Posts Tagged ‘ Lashkar-e-Taiba ’

Pakistani Militant, Price on Head, Lives in Open

By Declan Walsh for The New York Times

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Ten million dollars does not seem to buy much in this bustling Pakistani city. That is the sum the United States is offering for help in convicting Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, perhaps the country’s best-known jihadi leader. Yet Mr. Saeed lives an open, and apparently fearless, life in a middle-class neighborhood here.

“I move about like an ordinary person — that’s my style,” said Mr. Saeed, a burly 64-year-old, reclining on a bolster as he ate a chicken supper. “My fate is in the hands of God, not America.”

Mr. Saeed is the founder, and is still widely believed to be the true leader, of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group that carried out the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, in which more than 160 people, including six Americans, were killed. The United Nations has placed him on a terrorist list and imposed sanctions on his group. But few believe he will face trial any time soon in a country that maintains a perilous ambiguity toward jihadi militancy, casting a benign eye on some groups, even as it battles others that attack the state.

Mr. Saeed’s very public life seems more than just an act of mocking defiance against the Obama administration and its bounty, analysts say. As American troops prepare to leave Afghanistan next door, Lashkar is at a crossroads, and its fighters’ next move — whether to focus on fighting the West, disarm and enter the political process, or return to battle in Kashmir — will depend largely on Mr. Saeed.

At his Lahore compound — a fortified house, office and mosque — Mr. Saeed is shielded not only by his supporters, burly men wielding Kalashnikovs outside his door, but also by the Pakistani state. On a recent evening, police officers screened visitors at a checkpoint near his house, while other officers patrolled an adjoining park, watching by floodlight for intruders.

His security seemingly ensured, Mr. Saeed has over the past year addressed large public meetings and appeared on prime-time television, and is now even giving interviews to Western news media outlets he had previously eschewed.

He says that he wants to correct “misperceptions.” During an interview with The New York Times at his home last week, Mr. Saeed insisted that his name had been cleared by the Pakistani courts. “Why does the United States not respect our judicial system?” he asked.

Still, he says he has nothing against Americans, and warmly described a visit he made to the United States in 1994, during which he spoke at Islamic centers in Houston, Chicago and Boston. “At that time, I liked it,” he said with a wry smile.

During that stretch, his group was focused on attacking Indian soldiers in the disputed territory of Kashmir — the fight that led the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate to help establish Lashkar-e-Taiba in 1989. But that battle died down over the past decade, and Lashkar began projecting itself through its charity wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which runs a tightly organized network of hospitals and schools across Pakistan.

The Mumbai attacks propelled Lashkar-e-Taiba to notoriety. But since then, Mr. Saeed’s provocations toward India have been largely verbal. Last week he stirred anger there by suggesting that Bollywood’s highest-paid actor, Shah Rukh Khan, a Muslim, should move to Pakistan. In the interview, he said he prized talking over fighting in Kashmir.

“The militant struggle helped grab the world’s attention,” he said. “But now the political movement is stronger, and it should be at the forefront of the struggle.”

Pakistan analysts caution that Mr. Saeed’s new openness is no random occurrence, however. “This isn’t out of the blue,” said Shamila N. Chaudhry, a former Obama administration official and an analyst at the Eurasia Group, a consulting firm. “These guys don’t start talking publicly just like that.”

What it amounts to, however, may depend on events across the border in Afghanistan, where his groups have been increasingly active in recent years. In public, Mr. Saeed has been a leading light in the Defense of Pakistan Council, a coalition of right-wing groups that lobbied against the reopening of NATO supply routes through Pakistan last year. More quietly, Lashkar fighters have joined the battle, attacking Western troops and Indian diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan, intelligence officials say.

The question now is what will happen to them once American troops leave. One possibility is a return to Lashkar’s traditional battleground of Kashmir, risking fresh conflict between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India.

But a more hopeful possibility, floated by some Western and Pakistani officials, is that Mr. Saeed would lead his group further into politics, and away from militancy.

“When there are no Americans in Afghanistan, what will happen?” said Mushtaq Sukhera, a senior officer with the Punjabi police who is running a fledgling demobilization program for Islamist extremists. “It’s an open question.”

A shift could be risky for Mr. Saeed: Some of his fighters have already split from Lashkar in favor of other groups that attack the Pakistani state. And much will depend on the advice of his military sponsors.

For their part, Pakistan’s generals insist they have abandoned their dalliance with jihadi proxy groups. In a striking speech in August, the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said the country’s greatest threat came from domestic extremism. “We as a nation must stand united against this threat,” he said. “No state can afford a parallel system of governance and militias.”

Five years of near-continuous battle against the Pakistani Taliban along the Afghan border, where more than 3,300 members of Pakistan’s security forces have been killed in the past decade, has affected army thinking, some analysts believe. Senior officers have lost colleagues and relatives, softening the army’s singular focus on India.

“This is a changed army,” said Shaukat Javed, a former head of the Intelligence Bureau civilian spy agency in Punjab Province. “The mind-set has changed due to experience, and pressure.”

But for all that, there is ample evidence that parts of the military remain wedded to jihadi proxies. In Waziristan, the army maintains close ties to the Haqqani Network, a major player in the Afghan insurgency. In western Baluchistan Province, it has used Sunni extremists to quell an uprising by Baluch nationalists — even though the same extremists also massacre minority Shiites.

And Mr. Saeed’s freedom to roam around Lahore — and, indeed, across Pakistan — suggests some generals still believe the “good” jihadis are worth having around.

Western intelligence officials say Lashkar’s training camps in northern Pakistan have not been shut down. One of those camps was the training ground of David C. Headley, an American citizen recently sentenced to prison by an American court for his role in the Mumbai attacks.

“There’s a strategic culture of using proxies,” said Stephen Tankel, an American academic and author of a book on Lashkar-e-Taiba. “And if that’s the tool you’re used to grabbing from the toolbox, it can be hard to let go.”

For all his apparent ease, Mr. Saeed has to walk a tightrope of sorts within the jihadi firmament. His support of the state puts him at odds with the Pakistani Taliban, which, he claims, are secretly supported by America and India — a familiar refrain in the right-wing media. “They want to destabilize Pakistan,” he said.

But that position leaves Mr. Saeed vulnerable to pressure from fighters within his own ranks who may still have Taliban sympathies. Western security officials say Lashkar has already suffered some defections in recent years..

“If he continues in this direction, the issue is how many people he can bring with him,” Mr. Tankel said.

But ultimately, he added, much depends on the Pakistani Army: “The army can’t dismantle these groups all at once, because of the danger of blowback. So for now they are putting them on ice. It’s too early to tell which way they will ultimately go.”

 

Pakistan Leader’s India Visit Hailed For Its Symbolism

By Mark Magnier for The Los Angeles Times

Pakistan’s president arrived in India on Sunday, the first official visit one leader of the wary neighbors has paid to the other nation in seven years. No breakthroughs were announced, but both sides hailed the meeting as a sign of easing tensions along one of the world’s most dangerous borders.

Spinmeisters on both sides worked overtime to lower public expectations of the “private” trip that saw Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discuss the 2008 terrorist attack on the Indian city of Mumbai, modest if expanding trade links, the disputed territory of Kashmir and efforts to bring various militants to justice.

The Pakistani president then visited a famous Muslim shrine for Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti, offering a $1-million contribution.

“I am very satisfied with the outcome of this visit,” Singh said. “The relations between India and Pakistan should become normal — that is our common desire.”

The rapid-fire luncheon and shrine visit weren’t enough to overturn long-standing distrust between the nuclear neighbors, however, as summed up in a headline in India’s Mail Today tabloid newspaper: “Eat, Pray, No Love.”

The meeting is part of an apparent effort to follow the diplomatic model in place between India and China, which fought a war in 1962 over their disputed border: Put aside the most nettlesome issues for the time being and focus on building investment and trade links that benefit both sides.

This year, India and Pakistan approved a most-favored-nation agreement, lowering taxes that impede trade. Although India had offered this benefit to Pakistan in 1996, it wasn’t reciprocated until recently. Official two-way trade of about $2.6 billion is heavily weighted in India’s favor.

