The return of the Daylight Jackals
WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD: The main characters of the famous ‘Midnight Jackals’ operation of the late 1989 Benazir era have now returned to the TV screens and front pages of newspapers to speak about their adventures, blaming everybody else but themselves, and portraying themselves in their new role as great promoters of truth and honesty.
Exactly 20 years later, again in a PPP-Zardari era, why and what these characters are doing have turned out to be the greatest political mystery with major political parties and leaders sucked into the storm blaming each other for unleashing these hounds. The multi-million dollar question ‘who is behind this latest sky dive into the past’ remains unanswered.
An investigation by The News revealing scattered links and connecting the dots may lead to formation of a composite picture of the people behind this great diversion from the burning issues of the day.
A few weeks ago, a top diplomat flew into Dubai and then Islamabad for intensive consultations with the PPP leadership on how to divert the national media and political focus from the so-called Minus-one and Minus-Zardari formulas based on the NRO cases pending in the Supreme Court, the demand for a trial of General Musharraf and the pressure to scrap the 17th Amendment. These issues had dominated Islamabad drawing rooms and were popping up in TV shows and columns every now and then.
Several options were discussed, insiders in Islamabad and Washington revealed to The News. The sources of these anti-Zardari campaigns was determined to be some parts of the Rawalpindi establishment, a major part of the media groups backed by the PML-N which was said to be using this campaign to build pressure on Zardari for conceding the changes in the 17th Amendment.
It was repeatedly argued that Washington was getting unusually jittery and unsure about political stability in Pakistan and the flow of generous aid, directly from Washington and through the Friends of Pakistan forum, may be delayed or massively cut if this critical issue was not addressed immediately.
The US diplomats and even spokespersons of Friends of Pakistan had in so many ways and so many times conveyed the decision that no direct cash aid would be available as long as the credibility of the process reached some acceptable comfort level. The past of the PPP leadership was hounding its present, in a way.
Thus the strategists reached the conclusion that it would be a good idea if the past of the alternate leadership, which meant the PML-N and in a roundabout way the military establishment, was exposed so that the aid-givers get the message that whoever ruled Pakistan, the issue of credibility would remain a burning question and thus it would be pointless to deprive the PPP leadership of the much-needed aid on this pretext.
It was also agreed that the judges of the restored Supreme Court be entangled in cases challenging their own legitimacy and credibility and thus forcing some of the known radical judges from opting out of hearing the NRO cases. Sacked Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar was also to be activated to stand up and challenge his removal. General Musharraf will also become active and use his millions and his Peerzadas, Malik Qayyums and Saifs to bombard the courts and the media.
The deep wound being felt by the presidency was, however, the so-called “positive intervention” of the Pakistan Army chief on the night of March 15 and 16 when President Zardari was forced to restore Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Zardari was on record, on national TV channels and internationally, claiming that Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had become political and would never be restored but he had to eat the humble pie. He would never forget the insult.
Another sticking point was that aid for military operations, especially in Swat, Malakand and Fata, was continuing and since it was coming directly to the Army in shape of reimbursements, the political leadership was feeling isolated, somewhat humiliated and not in total control. They were being denied dollars because of the trust deficit but Pindi was enjoying the full trust. This situation was not tenable for some.
Thus the strategy evolved had to have several components. One was to deflect the Minus-one formula from Zardari. Officially the term ‘Minus-one’ was recognised by ministers on the media and attacks were launched claiming that no one could remove Zardari because it would invoke the Sindh card.
On a subtle note presidential aides and cronies, and even some diplomats, started calling their friends and media supporters bad-mouthing the intelligence agencies and some top echelons of the Army establishment. The anti-Pindi whispering campaign was so vicious that even some foreign journalists in Islamabad were surprised at the madness of such a campaign which could ultimately end up in another Oct 12, 1999-like situation when the sitting Army chief was sacked.
The ultimate component of the counter-Minus-one plan was to launch the Daylight Jackals. This would serve several purposes. It would hit at the military establishment, the intelligence agencies and cut the politicians who were now claiming to be larger than life to their size. Resurrecting the Mehrangate scandal would be the ideal tactic. The main character of the 1989 scandal, Brigadier Imtiaz Ahmed would be the best person to stir this hornet’s nest.
In his mind Brig Imtiaz, who was close to Nawaz Sharif in the past, was feeling left out after the PML-N staged a comeback in the 2008 elections and formed its government in the Punjab. When everybody else from the past had been accommodated, why not him? That was enough for him to settle some scores. It was time to strike back. He agreed to join the planning and launching of the operation.
On Aug 17, 2009, shortly after 12 noon, Brigadier Imtiaz walked into the headquarters of the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) in Islamabad to meet its Chairman Ali Arshad Hakeem. A reporter of The News saw him being escorted by the PR personnel of the Ministry of Interior. Enquiries revealed that the Brigadier had been visiting the Nadra for several days. Some of the known media cronies of the presidency in Islamabad had also been seen visiting the Nadra office frequently during these days while at night these guys would meet and plot their strategy in an F-7 house, near Restaurant Civil Junction. A Radio Pakistan executive had also allowed them to use one of the Radio Pakistan annexe in sector H-8 to late night meetings and parties.
