Thursday, June 9, 2011

Asia Times on Nawaz Sharif's Politics & Memory Loss of Dawn/Ejaz Haider.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s opposition leader Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday demanded a full independent investigation over Osama bin Laden’s presence in the country, rejecting the government’s internal military probe. “We completely reject the prime minister’s committee. It is powerless and cannot investigate the matter in depth,” he told a news conference shortly after returning to Pakistan from medical treatment in Britain. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday announced that a lieutenant general would head an inquiry “to get to the bottom of how, when and why” bin Laden had been hiding in the garrison town where he was killed by US forces. US President Barack Obama has pressed Pakistan to probe how bin Laden managed to live for years under the nose of its military, saying he must have been supported by locals. Pakistanis have been outraged at the perceived impunity of the US raid, while asking whether their military was too incompetent to know bin Laden was living close to a major forces academy, or, worse, conspired to protect him. Sharif, considered the most popular politician in Pakistan, called for the government to establish a revised commission within three days headed by the country’s top judge and not the military. “This commission should ascertain the full facts of Osama bin Laden’s presence and the American operation in Pakistan,” he said. REFERENCE: PML-N demands independent probe on bin LadenAFP May 11, 2011 (5 weeks ago)

0806 - News Night with Talat - Part 1


I write this letter to you in the wake of the gruesome and gratuitous murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, friend to many, including myself. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, the agency you head, is being accused of Saleem’s murder. You must also know that the ISI is widely reviled and dreaded at home. For an agency that was set up primarily for strategic intelligence, this is quite an achievement. It is accused of driving in its own lane, monitoring the media, kidnapping, torturing and sometimes killing dissenters, political and otherwise, determining, arbitrarily, what Pakistan’s national interest is and how best we should go about pursuing it. You must also know that some former officers have not only admitted to electoral fraud, rigging, making and breaking of political alliances, buying people through a mix of carrots and sticks, and browbeating the media, but consider having done so as part of their remit and in the best national interest. Perish the thought that any one of them would say peccavi, since some actually boast about it. REFERENCE: An open letter to General Pasha By Ejaz Haider Published: June 7, 2011

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid, Nawaz Sharif, on Thursday stopped short of announcing a movement against the government but said his party would keep every option open if the rulers did not pay heed to their demand of holding an independent probe into the Abbottabad and PNS Mehran attacks. “Our options are open and we will make every sacrifice for the sake of the sanctity of parliament and its resolutions,” Nawaz Sharif said at a press conference after chairing the party’s parliamentary party meeting. He was replying specifically to a question about reports of collective resignations by the PML-N parliamentarians About boycotting the budget session starting today (Friday), Nawaz Sharif said his party members would practically demonstrate the decisions taken at the party’s parliamentary party meeting. Rejecting the five-member commission constituted by the prime minister to investigate the Abbottabad incident, Nawaz Sharif said he could not understand why the government was hiding the facts and frightened of exposing those responsible. Demanding the reconstitution of the independent commission, Nawaz asked the government to order a probe into the PNS Mehran and the killing of Asia Times Online Pakistan Bureau chief, Syed Saleem Shahzad. Nawaz stops short of announcing anti-govt movement Friday June 03, 2011 (1136 PST)

0806 - News Night with Talat - Part 2


ATol: Explain how Sheikh Rashid started the training camp.

KK: The story starts in 1986-87, when out of emotion I wrote a letter to General Zia ul-Haq saying that he was a hypocrite and he was only interested in ruling Pakistan, rather than imposing Islamic law in the country. General Zia immediately ordered my dismissal from my basic services in the Pakistan air force, where I was a squadron leader, and from the ISI, where I was deputed at the Afghan desk. I went to Afghanistan and fought side-by-side with the Afghan mujahideen against Soviet troops. There I developed a friendship with Dr Abdullah Azzam [a mentor of bin Laden], Osama bin Laden and Sheikh Abdul Majeed Zindani [another mentor of bin Laden's]. At the same time, I was still in touch with my former organization, the ISI, and its then DG [director general], retired Lieutenant General Hamid Gul.

