By S. M. Hali
The armed forces have officers getting commissioned and others retiring every year by the scores but few have the unique privilege of being the only head of any international spy agency who had succeeded in finding a prominent slot in the “most powerful and influential people” rankings of both ‘Time’ and ‘Forbes’ magazines in 2011. Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja is one such officer, who was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the renowned Frontier Force Regiment in the 49th PMA Long Course in 1974. He has commanded an infantry battalion, a mechanized infantry brigade and has served as the Chief Instructor of the Command & Staff College of the Pakistani Army. From 2001 to 2002, General Pasha served as a Contingent and Sector Commander of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone, where his military prowess but diminutive height reverently earned him the title of the “Little General”.
Pasha was promoted to Major General in January 2003, and posted as GOC 8th Infantry Division in Sialkot. From April 2006 to October 2008, Pasha served as the Director General of Military Operations at the Army headquarters overseeing all military engagements in Waziristan, Swat, and other tribal areas.
Pasha headed the ISI at a trying moment in Pakistan’s history. The country was ravaged by terror attacks, CIA ruled the roost, having infiltrated under the garb of reconstruction, rehabilitation and aid workers following the devastating earthquake of 2005. The civilian government was secretly conspiring to place the ISI under the Ministry of Interior. Pasha’s personal competence, dedication and single minded focus to help steer the country from the deep morass of terrorism served him and the country in good stead but he had to pay a heavy price because he chose to try and rid the country of the menace posed by Raymond Davis and other CIA operatives abusing Pakistan’s territory for their nefarious schemes. The CIA brought in the entire western media and some sections of the Pakistani Press and a few local political factotums to launch a tirade of character assassination. General Pasha headed ISI for three turbulent years, in the harshest environment filled with intrigues, malicious schemes and international conspiracies against the state of Pakistan, its Army and ISI. After 9/11 Pakistan offered unconditional support to US to fight and eliminate the terrorism, but unfortunately over a period of time US/CIA having developed some kind of malice against Pakistan started mistrusting ISI. There were clear signs of divergence of national interests between US and Pakistan. Hence, US led NATO forces especially CIA categorized ISI as a rival agency and failed to cooperate with the demands of ISI. On the other hand ISI offered full cooperation to CIA receiving bursting thrusts of terrorism. General Pasha dared to question the American powerful agency CIA to explain the goals of their operations and reveal the number of operatives present in Pakistani, using local and foreign assets. CIA simply scoffed at such demands made by ISI Chief and tended to bulldoze its way through. Resultantly Raymond Davis case occurred as a precursor to halt US free loitering in Pakistan especially unbridled CIA operations inside Pakistan. In fact General Pasha stood like a rock before US/CIA to protect Pakistan’s national interests. Pakistani nation, army and its politicians rallied support for Pasha, despite his offer to resign after the debacle of Osama bin Laden’s elimination at Abbotabad. General Pasha showed the moral courage and strength of character to look into the eyes of the then mighty CIA Chief Leon Panetta with firm resolve, steadfast determination and unwavering courage to uphold Pakistani interests.
The tenure of his second extension is coming to an end on 18 March 2012. The General was offered an unprecedented third extension in light of his extraordinary capabilities of being a thinking General and showing outstanding capacity to counter the enemy’s machinations but he refused to accept it. The ultimate confidence that the government of the day reposed in him is that he was allowed to have a say in the selection of his successor. The obvious choice was Lieutenant General Zahirul Islam, who is currently commanding No. Five Corps at Karachi and has earlier served as the Deputy Director General at ISI.
General Pasha will be remembered as that rare breed of officers, who have the character to remain calm, fearless and resolute under extra-ordinary circumstances while focusing on the core issues. He deserves the nation’s appreciation and a standing ovation from all and sundry for having well protected Pakistan’s interests. The entire nation is proud of him acknowledging his wisdom, sense of patriotism and commitment to professional requirements. It was General Pasha, who having focused on the latent and visible signs of CIA schemes and plots, managed to draw a clear picture of its reprehensible designs and construe facts, thereby, getting determined to contain and regularize the unchecked and uncontrolled activities of CIA agents and others including Black-water and DynCorp etc. He ensured that CIA works in Pakistan through proper clearance by the concerned authorities and that nobody was above the law of land.
Pursuing his just goals General Pasha proved to be a patriotic Pakistani and a loyal General, willing to go the extra mile to safeguard Pakistan’s sovereignty. He managed to get the immigration procedures operative for US/CIA/UN officials to follow and get filtered as per local rules. Consequently the CIA spies working in the garb of trainers at police College Sihala, near Kahuta Nuclear Plant, were pushed out of such sensitive area sending them back to US. Hence, the nation is proud of his nationalistic posture and courageous stance.
His successor will have a tough act to follow, since General Pasha has raised the bar of personal efficiency and competence very high. In many aspects, he will sail through less choppy waters because a number of procedures have been streamlined and the proficient organization of ISI has been set on very high moorings. The enemies of Pakistan may heave a sigh of relief at his retirement but the organization Pasha headed will thwart all evil anti-Pakistan designs.