‘Why has Pakistan named a former spy with dubious reputation as a Minister?’

Why has Prime Minister Imran Khan chosen Brig (retd) Ijaz Shah – someone who allegedly helped to harbor Osama Bin Laden inside Pakistan and was named by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto as someone to be held responsible if something happened to her – to join his cabinet.

In a 2012 television interview former head of ISI General Ziauddin Butt claimed that “Brigadier Shah harboured the world’s most wanted criminal for years, at the same time that other arms of the Pakistani military and the US were hunting him. “The most important and all-powerful person in [the] Musharraf regime was Brigadier Ijaz Shah, then Intelligence Bureau chief,” General Butt said in a television interview. “I fully believe that Ijaz Shah had kept this man [Osama bin Laden, in Abbottabad] with the full knowledge of Pervez Musharraf.”” Further, “Butt said the Abbottabad compound was built to bin Laden’s specifications on Brigadier Shah’s orders.”

A 2012 The Age (Australia) writeup provides details about Shah’s involvement with harboring Bin Laden. “in the then little-known garrison city of Abbottabad, near the Pakistani capital, construction had begun on an imposing, three-storey walled compound in the suburb of Bilal Town. It was being built to harbour the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden. It was built — allegations have now emerged — at the direction of the man sitting down to dinner at Yarralumla: Brigadier Ijaz Shah.

Author Arif Jamal “believes the allegations are credible and that retirement will have made little difference to Brigadier Shah’s influence. “Men like Ijaz Shah don’t retire in Pakistan, they keep playing different roles for the military,” Mr Jamal said. “Ijaz Shah was very powerful when Musharraf was in power, and it makes sense that he knew (of bin Laden’s whereabouts). But I don’t buy the theory that only the Intelligence Bureau was taking care of Osama bin Laden. Other people in the military were also involved. I think a dozen or so very senior people knew.” Mr Jamal said General Musharraf, still head of the army, almost certainly knew bin Laden was being protected. “I think Musharraf had to have known. The Pakistan army is a very well-ordered army, there is a chain of command, I don’t think it would have been possible without his knowledge.””

Shah “was the military’s “handler” of Kashmiri terrorist Omar Saeed Sheikh. In 2002, Sheikh kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and handed the US-Israeli citizen over to other militants, who beheaded him. Days later, Sheikh handed himself into Brigadier Shah, who held him for a week in a safehouse before finally handing him over to authorities, allegedly to give Pearl’s murderers a chance to escape.”

And before her assassination, former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto alleged “Brigadier Shah was conspiring with terrorists to assassinate her, naming him in a letter as someone who should be investigated if she died. Brigadier Shah was in charge of Bhutto’s security detail, which failed to protect her, on the night she was killed in 2007.”

What is interesting is that in 2004, when Musharraf nominated Shah as High Commissioner to Australia “he was rejected by Canberra, it is understood, out of concern over his links to terrorists.” And yet in June 2005 Shah “was a prominent member of Musharraf’s entourage on a state visit to Australia in June 2005. He sat down to dinner at Government House on the night of June 14.”

According to The Age article “the global consensus is that bin Laden was protected by senior officials in the Pakistani military or government. The White House’s counter-terrorism chief John Brennan said it was “inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the country”, while Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said he believed somebody in authority in Pakistan knew of his whereabouts. And an email reportedly sent from security affairs think tank Stratfor on May 13, 2011 — just days after the raid on the Abbottabad compound which killed bin Laden — and later published by WikiLeaks said at least 12 people knew. “Mid to senior level ISI and Pak Mil[itary] with one retired Pak Mil General … had knowledge of the OBL arrangements and safe house”, Stratfor’s vice-president of intelligence, Fred Burton, wrote to colleagues.”

