(This was originally posted in The Sunday Guardian Live by Ehsanullah Ehsan)
Pak Military Wanted Me To Lead Its Hit Squad: Ex Taliban Commander While in the custody of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, as usual in the evening, after sunset, I was sitting in the drawing-room with my son Muhammad Abbas Khan, watching TV when Col Taufeeq Ahmad Malik messaged me on my WhatsApp saying, “Today Commander Sahib wants to meet you, I will send the car in an hour, you come with the driver.
Colonel Taufeeq was in charge of military intelligence for Mohmand district. Because I also belonged to Mohmand district, he was given the extra charge to look after me and deal with affairs related to me for a while. After the car came to pick me up, we reached the gate of the headquarters in four-five minutes. I asked Col Taufeeq Ahmad Malik, “Is there an important issue?” However, the Colonel, refraining from giving further information, said that we would meet in an hour to find out what the matter was. I ended the discussion by sending him a smiley emoji.
Colonel Taufeeq Ahmad Malik was waiting for me, standing on the steps of the porch of the office. He said, “welcome” to me and told the driver to leave and they started following me, signalling me to go inside the office. When I entered the room, Brigadier Majid was reclining in his chair behind the table, and in another chair sat a man with white hair and a light beard, whom I had never met before. Brigadier Majid addressed me by saying, “We have an important issue to discuss with you, so you are invited here.” The white-haired man was introduced to me as Brigadier Rahat.
When Brigadier Majid started his speech, he praised me and told me that you are a real mujahid and brave, you decided to return. Not everyone can dare to do like you. I kept thanking them for their compliments. Shortly after, the second part of his speech started which contained details about the importance of Pakistan, internal and external threats to Pakistan and patriotism. He kept urging to my patriotism by reciting poems and sometimes he kept trying to prove his point by quoting from the Quran and hadiths.
Brigadier Rahat, Colonel Tauseef Ahmad Malik and I listened to his speech in silence. Now the last part of the speech of Brigadier Majid had started and he told me that it had been decided to give you an important responsibility. It’s actually an expression of the institution’s (Military Intelligence) confidence in you. He said, “As you can guess, enemy countries and agencies are pushing for anarchy in Pakistan, but we are not only disclosing their plans but also thwarting them. Your duty is being imposed in this regard. We have decided to make you the leader of a squad that will destroy the enemy and turn their plans to dust,” he said.
The brigadier said that your comrades will be included in this squad. I asked which of my comrades. He said that the former members of TTP who have surrendered before the army and are now stationed in different Kent areas. He said that we bring all of them before you for you to select them. If they fall short, we will make up for this shortfall with the comrades of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad. Elaborating further on the plan, the brigadier said that all resources would be provided to you and secret offices would be set up for you in Peshawar, Bannu, Mardan and Quetta but whatever you do is safe and secure and will happen secretly.
The brigadier was telling me the details of the plan as if he was explaining something to one of his subordinates. I asked what our duty would be, that is, what we would have to do. The brigadier said, “Once you are organized, you will be told what to do.” I told them, “Unless I know what we have to do, I will be no part of it.” The brigadier may not have liked what I had to say. He tried to explain to me that your job would be to take secret measures against the enemies of the country, but my question was who the enemy of the country was and what steps we would have to take against them.
Seeing that I required specifics about the plan, the brigadier stayed silent for a while. Then after dinner we reunited. Brigadier Majid explained to me that these matters are secret, and that you will continue to receive the targets, however it is too early to tell you anything more. I told them, “Look, I have come to live a peaceful life. You have promised to help me return to a normal life, so I will not go back to any violent acts.” In reply, the brigadier asked, “What can you do for the country?” I said, “I will do whatever I can.” He smiled and said, “We will not put more burden on you than you can afford.” Before I could say anything else, the brigadier looked at his watch and said, “It’s one o’clock at night. That’s enough for today. Tomorrow we’ll sit down again and talk about details.”
At the end of the meeting, I was dropped off home. I spent the rest of the night wondering whether it would be okay to lead the squad, and the question kept popping up in my mind: Who are the enemies of the country? Who will be our target? I thought that maybe these people want to make me stand against TTP or Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, but the situation was not clear, so after much thought I decided that I would not be in a military setup again. I did not want to go because I did not want any war and I had surrendered to the Pakistan army because of my desire for peace.
The next day at the appointed time I was called to the same office again.
When the meeting started, Brigadier Rahat (Hussain) asked me, “What did you decide?” Brigadier Majid then took out a file with “secret” written on it. He took out four pages from it and placed them in front of me. The pages contained the names and addresses of political, social, media and some religious figures from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Their political affiliations too were compiled in the form of a chart. The list was divided into two sections, with the names of the most famous being placed first and the second category of celebrities in the second category. The first ten names on the list included Ali Wazir, Manzoor Pashtun, Mohsin Dawar, Dr Syed Alam Mehsud, Afrasiab Khattak, Farhatullah Babar, Mufti Kifayatullah, Usman Kakar, Gulalai Ismail and Alam Zeb Mehsud. There were names of some local PTM officials, most notably Arif Wazir, who was later killed by unknown individuals in Waziristan.
Brigadier Majid said that this will be our target; you have to work against them, but this will happen when we give you the go ahead. I mustered up courage to tell them I could not do this because I did not want to be a part of any carnage, not anymore. It wasn’t until I finished that he said, “What are you saying? How can you say that?” “Look at me, tell me why you can’t do that, we’ve been trying to explain to you since yesterday and you don’t understand.” I told him that I had told you yesterday that I would make a thoughtful decision. After that, four officers, two brigadiers, a colonel and a major were taking turns to convince me of the seriousness and consequences of my refusal. Col Taufeeq said your decision will destroy the future of you and your son, use common sense, you have the opportunity to serve the country and the nation, but you are fleeing from it.
For a while I sat in silence and then told them in clear words that I said what I had to say, and I would not change my decision. Brigadier Majid and his team tried to persuade me for two hours, but in vain. During the conversation, they were calling the people mentioned on the hit list as enemies of Pakistan and traitors. They would tell me that these people are demanding the death penalty for you, they want death for you. Why do you have sympathy for them?
To get out of there, I told them, “Well, it’s a big decision. You need to give me a little time so I can convince myself of it.”
A week later, I sent a message to Col Taufeeq on WhatsApp, reiterating that I would not be a part of any new war or lead any death squad. Strict action was taken against us after that day. I was threatened that my decision would destroy the future of my children and it was said that you would die in our custody, you will not have the chance to see the world outside. Your decision will be a disaster for your family too. But I had made a decision and no matter the consequences I have the habit of not changing it once I make a decision.