August 02, 2021
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A Commando Who Is Nervous Of Commandos

Of the three commandoes, who staged the coup of 1999 and paved the way for the elevation of the fourth -- Musharraf --, one has been prematurely retired and two have been transferred.

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A Commando Who Is Nervous Of Commandos

In a second instalment of a major reshuffle of the senior officers of the Army carried out on October 10,2001, Gen.Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's self-reinstated Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), self-styled Chief Executive and self-promoted President, removed Lt.Gen. Jamshaid Gulzar from his post as the  Corps Commander of 10 Corps at Rawalpindi and appointed him as the  Adjutant General, Pakistan Army.  Maj.Genl Syed Arif Hasan, Vice Chief of General Staff, was promoted as Lt.Gen. and appointed Corps Commander, 10 Corps, Rawalpindi,

Maj.Gen.l Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, Director-General, Strategic Planning and Development, was promoted to the rank of Lt.Gen in the same post.

 Maj.Gen. Shahid Aziz, General Officer Commanding, Murree, was promoted as Lt.Gen. and appointed as the Chief of the General Staff (CGS) in the GHQ.  In that capacity, he would be supervising the work of the Directorates-General of Military Intelligence and Military Operations.

The 10 Corps, Rawalpindi, and its crack 111 Brigade are considered the most important units of the Pakistan Army in the power equation in Islamabad.  The conventional wisdom in Pakistan is that no Army General can stage a coup and sustain himself in power thereafter without their support.  All Pakistani military dictators, therefore, ensure that these units are commanded by hand-picked officers enjoying their total confidence.

The following four officers staged  the coup of October 12,1999, which paved the way for the take-over of power by Musharraf after the plane bringing him from Colombo landed in Karachi:

  • Lt.Gen.Mohammad Aziz, then CGS, GHQ.
  • Lt.Gen.Mahmood Ahmed, then Corps Commander, 10 Corps, Rawalpindi.
  • Maj.Gen.Jamshaid Gulzar, then Comanding Officer, 111 Brigade of 10 Corps.
  • Lt.Gen.Muzaffar Usmani, then Corps Commander, 5 Corps, Karachi.
After overthrowing Mr.Nawaz Sharif and capturing power on behalf of Musharraf, they then informed the other Corps Commanders, who went along with the coup. Lt.Gen.Aziz refused to let Lt.Gen.Ziauddin, the then DG, ISI, who had been appointed by Mr.Sharif as the COAS after dismissing Musharraf , to enter the GHQ and take over and had him arrested.  Lt.Gen. Mahmood Ahmed moved his units into Islamabad and took control of the city.Maj.Gen.Gulzar took control of the TV and radio stations in Islamabad, arrested Mr.Sharif and Lt.Gen.Ziauddin and removed them to Murree. Usmani took control of Karachi and facilitated the landing of Musharraf's plane.

After assuming power as the Chief Executive, Musharraf appointed Ahmed as the DG, ISI, and Gulzar, on promotion, as the Corps Commander, 10 Corps, Rawalpindi.

Of the four officers, who overthrew Mr.Sharif and seized power, Aziz, Ahmed and Gulzar had served with Musharraf as Commandoes in the Special Services Group (SSG).  Musharraf and Aziz had served together in the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan ) too.

Many Pakistani observers, therefore, termed the coup the "commandoes' coup".  On October 7,2001, Musharraf had forced Ahmed to seek premature retirement after superseding him for promotion as a full-fledged General, kicked Aziz, after promoting him as a General, upstairs as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and now has shifted Gulzar to the post of Adjutant-General Till then.  Aziz was posted as the Corps Commander, 4 Corps, Lahore

Thus, of the three commandoes, who staged the coup and paved the way for the elevation of the fourth commando (Musharraf), one has been prematurely retired and two have been transferred to posts, where they would not have direct command of any field formation, without which they may not be able to stage a coup against Musharraf.

While briefing his Cabinet on the reshuffle on October 10,2001, Musharraf was reported to have claimed that these changes were of a routine nature and had been decided upon by him three months ago and had nothing to do with reports of differences in the Army over his assisting the US in crushing the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda.

Despite his claim, these changes are viewed in Islamabad as a move by a nervous Musharraf to pre-empt a possible coup against him by these officers by removing  them from the active command of field formations.  Since the serious anti-US and anti-Musharraf disturbances at Quetta on October 8,2001, Islamabad has been rife with unsubstantiated rumours of plots and counter-plots inside the GHQ.  There have also been rumours of a plot by some fundamentalist officers at the middle level to assassinate the Corps Commanders and seize power.  Musharraf has appealed to all his colleagues and Cabinet members not to believe these rumours. 

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai)

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