Tag Archive for 'ISI'

Young, beautiful and gossiped about

Young and glamorous women politicians in Pakistan have been hounded for years by rumour and unwanted gossip, writes Mariana Baabar in Outlook.
  •  The Bangladeshi tabloid Blitz, which claims to be the “only anti-jihadist newspaper in the Muslim world”, was started in 2003 by Salah Uddin Sohail Choudhury
  • Preetha Memon, who authored l’affaire Hina-Bilawal, also wrote a 2,900-word story on the “fourth richest politician in the world”, Sonia Gandhi, last week
  • Among Blitz’s five most-viewed pieces is news of Kareena Kapoor embracing Islam in the run-up to her wedding with Saif Ali Khan
  • Blitz says it is looking for reporters in at least 80 countries
  • “Mr Speaker, please stop this yellow taxi from leaving the House,” Muslim League MP Sheikh Rashid Ahmed called out, as the then prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, left her seat to go out of Parliament. Benazir, then in her first term as PM (1988-90) and clad in a yellow kamiz shalwar suit with her trademark white duppata over her head, did not bother to respond as she exited. more

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Hina Rabbani Khar

In The Telegraph, London:

Ms Rabbani Khar and her husband have dismissed the claims as “reprehensible” and “trash”, but they have been reported widely in Pakistan where they spawned conspiracy theories among Islamabad’s political classes.

Senior PPP figures on Thursday said they believed the claims were part of a plot by the country’s feared Inter-Service Intelligence [ISI] agency to damage Ms Rabbani Khar’s reputation because it blames her for her part in facilitating a UN investigation into thousands of missing people detained by the security forces.

In Dawn, Pakistan:

The ISPR spokesman said it is handiwork of those who want to weaken the state by creating misunderstanding between various institutions. It is not something new because such people have been fabricating misleading and impish stories in the past as well, he added.

In The News, Pakistan:

According to The Blitz Weekly, the married foreign minister, who has two young children with her millionaire husband, and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the PPP Co-Chairman,want to marry and have been regularly talking on the telephone and sending cards to each other. The tabloid claimed President Zardari was firmly opposed to their alleged relationship and had sought details of their mobile telephone conversations to establish the facts.

The Pakistani conundrum

B. Raman at South Asia Analysis Group:

After having fairly successfully defied the Army over the so-called Memogate affair, the elected Pakistani Executive headed by President Asif Ali Zardari has now chosen to defy the judiciary on the question of its refusal to write to the Swiss Government requesting it to re-open the investigation into some Swiss bank accounts allegedly belonging to Zardari and the late Benazir Bhutto.

2. The directive to write to the Swiss Government came from the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury. The Executive could have easily written to the Swiss Government and avoided a confrontation with the judiciary. It was very unlikely that the Swiss Government would have re-opened the investigation. Once the Executive wrote this letter, there would have been no more grounds for the court to proceed against Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani on a charge of contempt of court.

3. Instead of choosing this easier option, the Executive has chosen the more difficult and complex option of refusing to write to the Swiss Government on the ground that Zardari as the President enjoyed immunity from investigation and prosecution.

4. Faced with a defiant Executive, a seven-member bench of the court, headed by the Chief Justice, has framed an indictment ( US expression ) or a charge-sheet ( a sub-continental expression inherited from the British) against Gilani on February 13,2012.What this means is that from being a man under investigation as he was till now, he has become an accused in a criminal prosecution, but he is not yet a convict. The question of his resignation from office and arrest would arise only if after the trial, the charge of contempt of court against him is held to have been proved and he is convicted. More:

The ally from hell

Pakistan lies. It hosted Osama bin Laden (knowingly or not). Its government is barely functional. It hates the democracy next door. It is home to both radical jihadists and a large and growing nuclear arsenal (which it fears the U.S. will seize). Its intelligence service sponsors terrorists who attack American troops. With a friend like this, who needs enemies?

Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic:

SHORTLY AFTER AMERICAN NAVY SEALs raided the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May and killed Osama bin Laden, General Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistani chief of army staff, spoke with Khalid Kidwai, the retired lieutenant general in charge of securing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Kidwai, who commands a security apparatus called the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), had been expecting Kayani’s call.

