of Afghan deaths which happened due to US jet bombings which took off from jacobabad airbase? who bombed and killed the tribesmen in FATA? now when these tribesmen hit back they are called terrorists.if you slap me for no resaon I will definitely slap you back, if someone bombs another just to please his master then he should expect them to fight back.

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  7. How it goes:
    1. Tigers from Afghanistan go and savage the Elephants on their hometurf. The same tigers also roam freely in Pakistan.
    2. The Elephants gather themselves, and with memories as long as their trunks, attack the Tigers’ den. And warn neighbors that they will seek tigers wherever they are.
    3. Pakistan has no option but to comply.
    4. So the Elephants enter into Pakistan as and when they like in pursuit of the tigers.
    5. Once Elephants enter a party, lot of furniture gets broken.
    6. And it is difficult and time consuming to remove them.
    7. Once within Pakistan they notice potential of future rebellion and global autonomy based on Pakistan’s nuclear capability and decide to do something about that as well.

    SO STOP MAKING A SIMPLE MATTER COMPLEX FOR THE SAKE OF CONTINUING READERSHIP.

    MEDIA IS MORE GUILTY IN MAKING US WHAT WE HAVE BECOME SINCE 9/11. IT WAS THE DUTY OF THE MEDIA SINCE 9/11 TO WORK TOGETHER AND SHAPE OUR PUBLIC OPINION IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF PAKISTAN. But the Media was too busy garnering readership, taking bribes from the foreign masters, getting newspaper paper quotas from the Govt. to act independently and appropriately.

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  8. I have read Gen Shahid Aziz’s book from beginning to end. I had expected that a retired General would talk about his military experience and suggestions for reform if any. Instead his constant refrain is to prove himself the most upright , sagacious and pious officer. He has even included some certificates to that effect. Then he goes on to sermonize Pakistanis ad nauseam. He would have made another Gen Zia-ul-Haq–albeit a worse version– if he had the chance.
    By and large I agree with Mr Zahid Hussain’s analysis of him. The General’s proposals are all hare brained.

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