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Tag Archives | isi

Urdunama: Dehshat gardi

Much has been written about on the recent episode where India Today and the Times of India published alerts from the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) on five Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives having infiltrated their way into Mumbai.  That same day, Pakistan’s TV channels and news media revealed, with barely-concealed delight, that these individuals were in fact in Lahore, not India, and that they were ordinary tradesmen, and not Lashkar terrorists.  On the face of it, our intelligence agencies goofed up.  Over at Acorn, my colleague Nitin Pai examines possible explanations in this excellent blogpost.

During a daily customary review of Pakistan’s Urdu media, I came across this article in Roznama Ummat that I found intriguing.  An excerpt from the Ummat’s interview of Mehtab Butt, Atif Butt and Babar Shabbir — three of the five who had allegedly entered Mumbai — follows:

The most concerning aspect of India labeling the three Pakistanis as terrorists is, how India came to be in the possession of their photographs in the first place.  In conversation with Ummat, Mehtab Butt indicated that he was perplexed as to how his photographs came to be in the hands of the Indians.  In response to a question about whether he had uploaded his photo onto Facebook, Twitter or similar social networking websites, Mr. Butt said that he had never operated a computer.  Mr. Butt said that the shirt that he was wearing as displayed in the photo on the Indian channel (sic) India Today was purchased last year.

Atif Butt said that while he had opened a Facebook account for himself, he had stopped using the account after his engagement;  however, he recollects having never uploaded the photo shown on the Indian channels to Facebook.  He remembers though, that the half-sleeved shirt displayed in the photo had been purchased last summer.

All three victims are of the opinion that a powerful camera was used to zoom in and take photos of them at Hafiz Center.  Both Atif and Mehtab were working at their shops at Hafiz Center when a mutual friend of theirs arrived at about 8:00pm on Wednesday with his laptop.  He showed Atif and Mehtab photos of themselves appearing on the India Today website.  At first, they dismissed the photos as a prank, but the grim reality of the situation ultimately dawned on them.

The three then promptly approached local police and advised them of the situation.  According to Mehtab and Atif, they took this step to ensure that they didn’t get apprehended on false charges.  Mehtab Butt informed Ummat that both he and Atif were under considerable stress.  Atif was of the opinion that had he and Mehtab not approached the police, there would be no doubt that the three victims would have been declared terrorists, similar to the “so-called” Mumbai terror attacks.

The three victims told Ummat that not only is India insulting our country, they have now turned their attention towards harming the Pakistani trading community.  Their question to Pakistan’s leaders is, why are we expanding our trade relations with India?  They appeal to the government to get to the bottom of this and respond to India’s imprudent actions. [روزنامہ امّت]

That this was an IO exercise against India is pretty apparent by the narrative.  Two innocent traders and an honest security guard in Lahore being ensnared by the Serpent Next Door triggers the imagination.  But why traders, why not anyone else?  The last paragraph appears to offer some clues.

There is disquiet in parts of Pakistan’s trading community over liberalizing trade with India.  Though many remain skeptical, most are not opposed to it, given the obvious benefits from trade with India.  But the one group that has remained steadfastly opposed to engagement with India on trade and the MFN status has been Difa-e-Pakistan, a rag-tag collection of ex-army officers and jihadi nutjobs supported by Rawalpindi, that boasts within its ranks a who’s who of the military-jihadi complex, including God’s Servant Hafiz Saeed, and the always-humble Hamid Gul.

Hard-line elements in Pakistan certainly have motive, by both impressing upon the Pakistani trading community that thy neighbor is deceitful, and embarrassing India and its intelligence agencies. But the elaborate plot does not appear to be commensurate with the benefits of getting Pakistan to abrogate from bilateral trade commitments with India. The juice wouldn’t be worth the squeeze.  This may very well be part of the plot, but is there a larger game afoot?

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Ghulam Nabi Fai’s arrest

Indian agencies have known Mr. Fai was up to no-good for ages.

We’re just being made aware of the arrest in the U.S. of Ghulam Nabi Fai, Executive Director of the Kashmiri-American Council (KAC) for allegedly being on the payroll of the ISI and hiding millions of dollars for illegal lobbying.  A second individual, Zaheer Ahmed, has also been charged.  The FBI affidavit cites that Mr. Fai conspired “to act as an agent of a foreign principal…to falsify, conceal, and cover up materials by tricks, schemes, and devices…” (FBI affidavit, LT @Colinfreeze).

As it turns out, Mr. Fai is no stranger to the FBI.  When questioned in 2007, he contented that he had “never met anyone who identified himself as being affiliated with the ISI.”  Mr. Fai has long been at the forefront of the “Kashmir movement” in the U.S., portraying himself as a Kashmiri-American champion of “the Cause,” independent of any affiliation of Pakistan or its agencies.  In fact, CBS-affiliate KNX 1070’s news report this morning on the arrest identified Mr. Fai as a “Virginia man.”

But Indian security agencies have long confirmed Mr. Fai’s nexus with Pakistan’s ISI.  A 2004 Times of India report on the mysterious death of Hasimuddin, former aide to Syed Ali Shah Geelani, revealed the relationship between Mr. Fai, the Tehrik-e-Hurriyat and the ISI (emphasis added):

This is part of Islamabad’s plan to secure a place for Tehriq-e-Hurriyat in the talks to decide the fate of J&K on the ground that the secessionist outfit was the true representative of ‘Kashmiris’.