General Kayani, the most powerful man in a country that has only a simulacrum of civilian leadership, had been busy in the tense days that followed the bin Laden raid: he had to assure his American funders (U.S. taxpayers provide more than $2 billion in annual subsidies to the Pakistani military) that the army had no prior knowledge of bin Laden’s hideout, located less than a mile from Pakistan’s preeminent military academy; and at the same time he had to subdue the uproar within his ranks over what was seen as a flagrant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by an arrogant Barack Obama. But he was also anxious about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and he found time to express this worry to General Kidwai.

Much of the world, of course, is anxious about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and for good reason: Pakistan is an unstable and violent country located at the epicenter of global jihadism, and it has been the foremost supplier of nuclear technology to such rogue states as Iran and North Korea. It is perfectly sensible to believe that Pakistan might not be the safest place on Earth to warehouse 100 or more nuclear weapons. These weapons are stored on bases and in facilities spread across the country (possibly including one within several miles of Abbottabad, a city that, in addition to having hosted Osama bin Laden, is home to many partisans of the jihadist group Harakat-ul-Mujahideen). Western leaders have stated that a paramount goal of their counterterrorism efforts is to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of jihadists. More:

Pakistan’s “Memogate”

From Foreign Policy:

Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani has become embroiled in a political scandal in Islamabad and offered his resignation today to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, as Adm. Michael Mullen exclusively confirmed to The Cable the existence of a secret memo that the former Joint Chiefs chairman had earlier not recollected receiving.

Haqqani, who has long been a key link between the civilian government in Pakistan and the Obama administration, has also been battling for years with the Pakistani military and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s chief spy agency — two organizations whose influence in Washington he has fought to weaken. That battle came to the fore of Pakistani politics this month due to the growing scandal known in Pakistan as “memo-gate,” which relates to a secret backchannel memo that was allegedly conveyed from Zardari to Mullen, through Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz. More:

The memo is authentic: The Cable confirmed that the memo is authentic and that it was received by Mullen. The Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani — the rumored author of the memo — has offered to resign over what has become a full-fledged scandal in Islamabad. The Cable spoke this evening to the man at the center of the controversy and the conduit of the memo, Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz.

The silver lining: The Mansoor Ijaz “memogate” scandal — in which a Pakistani-American businessman claims to have secretly conveyed the elected government’s plea for U.S. backing against his country’s own military — is sparking debate about everyone’s favorite Pakistan bugaboos: secrecy and backstabbing, coups and the invisible hand. It’s a long and resplendent tradition now; the hackneyed and voluble moral outrage are predictable. Like controversies past, this too will be seen from two extreme angles: a product of a plot hatched by intelligence agencies and their hypernationalist enablers, or of the turpitude of civilian politicians and their ultraliberal enablers.

How Pakistan lost its top US friend

Julian E Barnes and Adam Entous in The Wall Street Journal

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen has long been seen as Pakistan’s closest friend in Washington. He visited Islamabad 27 times since 2008 in his role as America’s top uniformed officer, cultivated a bond with the Pakistani army chief of staff and early in his tenure said he believed Pakistan was serious about plans to take on militant groups that the U.S. wanted shut down.

But in recent months, Adm. Mullen said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he concluded that the partnership approach he long had championed had fallen short and would be difficult to revive.

He took that conclusion to Congress last week, where he declared publicly what until then had been confined to private remarks: that Pakistan’s military intelligence service is collaborating with a militant group that the U.S. blames for attacks on Americans, including the shelling of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Sept. 13.

The shift by Adm. Mullen infuriated officials in Islamabad, who deny supporting militants, and cast a pall of uncertainty over the tenuous U.S.-Pakistan bond. more

The Haqqani clan: the Sopranos of the Afghanistan war

In The New York Times:

They are the Sopranos of the Afghanistan war, a ruthless crime family that built an empire out of kidnapping, extortion, smuggling, even trucking. They have trafficked in precious gems, stolen lumber and demanded protection money from businesses building roads and schools with American reconstruction funds.

