The man, who rigged 2002 polls, spills the beans
By Umar Cheema, The News, February 24, 2008
ISLAMABAD: The main wheeler and dealer of the ISI during the 2002 elections, the then Maj-Gen Ehtesham Zamir, now retired, has come out of the closet and admitted his guilt of manipulating the 2002 elections, and has directly blamed Gen Musharraf for ordering so.
Talking to The News, the head of the ISI’s political cell in 2002, admitted manipulating the last elections at the behest of President Musharraf and termed the defeat of the King’s party, the PML-Q, this time “a reaction of the unnatural dispensation (installed in 2002).”
Zamir said the ISI together with the NAB was instrumental in pressing the lawmakers to join the pro-Musharraf camp to form the government to support his stay in power.
Looking down back into the memory lane and recalling his blunders which, he admitted, had pushed the country back instead of taking it forward, Zamir feels ashamed of his role and conduct.
Massively embarrassed because he was the one who negotiated, coerced and did all the dirty work, the retired Maj-Gen said he was not in a position to become a preacher now when his own past was tainted.
He said the country would not have faced such regression had the political management was not carried out by the ISI in 2002. But he also put some responsibility of the political disaster on the PML-Q as well.
The former No: 2 of the ISI called for the closure of political cell in the agency, confessing that it was part of the problem due to its involvement in forging unnatural alliances, contrary to public wishes.
Zamir’s blaming Musharraf for creating this unnatural alliance rings true as another former top associate of Musharraf, Lt-Gen (retd) Jamshed Gulzar Kiyani has already disclosed that majority of the corps commanders, in several meetings, had opposed Musharraf’s decision of patronising the leadership of the King’s party.
“We had urged Musharraf many times during the corps commanders meeting that the PML-Q leadership was the most condemned and castigated personalities. They are the worst politicians who remained involved in co-operative scandals and writing off loans. But Musharraf never heard our advice,” Kiyani said while recalling discussions in their high profile meetings.
He said one of their colleagues, who was an accountability chief at that time, had sought permission many times for proceeding against the King’s party top leaders but was always denied.
Kiyani asked Musharraf to quit, the sooner the better, as otherwise the country would be in a serious trouble.
Ma-Gen (retd) Ehtesham Zamir termed the 2008 elections ‘fairer than 2002’. He said the reason behind their fairness is that there was relatively less interference of intelligence agencies this time as compared to the last time. But he stopped short of saying that there was zero interference in the 2008 polls.
“You are quite right,” he said when asked to confirm about heavy penetration of ISI into political affairs during the 2002 elections. But he said he did not do it on his own but on the directives issued by the government.
Asked who directed him from the government side and if there was somebody else, not President Musharraf, he said: “Obviously on the directives of President Musharraf.”
Asked if he then never felt that he was committing a crime by manipulating political business at the cost of public wishes, he said: “Who should I have told except myself. Could I have asked Musharraf about this? I was a serving officer and I did what I was told to do. I never felt this need during the service to question anyone senior to me,” he said and added that he could not defend his acts now.
“It was for this reason that I have never tried to preach others what I did not practice. But I am of the view that the ISI’s political cell should be closed for good by revoking executive orders issued in 1975,” he said.
Responding to a question regarding corruption cases that were used as pressure tactics on lawmakers, he said: “Yes! This tool was used, not only by the ISI. The NAB was also involved in this exercise.”
Former corps commander of Rawalpindi, Lt-Gen (retd) Jamshed Gulzar Kiyani said majority of corps commanders had continued opposing Musharraf’s alliance with top leadership of the PML-Q.
“Not just in one meeting, we opposed his alignment with these corrupt politicians in many meetings but who cared. Now Musharraf has been disgraced everywhere, thanks to his political cronies.”
RESPONSE - CLARIFICATION
My personal views played up, says ex-ISI Gen
ISLAMABAD: The former head of the political wing of the ISI, Major General Ehtasham Zamir, has said that the elections in 2002 were fair and free and the ISI had no role on the election day.
He expressed these views in a statement issued to clarify his remarks that appeared in a section of the press.Ehtasham Zamir said that with regards to the political management prior to the election, the ISI did play a role, which it had been doing since 1975 as per the directions of the government.
He also disapproved of the role of any intelligence agency in politics.
"To make it personal the correspondent kept insisting on the personal directions of the president, and my reply was that the ISI is not a policy-making body and as such it only implements the directives of the government," he said.
He also expressed his deep annoyance and regret that his informal telephonic talk and personal opinion has been sensationalised and twisted by a section of the press. He further said that facts have been reported out of context and the sprit and essence of his informal talk has been twisted through sensational headlines.
"Secondly, my personal views in an informal talk, which I was repeatedly avoiding, have been portrayed as a confessional statement causing personal defamation, he added. Therefore, he strongly reiterated that the elections of 2002 were not rigged and while performing the duties in the ISI, "I have not done anything for which I should be ashamed".
Umar Cheema adds: The retired general admits that he talked to this correspondent and made comments about the role of the ISI. But he appeared confused when I contacted him about his denial issued to a news agency and not to me or my newspaper.
This correspondent had clearly told him during our discussion on Saturday noon that his words would go into print on Sunday or Monday as he had specifically asked when it would be published. So there is no question that he was unaware of the intentions of this correspondent.
As he issued a denial to a wire service on Sunday night he was contacted to ascertain the reasons behind his backtracking. Talking to this correspondent on Sunday night first he said: "The headline of this news was sensational. I don't know who gave this headline."
Responding to another question initially he said there was no problem with the text in the report except the headline. However, when said that the text is what is said in the headline he said he was quoted out of context. But at the same time he admitted that the quotes of his conversation given in the report were correct. He also admitted that the Group Editor of Daily Jang, Mr Mahmood Shaam, had intimated him on Saturday night about this story through an SMS message on his mobile phone. He took it lightly and did not respond. On Sunday night he told me: "You have done your work now give me the right to defend myself." This correspondent stands by the story.