Is Pakistan a Friend or Foe?
- Is Pakistan a Friend or Foe?
Washington has new doubts about one of its most crucial partners in
the war on terrorism
By TIM MCGIRK I ISLAMABAD AND MASSIMO CALABRESI I WASHINGTON
ASIM RAFIQUI FOR TIME
HARD-LINERS: A leader of the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, an Islamic bloc,
blasts Musharraf at a rally in Peshawar last week
Sunday, Sep. 21, 2003
Pakistani generals routinely deny that their army retains any
sympathy for the Taliban. But here is a secret they managed to keep
quiet for several months. In early summer U.S. soldiers scrambling
after Taliban remnants along the craggy mountains of southeastern
Afghanistan made a surprising discovery. Among the gang of suspected
Taliban agents they nabbed were three men who, it emerged in
interrogations, were Pakistani army officers. Authorities in Pakistan
clapped the three in a military brig; an official from military
intelligence called them "mavericks." But the news of their capture
alongside enemy fighters underscored a persistent issue in Washington
and Kabul: Whose side, exactly, is Pakistan on?
The longer the war on terrorism continues, the more questions the
U.S. seems to have about Pakistan. Just how devoted is President
Pervez Musharraf to fighting terrorism? Is Pakistan undermining
stability in neighboring Afghanistan? Is it flirting with the
potential disaster of a new war on the subcontinent by harboring
militants fighting India in the disputed region of Kashmir? What role
does Islamabad play in the proliferation of nuclear weapons
worldwide? On so many issues of U.S. concern, Pakistan is a crucial
Certainly Washington continues to appreciate Musharraf's decision to
side with the U.S. after 9/11. That meant breaking ties with the
Taliban, which Pakistani authorities had nurtured; assisting the U.S.
in changing the regime in Afghanistan and in running down remnants of
Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda as they fled their sanctuary there; and
restraining Islamic extremists in Pakistan. Says a U.S. official of
the Pakistanis: "We're certainly better off with the level of
partnership we have with them than if we had none."
But the faintness of that praise contains at least a hint of
disappointment. No one expected Musharraf to reorient Pakistan toward
moderation instantaneously. Even if his security chiefs saluted his
new orders, rogue operations were inevitable. Plus, Musharraf has to
balance Washington's demands against the fact that many Pakistanis
are sympathetic to the Taliban and al-Qaeda and particularly to the
militants in Kashmir. For those reasons, the Bush Administration has
settled on what a State Department official calls "the carrot
approach with Pakistan." In his scheduled meeting with George W. Bush
in New York City this week, the fifth session Musharraf has had with
the President since 9/11, he can expect a continuation of that
policy. But he will also feel an urgency in the air. It's sparked by
Washington's concern that it needs better results from Islamabad at a
time when a resurgent Taliban is using Pakistan as a base for strikes
against U.S. and government forces in Afghanistan, threatening the
stability of the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. Says Norbert Van
Heyst, the outgoing commander of the nato peacekeeping force in
Kabul: "It is well known that beyond the border, the remnants of the
Taliban and al-Qaeda have the chance to reorganize," including
establishing training camps.
One reason the Pakistanis have failed to stop these militants is
geographical. The border area in Pakistan where Taliban and al-Qaeda
survivors have coalesced is made up of semiautonomous tribal lands
where the central government's authority is limited and where
promilitant fervor runs high. In early September U.S. soldiers backed
by helicopters and fighter aircraft herded dozens of fleeing Taliban
fighters out of the mountains in Afghanistan's Zabul province toward
the border, while Pakistani forces waited to grab them as they came
across. By the third day, tribal protests had become so widespread
that Islamabad called off the hunt. Not one Taliban fighter was
Islamabad, meanwhile, is resisting U.S. demands that its forces be
allowed to mount their own search parties inside the tribal
territories. That scenario, explains a Pakistani military officer,
could lead to an armed tribal uprising. "You get these hotshot cia
guys who come in on a six-month rotation, and they want to tear up
everythingmosques, villagesto get bin Laden," a Western diplomat
comments. "Well, the Pakistani army has to live with the fallout."
