Posts Tagged ‘ Inter-Services Intelligence ’

Pakistani Journalists Defiant at Reporter’s Burial

As Reported by The Associated Press

A Pakistani reporter who investigated terrorism and was found slain after telling a rights activist he’d been threatened by intelligence agents was buried Wednesday. Fellow journalists vowed his killing would not silence them.

Syed Saleem Shahzad wrote for the Asia Times Online and other publications. He delved into topics that were often sensitive in Pakistan, where journalists face threats from insurgents as well as a security establishment that operates largely outside the law.

“We will not shut our voices down,” said Azhar Abbas, a prominent Pakistani journalist. “The journalist community is united on this. We will not stop ”

Pakistan was the deadliest country for journalists in 2010, with at least eight killed in the line of duty, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Six died in suicide attacks, the group said in a report late last year.

Despite the dangers, the media establishment in Pakistan has expanded rapidly over the past decade, and reporters here operate with tremendous freedom compared with many other developing countries.

In recent weeks, the media have carried unusually scathing coverage about the security establishment after it was caught unawares by the May 2 U.S. raid that killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in a garrison city in Pakistan’s northwest.

Shahzad’s death could heighten the criticism, though commentators are being careful about how they discuss the alleged link to spy agencies.

After disappearing Sunday from Islamabad, Shahzad’s body was found dozens of miles outside the capital on Tuesday, bearing signs of torture, police said. His death drew numerous condemnations, including from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The 40-year-old was buried in his hometown, Karachi, as hundreds of friends, relatives, political figures and fellow journalists mourned.

Sindh province Information Minister Sharjeel Memon called the killing a “cowardly act” and promised that those responsible would be brought to justice. But it’s unclear how much the weak civilian government can do if, as some suspect, Pakistani security agencies played a role.

A spokesman for Pakistan’s premier spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, called the allegations “absurd.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media on the record.

However, Ali Dayan Hasan, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said Shahzad had told him that he feared Pakistani intelligence agents were after him.

The agencies pressured him to reveal his sources in October after he wrote a story about Pakistan allegedly freeing a detained Afghan Taliban commander, according to an email Shahzad sent Hasan. Hasan said Shahzad was still worried in recent weeks, but kept up his reporting.

Just last week, Shahzad wrote a story about alleged al-Qaida infiltration of the navy. The report came after a 17-hour insurgent siege of a naval base in Pakistan’s south added to the recent humiliations suffered by security agencies.

Within days, Shahzad vanished, and his wife contacted Hasan as her husband had instructed in case he disappeared.

In a statement, Clinton said Shahzad’s reporting “brought to light the troubles extremism poses to Pakistan’s stability,” and said the U.S. supports the “Pakistani government’s investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.”

No Change Seen in Pakistan’s View of India Threat

By Myra MacDonald for Reuters

The Pakistan army is unlikely to change its assessment of the threat from India despite heavy demands on its troops to provide flood relief while also fighting Islamist militants, a senior security official said.

The Wall Street Journal said this month Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency had decided — for the first time in the country’s history — that Islamist militants had overtaken India as the greatest threat to national security.

But the security official suggested this was a misinterpretation of the stance of the Pakistan army, which views the threat from militants and India in very different ways, rather than comparing them against each other.

“These are two mutually exclusive threats. The magnitude, the type, is quite different. One is an internal threat which is insidious, difficult to quantify. It is a clear and present danger. This is a very serious threat,” he said. “The other is a conventional threat. What has India done, politically and militarily, for this threat to have been reduced?”

Another official said the threat from India had if anything increased into both a conventional and unconventional threat, as it used its presence in Afghanistan to support those fighting against the Pakistani state in its western border regions.

India denies accusations by Islamabad that it backs separatists in Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan, saying it is interested only in promoting Afghan development.

With flooding which has uprooted some 6 million people further destabilizing a country already battling militants, the WSJ report raised the possibility the Pakistan army might revise its assessment of the threat from its much bigger neighbor.

It keeps the bulk of its troops on the Indian border.

INDIAN FLOOD RELIEF

India has promised Pakistan $5 million in flood relief and analysts there see no chance of it exploiting its nuclear rival’s current vulnerability by raising tensions on the border.