After General Zia's death in a plane crash [1988], elections were announced and there was a possibility that the Pakistan People's Party [PPP] led by Benazir Bhutto would win, which would be a great setback for the cause of jihad. We discussed this situation, and all the mujahideen thought that they should play a role in blocking the PPP from winning the elections. I joined my former DG Hamid Gul and played a role in forming the then Islamic Democratic Alliance comprising the Pakistan Muslim League and the Jamaat-i-Islami. The PPP won the elections by a thin margin and faced a strong opposition. Osama bin Laden provided me with funds, which I handed over to Nawaz Sharif, then the chief minister of Punjab [and later premier], to dislodge Benazir Bhutto. Nawaz Sharif insisted that I arrange a direct meeting with the "Sheikh", which I did in Saudi Arabia. Nawaz met thrice with Osama in Saudi Arabia.

The most historic was the meeting in the Green Palace Hotel in Medina between Nawaz Sharif, Osama and myself. Osama asked Nawaz to devote himself to "jihad in Kashmir". Nawaz immediately said, "I love jihad." Osama smiled, and then stood up from his chair and went to a nearby pillar and said. "Yes, you may love jihad, but your love for jihad is this much." He then pointed to a small portion of the pillar. "Your love for children is this much," he said, pointing to a larger portion of the pillar. "And your love for your parents is this much," he continued, pointing towards the largest portion. "I agree that you love jihad, but this love is the smallest in proportion to your other affections in life."

These sorts of arguments were beyond Nawaz Sharif's comprehension and he kept asking me. "Manya key nai manya?" [Agreed or not?] He was looking for a Rs500 million [US$8.4 million at today's rate] grant from Osama. Though Osama gave a comparatively smaller amount, the landmark thing he secured for Nawaz Sharif was a meeting with the [Saudi] royal family, which gave Nawaz Sharif a lot of political support, and it remained till he was dislodged [as premier] by General Pervez Musharraf [in a coup in 1999]. Saudi Arabia arranged for his release and his safe exit to Saudi Arabia.

That was a typical situation, when Osama was famed for his generosity, and even politicians like Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, who was president of the National People's Party and president of the Islamic Democratic Alliance, and then interim prime minister, were also after me to arrange meetings with the "Sheikh". Then Nawaz Sharif introduced me to Sheikh Rashid, and he took me to his Freedom House camp near Fateh Jang Road near Rawalpindi. He asked me to get support from Arabs. I took several of my Arab friends to his training camp, and they provided him with some money, though they were not satisfied with the environment. The youths were mostly trained to fire AK-47 rifles, but there was no arrangement for the ideological training of youths. That was the point on which the Arabs objected, that it is ideological training that makes a difference between a mercenary and a mujahid. Rashid was the least bothered about ideological training, he was interested in money - Rs50,000 per person. Some money was provided to Rashid, and he claimed that he procured AK-47 guns with that money. How many, I do not remember. REFERENCE: The pawns who pay as powers play By Syed Saleem Shahzad South Asia Jun 22, 2005

0806 - News Night with Talat - Part 3


The momentum for finding a strategy that will allow for an honorable exit is becoming irresistible. Enter Mansoor Ijaz, a US citizen of Pakistani origin with close ties to the right wing of the Republican Party. In London, with the help of British authorities, he began the peace process. Mansoor's point man in Pakistan is Khalid Khawaja, a former Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) official who was a close friend of Osama bin Laden. Khawaja's associates included Paracha, a former member of the provincial assembly in North West Frontier Province and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz group). His claim to fame is his advocacy for the families of al-Qaeda operators detained by Pakistani authorities.

One of the inducements put on the table for the Taliban leadership was their inclusion in the government of President Hamid Karzai, but Mullah Omar rejected this, saying there could not be any form of a deal until all foreign forces were pulled out of Afghanistan. Thus there was no possibility of the Taliban laying down their weapons. "Actually, the media have jeopardized the peace initiative when it is still in its initial stages, though part of the news is correct, that yes, there is a discourse between the Taliban and the US, but it is wrong that any US officials met Javed Ibrahim Paracha," Khalid Khawaja told Asia Times Online.

