Ex-ISI chief’s team under scrutiny

Umar Cheema
Thursday, Feb 09, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Recently, a family that intended to fly abroad reached the airport. The immigration was successfully done as none of them was on the Exit Control List (ECL). Trouble started as they entered the Departure Lounge. The family was allowed to fly out except its head, Col (retd) Liaqat Ali Waseem.

Liaqat is former head of the ISI’s Islamabad office and was among the key operatives of Lt-Gen (retd) Faiz Hameed. He enjoyed absolute power as a wheeler dealer. Right from the Parliament to the Panama Papers investigation and other accountability cases against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) leadership, he played the lead role. Maryam Nawaz had once made an oblique reference to him: “In Islamabad, everyone knows that a retired colonel is running the Parliament.”

Liaqat was asked to resign after the change of guard took place in the ISI. Why he was not allowed to travel abroad remains unclear but the episode has been confirmed by The News from three different sources. The incident occurred on January 15. A source privy to the development said that the intelligence official, who accompanied him to the airport in order to facilitate the family in immigration, was ordered to escort him back. Liaqat wanted to fly to London where he has served in the past as a ‘diplomat’ in Pakistan’s High Commission.

Liaqat is not the only officer linked with Faiz who is under scrutiny. There are several officials who have been interrogated and, in some cases, have been asked to resign. Rehmatullah Khan, a civilian officer of the agency, was posted in Pakistan Embassy in Saudi Arabia shortly before Faiz relinquished the charge as the ISI head. Around two months ago, he was recalled from Riyadh for questioning and later posted somewhere in a far-flung area of Pakistan.

The social media was abuzz with the rumours that Rehmat disguised himself as a spiritual guide of Imran Khan’s wife, Bushra Bibi, when Imran was PM. Apparent purpose of this exercise was to spy on the first family. However, investigation into this allegation found it to be totally baseless speculation. Instead, it was learnt that Rehmat was assigned the task to keep an eye on the spiritual personalities linked to Bushra. Lt Col (retd) Asif Mehmood is yet another official whose last posting was in Pakistan Cricket Board. He was among those involved in the ‘accountability’ drive. Before the PCB, he was with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as officer-in-charge of intelligence and vigilance. In the PCB, Asif served as director security and anti-corruption till the last month. On January 23, it has been learnt, he was asked to resign which he refused to. Subsequently, he was removed. Three other retired colonels working under him received the same direction and they chose to resign immediately.

A PCB official confirmed this but was not aware of the motives. He said the PCB was asked to remove them, which had been done. He said there was an ongoing conflict on the registration of cricket league that could have expedited the dismissal of Asif and his team. Explaining this, he said, a cricket team, Kashmir Super League, was registered when Faiz was at the helm of affairs. Now, there is a proposal to register a new one, Kashmir Premier League, which is owned by a different individual. Asif was putting up resistance. The matter is in court now. Two brigadiers of the Faiz era have also been shown the door. One of them was retired and posted as DG in the agency. He was considered an architect of manipulation during the Senate elections. Another one posted outside the agency but involved in different operations authorised by the former ISI chief has also met the same fate. A defence expert, when contacted to understand this ongoing development, said it was a routine matter. The new leadership forms its own team of people with whom they feel comfortable, hence there is nothing extraordinary in this.