Sunday’s one-day visit was heavy on symbolism if not on substance. Zardari invited Singh for a reciprocal visit to Pakistan, which the Indian leader accepted, although no date was set. Zardari’s 23-year-old son, Bilawal, invited ruling Congress Party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi to Pakistan, which was also accepted, again with no date set.

On other fronts, both sides agreed in principle to ease visa restrictions. India offered its assistance in the wake of this weekend’s massive avalanche in the Siachen Glacier area, which buried about 130 people on the Pakistani-controlled side of the border in disputed Kashmir. And both sides did lots of glad-handing for the cameras.

“We had fruitful bilateral talks,” Zardari said. We “hope to meet on Pakistani soil very soon.”

But any bid to bring to justice those who planned the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed at least 166 people was sidestepped. India has long blamed Pakistani-based groups for plotting the attack.

Last week, Washington offered a $10-million reward for information leading to the capture of one Pakistani militant leader, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, who enjoys widespread support in Pakistan.

Analysts on both sides of the divide welcomed the gradual thaw even as they acknowledged its slow pace. That no date was set for a return visit, and that Congress Party head Sonia Gandhi — characterized by some as India’s real leader behind the scenes — didn’t meet Zardari or attend the lunch, suggests the Indian government is wary of getting too far ahead of public opinion, some observers said.

“There have been some useful steps forward,” said B. Raman, director of Chennai’s Institute for Topical Studies and a former Indian intelligence officer on the Pakistan desk. “But the government has taken a cautious line.”

The fact that Zardari, 56, made the trip at all suggests that Pakistan’s military realizes improved relations are in its interest, added Talat Masood, an analyst and retired Pakistani general.

“They’re overstretched, realize the economy’s in a shambles and that you can’t have a genuine defense without a good economy,” Masood said. “It’s very sad in a way, that the process has been held hostage to jihadi groups and hard-rightists on both sides.”

Singh, 79, heading a weak government beset by corruption scandals, has pushed for improved ties with Pakistan in a bid to secure a legacy, analysts on both sides said. “Prime Minister Singh realizes he’s only going to be there a few more months,” said Masood. “He wants to do something positive so he’s remembered.”

Why President Zardari’s Visit Is A Small Bonus

By Soutik Biswas for The BBC

Hope is not a policy, but neither is despair, as South Asia expert Stephen Cohen says in a recent essay on Pakistan.

So it is with relations between India and Pakistan.

The past few days have shown how fragile the relationship can be – even as India welcomed President Asif Ali Zardari’s private trip to India on Sunday – the first by a Pakistani head of state for seven years – and PM Manmohan Singh invited him for lunch, the $10m US bounty for Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, provoked the cleric to openly launch a fresh attack against India (and the US).

But people live in hope, so Indian media is gung-ho about Mr Zardari’s visit.

They say the Pakistani president must be applauded for trying to end trade discrimination against India, easing petroleum imports from across the border, and moving towards a liberal visa deal.

“Under Mr Zardari’s watch, India and Pakistan are considering a sweeping agenda for economic co-operation for the first time in decades. The prime minister has every reason to welcome Mr Zardari warmly and consider the next steps in consolidating the unexpected movement in bilateral relations,” the Indian Express wrote.

Analyst C Raja Mohan believes Mr Singh must make an official trip to Pakistan after his meeting with Mr Zardari. “For his part,” he wrote, “Mr Singh should convey to Mr Zardari his readiness to move as fast and as far as the Pakistan president is willing to go.” Others like Jyoti Malhotra actually find Mr Zardari’s visit to the shrine of a famous Sufi Muslim saint in Rajasthan loaded with symbolism in these troubled times. “Clearly, Mr Zardari has stolen an imaginative moment from the bitter-sullen history of India-Pakistan, by asking to come to pay his respects to a cherished and much-beloved saint across the Indian subcontinent,” she wrote.

The relations between two neighbours remain complex. A 2010 Pew survey found 53% of the respondents in Pakistan chose India as the greater threat to their country, and only 26% chose the Taliban and al-Qaeda. At the same time 72% said it was important to improve relations with India, and about 75% wanted more trade relations and talks with India.

Pundits like Mr Cohen believe that it will “take the [Pakistan] army’s compliance, strong political leadership, and resolutely independent-minded foreign ministers to secure any significant shift of approach towards India”.

None of this appears to be in much evidence at the moment.

Both countries have seriously weakened governments that makes them unable to move towards any radical confidence building measures. In the current circumstances, President Zardari’s visit can only be a small bonus. And as scholars like Kanti Bajpai suggest, India must remain patient (even if faced with another Mumbai-style attack), continue to engage with Islamabad, help the civilian government in Pakistan politically, try to resolve a few outstanding disputes like Siachen and Sir Creek, build a relationship with the army and explore the possibility of cooperating with Islamabad on the future of Afghanistan. Despair does not help mend a stormy relationship.

Pakistani militant taunts US: ‘I will be in Lahore tomorrow’

By Sebastian Abbot for The Associated Press

One of Pakistan’s most notorious extremists mocked the United States during a defiant media conference close to the country’s military headquarters Wednesday, a day after the US slapped a $10 million bounty on him.

“I am here, I am visible. America should give that reward money to me,” said Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, referring to the fact that the bounty was given to a man whose whereabouts are not a mystery. “I will be in Lahore tomorrow. America can contact me whenever it wants to.”

Analysts have said Pakistan is unlikely to arrest Saeed, founder of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, because of his alleged links with the country’s intelligence agency and the political danger of doing Washington’s bidding in a country where anti-American sentiment is rampant.

Saeed, 61, has been accused of orchestrating the 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people, including six American citizens. But he operates openly in Pakistan, giving public speeches and appearing on TV talk shows.

He has used his high-profile status in recent months to lead a protest movement against US drone strikes and the resumption of NATO supplies for troops in Afghanistan sent through Pakistan. The supplies were suspended in November in retaliation for American airstrikes that accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Hours before Saeed spoke, US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides met Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in the nearby capital, Islamabad, for talks about rebuilding the two nation’s relationship. In a brief statement, Nides did not mention the bounty offer but reaffirmed America’s commitment to “work through” the challenges bedeviling ties.

Increasingly ‘brazen’ appearances
The US said Tuesday it issued the bounty for information leading to Saeed’s arrest and conviction in response to his increasingly “brazen” appearances. It also offered up to $2 million for Lashkar-e-Taiba’s deputy leader, Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, who is Saeed’s brother-in-law.

The rewards marked a shift in the long-standing US calculation that going after the leadership of an organization used as a proxy by the Pakistani military against archenemy India would cause too much friction with the Pakistani government.

This shift has occurred as the US-Pakistani relationship steadily deteriorated over the last year, and as the perception of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s potential threat to the West increased.

Bounty backfire?
The US may be hoping the bounty will force Pakistan to curb Saeed’s activities, even if it isn’t willing to arrest him. But the press conference he called at a hotel in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on Wednesday was an indication that is unlikely, and the bounty may even help him by boosting his visibility.

At the hotel, located near the Pakistani army’s main base and only a half hour drive from the US Embassy in Islamabad, Saeed was flanked by more than a dozen right-wing politicians and hardline Islamists who make up the leadership of the Difa-e-Pakistan, or Defense of Pakistan, Council. The group has held a series of large demonstrations against the US and India in recent months.

Some in the media have speculated the movement has the tacit support of the Pakistani military, possibly to put pressure on Washington.

“I want to tell America we will continue our peaceful struggle,” said Saeed. “Life and death is in the hands of God, not in the hands of America.”

Denies involvement in Mumbai massacre
He denied involvement in the Mumbai attacks and said he had been exonerated by Pakistani courts.

Pakistan kept Saeed under house arrest for several months after the attacks but released him after he challenged his detention in court. It has also resisted Indian demands to do more, saying there isn’t sufficient evidence.

The bounty offers could complicate US efforts to get the NATO supply line reopened. Pakistan’s parliament is currently debating a revised framework for ties with the US that Washington hopes will get supplies moving again. But the bounties could be seen by lawmakers and the country’s powerful army as a provocation and an attempt to gain favor with India.

