Mystery of Gen Asif’s death persists
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: The mystery of the sudden 1993 death of the then Pakistan Army chief, General Asif Nawaz, remains unresolved, given the discrepancies between different post-mortem test results, with one suggesting arsenic poisoning as the cause of death, according to a new book.
‘Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army and the Wars Within’ by Shuja Nawaz, published this week refrains from identifying what the real cause of the sudden death of the general was. He writes, “Nothing emerged to explain the apparent discrepancy between the results obtained from the samples that I received from the family and the ‘final’ test results that came out of the government-supervised tests later in the year. There was no direct evidence linking [former premier] Nawaz Sharif to the death. There was no evidence that linked any other party to General Asif’s death. Politics took centre stage again and may have been behind this smoky ending of this episode.”
According to Nawaz, the late army chief’s brother, “Subsequent attempts to get information from the United States government through the Freedom of Information Act for all communications about my brother have not yielded any results to date. The last communication from the Department of State only said that they are still gathering information from the field offices, almost two years after the request was filed. If there was some manipulation of the test samples, then only an insider with knowledge of that might break this impasse. Neither the Pakistan Army at that time or any government since then made any attempt to clarify the situation. A short governmental statement simply stated that no poison had been found in my brother’s body. This was during the second Benazir Bhutto government. Surprisingly, she asked my niece through the Governor of the Punjab to request her mother to seek a re-opening of the inquiry, an action that any government could initiate on its own. The family chose not to do so. In retrospect, an immediate inquiry and autopsy, followed by sharing with the family of General Nawaz’s complete medical file may have avoided the politically charged drama that was allowed to be played out for months. But the army command apparently had closed ranks and was protecting itself, in a replay of the period after the death of General Ziaul Haq. Thus, yet another major suspicious death involving the Pakistan Army and its politics remained unsolved.”