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Is Al-Qaeda Present In Pakistan?

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Rulers of Pakistan have always deceived the world -- or maybe the world deliberately deceived itself through Pakistan.  Perhaps the rulers of the United States are aware of the situation in Pakistan. They have been spending billions of dollars on the war on terrorism and a large number of people in Pakistan may be working for them.

Now politicians, journalists and rulers have accepted the fact that Al-Qaeda is present in Pakistan. Al-Qaeda is not the name of one or two persons -actually, it is a way of thinking, a philosophy.  The followers of Al-Qaeda are against the law. They want full liberty. The liberty to rape the women and kill innocent people. They want to impose their idea on the people by force. They want to kill others who do not agree with their ideas. No one can deny the fact that these types of people are present in Pakistan. So there is the possibility that the dreaded terrorists may be hiding in their houses.

According to a newspaper editorial, precisely targeted suicide attacks in Rawalpindi’s cantonment area yesterday yielded 24 dead to the account of the Al Qaeda-Taliban combine. The 70-passenger Defence Ministry bus carrying “security personnel” to their offices when a suicide bomber in the bus blew himself up because there was apparently no security check before the bus was taken out on the road. The second blast was also a suicide attack, though initial reports said it was caused by a parked motorcycle which was detonated through a remote-control device.

There should be no difficulty in joining the dots here. The security agencies are being targeted by the Al Qaeda deputy Baitullah Mehsud who today rules in South Waziristan and has established authority there as a deputy of Osama bin Laden, based on a complete taxation system and provision of services in a territory separated from Pakistan and annexed to Al Qaeda. When the army and paramilitary forces went into South Waziristan to at least “show flag” the state run by Baitullah Mehsud kidnapped hundreds of their troops.

The Rawalpindi strikes have to be connected to the ongoing campaign of Baitullah Mehsud to attack and demoralise the army and the police in Pakistan. He has attacked the army in Swat using four suicide-bombers, he has attacked the army and the police in Kohat and Bannu in the NWFP through suicide-bombing and killed a large number of soldiers and officers.

In DI Khan in the NWFP, he has attacked and killed policemen at a recruiting centre, reminding one of the strategy used by Al Qaeda in Iraq where the police has completely lost heart after attacks on the recruiting centres. A blast in Peshawar some months ago had targeted the police, killing the police chief of the city along with others. Consequently, the provinces in Pakistan are in the process of beefing up their police in order to reduce the burden on the army in the face of terrorist attacks.

The effect on the military and paramilitary personnel has been quite marked after Baitullah Mehsud’s campaign. The troops that went into Wana appeared to have offered no resistance when challenged by Mehsud’s men. In all, the commander of the “lost territory” of South Waziristan captured 300 military and paramilitary personnel and threatened to behead five of them every day if the government did not release his 80 Taliban warriors captured by the army after it went in to rescue its kidnapped men. The effect of this typically Al Qaeda threat was immediate. The government released the 80 demanded by Baitullah and then added 20 more as a “goodwill” gesture. The South Waziristan jirga, led by a JUI-MMA leader, predictably failed to intercede and has been leaning on the government to yield to Baitullah Mehsud instead of fighting him.

One reason why it is only logical to trace the Rawalpindi killings to Baitullah Mehsud and Al Qaeda in South Waziristan is the revelation made by the Islamabad authorities about two suicide bombings during the Lal Masjid standoff that killed some PPP workers and a specifically targeted group of policemen within days of the troops cleaning up the mosque. Lal Masjid was discovered to be the branch-line station of Al Qaeda. Its “foreign warriors” were connected to Al Qaeda after the government owned up to earlier incidents involving agents from South Waziristan using vehicles belonging to the Ghazi brothers of Lal Masjid. Both the suicide bombers who killed 33 in Islamabad had come down from Baitullah’s territory and were “handled” by “minders” already in place in Rawalpindi.

The state has formally delinked itself from terrorism, but some sections of it are still loyal to the Islamist-terrorist appeal of Al Qaeda. Increasingly, the “jobs” look like being assisted by “insiders” who also prevent the government and its intelligence agencies from grasping the real extent and dimension of the danger they are facing. The effect of this activity is that the state feels more and more inclined to “surrender” in the face of Al Qaeda. This is helped along by the general stance or opposition politicians that there is no terrorism in Pakistan and the incidents are caused by the illegitimate “action” taken by President Musharraf in the Tribal Areas on behalf of America.

Al Qaeda has been attacking the army now for a year. The Rawalpindi attack has shown that it can easily target the nerve centre of our military establishment and can do it through insiders. Since the military leadership is also under verbal attack from the secular and clerical politicians of Pakistan, the cumulative effect of it on the minds of the military personnel can be deeply demoralising. Osama bin Laden and Aiman al Zawahiri could be leading the assault but we are in denial that they are on Pakistani soil. It is Baitullah Mehsud that we can’t even touch in our “war” against terrorism. Between him and the state of Pakistan there is a gulf of political polarisation that presages more trouble for the luckless citizens of Pakistan. *

Second Editorial: The real threat of martial law

The chief of the ruling PML, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, expressed fears about martial law when talking to the media immediately after the Rawalpindi terrorist attacks. He was also fearful that if the bombings continued the electorate may not even come out to participate in the pre-election campaigning. His fears about disorder in the country were expressed earlier when he recommended the imposition of Emergency to President Musharraf.

Martial law will surely take the country into an unknown direction. At this stage, however, the politicians are misled by the “raw power” of public opinion which is saying “no deal” to the government in a loud voice. But all public opinion, usually based on emotion, has to be realistically mediated by politicians. But both the government and the opposition are seeking honour and public approbation through “non-communication”. The Musharraf government is internally divided on what it regards as a “deal” of dishonour. Yet everyone poses as a champion of democracy. What the country needs in this hour of threat to its very integrity is a political deal, not confrontation in the streets which can only be to the advantage of the terrorists.

The End

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Muhammad Khurshid, a resident of Bajaur District, tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border is journalist by profession. He contributes articles and news stories to various online and print newspapers. His subject matter is terrorism. He is (more...)

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