Origins in the Kashmir dispute
Saeed founded Lashkar-e-Taiba in the 1980s allegedly with ISI support to pressure India over the disputed territory of Kashmir. The two countries have fought three major wars since they were carved out of the British empire in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.

Pakistan banned the group in 2002 under US pressure, but it operates with relative freedom under the name of its social welfare wing Jamaat-ud-Dawwa — even doing charity work using government money.

The US has designated both groups foreign terrorist organizations. Intelligence officials and terrorism experts say Lashkar-e-Taiba has expanded its focus beyond India in recent years and has plotted attacks in Europe and Australia. Some have called it “the next Al Qaeda” and fear it could set its sights on the US

* Associated Press writer Asif Shahzad contributed to this report from Islamabad.

Pakistan WSJ Ad Unlikely to Change Narrative

By Tom Wright for The Wall Street Journal

Pakistan has taken out a half-page advertisement in The Wall Street Journal to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in an attempt to shift what Islamabad feels is an anti-Pakistan narrative in the American media.

“Which country can do more for your peace?” the ad asks, sitting below a story on page A10 of the U.S. Journal’s Saturday/Sunday edition titled “When the Towers Came Down.”

“Since 2001 a nation of 180 million has been fighting for the future of world’s 7 billion!” it continues.”Can any other country do so? Only Pakistan…Promising peace to the world.”

Pakistani army and civilian officials complain that in the U.S. their country is often portrayed in the media and by members of Congress as a double-dealing ally that takes billions of dollars in U.S. aid but secretly helps the Taliban kill U.S. soldiers.

Pakistan’s leaders have been publicly trying to promote a competing narrative, but with almost no success.

In their telling, Pakistan did foster Islamist militant groups, first to fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan and then Indian soldiers in Kashmir. Pakistan military and civilian officials point out the U.S. was all for the Mujahideen war against Moscow in the 1980s. But in the past decade, Pakistan’s army has severed its links with militants, who have unleashed a bloody war against Pakistan’s army and government, according to Islamabad’s narrative.

Pakistani officials regularly tell this version of events in public speechs and to visiting U.S. officials and journalists. The military has even made a local TV drama featuring real soldiers to publicize its sacrifices in the war against militants.

The advert in the Journal seeks to give the message to a wider audience.

To underline its point, the ad carries a picture of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s former prime minister who was assassinated by Islamist militants in 2007, next to the slogan, “The promise of our martyrs lives on…”

The ad cites a series of statistics. Almost 22,000 Pakistani civilians have died or been seriously injured in the fight against terrorism, the ad said. The army has lost almost 3,000 soldiers. More than 3.5 million people have been displaced by the fighting and the damage to the economy over the past decade is estimated at $68 billion, it added.

People will quibble with these statistics from a country where reporters often find it difficult to get basic data.

It was not clear whether the ad was carried in other U.S. publications. Pakistan’s government also tried to place it in the New York Times. The Times asked for “more clarity in the ad about who was placing it,” according to a spokeswoman for the newspaper. The Times did not hear back from the government and so has not yet run the ad, she said.

The ad as printed in the Journal carries a line at the bottom in small font saying “Government of Pakistan” next to a web address for the government. A spokeswoman for the Journal declined to comment.

Will the advertisement be effective in shifting the narrative? It’s unlikely.

The points raised are all fair enough. Pakistan has been hammered by suicide bombings by Islamist militants against civilian and army targets. It’s perhaps fair to say that many in the U.S. have failed to recognize the changes in Pakistan, especially in the past few years, that have led to its domestic war against militancy.

Still, many in the U.S. and elsewhere are likely to shrug their shoulders. In the U.S. and India, where Pakistani-based militants are viewed as a daily threat to security, many politicians, analysts and ordinary citizens blame Pakistan for failing to stop the export of terrorism and being selective in which Islamist militant groups they go after.

Pakistan has waged a war against homegrown Pakistan Taliban militants for the past three years, suffering large casualties. But U.S. defense officials say publicly they are concerned that the country continues to protect Afghan Taliban fighters that don’t attack inside Pakistan. It’s these fighters who use Pakistan soil as a base from which to launch attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, they say.

Some U.S. officials say they believe Pakistan’s argument that it’s too stretched fighting the Pakistan Taliban to open new fronts in its war against militants. But many members of Congress and U.S. defense officials say Islamabad wants to keep ties strong with the Afghan Taliban so it can influence politics over the border once the U.S. pulls out its troops by 2014.

India blames Pakistan for failing to crack down on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group which carried out the attacks on Mumbai in 2008, killing over 160 people, and has hit Indian targets in Afghanistan. LET has not carried out any attacks against the Pakistan state.

Panetta: ‘No Choice’ in US Relations with Pakistan

By David Gollust for Voice of America

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday that the United States has no choice but to maintain close relations with Pakistan, despite government links with Islamic militants including the Haqqani network. The State Department, meanwhile, put sanctions on another Haqqani network commander.

Panetta, who took over as defense secretary in June after two years of heading the CIA, declined comment on news reports that Pakistan allowed China to inspect the wreckage of an advanced U.S. helicopter lost in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

But at a public forum with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Washington’s National Defense University, the defense chief was unusually candid about U.S. problem issues with Pakistan.

Panetta said Pakistan has “relationships” with the Haqqani network – militants based in western Pakistan who conduct cross-border attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and with Lashkar-e-Taiba militants who have attacked India.

Both groups are listed by the United States as terrorist organizations. Despite complaints that Pakistan has withheld visas for U.S. citizens being posted there, Panetta said the relationship remains essential.

“There is no choice but to maintain a relationship with Pakistan,” said Panetta. “Why? Because we are fighting a war there. We are fighting al-Qaida there. And they do give us some cooperation in that effort. Because they do represent an important force in that region. Because they do happen to be a nuclear power that has nuclear weapons, and we have to be concerned about what happens with those nuclear weapons. So for all of those reasons, we’ve got to maintain a relationship with Pakistan.”

Secretary of State Clinton said the Obama administration considers relations with Pakistan to be of “paramount importance.”

She said there have been “challenges” in bilateral ties for decades with valid complaints on both sides, and that she credits the Islamabad government with lately recognizing its shared interest with Washington in confronting terrorism.

“I was very pleased when the Pakistanis moved into [the] Swat [Valley] and cleaned out a lot of what had become a kind of Pakistani Taliban stronghold,” said Clinton. “And then they began to take some troops off their border with India, to put more resources into the fight against the Pakistani Taliban. Now, as Leon [Panetta] says, we have some other targets that we discuss with them – the Haqqanis, for example. And yet it’s been a relatively short period of time, two-and-a-half years, when they have begun to reorient themselves militarily against what is, in our view, an internal threat to them.”

The State Department on Tuesday designated a key Haqqani network commander – Mullah Sangeen Zadran – a terrorist under a 2001 White House executive order, freezing any U.S. assets he has and barring Americans from business dealings with him.

At the same time, Sangeen was designated a terrorist by the U.N. sanctions committee, which will subject him to a global travel ban, an asset freeze and an arms embargo.

A State Department statement said Sangeen, is a “shadow governor” of Afghanistan’s southeast Paktika province and a senior lieutenant of network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. It said Sangeen has coordinated the movement of hundreds of foreign fighters into that country and that he is linked to numerous bomb attacks and kidnappings.

Chicago Trial To Put heat On Pakistan Spy Agency

As Reported by CBS News

The federal trial of Tahawwur Rana begins Monday in Chicago, in which the Pakistan-born Canadian citizen who has lived in the Midwest for many years stands accused of providing cover for a former classmate who scouted sites for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in India. He is also accused of providing support for attempted attacks in Denmark that were never carried out.

Rana has pleaded not guilty, and while the trial may be about Rana’s alleged abetting of international terrorism, the court proceedings are gaining international attention because they are expected to finger Pakistan’s ISI spy agency for helping a terror group carry out the attacks, the Associated Press reports.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group, has been blamed for the 3-day siege in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people, including six Americans. David Headley, a Pakistani-American businessman who has confessed to his involvement in the attacks and has turned government informant, is expected to testify that Pakistan ISI agents helped the militant group carry out the Mumbai attacks, The Guardian reports.

