Hatchet Jobs and Cover Ups


I don’t usually agree with Ansar Abbasi, but when someone is right…they’re right. The Jang columnist recently wrote about the problems caused by intelligence agencies operating with complete lack of oversight. Little could he know how his thesis would be proven correct over the next few days as story after story added damning evidence against agencies.

After years of denials, ISI is finding itself facing new charges of support the 26/11 terrorist attack. Former CIA director Michael Hayden has now publicly revealed ISI’s involvement in his new book. The ex-US intelligence chief says that he was personally told of ISI’s involvement by none other than the DG-ISI Shuja Pasha.

“We had no doubt that the attack was the work of LeT, and there was mounting evidence that preparation for and direction of the attack took place from within Pakistan, where LeT enjoyed the protection and support of ISI,” Mr. Hayden said.

Pasha, who had come to ISI only a few weeks earlier and had no previous intelligence experience, came to the U.S. on Christmas Day and spent most of the next afternoon in his office.

“He worked carefully from notes. His investigation had revealed that some former ISI members were involved with Lashkar-e-Taiba [no surprise there]. Pasha admitted that these unspecified [and still uncaptured] retirees may have engaged in some broad training of the attackers, but he was characteristically vague about any detailed direction the attackers had gotten during the attack via cell phone from Pakistan,” Mr. Hayden wrote in the book.

This admission comes the same day that PM’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz admitted that one of the mobile numbers linked to Pathankot attackers was traced to Jaish-e-Mohammad headquarters in Bahawalpur. Once again, this admission comes after security officials strongly denied any links between the ISI-supported militants group and the terrorist attack.

These revelations follow a third shocking admission. Yesterday, former DG-FIA Tariq Khosa wrote a damning piece that exposed the entire ‘memo-gate’ saga as a drama written by GHQ and directed by ISI to neuter the civilian government.

With these three revelations facing us now, we should think about Tariq Khosa’s words of warning.

No heads rolled after the OBL raid; no one had the courage to ask the military elite some tough questions.

The establishment has acquired the art of turning its strategic follies to triumphs. It is this deep state that has curtailed and trimmed democracy, ensuring the country stays rigged in favour of a small but self-aggrandising elite. And until that changes, democracy in Pakistan will remain imperiled.

26/11, Pathankot, ‘Memogate’. These can all be categorised with other strategic blunders: Osama bin Laden living in the shadows of PMA Kakul. Kargil fiasco. Operation Searchlight. The list goes on and on and on. We have allowed agencies to operate with no oversight because they claim it is a matter of ‘national security’. But it is exactly this that has made the nation less secure. Agencies failed policies and strategies have made our neighbors suspect us and have allowed extremism to grow unchecked into the monster that we face today. To paraphrase Tariq Khosa: “Until that changes, Pakistan will remain imperiled.”

US Court Clears Pakistan of Official Support for 26/11

A US jury on Thursday, June 9, 2011 cleared Pakistan-born businessman Tahawwur Hussain Rana of involvement in the 2008 Mumbai siege and in the process also cleared the Government of Pakistan and its intelligence agencies from accusations of support and involvement in the 26/11 terrorist attacks.

Rana trialThe man on trial in a US court Tahawwur Hussain Rana was accused of allowing his immigration business to be used as cover for his friend David Coleman Headley to scout out potential targets in India’s financial and entertainment capital before the attacks. The prosecutor’s star witness was David Coleman Headley, Rana’s old friend from high school in Pakistan. Headley, who has admitted lying to authorities, has been cooperating with prosecutors since his 2009 arrest at a Chicago airport. In a plot that reads like a movie thriller, Headley spent two years casing out Mumbai, even taking boat tours around the city’s harbor to identify landing sites for the attackers and befriending Bollywood stars as part of his cover.

Testimony from the trial provides detailed information vital to understanding the intricacies and complexities involved in the planning of the Mumbai attacks. Headley, in his testimony, elaborated in detail how he befriended members of the banned jihadi group LeT and was assisted by some rogue elements. When questioned closely, Headley admitted that top officials of Government of Pakistan and Pakistan intelligence agency did not know about the attacks and were against it.

