Vol-2, Jul 27-Aug 02, 2002 | ISSN:1684-0275 | satribune.com

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Special SAT Report

WASHINGTON: It is rare that any ISI operative, even a retired one, speaks out to the media. But Colonel Shuja Khanzada did so, five years after he was booted out by the political government and the army top brass did not come to his rescue.

His interview came after allegations in the Pakistani media that attempts were being by the then Benazir Bhutto Government to get the F-16’s money back from the United States to rush into buying new French Mirage planes through intermediaries, who would obviously make money.

This interview was recorded in late 1999 by Shaheen Sehbai on a long distance call to Attock, in Pakistan, where Mr Khanzada lived on his farms after resigning from the Pakistan Army as a Colonel in 1994. Some interruptions are regretted but they were technical and unavoidable.

SS: Colonel Shuja Khanzada, can you tell me, when did you come to Washington and what happened?

SK: I came in October 1992, and I was there till July 1994. This was the first time that an ISI officer was being posted to America. They were looking for a very professional officer and General Asad Durrani was the person who selected me and General Javaid Nasir finally then dispatched me though he was reluctant to dispatch me to America because I was doing a very good job here in Baluchistan and Afghanistan..

SS: You were in ISI at that time?

SK: I have worked in the field job in ISI for about 11-12 years.

SS: You were in the SSG (Commando units) before that?

SK: I have done a commando course, basically. I worked with them, and I was a very professional officer of the ISI, I have been working there for 12 years. I carried out one of the most difficult operational tasks assigned to me for the security of Pakistan. President Zia-ul-Haq conferred a gallantry award on me, that is Taghma-e-Basalat. I was given that because of all my operations, because of my professionalism. Then I came to America and then in July I got the orders to move back immediately to Pakistan.

SS: So, what was your experience like when you were here. You worked with how many ambassadors?

SK: I worked with Abida Hussain. Abida Hussain was a very professional lady. We had never met before, this was the first time that we were meeting and over the period of time she developed so much of confidence in me that she used to literally give me all the tasks and all the work , whatever was there on the Capitol Hill. She kept on introducing me to all the senators and congressmen and other people of the State Dept whom she knew. We had a very good team and we were doing a very good job. When she left, Akram Zaki came for a few days.

SS: But he never took charge, right?

SK: He was there for about a week or ten days in the office, he was there yes. The moment he came, he met me and said I have heard so much about you, you are going to be my right hand man here for working with me. It was a good experience with him. Mr Naqvi was then acting ambassador. We made a very good team and we had good harmony in the embassy. Then Dr Maleeha Lodhi came..

SS: So what was your experience with her?

SK: When she came to America, We had a good relationship. She said, I have heard a lot of praises from your DG ISI and I'll be needing your help. I assured her full support. We were really close. She would discuss anything with me and I could discuss anything with her and we were going fine. After some time I could make out things. Let me tell you a couple of things before that. In the last few months of Nawaz Sharif , there was a lot of pressure on the Americans, they wanted to undo Nawaz Sharif. That time Nawaz Sharif was very stable, the economy was picking up and he was doing an overall good job. We were going very strong in Kashmir. We were dominating Kashmir. The allegations of state-sponsored terrorism leveled by the Americans was a big pressure on Nawaz Sharif govt and the DG ISI who was then General Javaid Nasir. Now, in the meantime, Benazir came to America and she had come to Atlanta for CNN anniversary where she was the chief guest. She was accompanied by Zardari. I was told to go and receive her in Atlanta and be a protocol officer to her. When I went there to Atlanta, I went to receive her and got all arrangements for car etc ready, I saw that Mark Siegel was there also who was one time a lobbyist. When he saw me he was very upset and asked me what was I doing there. I told him I have come to receive the Leader of the Opposition. She said she would go with them. She had a number of other people to receive her.

