Profile: Aslam Beg
Aslam Beg was a participant or observer in the following events:
A. Q. Khan (right) and Benazir Bhutto (center). [Source: CBC] (click image to enlarge)After becoming prime minister of Pakistan following the victory of the Pakistan People’s Party in elections, Benazir Bhutto does not play a large role in Pakistan’s nuclear policy, according to US analysts. It is unclear whether she chooses not to do so, or is cut out of it by the military. In her absence the two senior figures overseeing the program are President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and army head General Aslam Beg. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
Pakistan conducts a second test firing of its Hatf 1 and 2 missiles, which are able to carry a nuclear payload. This follows a first test in May of the previous year (see May 1988). The missiles are launched from mobile pads on Pakistan’s Merkan coast, which is towards the border with Iran. The tests will be revealed by General Aslam Beg, chief of army staff, in a speech to students at Pakistan’s National Defence College. Beg comments that the missiles are “extremely accurate” and can carry up to 500 kg. Beg also thanks Munir Khan of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission for his team’s work on their development, and indicates that Pakistan’s development of a tank is progressing. This is intended as a message to the US that Pakistan is becoming less and less reliant on it for purchases of military hardware. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 198, 498]
When the US learns of a crisis in relations between India and Pakistan that could escalate into nuclear war (see January-May 1990), President George Bush sends Deputy National Security Adviser Robert Gates to meet leaders of both countries in an attempt to prevent armed conflict. Gates will later say he appreciated the seriousness of the situation: “The analogy we kept making was to the summer of 1914… Pakistan and India seemed to be caught in a cycle that they couldn’t break out of. I was convinced that if a war started, it would be nuclear.” However, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who is on a tour of the Middle East, keeps changing the place where she is to meet Gates, indicating she has no desire to see him. Gates therefore only meets with Pakistani army chief Aslam Beg and President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who say they will cease supporting insurgents in Kashmir. This is apparently enough to calm the Indians, who allow US officials to check that the Indian army is not on the border preparing to invade Pakistan, and the situation gradually calms down. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
Pakistan sends a Stinger missile to North Korea. Pakistan obtained the Stinger from the US, which provided them to Pakistani-backed rebels during the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s (see September 1986). The missile is partly intended as a gift for the North Koreans—an incentive for the revival of co-operation between the two countries, which has been stalled for some time (see Late 1980s). In addition, the Stingers held by Pakistan are becoming useless, because their batteries are failing, and the Pakistanis hope that the North Koreans will be able to help them reverse engineer the batteries. The mission to North Korea is undertaken by ISI Director Javed Nasir at the behest of Pakistani army chief Mirza Aslam Beg and nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, who will later become closely involved in co-operation with the North Koreans. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 220]
Pakistan’s army chief and the head of the ISI, its intelligence agency, propose to sell heroin to pay for the country’s covert operations, according to Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister at the time. Sharif claims that shortly after becoming prime minister, army chief of staff Gen. Aslam Beg and ISI director Gen. Asad Durrani present him with a plan to sell heroin through third parties to pay for covert operations that are no longer funded by the CIA, now that the Afghan war is over. Sharif claims he does not approve the plan. Sharif will make these accusations in 1994, one year after he lost an election and became leader of the opposition. Durrani and Beg will deny the allegations. Both will have retired from these jobs by the time the allegations are made. The Washington Post will comment in 1994, “It has been rumored for years that Pakistan’s military has been involved in the drug trade. Pakistan’s army, and particularly its intelligence agency… is immensely powerful and is known for pursuing its own agenda.” The Post will further note that in 1992, “A consultant hired by the CIA warned that drug corruption had permeated virtually all segments of Pakistani society and that drug kingpins were closely connected to the country’s key institutions of power, including the president and military intelligence agencies.” [Washington Post, 9/12/1994]
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