“At this time no one is thinking of anything other than how to help them get over the suffering and the damage,” said retired Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal at the Center for Land Warfare Studies.

“The Pakistanis should feel free to pull out their troops for flood relief as and when they want. The Indian Army obviously cannot give any written guarantees but our DGMO (Director General of Military Operations) could reassure his counterpart that we have no intention of attacking them at such a time.”

The DGMO’s of the two countries talk by phone once a week, mainly to clear up misunderstandings over any ceasefire violations on the Line of Control dividing disputed Kashmir.

But the security official said that Pakistan’s military deployment was based on its assessment of India’s potential offensive strength. “The configuration of any defense force is based on enemy’s capabilities and not intentions,” he said.

Pakistan has taken more casualties in its battle with Islamist militants than in all its wars against India combined — the two countries have fought three full-scale wars since independence in 1947 along with other smaller conflicts.

Yet for Pakistan to drop its guard against India would require progress on political disputes, including over Kashmir, officials say.

India broke off a peace process with Pakistan after the 2008 attack on Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants and despite several attempts the two countries have been unable to get their talks back on track again.

And even while Pakistan fights militants on its western border with Afghanistan, it remains wary of sudden Indian retaliation should there be another Mumbai-style attack on India.

“This enforced attention to the western border has made the Pakistan army reassess its priorities,” said western military analyst Brian Cloughley, an expert on the Pakistan army.

“But it still does not wish to drop its guard to the east, especially as the there is still the threat of a swift and dramatic attack if a terrorist outrage in India is determined by India to have been planned in Pakistan.”

Pakistan has said it cannot guarantee there will be no more attacks on India, arguing that it too is a victim of bombings.

Pakistan Fight Stalls for U.S.

By Julian Barnes for The Wall Street Journal

The U.S. military has stopped lobbying Pakistan to help root out one of the biggest militant threats to coalition forces in Afghanistan, U.S. officials say, acknowledging that the failure to win better help from Islamabad threatens to damage a linchpin of their Afghan strategy.

Until recently, the U.S. had been pressing Islamabad to launch major operations against the Haqqani network, a militant group connected to al Qaeda that controls a key border region where U.S. defense and intelligence officials believe Osama bin Laden has hidden.

The group has been implicated in the Dec. 30 bombing of a CIA base in Khost, a January assault on Afghan government ministries and a luxury hotel in Kabul, and in the killing of five United Nations staffers in last year’s raid on a U.N. guesthouse.

But military officials have decided that pressing Pakistan for help against the group—as much as it is needed—is counterproductive.

U.S. officials believe elements of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, are continuing to protect the Haqqani network to help it retain influence in Afghanistan once the U.S. military eventually leaves the country. U.S. officials say the support includes housing, intelligence and even strategic planning,

During a trip to Pakistan last month, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, chose not to raise the issue of an offensive against the Haqqani network—a departure from the message U.S. defense officials delivered earlier this year.

The U.S. also had intensified the pressure for Pakistani operations in North Waziristan in May after the attempted bombing of New York’s Times Square was linked to militants in Pakistan.

Pakistan officials reject the U.S. conclusions about their efforts. They say they are taking significant action against militants in North Waziristan. They say their intelligence service has severed all ties with the Haqqani network. Islamabad points to a series of surgical strikes the Pakistani military has executed in North Waziristan, and say they have ratcheted up those efforts in recent months in a precursor toward more aggressive moves.

Pakistan’s operations complement a Central Intelligence Agency drone campaign targeting militants in North Waziristan, a Pakistani official said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates praised the Pakistani effort to rout al Qaeda and other militants from Swat and South Waziristan. “Are they doing a lot to help us? The answer is yes,” Mr. Gates said Thursday.

U.S. officials acknowledged the recent Pakistani operations, but discounted their value against the Haqqani network.

A U.S. defense official said that most of the raids have been against the Pakistani Taliban, a militant group that poses no direct threat to U.S. forces in Afghanistan, but opposes the Pakistani government.

Pakistan has failed to act on detailed intelligence about the Haqqanis provided in recent months, said a senior military official. “Our forces have put a significant dent in the Haqqani network,” said the official. “It would be good if the [Pakistanis] would do the same on their side.”

U.S. officials say they have concluded that making more demands, public or private, on Islamabad to start a military offensive against the Haqqani network will only strain U.S.-Pakistani relations.

