Faizabad sit-in inquiry commission 'exonerates' Faiz Hamid

Inquiry body finds out that former COAS, ISI DG had given Faiz Hamid permission to sign agreement as arbitrator

Azaz Syed
Shakeel Farman Ali
A protester throws a tear gas shell back towards police during a clash in Islamabad on Nov 25, 2017. ─ AFP
A protester throws a tear gas shell back towards police during a clash in Islamabad on Nov 25, 2017. ─ AFP
  • Cabinet Division, SC both have received report.
  • Commission blames ex-Punjab govt for Faizabad sit-in.
  • It finds no connection of any govt official with protest.

ISLAMABAD: Former Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) director general Lieutenant General (retd) Faiz Hamid has been exonerated by the inquiry commission established to investigate the Faizabad dharna case, a The News report stated on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, former Punjab Rangers director general Major General (retd) Azhar Naveed Hayat has also received a clean chit in the matter that has been under probe by the commission constituted on the Supreme Court's orders following the case pertaining to the 2017 sit-in at Faizabad which was led at that by former Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

Both the former military officers were alleged of distributing money among participants of the sit-in protest in the federal capital. At the time of the protest, Hamid was heading ISI's counter intelligence wing and held the rank of a major general.

The commission was led by Dr Akhtar Ali Shah, a former officer of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, and included senior PAS official Khushhal Khan and former inspector general Tahir Alam.

The inquiry body found out that then-army chief and ISI director general had given Hamid permission to sign the agreement as an arbitrator. Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal had also agreed to signing of the accord by Hamid on November 25, 2017, following which the demonstrators dispersed.

The probe body was tasked with identifying the perpetrators who facilitated the sit-in. However, it simply suggested taking legal action against the individuals in light of the federal government and Punjab's findings. The Cabinet Division and the SC have both received the report from the panel. Restoring the cases against the TLP during the dharna has been recommended by the report.

Additionally, statements from Abbasi, Shehbaz Sharif, Iqbal, current IB head Fawad Asadullah, former ISI chief Hamid, ex-Intelligence Bureau chief Aftab Sultan, ex-Punjab IG Arif Nawaz and former Punjab Rangers DG Maj Gen (retd) Azhar Naveed and others are attached to the report.

Without mentioning the name of then-Punjab CM Shehbaz, the body said his government was responsible for the sit-in in Islamabad. It reported The News after its correspondent read the commission’s 149-page report and obtained some excerpts from it.

"There is no connection of any government official with the protest as we could not find evidence establishing involvement of a state institution or secret agency in facilitating it," the commission stated.

The group also suggested passing legislation pertaining to the nation's intelligence services. It said the army is a revered institution of the state and that, in order to protect itself from criticism, it should avoid from getting involved in civil disputes. Consequently, the public's confidence in the organisation would rise.

The commission suggested assigning IB the primary responsibility for internal security. It has suggested taking action against then-Punjab IG Arif Nawaz for lying to the panel and engaging in wrongdoing.

According to the panel, the former Punjab administration refrained from taking action against the demonstrators in order to preserve its support base. This decision was deemed inappropriate, as it represented a defection from accountability and wrongdoing. It suggested taking legal action against the parties responsible for it.

The group recommended against reaching a deal with the "terrorists" and suggested finding a long-term solution to the issue. The commission proposed, "The funds now allocated to Rangers and FC [Frontier Corps] be transferred to the police and the paramilitary forces should be sent back to the borders."

At that time, the commission refused agreement with the TLP, implying that these kinds of agreements are only short-term fixes. It said that as the intelligence agencies have no code of conduct, legislation is required regarding their policies and standard operating procedures. The National Action Plan's execution was advised by the commission.

It said that the ministers ought to be granted financial and administrative responsibility in addition to the federal secretaries. The capital chief commissioner should be autonomous. It further suggested that all the agencies should collaborate to halt the financial support for terrorist organisations.

The commission has suggested that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) Council of Complaints be reshuffled and TV channel’s licence should be suspended for six months, and a fine of Rs50 million be imposed on the broadcast of violent and inflammatory material. It also suggested creating a special riot squad for Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

The body said apart from Absar Alam, the former head of Pemra, nobody spoke out against Hamid. While, despite being called, Rana Sanaullah, then-Punjab home minister, did not show up. Written statements were presented to the commission by Shehbaz and the former ISI DG.

Maj Gen (retd) Azhar Naveed had admitted that he gave money to the protestors, but it was from his pocket and out of sympathy for them so that they could return to their homes. He rejected the notion that any agency of state institution provided financial aid for this purpose.

Moreover, the report also includes details regarding the issue of former law minister Zahid Hamid.

It recommended reviewing shortcomings and weaknesses in the police’s command and control system. The policymakers should learn a lesson from the Faizabad dharna, it said, adding that the defects in the government’s policies paved the way for such happenings.

During the sit-in, army officers, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and ministers received threats on social media, but the government committed negligence in taking action against the social media propaganda.

"Police officers should first be posted in difficult areas before their transfer to Islamabad. Maintaining law and order is the government’s responsibility, so the other departments should refrain from interfering in it. Zero-tolerance policy is must to tackle the violent extremism,” the report proposed.