Actually, claims of official support for the 26/11 plotters were disproven precisely by the fact that Headley and Rana found themselves in the court room. Rather than finding official protection after the attack happened, the 26/11 plotters told Headley to go underground since the Government of Pakistan and ISI officials were furious and were arresting the perpetrators. The Government of Pakistan and its intelligence agencies arrested most of the named individual in testimony, and they are currently under trial in Pakistan on various criminal and terrorism charges.

The claim put forward by Indian government that Pakistan’s intelligence agency aided and abetted in the Mumbai attacks turned out to completely mistaken. Just as the British government and its intelligence agency MI6 cannot be blamed in the Cambridge five affair and the US government and its CIA cannot be held responsible for Aldrich Ames, Government of Pakistan and its intelligence agencies also cannot be blamed for the actions of rogues and impostors, many of them having been already discharged from service for prior suspicions.

Now the truth is out in the shape of the facts revealed by the Tahawwur Hussain Rana trial. These facts confirm the statements of US security officials that Pakistan is committed in the fight against terrorism. Only the most hardened RSS-type conspiracy theorist could deny the facts as they have been proven not by an internal Pakistani investigation but by a neutral court of the United States.

It should be remembered that Pakistan is fighting this war on two fronts: Against Al Qaeda and Taliban and against their affiliates in Pakistani society such as LeT, SSP, and other militant groups also. A complete generation after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan imbibed this warped ideology which was allowed to grow unchecked even by the Western countries as it was used to defeat Soviet Russia in Afghanistan. Over the period of three decades, the jihadist ideology was institutionalized in Pakistani society by the Wahhabi madrassas and the financial backing they received from wealthy Arab states. Unfortunately, the Government of Pakistan lacked the resources to stem its growth and the rise of this jihadi ideology was not given proper consideration even by US till 9/11 attacks. This makes it a very complex war where Pakistan must fight not only the militant groups but at the same time purge the ideology of extremist jihad that has festered in society.

Mike Mullen, Scott van Buskirk,  Ashfaq Kayani, Ahmad Shuja Pasha

The Government of Pakistan and its intelligence agencies have been instrumental in dismantling the network of terrorist in region, the proof being counted in the thousands of Pakistani troops and intelligence agents who have laid down their lives in the fight against terrorism and continue to do so. This greatest of sacrifices in the war against terrorism has been recognised by US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael G Mullen recently.

Admiral Mullen lauded the sacrifices and efforts of people of Pakistan and its security forces and reassured that security ties will not be allowed to unravel between the two armed forces.

Gen Kayani and Admiral Mullen acknowledged that evolving Pak-US strategic relation was important for the achievement of mutual long term objectives of comprehensive security of both the countries.

The outcome of Rana trial which was carried out in the US courts should clear any remaining misunderstandings and misguided perceptions. The Government of Pakistan and ISI officials had no role in supporting the 26/11 attacks or terrorism more generally.

Attack on PNS Mehran Clarifies Sides In This War

Militants attack PNS MehranLast night’s attack on PNS Mehran clears the fog and offers stark clarification about the sides in this war that ravages the nation. First of all, to everyone who continues to say that this is not our war, that there is a difference between TTP and al Qaeda and other militant groups, last night’s attack destroyed that lie for good. These groups may operate under different banners during individual attacks, but they have shared goals and when necessary they even share operations.

Well-placed sources in the Pakistani security agencies believe the Sunday night attack might be a jointly coordinated terrorist operation conducted by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and al-Qaeda to avenge the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden.

Now we must ask why the terrorists chose their specific target. Attacking PNS Mehran was a suicide mission, that much is obvious, and it was a suicide mission targeting not drones or NATO supply lines. No. They attacked our defences against India.