The Haqqani network has decades-long ties with al Qaeda leaders that date back to their days of fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan prior to al Qaeda’s formation.

The network now is believed to provide al Qaeda with protection, shelter and support in North Waziristan. The group’s historic base is in Afghanistan’s Khost province and it remains the most potent insurgent force in the eastern part of the country and is closely aligned with the Taliban.

The number of al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan is thought to be very small, under 100; Haqqani network fighters number in the thousands.

The U.S. shift partly is in recognition that the Pakistanis simply may not have the military capacity to expand operations enough to secure the North Waziristan area, one U.S. official acknowledged.

Pakistani efforts in North Waziristan so far are too small to have a significant impact, said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who headed the Obama administration’s first review of U.S. policy toward Afghan and Pakistan.

“It is mostly show to keep the Americans happy,” he said.

In the wake of Pakistan’s recent flooding, U.S. officials also are concerned the Pakistanis may ratchet back counterterrorism operations as they redeploy troops to help respond to a burgeoning humanitarian crisis.

U.S. defense officials now argue the only way to convince Pakistan to take action in North Waziristan is to weaken the Haqqani network so much that Pakistan sees little value in maintaining an alliance with the group—though they acknowledge that will be harder without Pakistani help.

The U.S. military has stepped up its own operations against the Haqqani network since April, and most significantly in the last two weeks, according to military officials. Strikes have significantly reduced the Haqqani network’s ability to mount attacks in Kabul and outside their traditional tribal areas of eastern Afghanistan, said senior U.S. military officials.

In eastern Afghanistan, a task force of elite troops assigned to target the Haqqani network conducted 19 operations in April, 11 in May, 20 in June and 23 in July. The high pace continued in the first week of August with seven operations.

The Haqqanis threatened to disrupt an international conference in Kabul last month, but were not able to make good on the threat.

Pakistan Rejects Allegations of Taliban Ties

As reported by CNN

Pakistani officials Sunday rejected allegations that their country’s powerful intelligence agency still supports the Taliban and other Afghan insurgents after a paper from a Harvard academic accused the agency of continued links to the rebels.

The powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency does not “actually control the Afghan insurgency” and does not have “the ability to bring it to an end,” Matt Waldman argues in a paper for the London School of Economics. But the ISI provides “sanctuary, and very substantial financial, military and logistical support to the insurgency,” giving it “strong strategic and operational influence — reinforced by coercion,” according to his report, which cites Taliban commanders among its sources.

The ISI is widely thought to have played a key role in creating the Afghan Taliban during the 1990s, but Pakistan officially denies supporting them now. Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, spokesman for the Pakistani military, called the claim “rubbish” on Sunday and said Waldman’s report “does not have a credible source or authenticity.”

“At best, it is speculative and only gives open sources without naming [them],” Abbas told CNN. “So, therefore, this kind of report requires a treatment which it really deserves. We are not going to formally respond to this, but we reject these allegations and accusation. If there are hard evidence, we would like for them to be brought out and we would be able to respond accurately.”

And Farahnaz Ispahani, a spokeswoman for President Asif Ali Zardari, called Waldman’s report “one-sided” and dismissed what she called its “wild accusations.”

“If Mr. Waldman had been a seasoned academic, he would have conducted interviews in Pakistan itself to balance his so-called research report,” Ispahani said. “The Pakistani government and its military have been performing an outstanding service to the world community as well as the region in its fight against militancy and extremism, and we can count the dead we have sacrificed in the thousands.”

Waldman’s report is titled, “The Sun in the Sky: The relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan insurgents.” He based his conclusions on interviews with nine insurgent field commanders in three regions of Afghanistan, plus former Taliban officials, tribal leaders, politicians, experts and diplomats. The title comes from Taliban commanders’ claims that their relationship with Pakistani intelligence is “as clear as the sun in the sky.”

Waldman concluded that that Pakistan “continues to give extensive support to the insurgency in terms of funding, munitions and supplies.” But Abbas dismissed the unnamed sources, calling the report “rubbish.”

“Has he named any Taliban commanders in this, has he named any officials?” Abbas said. “So, therefore, if it doesn’t have any specific source, which is not willing to disclose a name, it just becomes one of those reports that keep appearing. It is a serious allegation, but unless it has a credible evidence to support it or substantiate the report, only then it warrants a serious consideration for response.”