They safeguard their mountainous turf by planting deadly roadside bombs and shelling remote American military bases. And they are accused by American officials of being guns for hire: a proxy force used by the Pakistani intelligence service to carry out grisly, high-profile attacks in Kabul and throughout the country.

Today, American intelligence and military officials call the crime clan known as the Haqqani network — led by a wizened militant named Jalaluddin Haqqani who has allied himself over the years with the C.I.A., Saudi Arabia’s spy service and Osama bin Laden — the most deadly insurgent group in Afghanistan. In the latest of a series of ever bolder strikes, the group staged a daylong assault on the United States Embassy in Kabul, an attack Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged Thursday was aided by Pakistan’s military spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. More: And more here

The journalist and the spies

In New Yorker, award-winning journalist and author Dexter Filkins on the murder of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, a man who exposed Pakistan’s secrets

On May 30th, as the sun beat down on the plains of eastern Pakistan, a laborer named Muhammad Shafiq walked along the top of a dam on the Upper Jhelum Canal to begin his morning routine of clearing grass and trash that had drifted into the intake grates overnight. The water flow seemed normal, but when he started removing the debris with a crane the machinery seized up. He looked down and saw, trapped in the grates, a human form.

Shafiq called some colleagues, and together they pulled out the body. Occasionally, farmers and water buffalo drown in the canal, float downstream, and get stuck in the grates, but never a man in a suit. “Even his tie and shoes were still on,” Shafiq told me. He called the police, and by the next day they had determined the man’s identity: Syed Saleem Shahzad, a journalist known for his exposés of the Pakistani military. Shahzad had not shown up the previous afternoon for a television interview that was to be taped in Islamabad, a hundred miles to the northwest. His disappearance was being reported on the morning news, his image flashed on television screens across the country. Meanwhile, the zamindar—feudal lord—of a village twenty miles upstream from the dam called the police about a white Toyota Corolla that had been abandoned by the canal, in the shade of a banyan tree. The police discovered that the car belonged to Shahzad. Its doors were locked, and there was no trace of blood. more

Living in the shadow of death

Before 9/11, Pakistan had only one suicide bombing. Since then, it’s had 290. Pakistanis seem to be accustomed to the violence. In Los Angeles Times Alex Rodriguez on what happens when every day is 9/11 and living with terror becomes a way of life. 

A decade ago, Peshawar’s bomb squad had it pretty easy.

Occasionally, one of its 20 members would be dispatched to a cornfield to defuse a mine planted by a villager who was feuding with his neighbor. Bombs were small and crude; theonly tools an officer needed were pliers and a roll of electrical tape.

Because their budget was minuscule, the officers traveled by taxi.

Today, the squad careens through week after week of carnage and peril in this volatile city near the Afghan border. One day members are defusing a partially detonated explosive vest strapped to the torso of a dead militant, the next they are surveying evidence left behind by a teenage suicide bomber. The squad has grown to 113 members. Nine have died in the line of duty. At least five others have been maimed. more

Pakistani military still cultivates militant groups, a former fighter says

Carlotta Gall in The New York Times:

The Pakistani military continues to nurture a broad range of militant groups as part of a three-decade strategy of using proxies against its neighbors and American forces in Afghanistan, but now some of the fighters it trained are questioning that strategy, a prominent former militant commander says.

The former commander said that he was supported by the Pakistani military for 15 years as a fighter, leader and trainer of insurgents until he quit a few years ago. Well known in militant circles but accustomed to a covert existence, he gave an interview to The New York Times on the condition that his name, location and other personal details not be revealed.

Militant groups, like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen and Hizbul Mujahedeen, are run by religious leaders, with the Pakistani military providing training, strategic planning and protection. That system was still functioning, he said.

The former commander’s account belies years of assurances by Pakistan to American officials since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that it has ceased supporting militant groups in its territory. The United States has given Pakistan more than $20 billion in aid over the past decade for its help with counterterrorism operations. Still, the former commander said, Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment has not abandoned its policy of supporting the militant groups as tools in Pakistan’s dispute with India over the border territory of Kashmir and in Afghanistan to drive out American and NATO forces.

