Colonel Shuja Khanzada calm departs

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Pakistan
Monday, 17 August 2015

Col Shuja Khanzada (retired) was known to maintain his poise in the most trying situations. The quality was amply displayed during his final assignment – fighting terrorism in Punjab, particularly in the presence of the National Action Plan that came about in the aftermath of the Peshawar Army Public School carnage in December 2014.

One of the more recent occasions where everyone looked for any signs of emotions on his part was when he announced the end of Malik Ishaq. This was a big occasion – the killing of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi leader along with 13 of his associates in Muzaffargarh on July 29 by the Counter-Terrorism Department that he headed as the provincial home minister. True to his reputation, the Khanzada from Attock managed to deliver his lines matter-of-factly even when others around him spoke of the threat of a blowback.

Col Shuja Khanzada had seen many fronts and been through many camps in his life. He was born on Aug 28, 1943 in a family belonging to the Yousufzai clan and settled in Attock’s Shadi Khan village. He was the scion of the area’s influential Chach clan and his was family that had traditionally lived by agriculture but had also produced many soldiers. He was the son of Mr Yousaf Khanzada. His grandfather, Capt Ajab Khan, was a member of the Indian Legislative Assembly. His uncle, Capt Taj Muhammad Khanzada (retired), was a member of Gen Ziaul Haq’s Majlis-i-Shoora and sat in the National and Punjab Assembly between1956 and 1990.

Mr Khanzada did his matriculation from the Public School Nowshera and graduation from the Islamia College, Peshawar, in 1966. He was commissioned in the Pakistan Army in 1967 and took part in the 1971 Indo-Pak War. He served as an instructor during 1974-78 and 1982-83, commanded 13 Lancers during 1983-85 and was awarded gallantry award “Tamgha-i-Basalat” in 1988. He was among the first few soldiers to arrive at the Siachin Glacier, in 1983.

He also remained associated with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). He was posted as the military attache to the embassy of Pakistan in Washington DC during 1992-94. Later, he was seconded to the embassy of Pakistan as minister information.

A keen agriculturist who was considered close to Gen Pervez Musharraf, he was elected an MPA from his hometown in 2002 as a PML-Q candidate. He worked as the special assistant to the Punjab chief minister and as head of the Chief Minister’s Inspection Team (CMIT).

The 2008 election found him looking for a new political camp. He returned to the Assembly in 2008 as an independent candidate and joined the PML-N. A stint as the chairman, Chief Minister’s Task Forces on Agriculture and Police Training Reforms followed. He retained the seat in 2013 and was appointed as the Minister for Environment. He was given the portfolio of Home in 2014 after the Model Town incident – a selection which reportedly led to some tension within the ranks of the PML-N.

Col Khanzada was a relatively new face in the party, and there were rumours that some of those who enjoyed closeness with Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif were not happy with his rise to prominence. Not too long ago, the former colonel was quoted by an Urdu paper as saying that some in the party grudged him his position.

Col Khanzada had been trying to make an impact and had been searching around for suitable platform. Apart from his stints in Punjab from the platforms of PML-Q and PML-N, PTI Chairman Imran Khan remarked in a tweet that Mr Khanzada was one of the founding members of his party who “travelled with me in the early days, galvanizing” people.

Not the least because of his ability to understand the army’s idiom and way of working due to the years he spent on the force, Mr Khanzada was considered a key player in Punjab’s joint civilian-military fight against terrorism. He is credited with working long and hard for the overhauling of the CTD and contributing to the modernisation of the Punjab police. He was keen on raising the anti-terrorism force in the CTD on modern lines, seeking Turkish assistance in this regard.

In his tribute to the departing minister, ISPR Director-General Asim Bajwa said “Khanzada Shaheed was bold Offr (officer) whose sacrifice 4 (for) greater cause of cleansing Pak won’t go waste.”

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