Pakistan: FBI rules the roost
by Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - Pakistani forces have killed at least 12 and arrested 12
suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters over the past two days in a
major operation at Angoor Adda, a small town on the border with
The operation is being widely hailed in Pakistan as a demonstration
of the country's commitment to the US-led "war on terrorism".
However, this is only a part of the story. The clash was orchestrated
by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a direct result of
its deep penetration - and even control - of the Pakistani
The roots of this involvement can be directly traced to the fallout
from the events of September 11, 2001, which saw Pakistan throw in
its lot with the US. This entailed Islamabad withdrawing its long-
standing support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, which it had helped
propel into power in 1996, and opening its air bases to the US
military for operations in Afghanistan.
It also allowed US intelligence to establish a finger-hold in the
country, which the FBI has now turned into a vice-like grip through
an ever-expanding network that has infiltrated, to various degrees,
Pakistan's armed forces, the police and intelligence agencies.
The FBI varies its presence according to requirements in its hunt for
al-Qaeda suspects, with the total number deployed anywhere between 50
and 100. It has at least three active cells, in Peshawar, on the
border of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where many
al-Qaeda are known to hide, in the volatile port city of Karachi and
in the capital Islamabad.
The FBI initially kept a low profile, working mostly at the direction
of the all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's
premier intelligence outfit and effectively the architect and
orchestrator of Pakistan's strategic policies.
Now, however, the FBI works autonomously, with its own separate
organizational setup. This includes communications to track both
mobile and land telephone calls, as well as sophisticated bugging
devices. Each cell has these capabilities. In Karachi, the FBI cell
operates in the Defense Housing Authority Phase VIII complex. Only
two or three army officers are attached to this cell, purely for
Not all are happy with this state of affairs. According to one ISI
person posted in Karachi, who requested not to be named when talking
to Asia Times Online, "After September 11, 2001, we were given
instructions to work along with FBI operators. Initially they were
given a room in the ISI's operations office. They used to give
commands to us, and we had to obey them. For instance, once they
asked us to send a packet somewhere. We packed it and informed them
that the parcel was ready. They unpacked the parcel and asked an ISI
employee to repack it in front of them. This is the way the FBI
operators showed their domination over the ISI staff. At first they
asked us to coordinate in operations. Later on they were given a
separate place of work, then they cultivated local police officers,
and several times they did not bother to inform the ISI about their
The FBI cells have established direct control over the law enforcing
agencies, such as the police, who take orders from FBI agents. In
return, they are believed to be handsomely rewarded financially. The
ISI is aware of who is on the FBI's payroll, but can do little about
"There is no precedent," says a retired army brigadier who was in
charge of ISI operations in Afghanistan during the Soviet war of the
1980s. "Pakistan was a frontline state against the former USSR during
the Afghan war. The CIA was thickly involved in operations, but the
CIA was not allowed to go beyond Islamabad. Their planes, loaded with
missiles and ammunition, used to land at Islamabad airport, but these
consignments were just handed over to an ISI cell, which used then to
pass them on to the mujahideen in Afghanistan," the brigadier
said. "Even on a strategic level, the ISI used to plan operations
single-handedly. The CIA only looked after the financial aspects of
Now, the FBI has virtually unlimited access and control, including
airports, and now it has emerged that it has recently been given
access to the bank accounts of Pakistani citizens.
According to well-placed sources in the Pakistani intelligence
community, some the country's former clandestine operations have now
been curtailed, such as one involving the national carrier, Pakistan
International Airline (PIA). PIA was once extensively used for "back-
channel diplomatic activities", such as shifting missiles under the
cover of routine cargo. But under heavy US pressure, PIA's
reservation system is now hosted in Texas through the Sabre Group,
and the movement of each and every passenger is carefully monitored,
as is the cargo.
According to the Pakistani English daily, The News International,
Pakistan has allowed information about foreign currency bank accounts
in Pakistani banks to be shared with government authorities in the
US. The FBI, according to the paper, is "seeking, and getting, the
private account details of remittances being sent into banks in
Pakistan from anywhere in the world".
The paper continued, "Under an agreement between the authorities of
the United States and Pakistan, banks in Pakistan will be giving
details of remittances flowing in or out of foreign currency
accounts, which will be handed to the FBI," the paper quoted a Wall
Street banker as saying. "The agreement has come into effect and the
Pakistani banks are collecting details on deposits and withdrawals
into and from their foreign currency accounts."
