Abiding Jinnahpur conspiracy

JinnahpurBy Brig Asif Haroon Raja

In his recent telephonic address Altaf Hussain recalled the 1992 military operation in Karachi and the Jinnahpur issue. Since he affixed me to the Jinnahpur conspiracy, I feel it necessary to refresh the memories of the readers and put the record straight. Law and order situation in urban and rural Sindh that was deteriorating for some years because of rural-urban ethnic divide worsened in 1992 and writ of Sindh government got seriously compromised. Terrorists, extortionists, thugs and kidnappers mostly affiliated with MQM had made the security situation in Karachi explosive. Dead bodies wrapped in jute bags were often found. Maj Kalimullah from intelligence was beaten half-dead in torture cell of no-go-area of Lines Area run by MQM unit in-charge Javed Langra. Dacoits in interior Sindh operating from Katcha and Katcho areas, patronized by Waderas, Patharidars (front men of Sindhi feudal lords) and some sitting ministers had paralysed road movement. It was decided by the then government of Nawaz Sharif to employ the Army in Sindh to restore normalcy. However, since the MQM was a coalition partner of PML-N in the Centre and in Sindh, it resisted the move.

In keeping with the reservations of MQM, HQ 5 Corps was tasked to undertake ‘Operation Cleanup’ in interior Sindh against dacoits on May 20, 1992. It came under tremendous pressure at the very outset as a result of fall out of an unfortunate incident in village Tando Bahawal in interior Sindh in which one Major Arshad in league with local landlord who had personal feud with another group killed nine villagers under the plea that they were dacoits. Although the officer was tried and hanged to death but it had its negative impact on the Army. This together with death of two Sindhi Patharidars in the custody of law enforcement agencies and release of firebrand APMSO leader Shahood Hashmi put the Army image in the dock. The PPP and Sindhi nationalist parties complained that ‘Operation Cleanup’ was not even-handed since it was directed against the Sindhis only whereas the law and order situation in Karachi and Hyderabad was much worse. They had not overcome the grief of hanging of their popular leader ZA Bhutto and had held Gen Ziaul Haq responsible for it.

When propaganda snipes against the Army became pungent and its image started getting affected, the ISPR was asked to check the downslide. When the then DG ISPR Maj Gen Jahangir Nasrullah retracted from undertaking this onerous job and dragged his feet, COAS Gen Asif Nawaz Janjua nominated me as Army Spokesman and deputed me to proceed to Karachi on attachment with HQ 5 Corps to handle the media. I was performing the duties of Director of a sensitive directorate in early 1990s in GHQ. In a very short time I had revolutionized this dormant organization and earned appreciation from all and sundry including the Army chief.

I was required to build rapport with rural-urban Press and win their confidence, put an end to speculative sensationalism by media and build up image of Army. Despite having no past experience and devoid of any where-withal, I conducted series of Press briefings most befittingly in the charged atmosphere of Sindh and received generous praises from all quarters. Having filled the communication gap and developed a rapport with the Press mafia, the image of the Army ascended sky high. 47 countries gave live coverage of my Press briefings on progress of operations in rural-urban Sindh in a very positive manner. I wrote comprehensive reports on dynamics of rural-urban divide and also briefed the COAS when he visited Karachi. In view of my good performance, 5 Corps Commander had sought two months extension for me.

A team of Rawalpindi journalists arranged by DG ISPR were given a sponsored tour of interior Sindh and Karachi in mid July 1992. A special C-130 aircraft was arranged for them. Although primary purpose was to provide them firsthand knowledge about progress of ‘Operation Cleanup’ particularly in interior Sindh, however, in actuality the left out ISPR wanted to demonstrate its activity. The journalists spent two nights in Panu Aqil where they were given comprehensive briefing and tour to Katcha Area by GOC 16 Division Maj Gen Salim Arshad. Their next stop was in Hyderabad where they were briefed by GOC 18 Division Maj Gen Lehrasab Khan. They were taken to Katcho Area as well. The journalists were brought to Karachi on the evening of July 16.

A busy schedule was chalked out for them for 17th, which included briefing by GOC 5 Corps Reserve Maj Gen Salim Malik, tea break, briefing by Chief Minister in CM Secretariat followed by lunch and dinner in Corps Mess. Lt Gen Naseer Akhtar, Corps Commander 5 Corps instructed me to brief the journalists on his behalf. When I explained to him that after comprehensive briefings of three GOCs, there will be little for me to brief, he asked me to take on questions of the visiting journalists after the briefing by Maj Gen Salim Malik.

