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Pakistan: FBI rules the roost

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  • ummyakoub
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 2003
      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
      Afghanistan.

      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
      intelligence establishment.

      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
      coordination purposes.

      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
      operations."

      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
      it.

      "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
      operations."

      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
      referring to.

      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
      territory.

      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
      letterhead.

      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
      of parliament.

      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
      quotas.

      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.

      Copyright 2003 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved.

      http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/EJ04Df04.html

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