The American official, who also works as a consultant for a think
tank that is collating information on remittance flows from Islamic
states to the US and vice versa, said that the idea was to track the
pattern of the flow of funds for possible dubious uses. "The [United
States] government wants to make sure that the funds are not being
used to finance terrorist activities ... and Pakistan is one of the
countries under observation [for the flow of remittances]."
According to the newspaper report, when approached, an official at a
branch of a Pakistani bank, after some hesitation, confirmed that
details of all remittance flows from the US to foreign currency
accounts in banks in Pakistan and vice versa were being given to US
authorities. He refused to disclose which "authorities" he was
The Pakistani official also conceded that it was "basically illegal"
to share private details of account holders with any authority,
especially those not falling into the jurisdiction of the banking
realm. "It's basically a political decision," the official said. "We
are living in strange times. We have to sacrifice some private rights
and freedoms for larger collective interest."
He added, "The current Pakistani laws don't even allow for banks to
share private account details with the Pakistan government, let alone
American or other foreign authorities, but then that is the price we
have to pay for ensuring that a useful channel like remittances is
not abused by people bent on creating upheavals."
The FBI in action
In the latest action against al-Qaeda this week, Pakistan forces are
reported to have killed 12 suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters
and arrested 12 more in an operation at Angoor Adda near the Afghan
border. While in Afghanistan, officials reported, there were 17
deaths, including 10 government soldiers and two children.
Angoor Adda lies about 65 kilometers from Wana, the district
headquarters of the South Waziristan Agency of the FATA, in the west
of Pakistan. South Waziristan is the most sensitive agency of
Pakistan; it is not under the direct administration of the government
of Pakistan, but indirectly governed by a political agent - a system
that was enforced by the British rulers.
Asia Times Online sources say that most of the suspected casualties
and detainees were Central Asians and Afghans. The operation was
conducted after a fire-fight in Paktika in Afghanistan in which US
forces and gunship helicopters chased the fighters into Pakistani
The FBI's network in this territory(which is explained in a January
10 article - A bloody destiny for South Waziristan - sprang into
action and notified the FBI cell in Peshawar, which then called in
the Peshawar Corps to launch the raid.
US boot camp
The FBI's operations in Pakistan apart, Islamabad has accepted an
offer from the US for a number of the country's army officers to be
trained in the US.
In the past few weeks, about 100 officers have been sent to the US
for various short courses ranging from one to two weeks on the "war
on terror". The officers include those belonging to army field units,
as well as those involved in strategic and ISI services.
The FBI has also held several training sessions in Karachi in which
Pakistan armed forces officials interacted with FBI operators.
Some military experts take a dim view of this. One told Asia Times
Online that having army units trained by a foreign intelligence
apparatus was like handing over the keys of the country to another
nation as it allowed them undue influence in the armed forces.
Muttering in the ranks
Meanwhile, all is not well in the armed forces, which contain
elements who are not exactly in step with the country's president,
General Pervez Musharraf, who is also head of the armed forces. Many
resent his siding with the US, and the country's strategic losses as
a result in Afghanistan. Many also resent him wearing the two hats
that he does - military and civilian - assumed after taking over the
country in a bloodless coup in 1999.
The following are translated excerpts from a letter doing the rounds
in military circles. It was printed on an army general headquarters
For our national leader: We on behalf of the Pakistan army assure the
nation that it is your army. This is the army of Islam and Pakistan,
and we expect every member of parliament, from whichever party he
belongs to, to work for the autonomy of parliament. Pervez Musharraf
and his handpicked gang are imposed at the head of this nation. They
are the national criminals who have not only the army but have the
entire nation hostage. This is the gang of thieves and looters which
has plundered the whole nation, mercilessly. At the same time, they
helped the American Jews and Christians to kill our Afghan brothers.
Pervez Musharraf has turned Pakistan from the fort of Islam into a
slaughterhouse of the Muslims. Had this parliament not been in place,
our armed forces would have been sent to kill our Iraqi brothers side-
by-side with US soldiers. We request our national leadership and
officials of the armed forces to bring the following matters in front
An inquiry should be initiated into what happened on October 12, 1999
[when Musharraf seized power].
Before the US invasion of Afghanistan, all Pakistan army brigadiers
and generals were allotted expensive plots in Lahore near LUMS
[Lahore University of Management Sciences]. The worth of these plots
ranges between Rs 7 million [US$121,000] to Rs 10 million. These
officers had already received their commercial and residential land
Parliament should constitute a judicial inquiry into the chief
justices of the Supreme Court and all four provincial high courts who
were in office on October 12, 1999.
Our aim - a free army and an independent Pakistan.
From full colonels.
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