Maj Gen Salim Malik gave out comprehensive briefing in his HQ at Malir Cantt on July 17, 1992, in which he highlighted the pathetic law and order situation of Karachi that had prevailed prior to June 19 and that Karachi had been made into a State within a State. He apprised them of the progress made with regard to recovery of arms and discovery of torture cells and curtailment of practice of car snatching, robberies and extortion and concluding that writ of government had been restored to a large extent. He then invited questions from the journalists.

It looked quite out of place for me to come on the rostrum and conduct another session of question/answer. This anomaly was noticed by the journalists and one of them pointed it to me in a sarcastic tone during tea break. During brief question/answer session, a slimy question on Jinnahpur was asked by one of the journalists. He said, “There are some reports that MQM had plans to establish ‘Urdu Desh’ or ‘Jinnahpur’. Is there any truth in these reports published by a section of press?” I replied, “We had also read such reports in the newspapers. Some posters showing sketch of Jinnahpur or Urdu Desh along with some other material were recovered by security forces from a unit office of the MQM in Kotri”. He further asked if I could elaborate as to whom all could be behind it. I said that I know as much as you know but some elements within MQM might have been toying with the idea.

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My main source of information about Jinnahpur was based on information I gathered from GOC 18 Division Maj Gen Lehrasab Khan who later became Corps Commander 5 Corps in 1994. During my visit to Hyderabad on June 24, 1992 for my Press briefing he informed me that law enforcing agencies had recovered Jinnahpur maps with some documents in a raid on unit office of MQM at Kotri. He looked visibly disturbed while giving me the news. Jinnahpur maps had been displayed in Hyderabad in past also. Late Benazir Bhutto’s several statements to the media and in a seminar on Sindh about Jinnahpur in early July 1992; interview of MQM Haqiqui leader Aamir Khan published in Weekly Taqbeer July 2, 1992 and in Akhbar-e-Jahan July 13-19, 1992 were in the back of mind. Another Haqiqui leader Afaq Ahmed had stated that reason for his group to part with Altaf group was that they had plans to divide Sindh and disintegrate Pakistan.

What I said was magnified and distorted and flashed as headlines in the next day’s newspapers. Each newspaper gave out twisted presentation to what I had said. Headings of each newspaper of July 18, 1992 differed from each other. Sidelining the briefing of Gen Malik, question/answer session conducted by me was given prominence. They picked up and covered the story in their own way and suiting their pre-dispositions. The media in its motivated errand put such words into my mouth which were never uttered by me in the manner as projected. A bland answer to a question was sensationalized out of all proportions. I had never said that Jinnahpur would be a separate country. I did not utter the word Hong Kong, acting as a model for Jinnahpur. I did not refer to MQM as a political party, which was pursuing the idea of secession or working for the establishment of an independent State. I did not say that the Army intelligence had confirmed reports on MQM’s pursuits for Jinnahpur.

I will narrate reporting of some of the newspapers of July 18, 1992:- Jang said: Altaf Hussain planned to make Karachi as a separate State on the model of Hong Kong. The News chanted, ‘MQM planned a separate homeland’. The Muslim hymned, ‘MQM was out to dismember the country’. The Watan chimed, ‘MQM had plans for establishment of Urdu Desh’. Evening Special Karachi screamed, ‘The proof of MQM complicity in conspiring to create Jinnahpur or Urdu Desh found’. While some newspapers reported Jinnahpur out of geographic limits of Pakistan, others elected to create it within the territorial frontiers of Pakistan. Notwithstanding sensationalism, no newspaper said that a map of Jinnahpur was presented by me.

I procured a copy of this map and related documents from HQ 5 Corps on the afternoon of July 18, 1992, that is, a day after Maj Gen Salim Malik’s Press briefing for my record on advice of Maj Gen Jamshed Malik. The sponsor of the map was Faruqul Hassan Jillani, an MQM unit office in-charge at Kotri. The map had been sent to HQ 5 Corps with copy to MI Directorate by OC Field Survey Section Hyderabad under HQ 18 Division.

A rejoinder/clarification was jointly prepared by me, my GSOI Lt Col Arshad Alwi, PRO Lt Col (now retired Brig) Saulat Raza, DGPR Salim Gul and ex Director ISPR Brig ® T.M. Siddiqui. It was formally approved from the VCGS Maj Gen Jamshed Malik, CGS Lt Gen Farrakh Khan as well as the A/DG ISPR Brig Iqbal. The same was not cleared from the Corps Commander 5 Corps Lt Gen Naseer Akhtar since he had left for Rawalpindi to attend funeral of the Military Secretary Lt Gen Javed Burki on 19th morning in Army Graveyard Rawalpindi. The rejoinder was handed over to the PRO Maj Chishti (now retired Lt Col) on the afternoon of July 18, 1992 for publication in the newspapers. However, to my utter surprise I found that the same had not been published in the following day’s newspapers since Gen Naseer Akhtar forbade Maj Chishti to do so.