The ISI works not only with the Taliban, but also with the armed Haqqani network, led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin, Waldman wrote. The Haqqani network sometimes cooperates with the Taliban and sometimes fights it.

The Taliban members interviewed believe that the ISI has a heavy influence on their leadership, which some of them said amounts to control, according to the report.

One of the southern commanders claimed: “If anyone rejects that the ISI backs or controls the Taliban, he has a mental problem … all our plans and strategy are made in Pakistan and step by step it is brought to us, for military operations or other activities,” the report says.

And southern Taliban commanders all complained of heavy ISI involvement, which they blamed for some attacks on civilians.

“One southern commander described their predicament as follows: ‘Another group of Taliban is directly supported by the ISI. They will never stop fighting in the country; they want to destroy the government and bring chaos. Behind all the attacks on … NGOs, schools, teachers, doctors, this is Pakistan. We cannot deny that it is Taliban; but there are Pakistan controlled groups among us. They want destabilisation …,’ ” the report says.

Waldman’s report comes two months after a U.N. report on the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 — an attack blamed on Pakistani Taliban leaders — found that intelligence agencies hindered the subsequent investigation. The report concluded that the “pervasive reach” of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies left police “unsure of how vigorously they ought to pursue actions, which they knew, as professionals, they should have taken,” the report states.

Pakistan, Training Camps, and a Culture of Terror

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

The arrest of the would be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad has brought increased scrutiny to the fact that Pakistan has become the central destination for the world’s would be terrorists and extremists. This should not come as a surprise to anyone as there have been reports of everyone from the militant Muslims of the Philippines to the Arab Al-Qaeda extremists of Yemen and Saudi Arabia who have all trained side by side with each other. Now Pakistan and Pakistanis everywhere are increasingly coming under suspicion due to the numerous instances of Pakistani men’s involvement in attacks and attempted terrorist attacks.

The London Tube bombings in 2005 by young Pakistani British men, the Mumbai attackers in late 2008, and the attempted Times Square bombing by Faisal Shahzad all are linked by the fact that all the perpetrators in these instances were Pakistani men and that they all got their schooling at terrorist training camps in Pakistan.

Something I have never understood is how are these guys from all over the world able to come to Pakistan and simply find training camps to attend? If these camps are so easy to find by your average would be terrorist wanna-be, then how come with the billions being spent on the war on terror are we not able to find the locations, the leadership, and the infrastructure of these camps and destroy it? I know that the US government has been aiding Pakistan with billions of dollars for the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. So how come are there still terrorist training camps and extremist groups in throughout Pakistan?

Part of the problem as to why there are still terrorist and militant camps in Pakistan is because a number of Pakistan’s army leadership and specifically Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), view India as the ultimate threat to Pakistan’s security and sovereignty. And in order to fuel a low level insurgency in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir, the rationale was to use the militants and insurgents in causing maximum havoc and to use them in the decades old war with India over the disputed Kashmir region.

The real issue is that the groups such as Lashkar e-Taiba and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen were originally founded by the ISI to help obtain volunteers for the Pak army who would be willing to fight India and aid the militancy in Indian Kashmir. Pakistan’s army and the ISI used the same technique used by the US during the Soviet-Afghan war where militants were encouraged to wage a “jihad” against the Russians and were now asked to do the same in Kashmir against India. So this climate of tacit state approval for militancy and the funding and support for militant groups took root at the time of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and continued after the Soviet retreat.

Once the Soviets left, warring factions or warlords in neighboring Afghanistan led to great instability and hardship for the average Afghani who was just trying to survive in a thoroughly destroyed and desperate country. During this time, students or Talibs of local madrassas in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, emerged as a force as they started to defeat various powerful warlords around Afghanistan with the help of Pakistan’s ISI.

These young men, and in many cases boys, were made up mostly of Afghan refugees who had studied at Islamic religious schools in Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan war. These young Talibs had received important training, supplies and arms from the Pakistani government and particularly from the ISI as well as logistical and financial support. The ISI historically supported the Taliban throughout the 1990s, viewing it as a counter to what they regarded as an Indian-supported Northern Alliance. In a matter of months, the Taliban captured many key provinces inside Afghanistan and soon Kabul and declared themselves rulers of the country. Only three countries ever did recognize the Taliban government’s 5 years in office running Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, and they were United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.

