ISLAMABAD-Former spymaster Brig (retd) Ijaz Shah is back in the saddle but this time as a member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Core Committee—the party’s highest decision-making body.

The PTI recently nominated Brig (retd) Shah as a member of its newly-formed 108-member Core Committee on the directives of Imran Khan. Two other retired three-star army officers are also part of the committee.

Shah remained controversial in the past as former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had accused him of hatching conspiracies to kill her.

Shah, who had also served in Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), remained director-general of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), country’s premier civilian intelligence agency during the tenure of former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf. He was considered a very powerful IB chief who used to remain part of all important and controversial decisions of that time’s government, an Islamabad-based senior journalist commented who has been covering internal security for years.

Bhutto in a letter written on October 16, 2007, to Musharraf had named three persons for allegedly conspiring to kill her upon her return to Pakistan from self-imposed exile. The three persons included Ijaz Shah, former ISI chief Lt-Gen (retd) Hameed Gul and former chief minister Punjab Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi.

US lobbyist Mark Siegel in his statement given in 2009 to FIA’s joint investigation team in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case had testified that Musharraf had warned Bhutto about her safety and security on her return to Pakistan.

“Bhutto sent me an email on October 26, 2007, in which she had said that if something terrible happened to her, she would hold Musharraf responsible apart from individuals mentioned in her letter to former President written on October 16, 2007,” Mr Siegel had testified.

Shah also contested the election on the NA-137 seat from his home constituency district Nankana Sahib as an independent candidate in 2013 elections. Again, he contested by-election on the same seat in 2015 as an independent candidate but with the support of the PTI. Both times, he lost the election.

Shah was not very much active in PTI till his elevation as the member of the Core Committee last month, an office-bearer of the PTI’s central secretariat said wishing anonymity. He, however, said that his role as the member of the committee would be seen once the Core Committee would start its meetings.

Secretary General PTI Jehangir Khan Tareen last month notified more than 100-member Core Committee and 339-member Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the PTI. However, the CEC had more representation all over the country while Core Committee is selective that makes necessary immediate decisions on important levels and implements the decisions of the CEC, Iftikhar Durrani, the head of PTI’s Central Media Department explained.

“This does not carry any significance that Shah has been appointed as the member of the Core Committee as former IB chief is now pursuing his career as a politician and he is a member of the committee like others,” Fawad Chaudhry, PTI spokesperson said.

Endorsing that Shah remained a close aide to the former military ruler as well as remained associated with some controversies in the past, he admitted that as such Shah was not among active members of the party. He added that former IB chief had been made the member of Core Committee as many potential ticket holders of the party had been made part of it. His arguments could not be accepted as the committee had only around 108 members while ticket holders of the PTI would be around more than 300 for NA seats. Shah could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.

Ijaz Shah was also serving as Home Secretary Punjab in 2002 when Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was arrested in connection with kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.