Before I write this column here is my disclaimer: Wajid Shamsul Hassan, Pakistan High Commissioner in the UK was editor of The Daily News, Karachi- where I launched my journalism career in 1986. He was my mentor and I am still obliged to his kindness, and guidance. However, I have not benefited from his political positions or government assignments.
Pakistan’s real rulers- the men in khakhi uniforms with stars on their shoulders and all type of fancy color combo badges on their chest, have decided to muzzle the nation again. Because of the direct orders from their American masters this time around they are being subtle about this sudden change.
Instead of removing the elected President Asif Ali Zardari in the middle of the night, they have clipped his wings in broad day light. The Pakistani President practically has no power left. His office is just symbolic; his sway is meaningless.
After the Kerry-Lugar Bill fiasco, the Pakistani envoy in Washington DC, Hussain Haqqani, was ridiculed and sidelined. As a representative of President Asif Ali Zardari he, like the president, has lost influence.
I have been critical of Ambassador Haqqani as well. I had questioned how he could reconcile the intellectual Haqqani who has written one of the most credible books on Pakistan’s recent history, “Between Mosque and Military”, a detailed expose on Pakistan’s military mafia and how they have used Mullahs and mosques; and, the Ambassador Haqqani who must represent Pakistan’s civilian government along with that same army. My fears that you can’t reconcile darkness and light, truth and lies, monsters and victims, proved true.
The second victim of the ISI onslaught was Pakistan’s envoy in London, Wajid Shamsul Hassan.
Many TV journalists including yours truly were made aware that something big was about to happen in Geneva. They were told by army types working in embassies around Europe and the US that their all expense paid trip to Geneva will be a career changing story.
Army and ISI representatives in London, Geneva, Washington DC, and Bern were very actively cajoling credible TV journalists to visit Geneva for an ‘on the spot coverage,’ without explaining what it was for. When no professional journalist agreed, they brought an unknown stringer for Jang from the Italian city of Carpi on an all expense paid trip to Geneva. Jawaid Kanwal- the stringer had never done a TV news package and the Geo team in Karachi assembled, edited and produced the entire segment with the b-roll that he had sent.
The gentleman who was the liaison in Europe is a known mid level ISI representative in Geneva who is also an office bearer of PML-N, Naseer Malik (owns and operates a local liquor store). He called TV correspondents several times to persuade them to come over with a camera person. Naseer Malik knew exactly what time Wajid Shamsul Hassan will arrive; he knew what type of car he will be using; he knew the license plate of the car.
The stringer, Jawaid Kanwal, who claims to have a PhD in photography from University of Lahore ( I checked again and no one offers a PhD in photography in Pakistan), walked away famous and wealthier. He simply fell pray to a campaign launched by ISI’s Joint Counterintelligence Bureau. This group of spies is responsible for the surveillance of Pakistani diplomats abroad.
I am not sure if Wajid Shamsul Hasan is guilty of any crime or not; I feel jury is still out. If he has breached law and if the story is accurate than I hope he will resign and face the legal consequences. But I condemn the way he was framed.
In Washington DC and London, diplomatic missions provide an ideal cover and ISI centers are located on the embassy premises. These are the ones that we know of.
But outside the premises of these embassies, ISI operatives often find good cover working closely with the Pakistani community as businessmen. Naseer Malik is a great example. Beside him several very suspicious characters present themselves as journalist because this garb provides freedom of movement. No wonder during press conferences in Geneva whenever Pakistan’s army rule and human rights issues are questioned Naseer Malik is always there in the first row- to disrupt and derail the conversation.
Pakistan’s Mission to the United Nations in Geneva under the leadership of Zameer Akram was front and center in framing Wajid Shamsul Hassan. Zameer Akram is brother of the infamous Munir Akram – former Pakistan diplomat to the United Nations accused of assaulting a mistress in his New York apartment.
Sources in Intelligence Bureau (civilian intelligence organization of Pakistan) admit that they were blindsided by ISI’s “Operation Kill Democracy,” but now they have sufficient evidence as to how the media was used to embarrass an envoy and Pakistan’s democratically elected president.
In his many speeches throughout the U.S. former President Pervez Musharraf has been vociferously defending the army and the ISI arguing that they do what all national security apparti do in every country. If that is the case, they at least do so under the guise and sanction of a democratically elected government. In fact, during Musharraf’s Presidency Pakistan was often ridiculed and maligned for its lack of democratic institutions, frequently characterized as a banana republic; a charge that Musharraf was completely ineffective in responding to.
If Pakistan is to redeem itself in the world and defend its sovereignty from a position of power and credibility it can only do so through democratic institutions. Those who actively seek to undermine those institutions are the real threat to our national security. Indeed, Pakistan’s fragile democracy is still being held hostage by the Army. Hopefully Pakistani people will rise to the occasion, and push the men in boots back to the barracks. We are now approaching a new era of world governance and without a viable democracy Pakistan will not even have a seat at the table.