Sabzar Ahmad: The Enemy of my Enemy

Sabzar Ahmad BhatThe situation in Kashmir is one of history’s greatest human rights tragedies, only made worse because it is virtually ignored by the world. What has since long been a case of occupiers ignoring the wishes of the people to decide their own fate has turned into the world’s first mass blinding. Now things have escalated even further as Indian officials are defending using innocent Kashmiris as human shield, and Indian Army Chief is terming it a ‘dirty war‘ and begging to kill more Kashmiris. Finally, Pakistan’s historical position of extending moral and diplomatic support to the people of Kashmir is vindicated. However, it appears that once again our correct moral position is being used to extend support to another strategic blunder.

While the official line is that we are only providing moral and diplomatic support, the worst kept secret in the world is that powerful quarters also provide technical and logistic support to Kashmiri freedom fighters. This has been the official-unofficial policy since lashkar were first launched in 1947 in our failed attempt to secure Kashmir during partition. Groups like LeT hand Hizbul Mujahideen have always been considered as friends because of their ‘pro-Pakistan’ ideologies. The plan has always been that these groups would wrest Kashmir from Hindu India and hand it over to Islamic Pakistan. With India’s increased abuses, the time seems ripe for our strategy to finally succeed. As usual, though, things are never so simple, and now it appears that ‘the enemy of my enemy’ may not be as friendly as we expected.

Deep seated problems began to appear on the surface recently when Hizbul commander Zakir Musa openly called on mujahideen to drop the pretense of joining Pakistan and to fight to establish Khalifat in Kashmir. This caused a split in Hizbul, who distanced themselves from Zakir’s statement particularly his criticism of Hurriyat leadership. This rift was followed by the killing of Hizbul commander Sabzar Ahmad and there is some chatter that Sabzar was sold out by Zakir to advance his cause, there is also growing evidence that the mujahideen have moved past pro-Pakistan ideology.

Editorial in The News about Sabzar Ahmad’s killing even mentions the problem:

It is certainly true that Bhat was more rigid than Wani and that his uncompromising nature led him to threaten Hurriyat leaders. His style of leadership led top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Zakir Musa quit the group two weeks ago over what he called “ideological differences”.

While we are supporting Kashmir mujahideen, we are expecting them to support us also because ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’. This is a common party of our security strategy that has always come back to hurt us. Whether it was USA or Afghan Taliban, we have expected that if we support someone they will always support us also. Different groups have their own plans, though, and very often those who we are using are actually using us also.

We have our own plans that Kashmir will quit India and join Pakistan. Did we ever think that mujahideen have their own plans also?

mujahideenKashmir mujahideen are united against India, but this is the short term goal only. What if the longer term goal does not include democracy at all. Today, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But tomorrow?

Why gifting recovered arms to LEOs is a bad idea

seized weaponsPakistan Army has announced that it will gift thousands of weapons and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition to police, Rangers and the Levies. At first this appears like a sound policy that is not only economical but also helps build camaraderie between security agencies. However, on second thought there are important reasons why this programme should be abandoned immediately.

LEAs regularly discover weapons caches when conducting raids, and often these weapons are claimed to be of foreign origin, suggesting links between suspected parties and hostile agencies. There have been some problems with these claims, though, such as when Rangers accused MQM of having a large cache of weapons stolen from NATO containers, only to have the US government clarify that they were not NATO weapons. These and other incidents have created some doubts about whether or not agencies are ‘planting’ weapons.

The fact is that tracing the origin of weapons is especially difficult, and sometimes impossible. By giving LEAs a treasure trove of illegal weapons used by terrorists, it will only open the flood gates of denials and doubts about whether future seizures are real or planted. Officials have thought of this, and are trying to take some measures.

These arms and ammunition recovered during various operations are properly being recorded and marked to ensure that none of these arms and ammunition is misappropriated or misused,” a senior security official said on condition of anonymity.

This is not enough, though. If the records are made and kept by the same agencies that are making arrests where weapons are found, how will we know that those records are not being manipulated or hidden? No, the best answer is that all weapons seized in raids should be destroyed in public, and all security personnel should be issued new arms whose serial numbers are recorded in official records.