The trial comes at a particularly tense time for U.S.-Pakistan relations, because U.S. Navy SEALs recently found and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan after he had been hiding in plain sight there for several years.

Headley, a former informant for DEA, has already pleaded guilty to aiding in the attacks, and he has also already told an Indian inquiry into the attacksthat ISI officers helped Lashkar-e-Taiba plot the commando-style attacks on several sites in Mumbai, India’s largest city, The Guardian reports.

The 12 jurors selected for the federal trial of Rana are mostly minorities and mainly women, the AP reports.

Eight women and four men were sworn in for the trial, and opening statements are planned for Monday.

The AP writes: “Few biographical details have been available about the jurors or the six alternates chosen, whose identities are being kept secret. More than half of the 12 jurors are black. Questions in open court focused on the jurors’ understanding and views of Islam, citizenship and terrorism, issues that experts predict will come up at trial.”

With Friends Like Pakistan…

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Many people in Pakistan these days are wondering why their nation often finds itself on the wrong side of recent history. First, there is the continued and unjust imprisonment of a Christian Pakistani woman named Asia Bibi who has been languishing in jail for nearly two years. She has been given a death sentence for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the prophet Muhammad.

Then there was the killing of Salman Taseer, who was the then sitting governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, by one of his own bodyguards for his outspoken support for Asia’s rights and her freedom. Instead of swift punishment and public outcry at his actions, the killer, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, was showered with rose petals by some cheering members of the bar association of Lahore when he came to the courthouse for formal charges of murder. Yes, members of the judiciary were cheering his unilateral action of murdering another human being simply for his support towards a condemned non Muslim woman’s rights.

You can only imagine the warped sense of logic and justice in a country where lawyers cheer the cold blooded murder of an innocent man whose only crime was to come at the aid of a condemned Christian mother of two children.

Fast forward to a few months later, the extremists managed to assassinate the only Christian member of President Asif Ali Zardari’s government when the Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, was killed in a hail of bullets by unknown gunmen who then managed to escape on their motorcycle. Bhatti being a Christian as well as a minister in the government, had campaigned for the release of Asia as well as for the repeal of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan that at help promote a culture of state sanctioned hatred against religious minorities in Pakistan.

The culture of fear and hatred as well as violence against the religious minorities has progressively gotten worse along with the security situation inside the country in the last ten years. If there is anything that has been proven by some of these recent events in Pakistan, it is only that the country has become the undisputed global hotbed of extremism, fanaticism, and Islamic militancy in the Muslim world. It has now morphed into a country where the Wahhabi and Salafi fanatics have successfully used fear and hate to silence the majority moderate Barelvi and Sufi Muslims of Pakistan.

When powerful moderate voices like those of Bhatti and Taseer are silenced despite having heavy protection, how safe can the common man feel about his life if he chooses to speak up against the radicals within Islam? To kill someone is against Islamic belief at its core, unless it is done in self defense but you would be hard pressed to hear that view from the religious fanatics in Pakistan. They have justified killing others over many insane reasons such as making derogatory remarks about Islam or the prophet Muhammad. They also rationalize the killing of someone over a family’s honor, thus honor killings where often young women are killed if they are deemed to have brought dishonor to their family. These radical Islamists will even want someone dead for simply uttering disparaging remarks against Islam or its prophet. It is both ironic and hypocritical to see that the same derogatory remarks towards other figures such as Jesus, Moses, Abraham or other prophets of the Quran do not meet the same outcry nor receive the same impassioned response from the masses as when Islam or its prophet Muhammad are criticized.

The seeds of this current fanaticism fanning the flames of hatred were planted during an earlier conflict, this one involving the Soviets against an under matched adversary in Afghanistan. It was during this time in the ‘80’s when the Pakistani dictator, General Zia ul Haq, was in power and he accepted American aid from the Reagan administration in thwarting the threat from the 1979 Soviet invasion of neighboring Afghanistan. At the time, Pakistan’s ISI worked very closely with these “freedom fighters” waging what many thought was a just jihad against a communist foe who disallowed all religious worship. In fact, a good movie to rent right now to put some of these current events in perspective would be Charlie Wilson’s War starring Tom Hanks which details this era of Pakistan-US relations and cooperation against a common enemy in the Soviets.

The trouble now however is that in this current uneasy alliance between Pakistan and the US, there is not a common enemy, at least not as how it is viewed by many in Pakistan, which recently was polled to be the most anti-American nation in the world. Even though radical Islam and fanaticism is as much a threat to Pakistan’s sovereignty and prosperity as it is to the United States, India has always been seen as the big threat by its army and rulers. Pakistan has long seen Afghanistan as a country offering it strategic depth in any future wars with India. Thus, its interests in Afghanistan do not coincide with those of the United States.

The Pakistani media also constantly feeds a steady news diet of bombings by the Taliban/Haqqani network as well as any one of the other fill-in-the-blank militants groups seemingly operating freely from within its borders. There is also the regular news reports of US drone attacks and NATO actions in the AfPak region, as well as the all ubiquitous and constant threat faced from India, who is still seething from the Mumbai bombings in 2008, which were blamed on Pakistani trained terrorists. To further add insult to their injury, not a single leader of the Lashkar E Taiba has been convicted in Pakistan for the attacks in Mumbai that claimed 174 deaths and seriously injured several hundred others.

To the Indians, the perpetrator of their version of 9/11 is not an Arab from Yemen named Osama, but rather a whole nation state with whom it has fought three wars in 60 years and who is a long time sworn enemy with which it shares a long border. Too often it is rightly assumed by many that Pakistan will not act against Lashkar E Taiba and other openly anti-Indian militant groups because these groups are seen as a strategic asset for use against India. Only the fear of an all out nuclear war between the two nations by a trigger happy Pakistan placated India enough so that New Delhi did not immediately take military action against Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks.

So this culture of fear from all enemies both foreign and domestic to Pakistan’s sovereignty is now at an all time high within the nation. With a several decade long war on its western border in Afghanistan as well as the constant threat from its arch enemy to the east in India, Pakistan has never felt more threatened or squeezed. This pressure is now only going to get ratcheted higher since last week’s killing of Osama Bin Laden at a compound in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan. Living for five years undetected in the compound, Bin Laden was less than a mile away from the Kakul Military Academy in Abbottabad, Pakistan’s version of the famed American military college of West Point, when he was killed by a US Navy Seal team.

For the world’s most wanted terrorist to hide in plain sight in such a manner and for so many years, rightly points a lot of suspicion on Pakistan. Long suspected by many intelligence analysts, elements within Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, naturally now attracts a lot of suspicion in their possible involvement in the whole affair. There are strong voices and calls within the US Congress to halt all aid to Pakistan in light of Bin Laden’s death. We certainly can assume that any other country in the world found to be harboring terrorists would already have been labeled a state sponsor of terrorism and would be facing immediate sanctions from the international community. “You are either with us or against us” were the words so famously uttered by then President Bush to Pakistan specifically after 9/11. But due to Pakistan’s importance for a successful pullout from Afghanistan of US troops, as well as its strategic position within the Islamic world, neither side can afford to cut off relations with each other.

Although the Obama administration stopped short of claiming that the corrupt civilian government of Zardari was directly involved in protecting and sheltering Bin Laden, all signs point to complicity to some extent by some segments within Pakistan’s hierarchy. There is near unanimous agreement among many in Washington, and this is true on both sides of the aisle, that there are many sympathizers of the Taliban and Al Qaeda within the ranks of the army and the intelligence agencies of Pakistan.

Having driven the Soviets out of the region with the help of militant jihadi groups like the Taliban, no doubt a cadre of army and intelligence officers must have come to espouse the belief that it is in Pakistan’s best interests to have a religiously frenzied force available to use as a weapon against India in a future conflict also. In fact, Pakistan has always had this policy of seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan against India.

The death of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan by Special Forces of the American military illustrates just what a duplicitous game the country has been playing with the United States and more importantly with itself. In the war on terror America lost nearly 3,000 citizens in the attacks on 9/11. In that same period stretching the last ten years, Pakistan has lost nearly 31,000 citizens to terrorist attacks by the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other militant groups. So it has always been in Pakistan’s best interests to fight the militant threat brewing in its borders the last two decades that has claimed so many lives and caused so much instability.