The background of the Nadra chairman revealed more when The News investigation moved forward. His official introduction at the Nadra web site says: “Ali Arshad Hakeem has a dynamic professional background in both public and private sector organisations of Pakistan as well as abroad, and had joined the Nadra as chairman on August 12, 2008. His versatile experience had brought many value additions and a completely service oriented vision to the Nadra. He not only served in Pakistan’s Central Board of Revenue for ten years at senior management positions but had also been closely involved with business process outsourcing operations, computerisation of land records and automation of customs process in Pakistan. His special interests include data mining for national security & poverty alleviation. He holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, Business Administration and Law and believes in an optimistic change through innovation in various business and economic ventures.”
But Ali Arshad Hakeem is the son of Major-General (retd) Arshad Hakeem who was very close to Brig Imtiaz during the late 80s, serving in Karachi. Ali Arshad Hakeem also has deep family terms with Faryal Talpur, the sister of President Zardari and thus is very close to Mr Zardari who appointed him as the Nadra chairman, a highly sensitive position in view of the database it controls.
Days after his meetings at the Nadra, an important journalist of the official news agency APP started calling TV anchors and media persons on behalf of Brig Imtiaz and each time he handed over the phone to the brigadier who wanted himself on the screens. Many anchors have gone on record to say the brigadier was too eager and ready to spills the beans. One anchor wrote that the brigadier said he wanted to explode a “political nuclear bomb”. That he was going to spill the beans against his own self was irrelevant and unimportant but this time he was trying to compensate the PPP for ‘Midnight Jackals’ against Benazir Bhutto.
The other members of the team would call up every friend and ìinterestedî media person to highlight the revelations of Brig Imtiaz and for days and weeks nothing else should be discussed on the media. They were quite successful in achieving that goal, while the presidency would keep on denying that any cell existed in that house on the hill. Factually the cell was not in the presidency.
The smell of the rat about his Nadra connections became pungent when The News talked to him on the subject and tried to get his version about why he was frequently going to the Nadra under escort of the Interior Ministry officials, a fact which the Interior Ministry officially denied. He was also asked as to what were his relations with the Nadra chairman.
The wily brigadier first denied any relation with Nadra Chairman Ali Arshad Hakeem. That was his first mistake. He said that he had visited Nadra headquarters in mid August to get a new identity card as his old CNIC had expired. He said he chose to visit Nadra headquarters as other Nadra offices meant for this took a long time while Nadra headquarter could issue the card in 24 hours. He said that two days he visited Nadra headquarters for his CNIC and then later on he came to know that CNIC of his wife had also expired so he had to visit Nadra for two more days.
His second mistake was that he claimed that he had no relationship with Ali Arshad Hakeem and took appointment to meet him through some other person.
Another slip of the tongue was when he praised Ali Arshad Hakeem and said he was an important part of the present government and playing an excellent role in addressing different issues.
Sticking to his stand that he had no relations with Ali Arshad Hakeem, Brig Imtiaz said during his meetings no matter of the past was discussed at any stage.
However, Ali Arshad Hakeem, whose father Major General (retd) Hakeem Arshad Qureshi remained DMLA Karachi in eighties, when approached by The News admitted that Brigadier Imtiaz was ìa close friend of his deceased father and we have close family relationsî. He called him an Uncle.
He confirmed his meetings with Brigadier Imtiaz in mid August in his office in Nadra headquarters but categorically denied discussing any political thing with his uncle Imtiaz.
But Hakeem confirmed his close relations with President Asif Ali Zardari. Hakeem confirmed that as his father was DMLA Karachi and Munawar Talpur, husband of President Zardariís sister Faryal Talpur, was member of the Majlis Shura, both the families enjoyed close ties.
Talking to The News he said: “Yes, I have close relations with President Asif Ali Zardari who has shown his confidence in me by appointing me as the chairman Nadra.” Hakeem also admitted that he has frequent meetings with President Asif Zardari.
But on the record Hakeem only said: “All these meetings are of professional nature and have nothing to do with politics.”
After these statements of Ali Arshad Hakeem, when Brig Imtiaz was again contacted on Wednesday he conceded having very close ties with the family of Ali Arshad Hakeem.
When he was asked that a reporter had seen him escorted by Interior Ministry officials, Brig Imtiaz denied having any links with the interior ministry and started criticising Interior Minister Rehman Malik. In a direct way he also threatened that he would react “very badly” if this was published.
The nervousness and almost panic in the body language and talk of Brigadier Imtiaz revealed more than he did. He did not need a third person to get an appointment with the Nadra chairman, who called him an uncle. He did not need to make repeated visits to collect or get is or his wife’s ID cards. For uncles the cards are delivered at home. What else were these meetings for hours were discussing when cronies of the presidency were also present.
When the storm was unleashed by his statements and the military establishment and the agencies were being targeted in the media, abused and humiliated, there was visible jubilation in the presidential camp. One close aide of the president called a TV anchor in Dubai, to claim that now the focus has been diverted from Mr Zardari and at least for a few weeks we will not have sleepless nights.
