Pak Interior Minister wants tough moves against opposition
Pakistan’s controversial Federal Interior Minister, retired Brigadier Ijaz Ahmed Shah is acting and talking tough, unlike some of his blabbering ministerial colleagues who have been giving critics the handle saying things that embarrass the Imran Khan-led government.
He has threatened the agitating opposition parties preparing for their fourth protest rally in Peshawar on November 23 with attacks by the Taliban; the very elements his government has outlawed and is supposed to be fighting.
The threat to the protestors gathering by the thousands is very much real as Peshawar has been the hunting ground for the Taliban as proven beyond doubt by the attack on madrassah in October, killing eight and injuring 100 students. The incident was a grim reminder of the December 2014 attack on the army public school, killing 143, mostly students.
The opposition parties are worried and have expectedly condemned Shah’s threat as ‘irresponsible.’ But there is little they can do when Shah controls both, the police and the intelligence machinery, as well as elements among the Taliban that can be played the way the government wants, when asked by Shah, who has a diabolic role as intelligence chief during the Musharraf era.
“Today, I pray for the safety of those following the N-League’s narrative and wish for them to get divine’s guidance,” Shah was quoted as saying by Dawn News (November 5, 2020).
Shah told Duyna TV of Turkey that his statement was quoted out of context. But none can dispute the ominous message the statement carried.
Shah is already active behind some recent key decisions. Pakistan media reports say he prompted the kidnapping of the Sindh IGP who was reluctant to arrest retired captain Mohammed Safdar from the Karachi hotel room when the latter was with his wife, Maryam Nawaz, the vice president of the Pakistan Muslim league (Nawaz). The political stink it caused forced the Army Chief, Gen. Jawed Bajwa to ordered an inquiry. But that was meant to calm the opposition leaders. Obviously, nothing has been heard about the so-called inquiry.
Shah is also the man who is said to be prompting action against Ayaz Sadiq, who made charges in parliament against the government with regard to the developments that followed the shooting down of Indian Air Force aircraft and return of its pilot. Shah is moving to try Sadiq, charging him with treason.
Shah has termed the anti-government rallies by the 11-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) as ‘treason’, saying no Pakistani citizen can participate in rallies against “national institutions,” meaning the armed forces.
There is little doubt that Shah is Pakistan army’s representative in the Khan Government that has several former soldiers who were prominent during the Musharraf era. Shah was intelligence chief during 2004-2008 during that era.
Former premier Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated in December 2007 had told Musharraf and even given media interviews in which she had said that she was likely to be killed and had specifically said the threat came from Shah.
As Director General of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) from 2004 to 2008 under General Pervez Musharraf, Shah was accused of using the IB for political victimization. Shah continued to be Musharraf’s trusted aide even after he was ousted.
In April this year, Shah had played the key role in the acquittal of Omer Sheikh, the terrorist whose death sentence was commuted in the Daniel Pearl beheading case.
Sheikh, a mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, had surrendered to Shah when caught.
A Sindh court had, on April 3, commuted the death sentence of the British-born terrorist Omer Sheikh, a prime accused in the kidnapping and decapitation of Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl 18 years ago, to seven years in prison. Since Sheikh has already spent 18 years in jail, his lawyers have argued that the prison term is considered completed.
Investigators in Washington who have been following the case closely said that Ijaz Shah shares a good relationship with Omar Sheikh, which goes way back to their friendship between their families. “Both Shah and Sheikh come from the same village, Nankana Sahib in Punjab province,” sources said.
As a powerful chief of Intelligence Bureau, Shah was the “point-man” of the Pakistani Army to talk and negotiate with all the wanted criminals and terrorists.
Shah and the ISI kept Sheikh in secret custody for a week, not even telling the Pakistani counter-terrorism police.
Shah’s parliamentary career gained high profile with the appointment last year as Interior Minister — a portfolio earlier held by Prime Minister Imran Khan himself. Prior to his appointment as the minister for parliamentary affairs, reports were circulating that Prime Minister Khan was considering appointing Brig Shah as his national security adviser (NSA).
Shah is currently a PTI member of the National Assembly from the constituency of NA-118, Nankana Sahib-II.
As the home secretary of Punjab, Brig Shah was accused of midwifing the formation of the PML-Q and PPP-Patriots, who were pro-government political elements.
Shah never missed a diplomatic assignment in the Musharraf era. Gen Musharraf had named him as high commissioner to Australia, but Canberra refused to accept his nomination, forcing the government to withdraw it.