Not on, general

Published July 9, 2006

FIRST subject : A red sticker on a note arrived with my July 7 morning tea : ‘Danger! Shaukat Aziz in town,’ it read. A second sticker reminded me : ‘CM’s hip replacement operation 0900 Aga Khan.’

The first message conveyed that for our sins the citizens of Karachi were to be bludgeoned with a visit to the city by the prime minister of the populous republic of Pakistan. We are paying by having mayhem inflicted on our roads, by having traffic blocked for hours, by massive traffic jams on all the main arteries which spill over into the bye-lanes and side roads. How was I to get to the hospital where the most senior male member of my family, now 84, was to have his operation? I would have to detour — travel from Bath Island to Clifton to Korangi on to Malir, then back through Malir Cantonment to Karachi University and hope to get to the hospital in time.

Why was the prime minister raiding Karachi, to re-disturb our already highly disturbed lives? He was to attend a Pakistan Navy parade and to inform the newly commissioned officers that “we recognise that peace is achieved through strength not weakness. As a responsible nuclear state we adhere to the principle of minimal credible deterrence.”

Which bright spark of an adviser writes his speeches? Why does he not tell his armed forces who it is who is out to conquer their moth-eaten, overpopulated, ignorant, hungry and thirsty country. What a pity it is — what hopes we all had when President General Pervez Musharraf appointed Shaukat as his third prime minister.

Second subject : July 8 brought with it an e-mail message seeking my help — the subject matter : ‘Asif Baladi kidnapped by ISI. Save his life!’ Baladi is a Sindhi ‘intellectual,’ a leader of a national rights movement. “Recently, Asif and his SNF announced the organisation of a Paigham-e-Sindh Conference at Bhit Shah in March 2007 to streamline Sindh’s essential message of peace, love and harmony to the rest of the world that alone offers stability and co-existence in the region. He believes in the unity of multiplicity of religions and equity of cultures .... and is a follower of Ahinsa, peaceful struggle for the new Sindh. Soon after this announcement he was picked up by ISI men while he was on the way to a friend in Karachi’s Defence area.”

Which of our clever spooks would know that ‘Ahinsa’ stands for Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s ‘Ahinsa parmo dharma,’ which means ‘non-violence is the supreme religion’? Now, how do we find Baladi?

Subject three : On September 6, 1965, Major Muhammad Taj and his unit were directed to get to the Khokhara Par border in Tharparkar district. Their assignment was to recapture Shakarbu ranger post some six miles away which had been occupied by the Indian army. They arrived at dawn to find activity on the Indian side. Major Taj attacked with a mobile force consisting of 16 men with MGs and RRs. The post was captured. Soon after, a rapid advance was made on the post by two Indian tanks accompanied by two rifle companies. Taj and his men opened fire, and L/Naik Khushi Muhammad took out on both tanks. Taj engaged the advancing Indians with mortar and machnegun fire, forcing them to withdraw, leaving behind a number of dead and two wrecked tanks. For this action, Taj was awarded Sitara-e-Jurat and Khushi Muhammad the Tamgha-e-Jurat.

Lt Colonel Muhammad Taj won his second SJ in 1971, in recognition of his performance in Dhaka during military action and the subsequent march to Rajshahi, fighting a number of battles en route. He crossed the Brahmaputra river, with its rapid flow, under the most adverse circumstances to capture Nagarban where battles were fought against the Mukti Bahini and defecting East Pakistan Regiment rangers.

This twice decorated officer retired from the army as a brigadier, and for many years has been living peacefully in his home (his castle?) in Islamabad. Peacefully, that is, until nine days ago. Why — is explained in a letter sent by Brigadier Taj to President General Pervez Musharraf on July 2 :

“Last night, an ISI major in plainclothes who called himself Tipu, with some 10 men also in plainclothes, armed with automatic weapons, entered my house and beat me, my daughter-in-law and my two grandsons.