And within the army, there seem to be strains of resistance to the
U.S.-led effort against al-Qaeda and its allies. Pakistani military-
intelligence sources say army investigators in early September
arrested three officers, all "below the rank of lieutenant colonel,"
for suspected ties to al-Qaeda. Two of the officers were based in the
tribal areas. All three, say the sources, were fingered by al-Qaeda's
top planner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. They are in Pakistani military
Thought to be the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Mohammed was caught
last March inside an army officers' colony in Rawalpindi. Authorities
say he was sheltered there by a serving army major. A senior military-
intelligence official denies that al-Qaeda has any support in the
military beyond this "tiny cell." But according to Talat Masood, a
retired lieutenant general and a writer on security issues, a strong
anti-U.S. feeling pervades the army. After Musharraf's government
turned against the Taliban at Washington's prodding and failed to
condemn the civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan, says
Masood, "there was a sense of betrayal inside the armed forces."
Weeding out extremists in the military may not be easy. For years,
the top brass drummed into midranking officers a sense of Islamic
mission. A Prophet-length beard helped an officer's promotion, as did
praying five times a day. Now, says Masood, "the army is taking
measures against officers who are too religious minded." Those deemed
overly fanatic are discreetly steered into nonsensitive or dead-end
jobs, he says, and a soldier needs permission from his commanding
officer before he is permitted to grow a beard.
The difficulty of redirecting the army toward moderation is
illustrated by Musharraf's struggle to reform Pakistan's powerful
internal-security apparatus, Inter-Services Intelligence (isi], once
the Taliban's No. 1 ally. These days, says a Western diplomat in
Islamabad, the isi's top brass carries out Musharraf's bidding, but
some of the lower-echelon officers seem to retain tiesideological
and financialwith their former Taliban proteges. Says this
diplomat: "At some level, these guys see the Taliban as an insurance
policy for what happens next in Afghanistan."
These same countervailing forces are at play in Islamabad's relations
with militants fighting to expel India from the part of Muslim-
majority Kashmir that it occupies. The militants' cause is popular
within the Pakistani security forces and among Pakistanis in general.
After India and Pakistan, both nuclear armed, nearly went to war over
the conflict in May 2002, Musharraf assured Bush that there were no
militant training camps in Pakistani territory. Deputy Secretary of
State Richard Armitage reminded Musharraf of that guarantee when the
two met in the northern city of Rawalpindi before Musharraf's last
meeting with Bush in June. Armitage then produced a dossier of
satellite photos showing camps of that nature. "Musharraf acted
outraged and upset," a State Department official tells TIME, but it
wasn't clear to the Americans whether he was angry that the camps
were functioning or that the U.S. had uncovered them.
Musharraf has failed to sustain his promise to crack down on
extremist groups that in the past fed fighters to the Kashmir cause,
carried out sectarian killings and attacked Westerners. In January
2002, at the insistence of the U.S., Musharraf banned five such
groups. Yet the government has allowed them to resurface under new
names. Abdul Rauf Azhar, formerly of Jaish-e-Muhammad, says, "We are
still doing our work."
Azhar is not just any militant. Indian police suspect him of
organizing the 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight to secure
the release of his brother Maulana Masood Azhar, among other
prisoners, from an Indian jail. The two Azhar brothers top India's
wanted-terrorist list, but Pakistan brought no charges against Abdul
Rauf. Musharraf did vow to keep Masood under house arrest, but staff
members at his ornate mansion in Bahawalpur say he is free to travel,
give incendiary sermons against the U.S. and collect donations for
the Kashmiri insurgency.