“There are two bodies running these affairs: mullahs and retired generals,” he said. He named a number of former military officials involved in the program, including former chiefs of the intelligence service and other former generals. “These people have a very big role still,” he said. More:

Also in NYT: Pakistan’s spies tied to slaying of a journalist

Obama administration officials believe that Pakistan’s powerful spy agency ordered the killing of a Pakistani journalist who had written scathing reports about the infiltration of militants in the country’s military, according to American officials.

New classified intelligence obtained before the May 29 disappearance of the journalist, Saleem Shahzad, 40, from the capital, Islamabad, and after the discovery of his mortally wounded body, showed that senior officials of the spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, directed the attack on him in an effort to silence criticism, two senior administration officials said.

Dying to tell the story

Umar Cheema, investigative reporter at The News International, Pakistan’s largest English-language daily, in The New York Times:

On Sept. 4, I was driven to an abandoned house instead of a police station, where I was stripped naked and tortured with a whip and a wooden rod. While a man flogged me, I asked what crime had brought me this punishment. Another man told me: “Your reporting has upset the government.” It was not a crime, and therefore I did not apologize.

Instead, I kept praying, “Oh God, why am I being punished?” The answer came from the ringleader: “If you can’t avoid rape, enjoy it.” He would employ abusive language whenever he addressed me.

“Have you ever been tortured before?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

“These marks will stay with you forever, offering you a reminder never to defy the authorities,” he replied.

They tortured me for 25 minutes, shaved my head, eyebrows and moustache and then filmed and photographed my naked body. I was dumped nearly 100 miles outside Islamabad with a warning not to speak up or face the consequences.

The following months were dreadful. I suffered from a sleep disorder. I would wake up fearing that someone was beating my back. I wouldn’t go jogging, afraid that somebody would pick me up again and I’d never return. Self-imposed house arrest is the life I live today; I don’t go outside unless I have serious business. I have been chased a number of times after the incident. Now my son asks me questions about my attackers that I don’t answer. I don’t want to sow the seeds of hatred in his heart. More:

 

Interview: Ehsan ul-Haq, Pakistan’s former ISI chief

Charles Homans in Foreign Policy:

Foreign Policy: Where were you when you heard about the 9/11 attacks?

EH: On 9/11 I was co-commander in Peshawar, with responsibility for the western border with Afghanistan and security in the tribal areas of Pakistan and our northwestern province, what is now called Khyber-PK. And of course, it was shocking news for everybody — it was for me personally. And I didn’t realize how much it would impact on my personal life, how the world would change, how Pakistan would change.

FP: From there to the end of your tenure in 2007, what was your understanding or suspicion of where bin Laden was?

Ehsan ul-Haq: I was asked [to take over as lead of IS] on Oct. 7, 2001, when the bombing of Kabul began … Of course, our awareness of al Qaeda at that stage was very limited because al Qaeda was not operating in Afghanistan — it was an Arab phenomenon. Yes, it was transiting through Pakistan and Iran and other countries, but since they had not really operated in Pakistan, so we were not much aware of its dimensions, its role, its intentions, its objectives-these were things that were new to us, and it took time for us to really reconcile with it. But very quickly, we did achieve very substantial successes and close cooperation with other intelligence services, particularly the CIA.

As far as Osama bin Laden is concerned, frankly speaking, after Tora Bora we only heard the information that was shared with us at the time. After that, there were never any authentic reports on Osama bin Laden until his killing in Abbottabad. More:

Pakistan after Osama

Pervez Hoodbhoy in Himal Southasian:

Twenty-five years ago, the Pakistani state pushed Islam on its people as a matter of ideology. Prayers were made compulsory in government departments, punishments were meted out to those civil servants who did not fast during Ramadan, selection for academic posts required that the candidate demonstrate knowledge of Islamic teachings, and jihad was propagated through schoolbooks. Today, government intervention is no longer needed because of the spontaneous groundswell of Islamic zeal that has been the result of the years of grooming. A generation of poisoned minds that holds the external world responsible for all the country’s ills has led the country into collective xenophobia and psychosis. Signs suggest that a fascist religious state may be just around the corner.