The murders of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti illustrates the dire situation within Pakistani society where many young underprivileged men gravitate towards Osama Bin Laden’s ideology of hate against the US, which is seen by many, as the aggressor in an already very anti-American country. Also western ideas, religious and political liberties, and freedoms, such as those for women in western society, are all seen by the Islamic clergy and religious establishment as being against Islamic doctrine and clashing with the Muslim way of life. Therefore, the madrassahs and the masjids continue to espouse rhetoric against the American and European way of life which is seen as contradicting the teachings of the Quran. Even moderate Muslims and their sites of worship have come under heavy attack by the militants as witnessed by a new strategy of attacking Sufi Muslim shrines and mosques. Pakistan may not want to admit it, but there is a raging war going on within itself for the control of Islam and the attack on moderate Islam by the extremists within the religion.

The Bin Laden killing makes Pakistan seem either highly incompetent about knowledge his whereabouts or at the very least appear to be deeply complicit in sheltering and keeping him hidden while the United States launched the biggest manhunt in US history. At this point, the United States justly feels betrayed and distrustful towards anyone in the Pakistani establishment. After all, how are they to know who now to trust in the army or the civilian government?

It is imperative that Pakistan mount an immediate and urgent investigation that has the full cooperation and assistance of the US so that both countries can discover the source of this support system that Bin Laden has had from within Pakistan. Certainly, some heads do need to roll in Islamabad over this. Whether those resignations be of the current ISI chief, Ahmad Shuja Pasha, head of the army, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, or Zardari and Gilani themselves, as some accountability needs to occur. This is important not just for the sake of American-Pakistani relations, but just as importantly for the benefit of the Pakistani populace who is both deeply embarrassed by breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty, but also for the intelligence failure by the government of Pakistan at Osama’s whereabouts. Until and unless Pakistan makes this investigation a top priority, USA and Pakistan relations will continue to slide downhill and will mire further in distrust.

Pakistan must realize that in this global war against religious Islamic fanaticism, it cannot continue to speak from both sides of its mouth. Not when everything, including its very existence is at stake. It cannot at once be both a front line ally in the war against terror and receive billions of dollars in US aid, and at the same time, be found to shelter or allow terrorists and militant organizations safe havens and allow them to operate within its territory.

It is up to Pakistan to salvage a quickly deteriorating situation. However at the time of publication of this article, it seems that President Asif Ali Zardari’s government is off to a horrible start in mending fences with the US. First the name and identity of the CIA station chief in Pakistan was leaked by someone in the ISI to members of the local press. This leak compromised his mission and even poses a danger to his life as the anonymity of all operatives is a necessary requirement in intelligence work.

Then later in the day, in remarks given by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to its Parliament, he defiantly stated that neither Pakistan’s army nor its intelligence agency should be suspected by the Obama administration for providing support to Bin Laden. Gilani also went as far as to say that any future unilateral action by the US or any other nation inside Pakistan’s territory will be met with like force. I thought to myself, did he really just that? Did Pakistan just threaten the United States? It is appalling to see the political posturing now being done by the Pakistani government and the long term negative consequences they will have on the nation.

For a country that is receiving nearly $3.5 billion in US aid yearly, these are very tough words that will undoubtedly only make the strained relations between the two countries worse. Pakistan should realize that United States wants to feel that it can trust it to be a full partner in the fight against militancy and extremism. And unless this distrustful and at times, very adversarial relationship changes, the United States cannot help but feel that with friends like Pakistan, it does not need enemies!

-Manzer Munir, a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, is the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer. 

India’s Own Operation Geronimo?

By Ashok K Mehta for The Wall Street Journal

Every time there is a Pakistan-sourced terrorist attack in India, the reaction in the world’s largest democracy is predictable. Demands range from “hot pursuit” of the terrorists across the border to cries for all-out war. In the last decade, analysts have proposed other alternatives: surgical air strikes, a limited armored offensive and covert operations. The latter option seems especially inviting after U.S. special forces took out Osama bin Laden last Sunday.

These demands for strong action are in stark contrast with the way the Indian government has responded to these attacks: pursuing bland diplomacy. The starker this contrast gets, the more complicated it will be for New Delhi to implement a foreign policy that is assertive, yet careful and deterrent, in the future. Instead, if the government displays the requisite will and capabilities for a targeted strike today, it can avoid the need for an actual strike later.

History offers some perspective. After the Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked New Delhi’s Parliament in December 2001, the U.S. had to step in quickly to prevent armed clashes between the arch rivals. In May 2002, following yet another terrorist attack and after months of coercive diplomacy by both New Delhi and Washington, Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf offered a very strong assurance that his country’s territory would not be used to host attacks against India. This assurance was conveyed to New Delhi by then-U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who said that terrorism emanating from Pakistan would end “permanently, irreversibly, visibly and to the satisfaction of India.”

New Delhi bought that assurance and started to reach out to Islamabad diplomatically. Yet its pattern of responses since 2002 has led to six more terrorist attacks originating in Pakistan. All Islamabad has done is give similar reassurances.

After the attack on Mumbai in November 2008, India found itself in the same trap. It issued the usual protests accompanied by vague threats of retaliation and called off the dialogue that had started a few years ago. But Islamabad denied any state complicity. At that point, India’s strategic-affairs and military community noted that New Delhi had to raise Pakistan’s costs of encouraging cross-border terrorism.

However, by 2009, the Manmohan Singh government’s energies were focused on sending dossiers of evidence to Islamabad, pointing to proof of LeT’s hand in the Mumbai attacks. Pakistan’s civilian government stalled on them. Still, Mr. Singh staked his reputation on trying to start a dialogue. Earlier this year it began, most visibly at the sidelines of the cricket world cup.

These diplomatic back-and-forths have not yielded results. Despite playing nice, Islamabad has snubbed its neighbor’s friendliness. Last week, Pakistan’s government called India’s demand for the Mumbai 2008 suspects “familiar and outdated.”

What should New Delhi do then? Even with the world’s fourth largest military, India has failed to deter Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism. Now, the success of America’s Operation Geronimo in killing bin Laden has whetted its appetite to do more. Last week, when asked if India could pull off a similar mission, India’s armed service chiefs replied in the affirmative.

This could well be bravado on the chiefs’ part, because India suffers from fundamental deficiencies. For one, India’s political leadership has been risk-averse. Even before the two sides fought a limited war in Kashmir in 1999, New Delhi had already announced that it would never cross the Line of Control, the de facto border. This tied the Indian army’s hands when Pakistan crossed this amorphous line and claimed Indian soil as its down. More broadly, India has a history of strategic restraint, which means its diplomatic and military strategy hasn’t been focused on assertively achieving select goals.

As a result, India has invested in neither the legal architecture nor the physical capabilities to pull off an Operation Geronimo. For instance, U.S. counterterrorism policy declares that terrorists in breach of U.S. laws who are harbored by any state will be brought back for prosecution through “induced cooperation” and, when necessary, force. India needs something like this. Such laws would give its counterterror operators legal cover as well as set the ground for dealing with other gray legalities in the war on terror.

Then there’s the question of what intelligence and arms India can put on the ground. Its human intelligence across the border and experience in foreign clandestine operations is weak. Unlike the U.S.—which probably maintains an estimated 3,000-4,000 intelligence operatives in Pakistan—India has been scaling back its intelligence infrastructure inside that country for the past 15 years. In the late 1990s, then-Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral consciously dismantled this infrastructure as part of a new doctrine for peace, a grave strategic error.

Equipment- and training-wise, too, India falls short. Indian commandos freed the Mumbai hostages with much clumsiness over a prolonged 72-hour operation in November 2008, making some wonder how they would operate in alien environments.

None of this is to suggest that India should prosecute an operation similar to Geronimo in coming months. But being ready for one is necessary. It sends a strong psychological deterrent to those in Pakistan’s intelligence services who may sympathize with and assist the likes of LeT—just like possessing more tanks and fighter jets deters a conventional military threat. It suggests to Islamabad that New Delhi has the necessary political will.