A number of other (inaudible) on the committee were all there to receive her. She was more inclined to go to them than us. But we were staying at Omni Shoreham hotel . There at least we would have our breakfast with Benazir and Zardari. So I could make it out that she was getting a terrific reception in America. And she had been given appointments by all the people in the State Department, she had been even given appointment by the CIA chief and she kept insisting to me that her visit will solve a lot of problems. We'll get the F-16s and we'll do this and the state-sponsored terrorism charge will go. But I said at what cost. I hope it is not at the cost of nuclear program or Kashmir. She said no no, not at all. That was the main thing. Americans wanted to bring her over for that particular purpose. Roll back, one, and Kashmir, two and that she had agreed to totally. Then she came to Washington, met people. She met the CIA people. Khalid Hasan (journalist) was there, Zaidi (journalist) was there. Dr Fai (Kashmiri lobbyist) was there, I kept telling them these things. I said this is what I feel is happening. Whenever she comes, there will be a roll back. I told Dr. Fai to step up his campaign so that they don't get the impression that you are involved in the same issue. Now the (Nawaz Sharif) government was dismissed and finally she came over there, everything changed. Now, over the period of time, I felt that there is a roll back going on and the front at Kashmir was getting cold and this is not in the interest of Pakistan. Our security was being jeopardized because of this. Dr (Maleeha) sahiba was trying to get around for F-16s deal so that Pressler Amendment is repealed. I was of the opinion that there were two remaining installments of F-16s and there would have been big kickbacks in that. This lady (inaudible) was of Pakistan. We would have got F-16s, Pressler Amendment would go, and so hell with others things.

SS: Did you ever get any hard evidence that there were kickbacks or they were looking for kickbacks or they were working for kickbacks?

SK: Let me tell you something, General Kakar was then the Chief of the Army Staff and he was visiting US along with Gen (Khwaja) Ziauddin, Gen. Ali Quli Khan and Gen Jehangir Karamat. When they were coming, the Pakistani community and the Embassy were under the impression that he is coming as an envoy of Benazir Bhutto and probably he is going to talk to the Americans regarding (Nuclear Program) roll back or freeze whatever it may be. When (Gen.) Kakar arrived, I saw him. He was under tremendous pressure when he landed. He was coming for the first time as he had become the new (army) chief. He did not know what is going to transpire between him and the Americans. I gave him a short brief. I said you are here and you are going to assist a roll back or freeze. He said what, I said yes, this is the fix. He said, on my dead body. I said you are coming to the embassy tomorrow to address the officers, clarify this point too. He said yes I will. When he came to the embassy next day, in his address to the officers, he said, roll back and freeze on my dead body, no question! We will go ahead with our nuclear program, we will not compromise on anything. After he left, next day, the Pakistani papers gave front page headlines quoting (Gen.) Kakar. Dr (Maleeha) got very furious over that. She said who leaked this to the newspapers. Then Zahoor Malik (a diplomat handling the media) was made the target and Ghazanfar (another diplomat in economic section) was made the target. (a reporter/columnist) was called to the embassy, ... (another journalist) was called to the embassy and asked why this (had happened). She called me and asked who has done it. I asked her was there a secret about that. There was no secret.

SS: How many people were there when he made that speech?

SK: The whole embassy was sitting there.

SS: Then what was the secret?

SK: That's right what was the secret. She never wanted this to go to the papers. She thought we will keep it under wraps. There was a lot of fuss on that in the Embassy. It turned into a crisis. She literally sacked Ghazanfar, she sacked Zahoor Malik. But I took a firm stand on the issue. I said don't make it into a big fuss, leave it alone. We should actually be very proud that the General made that statement. Peoples sagging morale was restored and our grim faces were now OK. She was really very furious and there my relations turned very sore with her though I wanted to mend it. I said I talked to you having the interest of Pakistan in mind but she was not listening to anything. She was trying to find excuses to sack me. I even went to her to clarify things that I just wanted to do what was in the best interest of Pakistan. And when I talked to (General) Kakar that this thing has leaked he was very happy and said it was great. I'm no politician, I'm no man to get credit for these things but what I said I meant it. That completely changed the scenario.

SS: Why do you think she was doing that?

SK: What were they going to give to the Americans? If Benazir was to come for the second time and the Americans were going to push her into Pakistan the second time as the Prime Minister, it was clear on the cards. We knew that. Nawaz Sharif was on his way out. I spoke to (Gen) Javaid Nasir (then DG ISI) for one hour on telephone, and told him what was going on and told him that you people (Nawaz Sharif Government) should start packing up now. At a reception in Georgetown hosted by (Benazir supporter) Abdullah Riar, Senator Barbara Mikulski, member of select committee, opened her speech before 400 people saying "Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto", and then said I am very sorry for the slip of the tongue. There was the indication right there, that she(BB) is coming. Americans wanted to bring her over for the main purpose of roll back and to end the Kashmir dispute. Americans were feeling very very itchy on the Kashmir issue. They said all the terrorism across the border is being done by you guys. So, what would they give in return, nuclear issue and this, we had nothing else in Pakistan to give.