A necessary condition for fascism – a sense of victimhood, mass delusions and a disconnection with reality – has now been met. A majority of all Pakistanis believe that 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy, think the dynamiting of schools and suicide attacks on shrines are the work of Blackwater (the US defence contractor now called Xe), see India’s hand behind Pakistan’s deepening instability and, refuse to accept Pakistan’s responsibility in the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. Many welcomed the murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in January, despite the fact that his only ‘crime’ was to protect a poor peasant Christian woman against charges of blasphemy. Surveys also show that a majority believes that senior army officers do not support the Taliban, and think that peace will return to Pakistan once the US leaves Afghanistan.

Those holding such distorted views of the world greeted the news of bin Laden’s killing with outright disbelief and denial. Pakistan’s capacity for self-deception should not be underestimated. An online survey conducted two days after the operation by a global opinion pollster revealed that a staggering 66 percent of Pakistanis thought the person who was killed by US Navy SEALs was not bin Laden. Participants in satirical TV shows burst into peals of laughter as they poured scorn on America and its claims. The supposed killing of bin Laden was nothing but high drama, said popular TV anchors. General Mirza Aslam Beg, former army chief and the formulator of the notion of ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, fully agreed. He wrote: ‘Osama’s look-alike prisoner from Bagram was picked-up and brought to Abbottabad and killed in cold blood, in front of his family members, who were living there. In fact, Osama had been killed in Afghanistan some time back and his body may still be lying in a mortuary in Afghanistan.’ Beg says it was all a ploy to defame the Pakistan government, the Pakistan armed forces and the ISI.

Rent-a-country

Over decades, Pakistan has adapted to its changing strategic circumstances by renting itself out to powerful states. Territory and men are part of the services provided. Payment comes not just from the US, but Arab countries as well. For fear of public criticism, the arrangements have been kept hidden. Pakistan’s supposedly vibrant press has chosen to steer off such controversial issues. But post bin-Laden, the clatter of skeletons tumbling out of Pakistan’s strategic closet is forcing some secrets out into the open. More:

Who killed Pakistani journalist?

A well-known Pakistani journalist who recently wrote an article about al-Qaeda infiltration in Pakistan’s Navy has been found dead. Saleem Shahzad was abducted over the weekend in an upscale neighborhood in Islamabad. His body was found in a canal in Mandi Baha Uddin in Pakistan’s northern Gujarat district.

After his disappearance, the Human Rights Watch alleged that Shahzad had been picked up by the ISI and that the intelligence agency had threatened him last year as well when he had reported on the quiet release of Mullah Baradar, an aide to Mullah Omar, who had been captured by Pakistan earlier. More in Dawn and in The News.

Click here to read his article in Asia Times Online: Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistan strike

Is the ISI involved? In Time: While the ISI was said to have bristled at previous reports by Shahzad, his disappearance happened two days after he wrote a story for Asia Times Online that said that al-Qaeda had attacked a naval base in the port city of Karachi on May 22 after talks had broken down between the Pakistan navy and the global terrorist organization.

The hawks of South Asia: in Foreign Policy

Osama: What the ISI knew?

Anjum Altaf in The South Asian Idea:

Opinion is divided between those who assert the ISI knew where Osama was hiding and those who believe it didn’t. This way of framing the situation obscures what might be the reality.

Some months back, before the discovery of Osama, I was reading a book in which the author narrates a discussion with a Pakistani, now an ambassador, that took place towards the end of the Musharraf period when the interviewee was out of favor. A remark attributed to the Pakistani left such an impression that I repeated it to as many people as I had occasion to between then and the discovery of Osama next to the military academy at Kakul.

I don’t have the book with me now but the following was the gist of the exchange:

The Pakistani was asked if Osama was in Pakistan. I have quite forgotten whether he answered yes or no, but what he followed up his answer with was seared on my mind. Referring to the time when the military ruler Musharraf had exiled both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif vowing never to allow them back to contest elections, he said something along the following lines:

If Benazir or Nawaz Sharif were hiding somewhere in Pakistan, how long do you believe it would have taken the ISI to ferret them out? More:

 

Pakistan and Osama bin Laden: What did they know?