Preparing for such small operations can prevent larger debacles in the future. Unless Pakistan’s military-jihadi complex is completely dismantled, it can still pose a threat to India. And the more that threat looms large and the less India prepares to stay ahead of it, there could come a day when a big terrorist attack makes India’s electorate—infuriated with its government’s bland version of diplomacy—scream for blood.

Political pressure could then compel an Indian prime minister to hurriedly send in a team of commandos without any direction. Worse, it could hurl the subcontinent into full-scale war.

Mr. Mehta is a retired major general of the Indian Army and founder member of India’s Defence Planning Staff.

Chinese Premier Visits Pakistan to Reinforce Ties

By Salman Masood for The New York Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao arrived in Islamabad on Friday for a three-day visit that Pakistani officials said was aimed at strengthening the strategic partnership and economic cooperation between the two neighboring countries.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and members of his cabinet welcomed Mr. Wen at Chaklala Air Base in neighboring Rawalpindi on Friday afternoon. A red carpet was rolled out and elaborate ceremonies were held to signify the importance Pakistan attaches to China, which is considered a close ally.

“Friendship with China is a matter of pride for our nation,” Mr. Gilani was quoted as saying by local media as he welcomed his Chinese counterpart.

Apart from holding meetings with Mr. Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari, Mr. Wen was scheduled to address a special joint session of the Parliament on Sunday.

Pakistan’s military ties with China are strong and China has assisted Pakistan in tank production, fighter aircraft manufacturing and naval technology. But since the late 1990s, economic concerns have gained increased importance. Trade and energy have taken precedence in Pakistan’s relations with China.

Mr. Wen was accompanied by 260 business executives.

Pakistani officials say there is a need to enhance trade between the countries that stands around $7 billion a year. But there also are concerns here that the trade deficit is growing heavily in favor of China.

“The relationship is undergoing a qualitative change,” said Mansoor Ahmad, an independent security analyst based in Islamabad. “This change is manifested in China’s relationship with emerging markets and developing countries, which is essentially based on forging and enhancing trade linkages and securing new markets for Chinese investment.”

The Chinese are also cooperating with Pakistan in developing its civil nuclear energy program despite discontent from Washington and New Delhi.

Mr. Wen, the Chinese prime minister, arrived here after completing a two-day tour of India, the estranged neighbor of Pakistan.

China would have to undertake a fine balancing act regarding enhancing its cooperation with both India and Pakistan, said Mr. Ahmad. China and India would forge economic ties despite their continuing territorial disputes, given India’s huge market, he said. Tensions between India and Pakistan worsened after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008, which India and the United States blamed on Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant Islamic group based in Pakistan.

The Pakistan government sees China as a counterweight to India, and officials said that closer Chinese cooperation with India would not affect Pakistani ties with China.

Nonetheless, Mr. Wen’s visit to India this week yielded greater immiediate progress on the economic front than toward resolving the more complicated geostrategic issues.

“In Pakistan’s case, we have already had a longstanding strategic partnership which is now being supplemented by increasing Chinese investment in infrastructural development, civil nuclear cooperation and establishing rail and road linkages between the two countries,” Mr. Ahmad said.

More Military Aid to Pakistan?

By Aaron Mannes, Rennie Silva and V.S. Subrahmanian for The Huffington Post

As part of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, the United States has granted Pakistan over $2 billion in military equipment over the next five years. This aid is intended to support American policy objectives and help stabilize Pakistan, but it may be achieving the opposite.

Military aid for Pakistan has a clear, if narrow, logic: to ensure the supply lines for the 100,000 American and NATO ally troops deployed to landlocked Afghanistan. The United States has few viable alternatives to the Pakistani-controlled routes into Afghanistan. When Pakistan recently shut down the Torkham crossing into Afghanistan (after an accidental border clash with a NATO helicopter that left two Pakistani soldiers dead and four wounded), supply trucks backed-up and Pakistani Taliban set fire to over 100 vehicles. Though there was no immediate danger of shortages, the event signaled how difficult US-led operations in Afghanistan could become without support from Pakistan’s military.

Despite its indispensable role in the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s own stability is in doubt and military aid has been of limited utility. Since 9/11 the United States has delivered over $18 billion in aid to Pakistan, about two-thirds of which has been military. In that period, violence by Pakistan-based terrorists both within Pakistan and without has increased substantially. According to the National Counter Terror Center’s World Incidents Tracking System, 110 Pakistanis were killed in terror attacks in 2004. By 2007 that number had jumped to 400, and in 2008 the casualty figure more than doubled to nearly 900.

As illustrated by the recent bombing of the Criminal Investigation Building in Karachi which killed 20, American aid has not enabled Pakistan’s security forces to control the violence. Instead, Pakistan has become a base for terrorism not only targeting the Pakistani state but also India, as demonstrated by the 2008 Mumbai massacre and a deadly series of 2006 commuter train bombings in Mumbai which killed over 200 people. India’s response to these attacks has been muted, but its restraint is finite. Open hostilities with its neighbor to the east would be devastating for Pakistan, and could even trigger a nuclear exchange.

Although several thousand Pakistani soldiers have died fighting Islamist extremists, the Pakistani security establishment has been slow to adopt counter-insurgency methods of war fighting. Instead, it has preferred to continue its India-centric focus. Investigations of U.S. military aid intended to help Pakistan fight the Taliban find that it is often re-purposed to counter India. “I’ll be the first to admit, I’m India-centric” Pakistani army chief of staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani told Bob Woodward in his latest book, revealing a long-term strategy that is at odds with US interests.

Pakistan’s ongoing use of Islamist terrorists as proxies against India is especially troubling. President Zardari, who has stated “the undeclared policy of running with the hare and hunting with the hound was abandoned,” claims that Pakistan has turned against Islamist militants. But Pakistan’s generals have not received the memo, as investigations into the Mumbai attack show that links between at least some elements of the ISI and Lashkar-e-Taiba continue.

Pakistan has pursued some Taliban forces in its tribal areas, while leaving others alone to support future Pakistani interests in neighboring Afghanistan. Under such circumstances, America’s military aid is at best fueling Pakistan’s longstanding rivalry with India, and at worst enabling its enemies.

Pakistan’s high defense spending has robbed critical social programs of necessary resources. Pakistan continues lag behind comparable countries in general development indicators such as literacy and infant mortality, while its infrastructure is stretched to keep up with the needs of its fast-growing population. Under-funded and corrupt government institutions compound the situation. As Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders cynically seek to distract the public from these shortcomings, it is little surprise that Islamist groups often fill the vacuum by providing critical services or that the Pakistani people increasingly fall under their spell.

The long-term development shortfalls of Pakistan’s government have been exacerbated by a series of disasters including the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, the 2008 economic crisis, and last summer’s massive flooding. The latter, which caused nearly $10 billion in damage, has created millions of refugees and devastated an irrigation system that was strained to meet the demands of Pakistan’s agricultural sector before the flooding. Today, its failure threatens to cripple a vital sector of the Pakistani economy for years to come.

American development aid cannot counter decades of Pakistani neglect, but it can play a productive role in addressing critical needs. Providing Pakistan with more military capability-capability that could contribute to regional instability if it is used on American allies-is unlikely to achieve either.

U.S. Had Warnings on Plotter of Mumbai Attack

By Jane Perlez, Eric Schmitt and Ginger Thompson for The New York Times

Less than a year before terrorists killed at least 163 people in Mumbai, India, a young Moroccan woman went to American authorities in Pakistan to warn them that she believed her husband, David C. Headley, was plotting an attack.

It was not the first time American law enforcement authorities were warned about Mr. Headley, a longtime informer in Pakistan for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration whose roots in Pakistan and the United States allowed him to move easily in both worlds.

Two years earlier, in 2005, an American woman who was also married to the 50-year-old Mr. Headley told federal investigators in New York that she believed he was a member of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba created and sponsored by Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency.

Despite those warnings by two of his three wives, Mr. Headley roamed far and wide on Lashkar’s behalf between 2002 and 2009, receiving training in small-caliber weapons and countersurveillance, scouting targets for attacks, and building a network of connections that extended from Chicago to Pakistan’s lawless northwestern frontier.

Then in 2008, it was his handiwork as chief reconnaissance scout that set the stage for Lashkar’s strike against Mumbai, an assault intended to provoke a conflict between nuclear-armed adversaries, Pakistan and India.

