Islamabad appears to be continuing to ramp up efforts to fight militants threatening Pakistan, including those militant assets that were formerly used by the ISI. Syed Saleem Shahzad writes in Asia Times that the government is not only turning away from militants, it is purging them.
Asia Times Online has learned that a nascent crackdown on militants in Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, will turn into a major operation and the remnants of all defunct jihadi organizations, no matter how peacefully they operate inside Pakistan, will be dismantled. A showcase of this exercise tookplace Monday in Anti-Terrorist Court II in Rawalpindi, the garrison city twinned with the capital Islamabad.
In front of a mass media presence, yesterday’s hero of the Pakistani military establishment, former Pakistani member of parliament Shah Abdul Aziz, appeared with a shaven head like any ordinary criminal and was ordered on judicial remand to be detained in Adyala Jail Rawalpindi in connection with the abduction and murder by the Taliban of a Polish engineer, Piotr Stanczak, in September 2008. He was beheaded by militants in February after talks with the government for the release of captured Taliban members failed.
Although Aziz was ordered to be jailed, Asia Times Online contacts say that he was bundled off to an intelligence safe house for further interrogation.
“This is the same Shah Abdul Aziz who delivered [Pakistan Taliban leader] Baitullah Mehsud’s letter written to the chief of army staff Ashfaq Parvez Kiani a few months ago as part of his job to get peace between the army and the militants,” retired squadron leader Khalid Khawaja told Asia Times Online. Khawaja is a former ISI official and now a human-rights activist for “disappeared” victims of the “war on terror”.
These reports come on the heels of Pakistan’s arrest and detainment of Sufi Muhammad, an Islamist cleric who brokered a failed peace deal with the Taliban in the Swat Valley, to determine whether or not he was aiding and abetting the Talibani militants.
Investigators may also be trying to pressure the aging cleric for information on the location of Swat Taliban commanders, including his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah, the chief militant in the valley.
Amir Haider Khan Hoti, the chief minister of North West Frontier Province, said the government hopes to bring formal charges against Muhammad soon.
“We don’t even need any further evidence against him,” Hoti told reporters in the main northwest city of Peshawar. “What he himself said publicly, that everybody knows. What he had said against constitution, the judiciary, the institutions. The contacts he has had with militants. The way he misled government. The way he facilitated militants. We will formally charge him on these things.”
Muhammad will remain in jail for 30 days as authorities probe the allegations. “This action has been taken to avoid any public disorder,” said government official Sahibzada Mohammad Anis.