From The Economist blogs:

Whichever way you cut it, Pakistan’s authorities are in a bind over the discovery, and killing, of Osama bin Laden by American Navy Seals in Abbottabad, a military town just north of Islamabad. The hollow claims made for many years by Pakistani rulers, military chiefs and spooks that Mr bin Laden, other al-Qaeda leaders and Taliban bosses were being allowed no refuge inside Pakistan, have been spectacularly exposed. The fact that he had last been holed up not in some wretched mountain cave but in a specially built, fortress-like compound within a mile of a prestigious military academy, in a town bristling with Pakistani military men, is a damning detail to which Pakistan’s authorities are struggling to respond.

It is possible—just about—to imagine that Pakistan’s rulers, notably the revered military intelligence network, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), were too incompetent to spot the world’s most-wanted man hiding under their noses. On this reckoning, America’s spies were able, eventually, to track him to a compound known locally as “Waziristan Mansion” and then to deploy a team of 30 to 40 Navy Seals to kill him, whereas the local men, despite enjoying significant local, linguistic, cultural and other advantages, were outfoxed by al-Qaeda’s boss. More:

Pakistan’s deadly game

Salman Rushdie on why it’s time to declare the country a terrorist state. In The Daily Beast:

Osama bin Laden died on Walpurgisnacht, the night of black sabbaths and bonfires. Not an inappropriate night for the Chief Witch to fall off his broomstick and perish in a fierce firefight. One of the most common status updates on Facebook after the news broke was “Ding, Dong, the witch is dead,” and that spirit of Munchkin celebration was apparent in the faces of the crowds chanting “U-S-A!” last night outside the White House and at ground zero and elsewhere. Almost a decade after the horror of 9/11, the long manhunt had found its quarry, and Americans will be feeling less helpless this morning, and pleased at the message that his death sends: “Attack us and we will hunt you down, and you will not escape.”

Many of us didn’t believe in the image of bin Laden as a wandering Old Man of the Mountains, living on plants and insects in an inhospitable cave somewhere on the porous Pakistan-Afghan border. An extremely big man, 6-foot 4-inches tall in a country where the average male height is around 5-foot 8, wandering around unnoticed for ten years while half the satellites above the earth were looking for him? It didn’t make sense. Bin Laden was born filthy rich and died in a rich man’s house, which he had painstakingly built to the highest specifications. The U.S. administration confesses it was “shocked” by the elaborate nature of the compound.

We had heard—I certainly had, from more than one Pakistani journalist—that Mullah Omar was (is) being protected in a safe house run by the powerful and feared Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) somewhere in the vicinity of the city of Quetta in Baluchistan, and it seemed likely that bin Laden, too, would acquire a home of his own. More

Intelligence agencies and law

Dr A Q Khan in The News, Pakistan:

Unfortunately, in our country the performance of the intelligence agencies is anything but commendable and is not something to be proud of. They have been the extended arm of dictators and been widely branded as rogue organisations. They operate outside the law, are least bothered about the judiciary and totally ignore court orders. During Gen Musharraf’s time, a general, an ISI colonel and eight subordinates forcibly sent us to Bannigala and kept us there for 10 hours. During that time our house was totally ransacked, bedrooms, clothes, books, files, etc., searched and many things taken away – all this without any official warrant or court order to do so. To-date many of the things taken away have not been returned. During the process our house was also bugged with cameras and – how low can you get – listening devices placed behind our bed and in the bedroom of our granddaughter, as well as in the drawing room, dining room and other places. They totally ignored that fact that, with my background, I was not ignorant of such affairs. I immediately realised the mischief they had done, traced their devices but left them in place (until years later) to let them remain under the illusion that we were unaware. The courts did not take any action against this blatant violation of our fundamental rights and privacy. In any civilised society such despicable acts are totally unacceptable and are dealt with severely by the courts. More:

US embassy cables: MUMBAI ATTACKS UPDATE

From The Guardian:

The Million Dollar Question

—————————

6. (C) While Indian press continues to pin blame on Pakistan, observers and diplomats in Delhi are asking the same question: was the ISI behind the Mumbai attacks? While there are clear links between the attacks’ perpetrators and the extremist group LeT, and likewise, there are links between LeT and the ISI, there is no clear evidence yet to suggest that ISI directed or facilitated the attacks, according to the British High Commission.

