Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Pakistani Connection

Pakistan was clearly heavily involved in helping uncover the latest terrorist plot, but the connection remains mysterious. It's hard to understand what is going on. Here are excerpts from two different articles from completely different points of view.

The first is from the Washington Post, and tells of how the money flowed back and forth. As with most stories in the American press about the Pakistan connection, the spin is of "helpful Pakistan":

LONDON, Aug. 14 -- The transfer of millions of dollars from Britain to a Pakistani charity working on earthquake relief last year helped investigators uncover the alleged plot to blow up airplanes bound for the United States, according to two senior Pakistani intelligence officials.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, said that a large portion of the money sent from Britain to the charity was siphoned off and ultimately used to prepare for the attacks. The officials said that about 5 million British pounds, or $10 million, was transferred to Pakistan, but that less than half was used for relief operations after the earthquake last October, which killed tens of thousands of people.

"British intelligence smelled a foul play the moment the transfer was made in December last year," said one of the senior intelligence officials, who is directly involved in the investigation.
"The innocent Pakistani souls in Britain who contributed so generously for the victims of the earthquake didn't know that their money would actually be used for one of the biggest terrorist operations," the other Pakistani official said.

...........The Pakistani officials did not identify the charity in question. The New York Times reported Monday that investigators are focusing on Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a Pakistani charity that is a front for Lashkar-i-Taiba, an Islamic militant group.

In 2002, Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, banned Lashkar-i-Taiba, but the group renamed itself Jamaat-ud-Dawa as a way to evade sanctions, according to the State Department. Lashkar-i-Taiba is one of the largest and best-trained groups fighting Indian forces in the disputed Himalayan province of Kashmir. Lashkar-i-Taiba has been linked by U.S. authorities to al-Qaeda.

According to Michael Clarke, a terrorism specialist at King's College London, Jamaat-ud-Dawa played a considerable role in helping the residents of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir and northern Pakistan recover from the earthquake, which struck a region that is home to several camps and bases belonging to militant Kashmiri groups and other radical organizations linked to al-Qaeda.

..........."Within a week, it was being said this actually is quite an opportunity for both the government and jihadis to reposition themselves in a lot of ways," Clarke said.

I imagine after this Brits in general will be very reluctant to give money if there is another disaster in Pakistan. The second excerpt is from an article in the Asia Times, which provides very a different point of view:

.....This is where different opinions emerge, however. Pakistani officials have arrested Rashid Rauf (a British national) as a key suspect in the foiled terror plot and have accused him of being linked with al-Qaeda.

Contacts with close knowledge of the arrested men - in the earlier swoops as well as in the wake of the foiled plot - claim that none of them had links with al-Qaeda. Rather, they claim, they were linked with al-Muhajiroun and Hizbut Tehrir.

Hizbut Tehrir (Liberation Party) is a non-violent organization founded in the early 1950s in Jordan for the liberation of Palestine. Its ultimate aim is the revival of the caliphate, which it tries to bring about by toppling what it sees as corrupt Islamic governments.

Pakistan has been particularly hard on the group, most of whose members are British-born Pakistanis sent to work in Pakistan. The most apparent reason is these youths want to stage a coup against the government of President General Pervez Musharraf and infiltrate institutions such as the army.

Muhajiroun is a breakaway faction of Hizbut Tehrir. Most of its members are in the UK. Famous Egyptian scholar Omar al-Bakri was its leader. Muhajiroun was banned in the UK last year after its praise of the attacks on the London Underground.

A contact from among the senior levels of the jihadist cadre told Asia Times Online, "Boys from organizations like al-Muhajiroun and Hizbut Tehrir come to Pakistan from the UK and have nothing to do with al-Qaeda. They are British-born Pakistanis and are interested in [fomenting] a coup in Pakistan. A few of them have been arrested in the past in Islamabad while distributing pamphlets, and then released. I can tell you with surety that the boys [recently] arrested in Pakistan have long been identified by the Pakistani establishment.

"Their fate started when they interacted with a few officials of the Pakistani army. This they were very keen to penetrate to stage a coup, therefore they were close to a few army officers. They were delighted that they had penetrated into the army, but in fact Pakistani intelligence - coming from a strong military background - penetrated deep into them," said the jihadi.

"Those youths, in their 20s and completely unaware of Pakistani society, were very thrilled with their success and even shared their views with people in Islamabad, saying that many officers had agreed to a coup. In fact, we warned them that military officials were only loyal to their job and they would not be committed to any revolutionary cause.

"The youths from Muhajiroun did not agree, and continued to meet with intelligence operators, whom they thought were military officials of the Pakistan army," the jihadi said.
"The closeness of the Pakistani intelligence with some boys with a Muhajiroun background was a known fact, but at what stage it turned out to be their 'London terror plot', we are completely in the dark.

"However, I safely make a conjecture that those highly motivated boys were exploited by agents provocateurs. A religious Muslim youth in his early 20s is undoubtedly full of hatred against the US, and if somebody would guide them to carry out any attack on US interests, there would be a strong chance that they would go for that.

"And I think this is exactly what happened. The government of Pakistan has been seriously trying to cleanse groups like Muhajiroun and Hizbut Tehrir from Pakistan, as well as from the UK. Both groups are fiercely anti-establishment and serious about staging a coup in Pakistan and were enhancing their influence among youths in cities like Lahore and Islamabad. So they were basically trapped," the jihadi said.

It's possible both accounts are right - that the people arrested were trying to blow up planes over the Atlantic and ferment a coup in Pakistan in accordance with some mad jihadi master-plan. The Pakistani officials briefing in the first article, and the jihadi briefing in the second probably both have agendas. There are probably dollops of spin and slivers of truth in both acounts.

Pakistan remains problematic. The Afghans complain bitterly about how Taliban enter their country across the Afghan-Pakistan border. Pakistani forces helped create the Taliban in the first place in an effort to control Afghanistan. The Indians complain about Pakistani connections to the bombing in Mumbai. The July 7th bombers had connections there too. Mullar Omar and Osama bin Laden remain at large, it's believed somewhere in Pakistan's western provinces. And Pakistan is the one country that has been actively selling nuclear secrets to the Libyans, the North Koreans and possibly to the Iranians.

Pakistan remains the nexus of all terrorist activity. And yet, no one has even begun to criticise them, let alone formulate a way to get them to extinguish terrorist activity there.

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