For the Pakistani government, the psychological thinking has always been figuring out this: How do you contain India to the east? What ways can we leverage ourselves in a retreat and counter strike strategy if ever the eastern border with India collapsed in the event of an all out 4th war in 60 years? This is what has always kept the generals up in their barracks in Rawalpindi at Pakistan Army’s Headquarters. When the country of Afghanistan was embroiled in a struggle for power between the warring factions of among others Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Ahmed Shah Massoud, and other warlords for control of various provinces and cities, the Taliban were gaining valuable training from the ISI and eventually becoming into the force they did culminating in their rise to power in 1996.

When 9/11 happened in 2001, the Taliban were in the cross hairs of the US forces for not handing over their guest, Osama Bin Laden. And since the arrival of US troops have continued to be on the run from American and Pakistani forces. The problem is that certain elements in the ISI still view the predominantly Pashtun Taliban as an important ally in Afghanistan. Despite Pakistan’s efforts to combat and eradicate the Taliban, there is evidence that they are still receiving some support from some members within the Pakistani spy agency.

Now despite being on the run in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Taliban have joined forces with other militants in the country. These previously separate and independent Islamic extremist groups are now joining forces to fight the Pakistani government. What makes the apparent link-up of Islamic militant groups so much more dangerous than they were on their own is the fact that now the fighters are also coming from Punjab, the country’s largest and most important province, and who were originally trained by the Pakistani military to fight a guerilla war in Kashmir against India.

So now the chickens have come home to roost as both the Taliban who were trained to fight the Soviets and the other groups trained to fight the Indians are instead now causing chaos and mayhem inside Pakistan while fighting Pakistani and foreign forces. These extremist groups are the real threat to Pakistan as they are responsible for near daily civilian deaths inside the country as they battle government forces. This culture of jihadist and militant Islam propagated during the time of General Zia-ul-Haq’s efforts to fight the Soviets has ended up making Pakistan a haven for terrorist groups and militant Islamic ideology. Now couple this with the fact that elements in both the Pakistan army and the spy agency, ISI, continue to provide support, logistics, and information about Pakistani and American forces efforts to capture them, and you start to see picture why there are still terrorist networks and camps available for individuals like Faisal Shahzad to join and get support from in terrorist activities.

Several decades of both fighting the Russians, each other, Pakistani and now American forces along with training from the ISI has made these terrorist and militant groups very adept at surviving. And even though by all accounts the Pakistani government is now fighting the Taliban with full force and in all earnest, it is not doing enough to dismantle and destroy all the other groups that have sprung up throughout the country. If it is so easy for a thirty something year old Pakistani American from a Connecticut to come and get training from a terrorist group as is the case with Shahzad gaining assistance by the Pakistan Taliban, then why can the ISI or Pakistan army or even American or Nato forces sniff out all the training camps and terrorist infrastructure within Pakistan?

Unfortunately that answer is more complex than this simple question. There are many competing interests fighting each other inside Pakistan. As their conflict flares on and continues to escalate, the citizens of Pakistan continue to pay the biggest price with their lives as slowly Pakistan is itself turning into Afghanistan in front of our very eyes. The only solution that makes any sense is a durable peace with India. For if there is peace with the giant neighbor to the east, the very reason for the existence of many of these militant groups will cease and that will allow Pakistan to focus entirely on the Taliban and stabilization of Afghanistan to the west. Also it would free up hundreds of thousands of troops from the Indian border who would go into Waziristan and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) bordering Afghanistan to finish off the Taliban and destroy their terror training camps and infrastructure.

Eliminating the terrorist infrastructure and militant and extremist network ingrained in Pakistan is the only way that the war on terror will have a fitting and lasting end. And in order for Pakistan to successfully accomplish that, it must eliminate the threat it constantly feels from India by aggressively attaining the elusive peace treaty with its neighbor. Just like the French and the British are such good enemies that they cannot resist being friends, so too must Pakistan extend a hand of friendship to India, if only to ensure its survival from the vicious cycle of violence it now finds itself as a result of decades of militant ideology primarily directed at its Hindu neighbor.

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