An examination of Mr. Headley’s movements in the years before the bombing, based on interviews in Washington, Pakistan, India and Morocco, shows that he had overlapping, even baffling, contacts among seemingly disparate groups — Pakistani intelligence, terrorists, and American drug investigators.

Those ties are rekindling concerns that the Mumbai bombings represent another communications breakdown in the fight against terrorism, and are raising the question of whether United States officials were reluctant to dig deeper into Mr. Headley’s movements because he had been an informant for the D.E.A.

More significantly, they may indicate American wariness to pursue evidence that some officials in Pakistan, its major ally in the war against Al Qaeda, were involved in planning an attack that killed six Americans.

The Pakistani government has insisted that its spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, a close partner of the C.I.A., did not know of the attack. The United States says it has no evidence to counter this, though officials acknowledge that some current or retired ISI officers probably played some role.

It is unclear what United States officials did with the warnings they had gotten about Mr. Headley, who has pleaded guilty to the crimes and is cooperating with authorities, or whether they saw them as complaints from wives whose motives might be colored by strained relations with their husband.

Federal officials say that the State Department and the F.B.I. investigated the warnings they received about Mr. Headley at the time, but that they could not confirm any connections between him and Lashkar-e-Taiba. D.E.A. officials have said they ended their association with him at the end of 2001, at least two months before Mr. Headley reportedly attended his first terrorist training. But some Indian officials say they suspect that Mr. Headley’s contacts with the American drug agency lasted much longer.

The investigative news organization ProPublica reported the 2005 warning from Mr. Headley’s American former wife on its Web site and in the Saturday issue of The Washington Post. By ProPublica’s account, she told the authorities that Mr. Headley boasted about working as an American informant while he trained with Lashkar.

On Saturday, Mike Hammer, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said in a statement, “The United States regularly provided threat information to Indian officials in 2008 before the attacks in Mumbai.” He also said, “Had we known about the timing and other specifics related to the Mumbai attacks, we would have immediately shared those details with the government of India.”

Mr. Headley’s American wife was not the only one to come forward. The Moroccan wife described her separate warnings in an interview with The New York Times. Interviews with United States and allied intelligence and security officials illustrate his longstanding connections to American law enforcement and the ISI:

¶ An officer of the Pakistani spy agency handed Mr. Headley $25,000 in early 2006 to open an office and set up a house in Mumbai to be used as a front during his scouting trips, according to Mr. Headley’s testimony to Indian investigators in Chicago in June. As part of Mr. Headley’s plea agreement, Indian investigators were allowed to interview him in Chicago, where he was arrested in October 2009. ¶ The ISI officer who gave Mr. Headley the cash, known as Major Iqbal, served as the supervisor of Lashkar’s planning, helping to arrange a communications system for the attack, and overseeing a model of the Taj Mahal Hotel, according to Mr. Headley’s testimony to the Indians.

¶ While working for Lashkar, which has close ties to the ISI, Mr. Headley was also enlisted by the Pakistani spy agency to recruit Indian agents to monitor Indian troop levels and movements, an American official said.

Besides Mr. Headley’s guilty plea in a United States court, seven Pakistani suspects have been charged there. American investigators say a critical figure who has not been charged is Sajid Mir, a Lashkar operative who became close to Mr. Headley as the plans for the Mumbai operation unfolded. The investigators fear he is still working on other plots.

Mr. Headley was known both to Pakistani and American security officials long before his arrest as a terrorist. He went to an elite military high school in Pakistan. After arrests in 1988 and 1997 on drug-trafficking charges, Mr. Headley became such a valued D.E.A. informant that the drug agency sent him back and forth between Pakistan and the United States. In several interviews in her home, Mr. Headley’s Moroccan wife, Faiza Outalha, described the warnings she gave to American officials less than a year before gunmen attacked several popular tourist attractions in Mumbai. She claims she even showed the embassy officials a photo of Mr. Headley and herself in the Taj Mahal Hotel, where they stayed twice in April and May 2007. Hotel records confirm their stay.

Ms. Outalha, 27, said that in two meetings with American officials at the United States Embassy in Islamabad, she told the authorities that her husband had many friends who were known members of Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said she told them that he was passionately anti-Indian, but that he traveled to India all the time for business deals that never seemed to amount to much.

And she said she told them Mr. Headley assumed different identities: as a devout Muslim who went by the name Daood when he was in Pakistan, and as an American playboy named David, when he was in India.

“I told them, he’s either a terrorist, or he’s working for you,” she recalled saying to American officials at the United States Embassy in Islamabad. “Indirectly, they told me to get lost.”

Though there are lots of gaping holes left in Mr. Headley’s public profile, the one thing that is clear is he assumed multiple personas.

He was born in the United States, the son of a Pakistani diplomat and a socialite from Philadelphia’s Main Line. When he was about a year old, his parents took him to Pakistan, where he attended the Hasan Abdal Cadet College, the country’s oldest military boarding school, just outside of Islamabad.

Mr. Headley’s parents divorced. And before he finished high school, he moved to Philadelphia to help his American mother run a bar, called the Khyber Pass. Later he opened a couple of video rental stores.

But at the same time he was involved in a life of crime. Each time he was arrested on drug trafficking charges, he used his roots in the United States and Pakistan to make himself as valuable an asset to law enforcement as he was to the traffickers; one with the looks and passports to move easily across borders, and the charisma to penetrate secretive organizations.

He was married at least three times. For one period he was married to all three wives — Ms. Outalha, who is a medical student half his age, a New York makeup artist, and a conservative Pakistani Muslim — at the same time.

Those relationships, however, caused him trouble. In 2005, his American wife filed domestic abuse charges against Mr. Headley, according to federal investigators in New York, and reported his ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba. The investigators said the tip was passed on to the F.B.I.’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Then in December 2007, Ms. Outalha talked her way into the heavily guarded American Embassy in Islamabad. She went back a month later with more information. A senior administration official acknowledged that Ms. Outalha met twice with an assistant regional security officer and an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer at the embassy. However, the administration official said Ms. Outalha offered almost no details to give credibility to her warnings.

“The texture of the meeting was that her husband was involved with bad people, and they were planning jihad,” the official said. “But she gave no details about who was involved, or what they planned to target.”

Given that she had been jilted, Ms. Outalha acknowledged she may not have been composed. “I wanted him in Guantánamo,” she said. More than that, however, Ms. Outalha says, she went to American authorities looking for answers to questions about Mr. Headley’s real identity. In public he criticized the United States for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But at night he loved watching “Seinfeld” and Jay Leno.

Sipping tea in a cafe overlooking a plaza in Morocco, Ms. Outalha said that in hindsight, she is convinced that he is both men. She claims to be puzzled that American officials did not heed her warning.

“I told them anything I could to get their attention,” she said of the American authorities at the embassy in Islamabad. “It was as if I was shouting, ‘This guy was a terrorist! You have to do something.’ ”

Aid Flooded Pak by Withdrawing Army

By Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar for The Times of India

Pakistan is suffering its greatest human tragedy since Partition. The floodwaters of the Indus are an incredible 20 miles wide, sweeping away entire towns, villages and farms. Over 20 million people have been displaced, far more than the nine million displaced by Partition in 1947. The immediate death count of 1,500 will soon increase hugely through disease and deprivation. Rehabilitation could cost $100 billion.

Some Indians might be perverse enough to rejoice that an enemy has been hit by a natural disaster — an act of God, as it were — and will be crippled economically for years. But most Indians will surely want to help their neighbours. In these traumatic times, we need to think of Pakistanis as humans in distress, not foes.

Even those who cannot think beyond realpolitik should see that the floods are potentially a strategic disaster for India too. Flood damage will create a fertile breeding ground for Islamist militancy. Islamist NGOs with links to terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed are at the very forefront of flood relief efforts and hence are gaining popularity. Meanwhile, the civil administration is seen as corrupt and ineffective. President Asif Zardari has further ruined his low reputation by going on foreign junkets.