Asia Times Online sources in the Afghan resistance across the border from Pakistan confirm that there has been recent contact between Karzai and the Taliban leadership. This took place through a go-between. Karzai, according to the contacts, sought support for himself and agreed that any cooperation with the Taliban would hinge on one single point - the evacuation of foreign troops. The contact was confirmed at a time the Afghan parliamentary results confirmed that members of the former Taliban regime and former mujahideen leaders had won seats in parliament with heavy mandates. The general perception is that these new parliamentarians are split into small political groups, and will therefore not be able to make much of an impression. However, most of the Taliban warlords who won in the elections are still in contact with the Taliban leadership, and so are the members of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-i-Islami, whose leadership sits quietly in Peshawar, Pakistan. Veteran warlord Hekmatyar is still active in the Afghan resistance. Far from being splintered, these new parliamentarians are believed to be in a decisive position, and they are taking guidance from their Taliban or Hizb leaders. For instance, once Mullah Omar received Karzai's communication agreeing that the withdrawal of foreign troops was the minimum starting point for any negotiations, Mullah Omar called a shora (council) and then sent messages to all former Taliban members in parliament to support Karzai. REFERENCE: Time to talk: US engages the Taliban By Syed Saleem Shahzad Central Asia Nov 22, 2005

0806 - News Night with Talat - Part 4


KARACHI - There was a day when former premier Nawaz Sharif was part of Pakistan's ruling military oligarchy. He tried to be independent and a strongman, and consequently was removed from power in a bloodless coup by now President General Pervez Musharraf on October 12, 1999.

However, after serving a year in jail and then going into exile in Saudi Arabia to avoid charges of treason and hijacking, he has once again dealt with the military and finalized a deal with the director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant General Nadeem Taj, in Saudi Arabia. As a result, they both returned to Pakistan - on flights half an hour apart - on Sunday. Sharif returned to the country two months ago, but was hustled straight back onto a plane to Saudi Arabia. This time there was no such drama as the circumstances have changed.

According to Asia Times Online contacts, a retired military brigadier and the publisher of a large media group were involved in backroom negotiations between the military, Sharif and Saudi Arabia which resulted in him being given the go-ahead to return to Pakistan provided "he did not make trouble". Musharraf is expected to be sworn in as a civilian president this week, which means he will step down as chief of the army staff in preparation for national elections in January. According to the contacts, following the elections, Shabaz Sharif, the younger brother of Nawaz, has been earmarked to lead a unity government comprising liberal democratic forces, but under the umbrella of the military. Initially, former premier Benazir Bhutto had been chosen for this job and she, too, returned from exile, only to fall out with the United States-inspired plan and Musharraf himself. It is not yet clear what part Nawaz Sharif, considered a conservative and traditionalist and an acceptable face for Pakistan's religious forces, will play in this new political dispensation.

Just a day before his return, two devastating suicide attacks killed at least 16 people in the garrison town of Rawalpindi adjoining Islamabad. One attacker targeted a vehicle carrying ISI personnel, the other a gate at the military's general headquarters (GHQ). The attacks serve as a strong hint to the Pakistani army to reverse its intervention in the Taliban's fight against foreign forces in Afghanistan. The attacks, impeccable sources at GHQ reveal, were based on precise intelligence. However, the sources refused to name the victims or their ranks. Mounting US pressure has forced Pakistan this year to do more in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in the country, leading to head-on confrontation. As a result, Pakistan's channels of communication with militants have been choked and the situation is reaching a point of no return in the battle between the Pakistani Taliban and the Pakistani army. The deal with Sharif has both internal and external aspects. The Pakistani military is concerned that the "war on terror" is spilling far too much into the country. The Pakistani Taliban already have a strong presence in the tribal areas and in North-West Frontier Province.

Pakistan's leading security think-tank, the National Defense University, has floated the idea that Afghanistan and Pakistan could be prevented from falling into the clutches of extremism by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces withdrawing from Afghanistan and being replaced by troops from the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC). Ironically, four Muslim countries with the strongest armies in the OIC are non-Arab - Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia and Bangladesh. If a decision is taken to send in the OIC, these four countries would be at the helm. With the insurgency in Afghanistan spiraling out of control with every passing day, Washington is giving an ear to this suggestion. But the biggest problem would be for Muslim countries to find leaders to speak to the insurgents in a spirit of mutual trust. Otherwise, OIC forces could be just as much of a problem as NATO's. For instance, if the militants declare the troops infidels, it would only add to the hopelessness of the situation. Apparently, the deal brokered by Saudi Arabia to allow Nawaz Sharif back into Pakistan aims to bring his brother Shabaz into the spotlight. Nawaz Sharif had personal interactions with Osama bin Laden (The pawns who pay as powers play, Asia Times Online, June 22, 2005) many times when both were planning to dislodge Bhutto's government in the late 1980s. In Pakistan's charged environment, anything is worth a try, including this old wine in a new bottle - it's worked before. REFERENCE: Strings attached to Sharif's return By Syed Saleem Shahzad South Asia Nov 27, 2007

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