General Janjua — the man behind 1992 operation
September 4, 2009
LAHORE: The decision to launch the infamous 1992 operation clean-up in Sindh was largely taken by the military establishment immediately after the retirement of General Mirza Aslam Beg as the Army chief and the elevation of the then chief of general staff General Asif Nawaz Janjua to his place in August 1991.
General Janjua had been the corps commander Karachi for three years from April 1988 to March 1991 before being elevated as chief of general staff in April 1991 for a brief period, only to be made the 10th chief of army staff three months later on August 16, 1991. And the operation clean-up was launched shortly afterwards.
A careful scanning of the Pakistani newspaper files between 1989 and 1992 show that a proposal to send in the Army to ‘clean up’ Sindh was first floated in 1989 when Ghulam Ishaq Khan was the president of the country, Benazir Bhutto the prime minister, General Aslam Beg the Army chief and Lt-Gen Asif Nawaz the corps commander Karachi. However, difference of opinion arose after Ghulam Ishaq and General Aslam Beg opposed the suggestion.
It was during his tenure as the corps commander Karachi that Asif Nawaz shot to prominence. Sindh at that time wilted under the most violent period in its history. Ethnic battles between Sindhis and Mohajirs were a routine affair and Asif Nawaz was often asked by the civil administration to deploy his troops to impose curfew and break the civil strife.
On one such occasion, Lt-Gen Asif Nawaz had to personally come forward as a guarantor between two ethnic extremist groups to ensure a safe swapping of the hostages from both sides, who otherwise would have been killed. Therefore, he had floated a proposal to the PPP government in 1989 for carrying out two separate operations in urban and rural areas of Sindh against extremist elements in the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Al-Zulfiqar Organisation as well as against criminals and dacoits who had been enjoying the protection of
influential political personalities and landlords. However, Beg reportedly voiced his opposition to the proposal and simply dragged his feet by demanding Herculean powers from the federal government for the Army under Section 245 of the Constitution.
Even otherwise, there were elements in the Bhutto government who argued that a genuinely impartial military operation, cutting across party and ethnic lines, as envisioned by Asif Nawaz, would shake the foundations of the entire political edifice.
However, the ground work preceding the military operation in Sindh was eventually started in August 1991 soon after Aslam Begís retirement and Asif Nawazís elevation by Ishaq Khan. After taking Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif into confidence, the military high command had issued directives to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI) to prepare secret reports on the activities of dacoits, criminals, terrorists as well as political elements patronising notorious elements in Sindh. A separate cell was formed within these agencies to focus on the activities of the Altaf-led MQM, but with precise directives that these reports should remain completely impartial and credible.
However, problems began to crop up when Prime Minister Sharif was informed by the intelligence agencies that some provincial ministers allied to his Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), President Ishaqís son-in-law Irfanullah Khan Marwat, several prominent Pirs of Sindh, then chief Minister of the province Jam Sadiq Ali and some key members of the PPP and the Altaf-led MQM were all involved in criminal activities. Subsequently, the leaderships of different political parties were informed of these intelligence reports and asked to purge their parties of such elements as early as possible. In response, the PPP high command publicly severed its links with Al-Zulfiqar while Altaf Hussain deemed it fit to expel Afaq Ahmed and Amir Khan from the MQM.
However, Nawaz Sharif was advised by his close aides that so many politicians from Sindh have been named in the intelligence reports as criminals that if they were rounded up, the Jam Sadiq-led coalition government would simply collapse; the PPP would seize power in Sindh and the PML-led government in Islamabad would be plunged into a serious political crisis. Sharif was also warned that any action against criminal elements of the Altaf-led party by the Army could prove counter productive, despite the fact that intelligence reports had described the MQM as “a state within a state”.
Nonetheless, General Asif Nawaz Janjua was determined to move ahead with his plan of an operation clean-up in Sindh to cleanse the province of criminals. By that time, the infamous kidnapping and torture of Major Kaleemuddin by MQM henchmen had already taken place. In May 1992, a month before the operation was officially launched, the original plan was reviewed by the GHQ and it was decided that a direct clash between the Army and the MQM should be avoided.
Therefore, the MQM-Haqiqi was launched. But the intelligence move backfired and severely damaged the credibility of the Army. During a high-level troika meeting hardly two weeks before the operation clean-up, General Asif told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that although many MQM, PML, PPP and Pagaro League members were on the criminal list, the Armyís first and foremost target would be dacoits in interior Sindh.
However, as soon as the operation was launched, Nawaz Sharif was taken by surprise as the Army opted to raid the Nine Zero headquarters of the MQM in Azizabad to arrest dozens of its activists and leaders who were wanted for their involvement in criminal and terrorist activities. By that time, while sensing the gravity of the situation, Altaf Hussain had already fled Karachi for London.
As pressure mounted on Nawaz Sharif by the component parties of the IJI, he decided to give a clear cut message to the Army by travelling to London to meet Altaf Hussain on June 19, 1992 when the operation clean-up was at its peak in Karachi and Hyderabad.
And his move explicitly meant to distance himself from the operation clean-up of the Pakistan Army that was being directed against one of his important coalition partners in Sindh — the Altaf-led MQM.
(main source The Tews International Karachi)