SS: Do you believe Maleeha was actively working for that agenda?

SK: She was the fastest friend of Benazir, she was closest to Benazir , she and Benazir had the same thinking line. They were every time together. She was the confidant. She flew to London to get my posting done immediately. From London, the moment she came back from London, there was a signal lying that I should be transferred to Pakistan within 24 hours

SS: And who did that, Benazir or who?

SK: I was heading to New York when I was told by my PA that I had been posted back to Pakistan. I immediately called the CGS (Chief of General Staff), (General) Jehangir Karamat was the CGS. (Gen) Ali Quli was the DGMI and none of these officers knew about it. My DG ISI, Gen. Javaid Kazi also claims that he didn't know about it. It was all done by the prime minister and the establishment division.

SS: Could they do that without informing you or telling you?

SK: That is the sore point on which I'm still very very upset. That was the only time I needed the army to stand by me, what the hell is this. This is the wrong procedure. It should have been done by GHQ not by you, right. Everybody kept quiet on that issue. I said at least give me 3-4 days so I can pack up. In 24 hours I can come if you send a special plane. I m a disciplined person , I never wanted to create any fuss, nothing of that sort. With good memories, I just left the embassy, immediately. (In Pakistan) the first person who called me was General Kakar, he called me immediately and I went to him. He said I'm really sorry for what has happened to you. I have given my mind to Benazir but I can't help. I told him in the army we stand by one another, I was not a thief or robber. I did not do anything wrong. There are no character failings in me. I was working for Pakistan day in and day out. In 27 years of service, how professional an officer I have been. You guys let me down. He said I' m very sorry. Prime minister ordered in writing and I could not help. But we will take care of you. I said what care you have totally destroyed me. Then I went to (Gen) Jehangir Karamat, (Gen) Ali Quli. Everybody said we have given our mind but It has happened now , what can we do. That was a very very sad point in my career and my life. We gave so much to the army nobody stood by me. I told Kakar, had General (Mirza Aslam) Beg been there, or General (Asif Nawaz) Janjua been there, how dare they pull me out from there, I would have seen that. Or if somebody like Musharraf had been there, how could anybody put their hands on me and pulled me out. I am working for my country here and they know how hard I worked all these 12 years in ISI.

SS: While you were there, did you ever find anything involving Maleeha or her brother in any of the affairs?

SK: Her brother came here regularly and she visited him in New York regularly. He lived in NY. In this F-16 case, there were two installments left. They were doing their best to get the F-16s and pay the two installments. I told Maleeha on her first day that these people (Americans) would pull a lot of weight, a lot of their lobbyists would come to you telling you to pay the remaining installments, and will quote you the rules and regulations that the installments have to be paid. That's a different thing that the State Department has put a ban (on the delivery). (Previous Ambassador) Abida (Hussain) put her foot down and told the (US) Government that there is no question of any installments. I told Maleeha that she will have to stop these installments and that we are not going to pay.

SS: Did (former prime minister) Moeen Qureshi not stop the payments of installments?

SK: Yes he did but now the government had changed and they could have resumed it. Now Benazir was in power. On that issue she (Maleeha) would not talk to me and always asked me to forget about it. She said that is for me to look after. I felt that she and her brother were (Inaudible)... They were going to get the installment (Inaudible)….. the sub-marine deal and all that sort of things. There was another thing. At that time there were wheat shipments under PL-480 (to Pakistan). The Food and Agriculture Attache in the (Pakistan) Embassy, one Mr. Qazi, came to me and said something wrong is going on. He was an honest officer and is now Commissioner of Hyderabad. He said over the years shipments were being done by Pakistan (National) Shipping Corporation. PNSC was getting their money and every thing was going fine. But Qazi said Dr. Maleeha wants to change the system and wants to give it to some Greek Shipping company. He said he had written a letter to the Food and Agriculture Ministry not to do it as there will be lot of kickbacks and commissions. Why should Dr (Maleeha) be doing that if a system is going on without anything wrong. Her brother was also..... as hundreds of thousands of dollars were involved in commissions. I wrote a letter to the ISI headquarters to stop it immediately as it was not in the interest of Pakistan. People will get money in it. These things were going on but she went to London and sacked me.

SS: Whenever anything like this happened, you would inform your headquarter that this was going on?

SK: Yes I would let them know, of course.


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