General Mahmoud Ahmad dismissed

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It's October the 8th, 2001, and General Mahmoud Ahmad, chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has just been dismissed. Could this be part of a coverup, to avoid investigation into claims that he had helped fund the 9/11 attacks?

Here's what Nafeez Ahmed said about this in his book, “The War On Truth”:

There are several points worth discussing here, but perhaps the core one is why Ahmad lost his job in the first place. Nafeez Ahmed suggests it may be to cover up links with the US; the opposing view could be that he was too close to the Taliban, radical Islamic groups, and al Qaeda (if the wire transfer claims are true), and getting rid of him was part of an attempt to “de-radicalize the Pakistani regime”. And we would argue that it’s the latter interpretation that makes considerably more sense.

The first problem with arguing that Ahmad lost his job to avoid any investigations into him over 9/11 links, for instance, is that this ignores other reasons that may have been more significant.

Here it’s claimed he had “his own radical Islamic agenda”, disobeyed Musharraf when visiting Afghanistan, and told Mullah Omar to resist. Another article suggests that resistance took a very practical form:

It’s hard to see how limiting the damage from American aerial bombing actually benefited the US, but it certainly fits if Ahmed was simply pursuing “his own radical Islamic agenda”.

Another story offers some confirmation that the trip to Afghanistan, and what happened there, played a major part in Ahmed’s eventual downfall:

And an Indian report discusses further reasons given in Pakistan as to why Ahmed may have been fired:

It could be argued that these briefings were simply an attempt to cover up the truth, and certainly if you believe Mahmoud Ahmed really was linked to Sheikh then the last paragraph denial won’t convince you.

There is another interesting detail here, though, that goes against the idea of the general losing his ISI job solely to avoid discussion of 9/11 links: “Gen. Muzzafar Hussain Usmani, Deputy Chief of the Army, who played a key role in the military coup was also sidelined”. So why him as well?

It seems both Usmani and Ahmed didn’t want to support war against the Taliban, along with a couple of other generals. And so they were all removed. This is entirely consistant with Musharraf getting rid of people who pursue their “own radical Islamic agenda”, but something of a problem if you believe only Ahmed needed to be removed for an entirely different reason.

A further Guardian story offered more information:

According to this report, then, the two demoted generals were “regarded as hardline Islamists”. And the author sees the reshuffle as making it harder “for rightwing fundamentalist officers, who form a significant faction within Pakistan's powerful army, to topple Gen Musharraf in a counter-coup”. Again, very good reasons for removing Ahmed and the others, without resorting to special fears over links to Saeed Sheikh or the funding of 9/11.

An Indian report in The Hindu produced a similar analysis:

Musharraf went much further then removing just one or two senior generals, though:

This appears to have been a major clearout. Why is it a surprise that Mahmoud Ahmad was caught up in it? Why is it more likely that he was removed to avoid investigation into 9/11 links, than simply for his opposition to Musharraf’s support for the US? And why is it that Nafeez Ahmed, in his quote at the top of the page, appears to ignore all of this?

Ahmed also complains that “the US has refused to launch an investigation of wider ISI complicity”. When did this refusal happen? Is Ahmed aware of all the US investigations into this area? We’re not saying “trust that the government have investigated it”, just that we don’t know what the situation is, and to say that they have “refused” to launch an investigation is misleading. (Unless, of course, he has evidence to back that up.)

As for the “deafening silence” on Mahmoud Ahmed and Sheikh, the comparison made with suspects in Germany is particularly inappropriate. Issuing warrants for the arrest of ordinary citizens living in Germany poses no problems at all. Issuing a warrant for the arrest of a high-level military official (even a former one), in a country where there’s far more hostility to you, and is of more strategic importance, is plainly going to be very much more difficult. Does anyone seriously believe that Musharraf would allow Mahmoud Ahmed to be extradited to the US? Or even could allow such a thing? There’s a sizeable chunk of the population that wouldn’t stand for that, and many in the army who would feel the same way.

The “silence” on Sheikh isn’t quite as deafening as Nafeez Ahmed would have you believe, either. Accounts from 2002 suggest the US had indicted Sheikh for his 1994 kidnapping, and approached Pakistan to explore the possibility of extradition:

Of course years later he’s still in a Pakistan jail, as the appeal process grinds on. Is this the fault of US inaction? Not according to this report from India:

If we are to believe this, the US wants to interrogate Sheikh but haven’t been allowed to do so. Meanwhile the lengthy appeal process gives Pakistan an excuse to hold on to him, and even when that’s complete, the “I’d rather hang him myself” comment suggests Sheikh may not be going anywhere. And if that’s how Musharraf responds to the idea of extraditing Sheikh, you can only imagine what he’d say about handing over Mahmoud Ahmad.

To sum up, then, Mahmoud Ahmad was dismissed as part of a major purge of hardline Islamist elements in the ISI and Pakistani army. It could be argued that he would have lost his job for the alleged connection to funding 9/11, too, but that hasn’t been proved. And even if it were, it’s still not evidence that this was done to avoid investigations that might uncover American hands behind the whole affair. It could just as easily be that the US knew this was the only action they’d ever be allowed to take against him; Musharraf would never allow him to be extradited, or even questioned, so having him removed from power was the only significant option available.