Those behind the plan have gone about its execution with clinical precision. Hasimuddin had been managing the funds of Tehriq-e-Hurriyat after he was ousted from the All Party Hurriyat Conference, as its secretary. But Geelani had replaced him recently.  The outfit was getting funds from the ISI and also from Saudi Arabia. Most of the funds were routed through the US-based Kashmir American Council of Ghulam Nabi Fai or the UK-based Ayub Thakar who died recently, sources said. [Times of India]

The arrest of Mr. Fai only confirms what India knows about how the ISI plays the game on Kashmir; with a mixture of subterfuge, political grandstanding, and of course, sub-conventional warfare against India, through a network of carefully cultivated intermediaries and proxies.

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Rotten Apple theory?

An arrest merely due to ties to Hizb-ut-Tahrir stretches credulity.

Dawn ran an article about recent arrests in Pakistan, which included a serving Brigadier affiliated with GHQ, allegedly for having ties with Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT), a pan-Islamic radical group whose aims include establishing an Islamic Khilafat.  In his interactions with BBC Urdu, army spokesperson Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas confirmed that Brig. Ali Khan was had been arrested for ties with HuT.  But really, those utterances are about as convincing as Tahawwur Rana’s defense team.

Firstly, the very basis for Brig. Khan’s arrest — affiliation with a banned organization — seems to be questionable.  While it is true that the HuT was proscribed by Gen. Musharraf in 2004, the ban was lifted after being challenged in the Lahore High Court.  Secondly, even if we are to accept ISPR’s version of the story, the sudden eagerness to target people with ties to a  group with unquestionably radical beliefs, but one that poses no direct or immediate threat to the Pakistani Army stretches credulity. After all, what does the ban on HuT mean to a Pakistani military establishment that created and nurtured the Taliban, provided shelter to Osama bin Laden, and spawned the alphabet-soup of jihadi groups in Jammu & Kashmir?

And since when has the Pakistani Army been the sort of entity to act against its members possessing links with radical groups?  Lest we forget former DG-ISI Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Ahmed, who was given his marching orders only after a great deal of reluctance, when Indian intelligence agencies informed the U.S. of the $100,000 he is said to have wired 9/11 attacker Mohammad Atta. Or indeed, the illustrious Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj, who was relieved of duty as DG-ISI, after Washington pressured Rawalpindi with evidence of Lt. Gen. Taj’s direct involvement in the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, which resulted in 58 deaths.  And even then, the punishments meted out were anything but severe.  Lt. Gen. Ahmed retired from the army and is now a member of Tablighi Jamaat.  Lt. Gen. Taj was relieved of his duties as DG-ISI and given command of XXX Corps in Gujranwala.

But we digress. Whether and to what extent Brig. Ali Khan had ties to HuT may be less relevant.  Indeed, the good folks at GHQ are unlikely to arrest him only for maintaining ties with HuT, unless they also had paper on him on a far more serious charge that they wouldn’t care to advertise to the rest of the world.

So the question that needs to be asked is what is that other serious charge that Pakistan’s army wouldn’t care to see advertised?  So far, the only explanation for his arrest was provided by army sources.  While news of Brig. Khan’s arrest was made public just yesterday, BBC Urdu, which broke the story reports that he was in fact arrested on May 6, right after the time of the Abbottabad raid which killed bin Laden.  Indeed, Brig. Khan’s defense lawyer asserts (اردو) that he was arrested for raising inconvenient questions about the Abbottabad raid at a GHQ conference.

The question therefore needs to be asked — did Brig. Khan know something about the raid by U.S. Special Forces?  If so, what?  Did a serving Pakistan Army officer affiliated with GHQ provide intel to the U.S. that led to the Abbottabad raid?  The New York Times reports of an ongoing witch-hunt in Pakistan where people alleged to have provided intel to the CIA on bin Laden are being arrested.  Indeed, in light of this, Brig. Khan being taken into custody may not necessarily be a coincidence.

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A history of violence

On Saleem Shahzad’s killing.

The killing of Syed Saleem Shahzad near Islamabad is but another example of the perils journalists face in Pakistan today for challenging the conspiracy-riddled narratives of the military-jihadi complex.  Through his articles in Asia Times, Mr. Shahzad gave us perspective on the inner workings of the MJC and its internal competitive dynamics.  Lesser journalists in Pakistan who tow the line of the MJC by putting forth conspiracy theories of underhand foreign agencies working in concert to dismember Pakistan are lionized and rewarded.  Little wonder then, that Pakistan ranks as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists (Freedom House, 2011).

Voice of America Urdu’s Waseem A. Siddiqui catalogs the history of violence (اردو) :
Pakistan journalists killed

Readers of this blog are no doubt familiar with the conspiracy theory-ridden narratives in Pakistan’s vernacular press.  Almost every tragedy in Pakistan is attributable to the machinations of the CIA, R&AW, Blackwater or Mossad.  Their ultimate quest being Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.  It should come as no surprise then that the recent attacks against a Pakistan Navy base in Karachi were immediately attributed to India.  Because that’s easy. And convenient.

In her recent visit to Pakistan, following the raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton urged Pakistanis to understand that conspiracy theories “will not make their problems disappear.” But with journalists like these, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Further reading: A brave piece by Mehmal Sarfraz, and Syed Saleem Shahzad’s brilliant interview/report on the resurgence of Ilyas Kashmiri and the 313 Brigade.


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