According to Chishti, when he informed Gen Naseer on the evening of July 18 that the clarification was being given to the Press after getting necessary clearance from the VCGS, CGS and ISPR, he retorted back angrily that he had obtained the blessing of the COAS and that whatever already published in the newspapers on Jinnahpur would stay in the same form. He warned him that many heads would roll if any kind of clarification was published in the print media. In other words, I was to be made a scapegoat. The rejoinder was killed at 1 a.m. on the night of July 18/19. The PRO without intimating to me rescinded it. Had this clarification been printed, the whole matter would have come to rest and this would not have turned into a chronic controversy. The rejoinder got accidentally published in Observer Lahore of July 19, 1992 much to the annoyance and chagrin of many.

Since I was to return to Rawalpindi on completion of my duty on the afternoon of July 19, as such I could not even hold a Press briefing to straighten the record. The Press was at liberty to fabricate the story in true yellow journalistic spirit and kept on playing with it without a breather. PPP leading the opposition in collusion with a section of media exploited the issue to the hilt. From July 18, 1992 onward, yellow journalism kicked up unwarranted polemics by design. The insinuations did not stop there but proposed a toast to the Army which was full of muck and moist for the Army’s image as it suggested an unholy alliance between the vested interests and the Army. The Press guns remained trained on me and my name lugged into the gunk. Absence of clarification ostensibly was being regarded, quite contrary to the truth, that whatever the tabloids had printed was correct.

The ‘Nation’ of July 21, 1992 reported Commander 5 Corps having presented a map of Jinnahpur and his revelation of MQM’s secession plan to create a separate Urdu Desh/Jinnahpur during the July 20, 1992 Corps Commander Conference at Rawalpindi. In actuality, he had showed the said map to the then PM Nawaz Sharif and President Ghulam Ishaq Khan during their hpw visit to GHQ on July 20 for their information since the two were upset over the publication of news item of July 18 and did not want this issue to come to light. Political will of the leadership had by then sapped as was evident from the meeting of Nawaz Sharif with Altaf Hussain in London who was in self-exile.

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The Jang Lahore newspaper carried a news item along with a map of Jinnahpur on October 11, 1992. It said documentary evidence in the form of Jinnahpur plan hatched by the MQM, comprising Karachi, Hyderabad, Thatta, Badin and areas of upper Sindh, had been presented to the government by the Army. The Opposition pressed for a debate on Jinnahpur. Dawn of October 15, 1992 reported about two separate adjournment motions moved by the PDA and Jamaat-e-Islami to discuss the conspiracy. Chaudhri Nisar Ali stated on October 17 that Jinnahpur plot did not exist. ANP leader Ajmal Khattak also reiterated that there was no truth that MQM planned to create Jinnahpur State.

The print media remained ablaze with Jinnahpur controversy especially after members of National Assembly went berserk on October 18, 1992 and indulged in obnoxious altercation flouting the norms of the sacred House. The promethean fire for the Press countenance had been borrowed from the misdemeanor of Opposition members and certain members of Treasury in the House. The fiery exchanges of words were expunged by the Speaker of the Assembly.

The News of October 19, 1992 reported that the Opposition leader late Benazir Bhutto raised the newspaper clippings of July 18 and said as to why no action had so far been taken on Jinnahpur after the conspiracy had been revealed by Brig Asif Haroon and why the government was covering it up unless it was party to the plot. The then interior minister Chaudhri Shujaat had to take cover behind my lone rejoinder published in Pakistan Observer on July 19, 1992 saying it had been rebutted. He added that Jinnahpur conspiracy was a figment of imagination of PDA. Farooq Leghari refuted it and sought inquest by high powered commission. (Dawn – October 21, 1992). Asif Zardari too demanded action against plotters of Jinnahpur.

Now that the heat came directly on the Army leadership, the ISPR issued an abrupt denial on October 19 rather than the already published clarification (Observer Lahore, July 19, 1992), as a consequence to the Jang news item. The ISPR note said, “The Army denies having said anything related to Jinnahpur”. This shoddy denial gave heart to the MQM leaders and they started to make me responsible for everything connected with Operation Cleanup. I was vilified for being the brainchild behind the creation of MQM Haqiqui, torture cells and the Jinnahpur map. Ever since, this issue keeps cropping up in the newspapers.

