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Caught Red Handed

By Akrita Reyar | Last Updated: Saturday, May 7, 2011 - 16:28
Akrita Reyar
Shades of Grey

Whenever Pervez Musharraf spoke with affected gravitas to the media about the possible whereabouts of Osama or made an assertive conjecture that the radical may already be dead, the joke in office was that if ever found, the Most Wanted Man in the world would probably be caught having a cuppa in the former Pakistan President’s own backyard.

What a bull’s eye of a prediction, driven purely by logic.

60 kms from capital Islamabad and barely a mile away from the Kakul military academy in Abbottabad, Osama was found and obliterated in the embrace of the Pakistani Army.

Living in an enormous compound barely 800 yards from where a prominent officer, Major Aamir Ajmal lives, Osama’s million dollar residence sticks out like a sore thumb with its 10-12 feet of walls, barbed wires and security cameras used for fortressing.

As irony would have it, Musharraf is now going to town telling reporters that he used to jog in front of the park where Osama lived. The saving grace is that he has yet to declare him his morning walk buddy, doing stretch out exercises together and counting the number of laps each could do to keep the jehadi stamina from waning.

If the brigand managed to live in such a prime locality for five or six years without being discovered, it has to be due to the kind hospitality of the rogue Generals. The only other option, as voiced by CIA boss Leon Panetta, had to be that the jackboots of Pakistan as well as its intelligence apparatus are far too incompetent. Which we know is not true. After all, we owe at least that much respect to our enemies.

It is the extreme brazenness that gets you. Osama was not hiding in some rat hole like Saddam Hussain, bewildered by his forced isolation; but in a sprawling bungalow, in the hub of a cantonment, with wives and children, drinking American soft drinks by the gallon and butchering a live goat everyday to barbeque kebabs in the tandoor.

The courier who went around by the name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwati, the closest confidant of Osama, turned out to be a Pakistani as well. These leads that the Americans got were from detainees at the ill famed Guantanamo Bay.

The worst nightmare of Pakistanis – that Osama would be found in their country - has come true. All along they wanted to hoodwink the world into thinking that Osama was already dead or no longer a worth it target due to his multiple illnesses that had made him virtually impaired.

The shock in Pakistan, about the lid having been blown off, was obvious. It took 15 hours for the truth to sink in. Not a squeak emerged from the Islamic state for nearly a day; after which the government and military machinery went on a verbal offensive, whining about their sovereignty being violated and blaming the whole world for poor intelligence gathering skills!

Pakistanis had been dreading this for years. That the elusive terror chief would be found hiding in rugged terrain of the Frontier or some mud house in Swat was oft suspected, but living in a prime residential colony with military officials as neighbours had been unimaginable.

Pakistan’s Janus-faced approach is nothing new and in fact well documented. According to WikiLeaks, one of the key reasons why Americans had failed to find Osama bin Laden for years was that Pakistan’s security services tipped him off whenever US got a lead or planned an operation.

The document states, “In Pakistan, Osama bin Laden wasn’t an invisible man, and many knew his whereabouts in North Waziristan, but whenever security forces attempted a raid on his hideouts, the enemy received warning of their approach from sources in the security forces.”

According to the cables, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) had apparently, on some occasions, smuggled al Qaeda terrorists through airport security to help avoid their capture and also sent a unit into Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban.

The US diplomatic dispatch added, General Abdullo Sadulloevich Nazarov, a senior Tajik counter-terrorism official, had told the Americans that “many” inside Pakistan knew where bin Laden was.

This was echoed by Hillary Clinton on a visit to Islamabad. For a US Secretary of State to say this at a press conference clearly indicated solid evidence backing the suspicion, as also frustration with the Pakistan government’s duplicity.

Pakistan has been a safe haven of every other most wanted fugitive in the world.

Terrorists like Aimal Kansi, Yusef Ramzi, Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh have been all found living normal lives in Pakistan amidst civilian society and in major cities like Karachi, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad.

Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani caught from Karachi and behind bars in Gitmo is believed to have told the US investigators that he had been directly working for Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks, and that one of the sons of Osama had been living in Karachi with his wife and son in 2002. Gitmo authorities have even listed ISI as a terrorist organisation along with Hamas and other international terror networks.

It is no surprise then that the CIA chief ruled out informing Islamabad about the planned raid on Osama’s compound as there were “fears” that their Pakistani counterparts might “alert the al Qaeda chief”.
Panetta said, “It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission: They might alert the targets.”
One of most notorious of all operations that Pakistani establishment has been involved in was codenamed ‘Operation Evil Air Lift’. Around year 2001, when many terrorists and their Pakistani military associated were trapped in Kunduz, Afghanistan and it was a matter of days that Northern Alliance could have swooped on them, Musharraf negotiated their escape with Bush and Cheney.

As per Pakistani journalist and commentator Ahmed Rashid’s account, “Two planes were involved, which made several sorties a night over several nights. They took off from air bases in Chitral and Gilgit in Pakistan's northern areas, and landed in Kunduz, where the evacuees were waiting on the tarmac. Certainly hundreds and perhaps as many as one thousand people escaped. Hundreds of ISI officers, Taliban commanders, and foot soldiers belonging to the IMU and al Qaeda personnel boarded the planes. What was sold as a minor extraction turned into a major air bridge. The frustrated US SOF who watched it from the surrounding high ground dubbed it Operation Evil Airlift.”

One theory is that Osama may have escaped during this operation.
It is also well established that Pakistani Army officials and the ISI have ties with the Haqqani network in Afghanistan, which is responsible for suicide bombings against Americans, Indian offices and Afghan security personnel.
So far, the only people Pakistan has helped Americans seize are Islamists who are also launching attacks within the country and against Pakistani citizens. Barring such hardliners, Pakistan has moved little against terrorists posing a threat to the United States and in fact cultivated and nurtured those elements who plot evil against India.

For years, we have been crying ourselves hoarse and blue about Pakistan being a terrorist state. Now that it has been found that the most dreaded of all terrorists was snugly ensconced in the heart of Pakistan, the world seems to be just waking up to reality.

Better late than never.

First Published: Saturday, May 7, 2011 - 16:28

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