NADRA Inquiry Reveals Conspiracy To Prevent Asim Munir From Becoming Army Chief

NADRA Inquiry Reveals Conspiracy To Prevent Asim Munir From Becoming Army Chief
The National Database Registration Authority (NADRA), a federal institution that is the custodian of Pakistan’s official database of registered citizens, is set to finalise an inquiry identifying those behind a data leak involving the personal details of immediate family members of incumbent chief of army staff (COAS) Gen. Syed Asim Munir. The illegally-accessed information was reportedly used in an attempt to block Gen. Asim Munir's appointment as army chief in November 2022. The inquiry into the data leak was ordered by chairman NADRA Tariq Malik.

According to senior journalist Azaz Syed, in October 2022, a junior data entry operator at a NADRA facility in Kohlu, Farooq Ahmed, allegedly accessed the data of then-Lt. Gen. Asim Munir's wife, and collected the family’s passport details and identity card numbers. Gen. Asim Munir's family data was later input in the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Integrated Border Management System (IBMS) to track the international travel destinations of the family.

At the same time, five senior lieutenant generals of the Pakistan army were contending for the post of army chief.

The intent, according to Azaz Syed, was that it could be proven that Syed Asim Munir, then a senior lieutenant general, or his family had traveled to Iran and "converted to Shia Islam". Such allegations would be used to create suspicion in the eyes of Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Pakistan, regarding the senior army officer. Azaz Syed linked this to the 'leaking' of certain information to the Saudi defence attaché, who then transmitted it back to Riyadh.

Azaz Syed reiterated that Gen. Asim Munir had already served in Saudi Arabia, so the Saudi government was obviously surprised at this information. Moreover, Gen. Asim was known to not have a 'sectarian mindset', but Azaz Syed clarifies that this entire ruse was manufactured "as a method was adopted to prevent the appointment of the army chief, and Saudi Arabia was given the wrong information". The Saudi government then contacted prime minister Shehbaz Sharif, who "checked that information from his system". Once the checks were complete, "a new report was furnished, and the Saudi government was informed that the earlier information given by the defence attaché is erroneous".

Azaz Syed purports that the misgivings generated by these false reports were the actual reason behind the delay in appointing Gen. Syed Asim Munir as chief of army staff (COAS) during late November 2022.

Prime minister Shehbaz Sharif thereafter launched an investigation into the sharing of false reports of such a serious nature with an allied government, which was the key to uncovering this entire conspiracy. Since the roots of this nefarious initiative were planted at NADRA, an inquiry was started and six officials - Farooq Ahmad (junior executive), Rehman Butt (deputy director), Rasheed Ahmed (assistant director), Saif Ullah (deputy assistant director), Sajid Sarwar (assistant superintendent), and Muhammad Ali (deputy assistant director) - were suspended immediately.

According to Azaz Syed, these junior officials have furnished evidence that they were ordered by their superiors to generate reports containing the data, and it was possible that they did not know whose data they were retrieving from the NADRA database, or why. It should be noted that these six junior staffers have still not been restored to their positions, and were summarily suspended by NADRA on December 14 at the start of the inquiry.

During the inquiry, two senior officers of NADRA, Khalid Anayatullah (director general) and Amir Bukhari (director), were identified as "key players" behind accessing the personal data of the army chief and his immediate family members. Both officers allegedly named close relatives of other senior generals - who were also contenders for the army chief position in October 2022 - as those who requested this data. Azaz Syed said that both NADRA officers were cooperating with the inquiry, and that the people who came to them requesting this data, did so "in their personal capacities".

Initially, the NADRA inquiry into the data leak was supervised by Brigadier (retd) Khalid Latif. He was later found to be a close aide and confidante of retired Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, one of the contenders for COAS at the time. Latif has subsequently been replaced by senior NADRA officer Ali Javaid, who is reported to be upright and of honest repute.

It is reported Latif and three other military personnel had recently been given an opportunity to resign in order to avoid inquiries, and perhaps punishment as well. Latif resigned his commission as a brigadier of the Pakistan army, but is again under scrutiny for his activities which appear to have benefited his erstwhile patron Faiz Hameed.

A former spymaster and ex-chief of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, Lt. Gen. (retd) Faiz Hameed has been widely suspected of orchestrating a network of well-placed officials in the intelligence, military, bureaucratic, and even judicial apparatus to do his bidding. According to reports that have been made public, this network was operating even when Hameed himself was not heading Pakistan's premier intelligence agency. This network allegedly drummed up his candidature as potential army chief when he was a corps commander in Bahawalpur. This network is also alleged to have been functional even after Faiz Hameed retired from the army.

Once presumed to be the favoured choice of former prime minister and PTI chairman Imran Khan for the post of Pakistan's army chief, Lt. Gen. (retd) Faiz Hameed sought early retirement from the army last year - his application was swiftly approved. He has since been accused of amassing wealth beyond his known sources of income. PMLN chief organiser Maryam Nawaz has called for Faiz Hameed to be tried and court martialed under army regulations.

According to Azaz Syed, the ongoing inquiry is expected to expose the faces inside NADRA and elsewhere whose fingerprints are all over this conspiracy against army chief Gen. Asim Munir. However, the actual 'masterminds' inducing or forcing these officers to undertake these illegal activities might never face public punishment. But the names of former chief of general staff (CGS) Lt. Gen. (retd) Azhar Abbas, and former DG ISI Lt. Gen. (retd) Faiz Hameed, have so far "cropped up in the inquiry," as per Azaz Syed.

A top NADRA official has confirmed that an inquiry is taking place into the leak of details associated with family members of Gen. Asim Munir, but refused to reveal any details, citing the sensitive nature of ongoing investigation.