Deceased Dr. Imran Farooq, a self-exiled leader of the MQM, addressed an open letter to Gen Pervez Musharraf on November 6, 1999. He was asked to investigate the shameless allegation made by Brig Asif Haroon in his Press briefing in Karachi in 1992 that the MQM was involved in creating Jinnahpur (Separate State). I was accused of inviting a team of handpicked journalists from Punjab to Karachi and presenting a self-made map of Jinnahpur to them. I was also accused of having this news item published in all the national newspapers and that the fake and self-made map of Jinnahpur was provided to the newspapers for publication.

In his book titled “Establishment Ki Seh Jehti Hikmat Amli’, June 2000, the MQM Party leader Altaf Hussain accused me of fabricating Jinnahpur conspiracy and making a false Jinnahpur map at the behest of GHQ. The MQM Head Office opened a web site on my name to implicate me on the above stated aspects. A video clip of Altaf Hussain address in London shows him waving a poster asserting that I had fabricated the Jinnahpur map. He mentioned my name in almost every telephonic address he made from London or any interview he gave to a visiting journalist from Pakistan. He repeated his false allegation while giving an interview to Najam Sethi in July 2009, which was telecast on Dunya news channel. In his telephonic address on August 24, 2009, he again mentioned my name. ‘Jinnahpur’ phoenix kept raging in the newspapers for quite some time.

I explained the whole episode to Gen Asif Nawaz through a detailed minute sheet. I also attached newspaper clippings of July 18, 1992 to highlight the visible slant in their reporting. I mentioned that the matter was grossly sensationalized; I was not given a chance to render a rejoinder to the mis-reported news item; it was purposely allowed to stay as it was and to fester and create foul odor. I strongly recommended that a comprehensive clarification must be issued so that the future exploitation of the issue was deterred for good. However, the then CGS Lt Gen Farrakh Khan did not agree with my contention saying that the (ill-conceived) denial by the ISPR was good enough. The COAS concurred to his suggestion.

I again raised this issue with Gen Jahangir Karamat and later apprised VCOAS Gen Muhammad Yusaf. My last letter on the subject was addressed to Gen Pervez Musharraf dated April 7, 2001. None bothered to reply me. Gen Musharraf distanced himself from me and denied me job after my retirement throughout his stay in power. I was hounded out of MQM dominated KRL where I was employed as Director Education. Jinnahpur controversy had also come in my way of promotion.

22 years have lapsed but the controversy has not died down. It was intentionally kept alive by Altaf Hussain and other MQM leaders to prove that they had been wrongly maligned. On September 26, 2014 he mentioned me in his 14-point rejoinder to Gen Raheel Sharif and again during his speech on 27th. While the Army was absolved by the MQM, I was made the target of MQM. The story was twisted that I had fabricated Jinnahpur map and especially invited journalists from Punjab to Karachi and handed them the map along with some documents during my Press briefing on July 17, 1992 stating that MQM was all set to create a separate State of Jinnahpur. Taking full advantage of the October 19 ISPR denial, MQM leaders have continuously shed tears of innocence and held me responsible for branding them as traitors. A perception was created that creation of MQM Haqiqui and seizure of MQM offices by Haqiqui members on June 19 was masterminded by me. MQM went to the extent of spreading news that I had invented torture cells in Karachi to defame the party. I was put on the hit list of MQM.

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Debate on Jinnahpur controversy and some other dead issues was suddenly triggered by ex Director IB retired Brig Imtiaz Ahmad with certain defined political motives. He provided grist to the hungry electronic media to re-ignite the issue and give a clean chit to the MQM. Involved in Mehrangate scandal and Operation ‘Midnight Jackals’ during his stint in ISI, he was dismissed from Army service on disciplinary grounds. He claimed that there was no truth in Jinnahpur map and it was a mere drama to defame MQM. Lt Gen ® Naseer Akhtar lent strength to his assertion. He claimed on Aaj TV on August 23, 2009 that he knew nothing about Jinnahpur map, and that he came to know of it two days after my Press briefing, that is, July 19, 1992 and it saddened him. The fact is that I met him in the Corps Operations Room on the morning of July 18th and I discussed the matter with him. Their contention was not based on truth.