The Pakistani army has in the last year battled some, though by no means all, militant groups in Swat and FATA (federally administered tribal areas). But much of the infrastructure built to reach the remote tribal areas has been destroyed by the floods. Besides, the Pakistani army is redirecting its efforts in the region, from combating militants to combating flood damage. The militants are re-occupying the resultant political vacuum.

The ISI recently came out with a study suggesting that Islamist militants had become a greater threat to the country than India. Flood damage can only deepen that perception. True, the army wants to back the Afghan Taliban even while battling the Pakistani Taliban, and this results in muddled thinking and sabotage of peace initiatives. The resolution of these contradictions is not in sight.

One day, the Pakistani army and the ISI will have no choice but to confront the reality that Islamist militants are Frankensteins that threaten their own creator. The ISI’s assessment should bring that day somewhat closer.
In the light of both human and strategic considerations, how can India help Pakistan? Individual contributions from Indian citizens must be encouraged, and red tape thwarting contributions in cash and kind must be cut. But the Indian government should not offer more than a modest amount of food and financial aid. Pakistan requires billions of dollars for relief and rehabilitation, so anything India offers will be a drop in the ocean.

Besides, recipients are rarely grateful for alms: they resent being supplicants, and suspect the motives of the donors. The US saved India from mass starvation after the twin droughts of 1965 and 1966 by giving record food aid. But this won the US very few friends and stoked resentment from many who felt India’s independence was being compromised. The US will once again be the chief donor to Pakistan, but will gain virtually no popularity or gratitude.

If food and financial aid will not help much, how can India best help Pakistan? The best way will be for the Indian Army to unilaterally withdraw from the border in Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. This will pose no military risk whatsoever: flood-stricken Pakistan cannot possibly embark on military adventures against India. But the withdrawal of Indian troops will mean that the Pakistan army loses all excuses to avoid diverting manpower and financial resources from the border to flood relief and rehabilitation. This will cost India nothing, yet will release very large resources within Pakistan. Its impact on the Pakistani psyche will be significant. Even analysts who distrust Pakistan agree widely that India has no alternative to diplomatic engagement: cutting off ties will not win any minds and hearts there. Unilateral withdrawal will itself be a form of engagement, and will encourage other forms.

The wrong strategy will be to try to negotiate a mutual withdrawal of troops. Withdrawal must be unilateral and immediate. Defence hawks will express dismay that India is so soft on an enemy that encourages terrorism. But unilateral withdrawal will be a flood relief measure, not a military surrender. In the bargain, it will oblige Pakistan to withdraw its own troops and redeploy them for flood relief: its public opinion will be outraged otherwise.

Dr Manmohan Singh, you say we must be proactive in the peace process with Pakistan. The tragic floods there have given you an opportunity to be proactive in a way that will not come again. Go for it.

Pakistan Accepts Flood Aid Money From Rival India

By Issam Ahmed for The Christian Science Monitor

Pakistan has accepted an offer of $5 million of flood aid from neighbor and longtime rival India, in a move that could spark a political backlash at home.

In an interview with Indian news channel NDTV, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi described the offer of aid, made last week, as a “very welcome initiative” which the government of Pakistan has agreed to accept, after taking some time to decide.

But it would have been better to say “thanks, but no thanks,” according to Liaqat Baloch, secretary general of Pakistan’s second-largest religious party, the Jamaat-e-Islami.

“Pakistan has many disputes with India, with reference to Kashmir, and the Indian Army engaging in brutality in occupied Kashmir,” he says. “In the past, when Pakistan tried to support India after their natural disasters, India never accepted. Therefore it would be better if our government refused the aid with a big thank you.”

Al Khidmet foundation, Jamaat-e-Islami’s charitable wing, has been one of the most visible aid organizations in the flood-affected areas.

The two countries have made efforts in recent months to repair bilateral relations, which took a plunge following the 2008 Mumbai attacks. India blames those attacks on Pakistan-backed militants. The two countries have fought three full-scale wars, most recently in 1999.

The United States had urged Pakistan to accept India’s offer of aid earlier this week. When Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called his Pakistani counterpart to offer his condolences following the worst natural disaster in Pakistan’s history, it was an event widely reported in the Pakistan media.

“In such times of natural disasters, all of South Asia should rise to the occasion and extend every possible help to the people of Pakistan affected by the tragedy,” Mr. Singh said, according to a statement released by his office.

According to Badar Alam, editor of Pakistan’s Herald magazine, the amount of aid pledged is “symbolic, but its effect is immense. It’s a good confidence building measure between the two countries.”

But, he warns, Pakistan’s religious parties will try to spin the move “as a sign of weakness.”

“They will see it as a capitulation to India, that our own government is so weak we have been forced to accept help from the historic enemy,” says Mr. Alam.

Mosharraf Zaidi, a columnist for Pakistan’s The News, termed the decision brave: “It’s a tremendous gesture, very mature. India should be commended for donating it and Pakistan should be commended for accepting it.”

“The whole idea in an emergency is you’ll have the Jamat ud Dawas [the charitable wing of banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba] and you’ll have competing powers working almost in tandem to support people. It shows that no matter what our value systems, we have to work together right now,” he adds.

Some 20 million people are affected by Pakistan’s worst flooding in recent memory; Pakistan’s government estimates around 1,600 deaths and millions homeless or displaced. The United Nations appealed to the international community to donate $460 million in emergency assistance last week, and has met half of that goal. Yesterday the US increased its flood aid to Pakistan from $80 million to $150 million.

-Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- It is a good decision by the Pakistani government to accept the aid offer from India. Not only will this be a confidence building measure between the two nations, it will save countless lives, and no nation is too proud to save the lives of its citizens.

Time to Win Hearts in the Deluged Pakistan

By Saad Khan for The Huffington Post

There has been a great deluge in northern and western Pakistan that has now spread to the southern parts, uprooting more than 14 million people and killing at least 1,600 . No one can remember a time when there has been such extensive flooding in the northwestern province of Pakistan, now renamed Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The last major flooding was in 1929 and that too cannot hold a candle in front of the inundation that the present flooding has unfurled. Whole villages and even major cities and towns have been inundated with not a dry space in sight, water flowing as high as 20 feet. Pakistani houses are generally single story, especially in villages, and almost all have caved in due to surging waters.

Help is too little and too late to arrive. KP is the worst hit province and being the hotbed of extremism and suicide bombings, the little infrastructure that was left has been washed away by floods. As the information minister of the province, whose only son also lost his life recently in an extremist attack, aptly said, their province is now a mere shadow of what was once a lush green and relatively developed region.

During the massive flooding, federal government’s response was slow and cautionary at best. Prime Minister Gillani first paid an aerial visit of the submerged areas and did not bother coming down and talking with the people. He has just recently visited some areas and a medical camp that later turned out to be a fake and dummy one. President Zardari has not even done that. A federal relief fund was set up five days after the flooding and donations and contributions are little and far between. People simply don’t trust the government and prefer private organizations for their donations.

There was speculation in the Pakistani media that President Zardari would cancel his foreign trip to Britain and France after the flooding but he didn’t. Opposition leaders lashed out at him for not canceling the Britain trip because Premier Cameron had taken jibes at the ISI and the Pakistan Army. The ISI chief already canceled his trip but Zardari is on the last leg of his trip and has already met Cameron.

Amid this mayhem and chaos, the United States did respond rather quickly. American choppers are participating in the evacuation and have expanded their operations into the southern parts of Punjab besides KP.

Perhaps this is the time for the Americans to interact with the troubled and grief stricken Pakistanis and boost their image. American response after the 2005 earthquake was swift and exemplary and created a positive feeling among many Pakistanis. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is the haven of the Taliban and an extended rescue operation by the US will certainly change some minds, if not all.

There is a fear that the poor and stranded Pashtuns will turn to the Taliban if help does not arrive swiftly; extremist organizations have already started their relief operations. People are wary of the slow response and negligence of Pakistani officials. Taliban have an excellent opportunity to brainwash them and recruit them and they have already embarked on that path. The US can launch a counter strategy of winning hearts and minds. This is the perfect time for it and people are eager to hear the American side of the story. The US relief efforts so far are exceptional and they are apparently ahead of the extremists in the relief and rehabilitation process.

P.S. President Zardari has since returned to Pakistan but has not visited the flooded areas yet.

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