Return of the `Midnight Jackal`?

Published Apr 08, 2009 12:00am

ISLAMABAD, April 7 Major Amir, who allegedly conspired and collaborated with others to topple the first Benazir Bhutto government, is said to have developed close relations with the Pakistan People's Party top leadership.

Party sources told Dawn that Major Amir, a former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) operative, had held a few meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari. However, what was discussed in the meetings remains unclear.

The sources said that Major Amir was part of the president's entourage that accompanied him on his visit to Saudi Arabia in November 2008.

They added that some PPP leaders were quite surprised to see him around.

Major Amir confirmed the recent thaw in relationship between himself and the PPP top leadership.

“Let it be no surprise that I have had a cordial relationship with the PPP leadership for the past few years,” he asserted.

Asked what he discussed during his meetings with the president, he said, obliquely, that they had exchanged views on the issues of mutual interest.

However, the presidential spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, denied reports of meetings between Major Amir and President Zardari.

“I have never seen Major Amir in the Presidency during my stay. Moreover, I have not seen his name in any of the scheduled meetings of the president,” he said. But Mr Babar could not explain why Major Amir had been included in President Zardari's entourage to Saudi Arabia.

Major Amir and Brigadier Imtiaz were the two main characters of “Operation Midnight Jackal” that was reportedly launched to topple the first Benazir Bhutto government in 1989.

The ISI had reportedly launched the operation to make Pakistan People's Party MNAs support a no-confidence motion against their own prime minister.

According to the then director-general of the Intelligence Bureau, Masood Sharif Khattak, Major Amir and Brigadier Imtiaz were caught on video and audiotapes influencing some PPP parliamentarians.

But in an earlier interview with DawnNews, Major Amir and Brig Imtiaz had contradicted the reports of their involvement in the conspiracy.

Major Amir claimed he was acting on the specific directives of the then ISI director-general, Shamsur Rehman Kallue, who was an appointee of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

He claimed that he was acting to identify the black sheep within the ranks of the PPP. He offered the same version of events to the board in the GHQ which heard his case during court martial proceedings. The former ISI operative conceded that he kept a watchful eye on the treasury MNAs who were expected to support the no-confidence motion against the then prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

Sources said Major Amir would never have been able to find a place close to Benazir Bhutto. They added that some close aides of President Zardari helped Major Amir make his acquaintance.

The former ISI operative used to be a special adviser to former NWFP chief minister Sardar Mehtab Abbasi, a close aide of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

By then, Major Amir was said to be in the good books of the PML-N top leader. But this is not what the PML-N spokesman thought.

“He was just an adviser to Sardar Mehtab. But he did not have any close contact with Mian Nawaz Sharif,” PML-N spokesman Siddiqul Farooq claimed.

A political pundit, who has access to some important drawing rooms in Islamabad, did not rule out the possibility of the former ISI operative being given an important political assignment to deal with right-wing media or fundos or both.

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