Based on the certificates of ‘not guilty’ issued by Brig Imtiaz and Lt Gen Naseer, Altaf Hussain made a telephonic address to the emotion packed gathering of his followers on August 24, 2009. He shed copious tears asserting that their innocence has finally been proven but at the cost of extreme rigors and loss of over 15000 innocent workers of MQM. He and other MQM leaders took a new stance that presentation of fabricated map and describing MQM as anti-State became the basis of Operation Cleanup in urban Sindh. They forgot that while the operation in Karachi/Hyderabad commenced on June 19, 1992, controversy of Jinnahpur map cropped up one month later on July 18. Ex DGMI Lt Gen ® Asad Durrani who was serving as IGT&E in GHQ in 1992 said that the map was certainly not the basis of starting the operation in Karachi.

On the false stance taken by PML-N that Operation Cleanup in urban Sindh had been initiated by the Army without taking Nawaz Sharif into confidence, Altaf Hussain countered as to why he did not stop the operation which resulted in killing of over 15000 activists of MQM at the hands of security forces. The bogus claim of 15000 killed was made as an afterthought to portray MQM victim of oppression, to malign PML-N leadership and gain sympathy of people of Pakistan. Till to-date, list of so-called Shaheeds has not been provided. Most killings occurred on account of infighting between the two factions of MQM.

The claims made by Lt Gen Naseer and Brig Imtiaz were challenged by Maj retired Nadeem Dar. He revealed on Geo Talk Show of Hamid Mir on August 24, 2009 that he was serving in Rangers in Karachi in 1992 and had raided MQM Headquarters Nine Zero and recovered over 1000 copies of Jinnahpur map. He dubbed Lt Gen Naseer a liar and corrupt and Brig Naseer as ill-reputed with a notorious past. He had to pay a very heavy price for the disclosures. His tragic tale can be seen on his video clips on U-tube. Maj Gen retired Safdar Ali Khan disclosed on Geo TV on August 30, 2009 that it is a fact that thousands of Jinnahpur maps had been recovered from MQM offices in 1992 operation. He added that when he was commanding 18 Division in Hyderabad, Pakistan flag was burnt in 1987 by MQM activists during the public address of Altaf Hussain. Lt Gen ® Amjad Shouab, whose troops had taken part in Operation Cleanup, reiterated that he was in knowledge that Jinnahpur maps had been recovered in Karachi in 1992. Brig ® Saulat Raza, ex Director ISPR confirmed in a talk show on Geo TV on August 31, 2009 that Jinnahpur maps, flags and documents were recovered from an MQM unit office in Karachi on June 19, 1992.

Nusrat Mirza, a journalist by profession, who was heading Mahajir Rabata Committee in early 1990s, revealed in Geo TV talk show on September 3, 2009, that formation of Jinnahpur State was a tactical plan of MQM. He said that Altaf Hussain had announced in a meeting in his presence that if operation was launched against MQM, they would seek outside assistance. He confirmed existence of torture cells. MQM senior leader Haider Abbas Rizvi was part of the talk show. I was interviewed by Dr Shahid Masood from London on Geo TV on August 31, 2009 in Meray Mutabiq program in which I highlighted all the details. My interview was not presented accurately in ‘The News’ dated September 2, 2009. I also wrote my side of the story which was published by various newspapers/websites titled ‘Jinnahpur Controversy’ in September 2009 and ‘Brouhaha over Jinnahpur Conspiracy’ in January 2010. My former article has been hijacked from all websites by unknown hands. My yahoo email was twice hijacked.

Whatever the significance of the said map, the fact of the matter is that it made no impact on the political standing of MQM. Maps have never been made into an issue by any ruling regime or the Army. MQM has remained in power in coalition with both PML-N and PPP both in Sindh and in the Centre in all the successive governments. But for May 12, 2007 bloodbath in Karachi, MQM would have captured few seats from Punjab in 2008 elections and become a national party, particularly after it won seats in AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan. Altaf and other MQM leaders have been off and on giving questionable statements like division of Sindh, or creation of a separate province for Muhajirs, or opting out of concept of Pakistan if demands were not accepted. These utterances fall within the framework of Jinnahpur. Altaf’s infamous speech in India in 2001 where he lamented the division of India and declared Quaid-e-Azam’s quest for Pakistan a big mistake is on record. The MQM is for the first time feeling cornered owing to multiple internal and external pressures. Dr Imran Farooq’s murder has become the biggest cause of worry to MQM leadership. Altaf is vainly using all sorts of theatrics to regain MQM’s importance and nuisance value, but things have changed and its iron grip over Karachi is weakening.

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