Others who had plotted the scheme to re-launch Brig Imtiaz were celebrating the success in their own domains. An old media manager of the IJI, an important part of ‘Daylight Jackals’, was heard by many congratulating his associates and issuing warnings that much more was about to come if President Zardari was attacked again.
The part of the plot to attack the legitimacy of the restored judges has also been launched and sacked CJ Dogar has come on record saying he would challenge his removal in the Supreme Court.
The legal team of General Musharraf has started its comings and goings and Justice Malik Qayyum has flown to Jeddah to meet the former president where Interior Minister Rehman Malik had been a royal visitor days ago.
The part of the plot to attack the media is yet to be implemented as the operation is not yet over. The Americans, nevertheless, remain deeply suspicious and skeptical. As their first move they have already announced that out of the promised $1.5 billion aid under the Kerry-Lugar Bill, the PPP government will only get about $180 million next fiscal. That would be peanuts and would speak volumes about the confidence the Zardari regime enjoys in Washington and with Friends of Pakistan.
Presidency and govt speak: At least three important PPP leaders and spokespersons separately denied having links with Brig Imtiaz controversy or his meetings with the Nadra chairman.
Spokesman for the presidency, Farhatullah Babar while talking to The News said that keeping in view the past and credibility of Brig Imtiaz, no person would like to meet him.
He said he think that a government officer like Ali Arshad Hakeem would have never met such a person or allow such a person to visit his office. When told that both Ali and Brigadier have confirmed not one but at least four meetings at the Nadra headquarters, Babar said that he couldnít say what might have been discussed in these meeting and only Ali Arshad Hakeem could comment on this.
Babar, however, insisted that Ali Arshad Hakeem has no relation with President Asif Ali Zardari and that he is only the chairman of Nadra.
Government spokesman and federal Information Minister Qamaruzzaman Kaira when approached by The News and asked to comment on this entire situation insisted that before discussing this situation one must consider the chronology of events. He said that present blame game was started with the speech of the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
Kaira questioned The News that if there had been a cell in presidency or Brigadier Imtiaz was to speak on winking of this cell, why all this did not start before the speech of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. He said that after Chaudhry Nisarís allegations, one thing led to another, the media gave these allegations full coverage and a series of allegation and counter allegations were hurled at each other.
When Kaira was specifically asked about Brigadier Imtiaz’s meetings with Ali Arshad Hakeem at the Nadra headquarters, he did not deny these meetings, saying that many Army officers have been appointed in Nadra and chairman Nadra Ali Arshad Hakeem, being the son of an Army general would have some relations with Brigadier Imtiaz and that if these meetings took place they have no importance with regard to the present blame game.
Asked about close relations of Ali Arshad Hakeem with President Asif Ali Zardari, Kaira said: “There are always relations between people like we being in the government have relations with different politicians in the opposition.”
When Kaira was asked about any cell in the presidency working for this blame game and maligning the politicians, he said that he himself (Kaira) was the biggest cell.
He said that one of his statements made during a public meeting in Lahore was misunderstood. “Why are you asking me about other people when I am admitting that I am the cell,” Kaira said. When asked that whether this blame game is being done to tackle the Minus-one formula, Kaira said that there is no Minus-1 formula whatsoever.
On the question that whether presidency has some resentments over the intervention of the Pakistan Army on the night of March 15 in getting restored the deposed judges which sacked by the previous military dictator Pervez Musharraf, Kaira said there was no intervention of any kind from military in that issue.
“Your question that there was some military intervention is based on hypothesis so I would not comment on it,” Kaira concluded.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Tuesday the government and the PPP had no connection with the campaign launched by Brig Imtiaz, which, he thought, was apparently a move to protect Pervez Musharraf. He said in an interview: “We do not want to be a party to it, but Pakistan Muslim League-N has started a campaign based on baseless allegations against the PPP. Our party believes in politics of reconciliation ... I urge the opposition party to avoid playing blame-game. Let us sort out issues positively and politically.”
According to a report, when he was asked if the people who were behind Brig Imtiazís smear campaign against politicians were the same who launched the ëminus-oneí formula, Malik said he was not sure who was behind it. “But one thing I can say is that the minus-one formula is dead because the nation voted in PPPís favour, giving it the right to complete its tenure.”
He, however, hinted that Brig Imtiazís sudden appearance on the political scene might have been patronised by those who wanted to protect the former president.
Information Minister Kaira said the recent spate of statements by former intelligence chiefs would only harm national harmony. Kaira said the country already confronted many challenges, and maligning each other would only result in political anarchy.
guys wht are your thoughts, i really feel our beloved country is going down the drain becasue of these self centered idiots. Zardari pls pls dont try to be any worse then Gen. Mush, I beg u.
can some one summarize please i am not reading any thing this long about PPP or BARKDARI
YAALLAH S.W.T TU NABI S.A.W KAY GHUSTAKOON KAY SAAT WOH KER JO IN KAY SOOCH O GUMAAN SEH BAHIR HO
Last edited by lakha84; 4th September 2009 at 13:16.