ISLAMABAD: After almost two weeks of claim by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and repeated by present Prime Minister Imran Khan, the former director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), retired Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam, has clarified that he never asked for the resignation of former premier and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif in 2014.
“I never sent anyone to convey any such message to [Nawaz], this is absolutely wrong,” he said while speaking to The News. Instead, Islam insisted that at every stage of the 2014 sit-in, he had advised the PML-N government to engage politically with the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) to end the protest. Islam, however, was reluctant to talk further on the subject, according to the report.
Islam’s comments come days after Nawaz claimed that during his last stint as premier, at a time when Imran Khan was leading the 2014 Islamabad sit-in, the former ISI director-general conveyed a message in the middle of the night, asking for Nawaz’s resignation or else the consequences could include a martial law imposed in the country.
“I was told to step down and go home. I said whatever you want to do, do it […] I will not resign [from the office of the prime minister],” Nawaz said, referring to Islam’s alleged message, during his Sept 30 video address to his party.
Mocking Nawaz’s claim, PM Imran, in an interview with Samaa TV, said: “You were the prime minister, [how] does he have the courage to say that to you? “If someone tells that to me, I will demand his resignation. I am the democratically elected prime minister; who can dare tell me to step down?”
Later, addressing a lawyer’s forum ceremony, PM Imran once again took Nawaz to task for his claim. “Why did he [Islam] say that? And why did you [Nawaz] silently hear that? Because Zaheerul Islam knew how much money you had stolen.”
Imran went on to say that opposition parties’ real issue with the military was that unlike other institutions, opposition was unable to “control” the ISI after the agency “found out” about their alleged corruption.
Nawaz “fought with every army chief” because he wanted to turn the military into Punjab police, Imran said. Nawaz, who made his political comeback last month, after a year-long hiatus, has in recent weeks levelled serious allegations of political interference against the armed forces.
Till now, Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam had never commented on the issue but today in a meeting with this correspondent he categorically denied the story besides saying that he never sent any person with a message to Nawaz Sharif.
Although, the-then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his cabinet members and senior leaders have been discussing the alleged ‘plot’ to oust him from power using the PTI-PAT sit-ins in 2014 as a pretext, the government has never got the matter probed.
In late 2015, the then Defence Minister Khawaja Asif in a television show had named former DG ISI General Zaheerul Islam for his alleged role in destabilising the Nawaz Sharif government during the 2014 PAT-PTI sit-ins. Khawaja Asif had said that General Zaheer was behind the ‘London Plan’ conspiracy against the government.
What was being discussed earlier in the closed-door meetings of the rulers was made public by the defence minister, who said that the 2014 London Plan against the Nawaz Sharif government was the collective work of two successive ISI chiefs — Lt General (retd.) Shuja Pasha and Lt Gen (retd.) Zaheerul Islam.
Khawaja Asif in his TV interview had also said that Gen Zaheer had a grudge against the Nawaz government for its stance on the Geo issue after the April 2014 attack on Hamid Mir. To settle his personal grudge, Khawaja had added, Gen Zaheer hurt the national interest. Khawaja Asif was of the view that the situation was handled well by the then prime minister, who remained patient.
The defence minister’s statement was not appreciated by some military quarters. He was asked at the time not to talk on the issue anymore. Later, another cabinet member, Mushahid Ullah Khan, had to resign when he told a foreign news agency that the Intelligence Bureau had telephone recordings of General Zaheerul Islam, “proving” his involvement in the conspiracy.