Nobody wants to doubt the sincerity of our security personnel, especially when it is a matter of planting weapons. 99.99% of our LEOs are above reproach, but there are a few who get carried away such as in the killing of Sarfraz Shah and the torture death of Aftab Ahmed. Introducing thousands and thousands of illegal weapons into the system will only add to doubts at a time when national security dictates that all means should be taken to protect the credibility of the law enforcement system.

How will COAS respond to Gen Ghafoor’s possible violation of Article 243?

DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor Tweeted something incredible earlier today.

The General’s Tweet has received a lot of praise on social media from opponents of PMLN and Nawaz Sharif, but there is a serious problem here. Gen Ghafoor did not Tweet as a private citizen, but as “Official DG ISPR.” By doing so, he may have violated the Constitution.

Article 243 of the Constitution is quite clear:

243. Command of Armed Forces.-
(1) The Federal Government shall have control and command of the Armed Forces.

What would be the response of COAS Gen Bajwa if he found out that one of his subordinates Tweeted that he ‘rejected’ his notification? What would be the response of Gen Bajwa if his subordinates were openly operating outside the chain of command, making decisions and carrying out operations without approval?

In the worst cases, acts of insubordination would even be considered Mutiny under Section 31 of Pakistan Army Act 1952:

31. Mutiny and insubordination: Any person subject to this Act who commits any of the following offences, that is to say, –

(a) begins, incites, causes, or conspires with any other person to cause, or joins in, any mutiny in the military, naval or air forces of Pakistan or any forces co-operating therewith; or
(b) being present at any such mutiny, does not use his utmost endeavours to suppress the same; or
(c) knowing or having reason to believe in the existence of any such mutiny or any intention to commit such mutiny, or of any such conspiracy, does not without reasonable delay give information thereof to his commanding or other superior officer; or
(d) attempts to seduce any person in the military, naval or air forces of Pakistan from his duty or his allegiance to the Government of Pakistan; shall, on conviction by court-martial, be punished with death or with such less punishment as in this Act mentioned.

Gen Ghafoor’s mistake has now become Gen Bajwa’s problem since he is responsible for discipline inside the ranks. Gen Raheel famously dismissed officers for failing to live up to the high expectations of honour and behaviour expected in the Armed Forces. Now his DG ISPR is acting in open insubordination in possible violation of the Constitution.

How will COAS respond? Will he make an example of the ISPR chief to send a clear message about the importance of respecting rule of law and chain of command? Will he launch a commission to investigate problems of insubordination in the ranks? However the Army Chief chooses to respond will tell much about the internal order of the Armed Forces, and the state.

Kashmir Jihad Going The Way Of Afghanistan

Former J&K CM Farooq Abdullah has warned India that ‘you are losing Kashmir‘. India is unlikely to take his advise and abandon their military approach to putting down the anger that is spreading like wild fire due to the abuses that has caused an ‘epidemic of dead eyes‘. This is because Indian authorities suffer from an ideological blindness that does not allow them to see how their actions are actually counter to their own cause. Unfortunately, we also suffer from an ideological blindness about our policies and strategies in Kashmir.

There have been worrying signs for a while now. Members of Jamaatud Dawah, which has close ties with state agencies, have begun joining Daesh. Black flags of Daesh have been raised along side Pakistan flags in Kashmir. This practise has become so common that even Syed Ali Shah Geelani was forced to publicly comment on it. And now it appears that it is the Pakistani flags that may be disappearing as Kashmir militants are calling for jihad in Pakistan also:

We do love Pakistan because that country was created in the name of Islam. But there is no Islam at present. So, we are unhappy with it. We have to do Jihad with Pakistan as well.

Just as our support for Taliban in Afghanistan spun off the TTP to carry out deadly jihad in Pakistan, now it looks like our support for jihad in Kashmir is having the same effect.