Let’s pause for the message here. The Orions are supplied by the United States, something of a bribe for Pakistan’s counterterrorism aid. They play absolutely no role against al-Qaida: Orions hunt submarines — Indian submarines. It’s possible that the bin Laden killing prompted the Taliban to target any U.S.-supplied spycraft. But they attacked a navy base, not the Shamsi airfield used for the drone war. The Pakistani Taliban appear to be saying: Continue your alliance with the Americans, and your struggle with the Indians — Islamabad’s major strategic concern — will be a casualty.

What this means is that the militant groups are working as a united front to destroy Pakistan from within. To do this, they are even willing to destroy our ability to defend the nation vis-a-vis India. We do not have to believe this in theory, they have proven it in their own acts. Compare this with the actions of our so-called enemy America – after 26/11, the US increased military aid to build Pakistan’s defences against India.

Less than a year after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, the United States Mission in Islamabad urged Washington to commit $2 billion over a five-year period beginning April 2011 to enable the Pakistan military to address, among other security needs, its “growing conventional disadvantage vis-à-vis India,” in order to secure its cooperation in the “war on terror.”

The U.S. Government accepted the recommendation. A report in the Washington Post on October 22, 2010 said: “The Obama administration will ask Congress to expand military aid to Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday, announcing a five-year, $2 billion package that would increase current financing for weapons purchases by about one-third.”

So who is the real enemy here? America that provided the Orion spy planes allowing us to detect Indian submarines, or the jihadis who destroyed them? The Americans who increased military supplies to strengthen our defences against Indian attack in response to 26/11, or the militants who attempted to provoke an Indian attack on Pakistan? Is our sovereignty threatened by American drones targeting foreign militants or foreign militants targeting our military bases?

Faisal Kapadia’s most excellent post for Dawn reflects my feelings exactly.

I think it’s about time that we as a country understand that our establishment engages in saber rattling because we are unwilling to accept the truth. After all if any one of us had a choice of getting the enemy from up above or sending troops on the ground where some of us might die, we all know which route we would ourselves choose don’t we? The pacifists can go on chanting their mantras of “we don’t need this American war” but we all know that the only way out of this is to finish those against this country by any means possible.

What I am not willing to see any longer is my land desecrated by the blood of my countrymen who are being slaughtered by foreign militants. I am not willing to let this constantly hanging sword of Damocles threaten mine and my loved ones security anymore. I am not willing to sit and cry over the Leaks which tell me what I have known all along. I want to see results and if they come at a faster rate with US involvement let’s go for it now, while there is still a Pakistan to fight for and save. Don’t you agree?

I do agree. 100%.

Taking Responsibility For Ourselves

I hear a lot of people saying that we should quit relying on foreign aid, specifically from America, so that we can loose our country from the obligations that come with it. Shafqat Mahmood gets it 100% correct in his column for The News today: taking responsibility for ourselves means more than saying ‘No’ to America – it means being honest about the root causes of the problems facing our nation and making the sometimes uncomfortable decisions required to solve them. Mahmood also makes clear that, unless we want to be isolated and miserable like North Korea, calls to cut-off relations with the West are self-defeating. We need to learn to cooperate with the world community in a way that teaches the rest of the world to respect our interests just as we will respect theirs. Then our relations will be more than ‘bi-lateral’, the will be mutually beneficial.

Global perceptions and our disconnect

While there may be good reasons to get hot and bothered about the Wikileaks disclosures concerning our ruling elite, the real story lies elsewhere. It is the steep decline in our global image and the corresponding lack of care within the country that should really keep us awake at night.

Expressions like pariah state or rogue state can be attributed to the propaganda of our adversaries, but this should not stop us from looking within. If we get into the mode of attributing everything negative to Indo-Israeli-American conspiracies, it will take us further away from reality.

This is not to say that our adversaries do not conspire to do us in. But to imagine that Messrs Obama (who can hardly be characterised as an adversary), Manmohan Singh and Netanyahu wake up every morning and start wondering what they can do to punish Pakistan is a bit farfetched.

Every individual is naturally the centre of the universe to himself or herself because reality as it exists can only be perceived by one’s own senses. But, to imagine one’s country to be the nucleus of global politics or intrigues is slightly ridiculous to say the least.