Demarching the Indians and Pakistanis

————————————-

7. (C) A British diplomat told us that UK Foreign Secretary Miliband urged restraint to External Affairs Minister

NEW DELHI 00003044 002 OF 002

Mukherjee when they spoke on 1 December. The call took place only after many delays on the GOI’s part. Mukherjee apparently disavowed any interest in raising tensions further, but insisted that Pakistan must take action in response to India,s demands. Our contact stressed that the UK had been very direct in presenting India and Pakistan with specific information regarding those responsible for the attacks. She also noted that the list of names the Indians had put on the “Most Wanted Criminals List” that had been passed to Islamabad included figures such as fugitive crime lord Dawood Ibrahim and Jaish-e-Mohammed Chief Maulana Azhar, who had been on prior lists the Indians had submitted. In her view, this took away from the focus on LeT members implicated in the Mumbai attacks. More:

Mumbai: The plot unfolds, Lashkar strikes and investigators scramble

"After killing 10 people at the historic Leopold Cafe, a second assault team joined the two gunmen at the Taj. "

This is the second part of ProPublica‘s investigation into the plot behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Read the first part. By Sebastian Rotella:

David Coleman Headley seemed like a gregarious, high-rolling American businessman when he set up shop in Mumbai in September 2006.

He opened the office of an immigration consulting firm. He partied at swank locales such as the ornate Taj Mahal Hotel, a 1903 landmark favored by Westerners and the Indian elite. He joined an upscale gym, where he befriended a Bollywood actor. He roamed the booming, squalid city taking photos and shooting video.

But it was all a front. The tall, fast-talking Pakistani American with the slicked-back hair was a fierce extremist, a former drug dealer, a onetime Drug Enforcement Administration informant who became a double agent. He had spent three years refining his clandestine skills in the terrorist training camps of the Lashkar-i-Taiba militant group. As Headley confessed in a guilty plea in U.S. federal court this year, he was in Mumbai to begin undercover reconnaissance for a sophisticated attack that would take two years to plan.

In 2006, U.S. counterterrorism agencies still viewed Lashkar primarily as a threat to India. But Headley’s mentor, Sajid Mir, had widened his sights to Western targets years earlier. Mir, a mysterious Lashkar chief with close ties to Pakistani security forces, had deployed operatives who had completed missions and attempted plots in Virginia, Europe and Australia before being captured, according to investigators and court documents.

Now Mir’s experience in international operations and his skills as a handler of Western recruits were about to pay off. Lashkar had chosen him as project manager of its most ambitious, highly choreographed strike to date. More:

FBI was warned years in advance of Mumbai attacker’s terror ties

Newly discovered warnings about Headley reveal a troubling timeline in Mumbai case

The man behind Mumbai

This is an investigation by ProPublica, an independent non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in public interest. The report exposes the conspiracy behind the terror attacks on Mumbai. This is the first of two parts. By Sebastian Rotella

On a November night two years ago, a young American rabbi and his pregnant wife finished dinner at their home in the mega-city of Mumbai.

Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg had come to India on a religious mission. They had established India’s first outpost of Chabad Lubavitch, the Orthodox Jewish organization, in a six-story tower overlooking a shantytown. The Holtzbergs’ guests that evening were two American rabbis, an Israeli grandmother and a Mexican tourist.

Hundreds of miles away in Pakistan, a terrorist chief named Sajid Mir was preparing a different sort of religious mission. Mir had spent two years using a Pakistani-American operative named David Coleman Headley to conduct meticulous reconnaissance on Mumbai, according to investigators and court documents. He had selected iconic targets and the Chabad House, a seemingly obscure choice, but one that ensured that Jews and Americans would be casualties.

On Nov. 26, 2008, Mir sat among militant chiefs in a Pakistani safe house tracking an attack team as its dinghy approached the Mumbai waterfront. The Lashkar-i-Taiba terrorist group had made Mir the project manager of its biggest strike ever, the crowning achievement of his career as a holy warrior.

The 10 gunmen split into five teams. His voice crisp and steady, Mir directed the slaughter by phone, relaying detailed instructions to his fighters. About 10:25 p.m., gunmen stormed the Chabad House. They shot the Holtzbergs and the visiting rabbis, took the Israeli grandmother and Mexican tourist hostage and barricaded themselves on an upper floor.