Ultimately, the most explosive issue between the U.S. and Pakistan is
the nuclear one. American intelligence officials believe Pakistani
scientists have sharedwith North Korea and Iranthe technology they
developed on their way to becoming a nuclear power. That is a
possibility Washington cannot ignore when North Korea is explicitly
threatening to sell nuclear weapons to terrorists unless the U.S.
gives in to Pyongyang's demands for security guarantees, diplomatic
ties and economic aid. U.S. officials do not think government agents
are responsible for the leakage of Pakistani technology, but the U.S.
has repeatedly asked Pakistan to impose tighter export controls and
remains unsatisfied with Islamabad's response.
Of course, Musharraf has his frustrations with Washington. Like many
Pakistanis, he thinks the U.S. has not sufficiently compensated
Islamabad for its sacrifices in the war on terrorism. Several dozen
Pakistani security men have died in shoot-outs with al-Qaeda since
9/11, and two were accidentally shot last month by U.S. troops. Among
the rewards Islamabad seeks are for the U.S. to unblock the sale of F-
16 fighter planes to Pakistan, open U.S. markets to Pakistani
textiles and apply more pressure on New Delhi to settle the Kashmir
dispute. "Here we are, fighting and dying in Bush's war," a Pakistani
general recently told a Western diplomat, "and we're not getting
anything in return."
When Musharraf and Bush met in June, the President's message to the
Pakistanis was, according to a State Department official, "If they
really are committed (to fighting terrorism], we're willing to
entertain any request they want to make." Ahead of this week's
meeting, U.S. officials anticipated that Musharraf would arrive with
a wish list of military, economic and trade concessions and a rundown
of what he would do on the counterterrorism front if granted those
benefits. "Then people will decide what the pain thresholds are,"
says the official. Those limits will be determined in part by the
ache of the intolerable status quo.
With reporting by Timothy J. Burger/ Washington, Ghulam Hasnain/
Bahawalpur and Syed Talat Hussain/Islamabad
Diamer terrorist camp dismantled
By Ismail Khan
PESHAWAR, Oct 4: Paramilitary forces backed by the Pakistan Army
scoured and dismantled a terrorist training facility in the Northern
Areas on Saturday. Troops from the paramilitary Frontier Corps and
Pakistan Army launched the operation in Tangir sub-division of Diamir
district early in the morning to search the training camp.
"It was a search and dismantle operation," ISPR spokesman Maj-Gen
Shaukat Sultan told Dawn.
The action follows intelligence reports that there was a terrorist
training camp in the area, he said. The operation was conducted
mainly by ground troops but reports said army helicopters were also
The camp was deserted by the time the troops arrived. "There was
nobody there," Lt-Gen Sultan said.
Locals in Tangir told Dawn by telephone that the camp that was used
by Harkatul Mujahideen, a militant outfit fighting in Kashmir. It was
a small facility that had been abandoned about a month or so ago.
The camp, called Bajajiano Maskar, was located in the small Tangir
valley on the bank of River Indus, about 6km to the north of
Karakoram Highway. Comprising three residential blocks, the camp once
housed 20 to 25 trainees, they said.
The ISPR spokesman declined to name the group operating the camp.
However, he said the camp was a terrorist facility that was involved
in domestic terrorism, including terrorist killings, sectarian
killings and blockade of the Karakoram Highway from time to time.
"The camp has no connection with Al Qaeda but the possibility of it
receiving patronage from outside cannot be ruled out," the spokesman
He said the troops destroyed the administrative infrastructure and
other 'logistics.' "There were no arms or ammunition there," he
Our Gilgit correspondent adds: Apart from some Gilgit-based army
units, that had proceeded to Tangir on Friday, some 20 truckloads of
armymen were summoned from other areas to take part in the operation,
At least, four helicopters were seen hovering over the valley,
assisting the troops busy in the operation on the ground, they said.
US praises action against Al Qaeda
KABUL, Oct 5: US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage on
Sunday praised Pakistan's "tremendous effort" in launching a major
operation against the Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in the border
region with Afghanistan.....(AFP)
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