This also stops one from taking a hard look at our own behaviour. Blaming others becomes an excuse to avoid self-analysis. Self righteousness is the next step, where it is easy to believe that we are right and everyone else is wrong.

And this becomes a disaster for our global perceptions. It is easy to say, “why should we worry about what the world thinks of us,” – and easier still to get on the high horse of national honour and say go to hell to everyone.

If this is done with solid reality and beliefs backing you up, the possibility over time of being vindicated is high. But, if the stance obviously denies reality then the talk becomes nothing more than hot air. It convinces no one and is childishly self-destructive.

This is what we see a lot of in the media. People who otherwise seem quite intelligent make outlandishly self-serving and self-righteous arguments. The gist of them all is that while there is little wrong with us, the world has conspired to do us in.

Take the issue of militancy and terrorism in the country. There are two ways of looking at it. One is to recognise that we have a serious problem and it is not confined to the tribal areas. The other is to blame it on the Americans, Indians, Israelis, or justify it as the consequence of drone attacks etc as Mr Imran Khan and some in the media do.

Why don’t we recognise that while there may be some outside interference – and drone attacks certainly don’t help – we have a home-grown problem? For reasons too often enumerated, a slice of our population has been radicalised and is willing to resort to all means to have its way.

If this were to be confined within, the world might have sympathised but not made too much of it. This is the attitude generally taken towards the Maoist insurgency in India. But, our radicals do not only have a national agenda. They have targeted the West and have been involved in Indian-held Kashmir and Afghanistan.

The sad part is that in the past elements within our state have egged them on and although they now forswear any role, the world finds it hard to believe us. It still thinks that either the ISI or elements within it have some connection if not outright control over them.

This perception has been heightened by various aspects of the 26/11 Mumbai tragedy. India of course insists that the ISI is involved but let us leave its perceptions aside. It is after all an adversary. The sophisticated nature of the operation, the training and preparation also convinces many in the international community that it could not have been managed by non-state actors.

We made a good start to refute this propaganda. There was genuine anguish among the government and the people of Pakistan about what had happened. The words of sympathy emanating from here were not fake.

The Federal Investigation Agency then led by the much-admired Tariq Khosa also carried out a thoroughly professional investigation and worked out the exact sequence of events. As a consequence, some arrests were made and evidence and dossiers exchanged with India.

And then nothing.

It is true that our court system is not particularly quick or effective but after two years, at least some move forward should have been made. It is in our interest to do so. If those arrested have committed what is called cross-border terrorism, they have damaged Pakistan internationally and not India.

A fair trial and conviction is the easiest way to tell the world that we as a state are a part of the international effort to combat terrorism by non-state actors. This has nothing to do with India although a move forward on this matter would immeasurably help to improve relations with it. It has everything to do with Pakistan’s global image of being a responsible state.

And also not a failing state. The second thing that people worry about us is that our state institutions have deteriorated to such an extent that we are not able to subdue non-state actors even if we want to. This has a great deal of truth in it because even regarding the trial of the Mumbai accused, what worries us is the reaction within and whether we will have the capacity to control it.

This is where the provincial governments have to raise their hand and indicate that they are willing to take on the challenge. It is their law enforcement institutions, particularly the police and the courts, that have to take the lead. They have to be on the frontline and not just rely on the army or federal intelligence agencies to do the job.

Whatever method we take, it is in our deep national interest to send a message to the international community that we are in line with global thinking on non-state actors and terrorism. Any ambiguity on this issue will not be acceptable and will go against us.

Lastly, to those who are ready to thumb their nose at the international community all the time, please understand the times we live in. The world is now interconnected and interdependent. Isolation is a disaster particularly for a country that has serious economic and governance problems.

We don’t need to become anybody’s lackey or do exactly what others want us to do. It is important to clearly state our national interest and logically argue its underpinnings. But at the same time, we cannot afford to have a global image of being a rogue state. Our survival depends on it.