“They kidnapped us and took us away to a deserted location where they threatened us with death if my grandson did not cooperate with them in identifying the children who had been involved in a playground incident with the relatives of a senior ISI officer.

“I told them that I was not aware of the incident but could ask the people in the neighbourhood to identity the children involved. We were brought to Faizabad in a convoy of at least five vehicles where the major proceeded to threaten the residents, and beat up and kidnapped another two boys. My daughter-in-law and grandsons were sent away to an undisclosed location by the major. In the meantime, a crowd of local residents gathered, freed me and took the major into custody. The Islamabad police, who had been called by the residents, arrived and took the major away.” Brigadier Taj went to the I-9 police station, filed an FIR, and then another ISI officer (also in plainclothes) appeared. Taj explained the situation to him, and the officer, a Colonel Nisar, ordered the release of Taj’s daughter-in-law and grandsons. They were dropped at a deserted location near his house in Sector I-8/4 an hour or so later. All three had torn clothes and were bruised and battered.

His letter ends : “I am 80 years old now and can only look to you, Sir, as the President of Pakistan and the Chief of the Pakistan Army that I also proudly served, to restore my dignity as an ex-army officer and protect my basic rights as a citizen of Pakistan, and to order immediate action against all officials involved in this criminal act.”

There were many witnesses to the incident that took place on the night of July 1. Three houses on Street 86, I-8/4 were targeted by armed men in two separate cavalcades of double-cabined vehicles. From one house, an ailing teenager awaiting heart surgery was dragged out of his house, thrown on to the street, beaten and then thrown into one of the vehicles. His mother tried to come to his aid but she was pushed aside, her clothes torn, and she also was loaded into a vehicle. Brigadier Taj was slapped, pushed, roughed up, and pushed into one of the double cabins, and the cavalcades sped away.

The mother and her sons were taken to the G-9 office of the ISI while Brigadier Taj was taken to Faizabad to identify the other teenagers involved. Two other boys were picked up and sent to an agency ‘safe house.’

What has happened since then? Well, on July 6, the Director-General of the Inter Services Public Relations, Major-General Shaukat Sultan expressed his ‘regrets’ over the incident. In his own words : “The incident is most unfortunate and extremely regrettable. This has been taken note of at the highest level. I assure you we are very concerned about the incident and action will be taken.” Strong words from a strong man!

Major ‘Tipu’ is supposedly a Pakistan Military Academy-trained man. What sort of men does this proud institution spawn, and who teaches them what?

Fourth subject : A woman friend of mine (who does not wish to be named for obvious reasons), on June 23 took her mother to a restaurant on Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman Road — a very crowded area. When she was driving away after dinner, her car touched another car, registration number AJD-775. She got out, and though no damage had been done, offered her profound apologies to the young boy driving the car. He got out, and while he roundly abused her, a woman in the car on her mobile telephone summoned reinforcements. Another car, AKB-754, arrived driven by another young man who got out, joined in the abuses and then slapped and punched her. She drove to Jinnah hospital and obtained a medico-legal report which she took to the local police station to lodge a complaint. The SHO refused to register an FIR as one of the boys was the son of a superintendent of police. Since then she has contacted the additional inspector-general of police, the Citizens Police Liaison Committee and the home minister seeking aid. None was forthcoming.

She came to me last week and I sent her off to IGP Sindh Jehangir Mirza, a good policeman and a good man. He had the cars traced and confiscated. My friend was called to the police station to identify the cars, which she did. The police informed her that now that the cars had been confiscated the boys would soon be identified. On Friday, July 7, I was told by the SHO of the Frere Police that the cars had been released on the orders of the IG — who has since confirmed to me that he had given no such orders. The matter is now being ‘investigated.’

End : Half of Karachi is without power and the other half without water. You are learned enough, general, to know that no government can survive on the misery of its people.

E-mail: arfc@cyber.net.pk

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