Mir told his men to try to trade the hostages for a gunman who had been captured. Mir spoke directly to the Mexican hostage, 50-year-old Norma Rabinovich, who had been preparing to move to Israel to join her adult children.

Mir soothed the sobbing woman in accented but smooth English.

“Save your energy for good days,” Mir told her during the call intercepted by Indian intelligence. “If they contact right now, maybe you gonna, you know, celebrate your Sabbath with your family.”

The prisoner swap failed. Mir ordered the gunman to “get rid” of Rabinovich.

“Stand her up on this side of your door,” he said. “Shoot her such that the bullet goes right through her head and out the other side . . . Do it. I’m listening. . . . Do it, in God’s name.” More:

ISI chief told CIA his ‘rogues’ carried out Mumbai attack

From the Indian Express story on ‘Obama’s War‘ by American journalist Bob Woodward:

Less than a month after the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan’s spy agency chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha had admitted before the CIA that the terror strikes had ISI links but claimed it was not an “authorised” operation but carried out by “rogue” elements, according to a new book.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) later received reliable intelligence that the ISI was directly involved in the training for Mumbai, says the book entitled ‘Obama’s War’ written by investigative American journalist Bob Woodward.

According to the book, the then President George W Bush during his meetings with his top aides had said the terrorist attack on Mumbai was just like 9/11.

“President Bush called his national security team into the Oval Office as Mumbai sorted through the blood and rubble. You guys get planning and do what you have to do to prevent a war between Pakistan and India, Bush told his aides. The last thing we need right now is a war between two nuclear-power states,” Woodward says in his book which hit the stands on Monday. More:

The anarchic republic of Pakistan

Ahmed Rashid in The National Interest:

There is perhaps no other political-military elite in the world whose aspirations for great-power regional status, whose desire to overextend and outmatch itself with meager resources, so outstrips reality as that of Pakistan. If it did not have such dire consequences for 170 million Pakistanis and nearly 2 billion people living in South Asia, this magical thinking would be amusing.

This is a country that sadly appears on every failing-state list and still wants to increase its arsenal from around 60 atomic weapons to well over 100 by buying two new nuclear reactors from China. This is a country isolated and friendless in its own region, facing unprecedented homegrown terrorism from extremists its army once trained, yet it pursues a “forward policy” in Afghanistan to ensure a pro-Pakistan government in Kabul as soon as the Americans leave.

For a state whose economy is on the skids and dependent on the IMF for massive bailouts, whose elite refuse to pay taxes, whose army drains an estimated 20 percent of the country’s annual budget, Pakistan continues to insist that peace with India is impossible for decades to come. For a country that was founded as a modern democracy for Muslims and non-Muslims alike and claims to be the bastion of moderate Islam, it has the worst discriminatory laws against minorities in the Muslim world and is being ripped apart through sectarian and extremist violence by radical groups who want to establish a new Islamic emirate in South Asia.

Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment, or “deep state” as it is called, has lost over 2,300 soldiers battling these terrorists—the majority in the last 15 months after much U.S. cajoling to go after at least the Pakistani (if not the Afghan) Taliban. Despite these losses and considerable low morale in the armed forces, it still follows a pick-and-choose policy toward extremists, refusing to fight those who will confront India on its behalf as well as those Taliban who kill Western and Afghan soldiers in the war next-door. More:

Great Game replay

William Dalrymple in Afghanistan. From Outlook:

In 1843, shortly after his return from Afghanistan, an army chaplain named Rev G.H. Gleig wrote a memoir of the disastrous First Anglo-Afghan War of which he was one of the very few survivors. It was, he wrote, “a war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity, brought to a close after suffering and disaster, without much glory attached either to the government which directed, or the great body of troops which waged it. Not one benefit, political or military, was acquired with this war. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembled the retreat of an army defeated”.

It would be difficult to imagine any military adventure today going quite as badly as the First Anglo-Afghan War, an abortive experiment in Great Game colonialism that ended with an entire East India Company army utterly routed by poorly equipped tribesmen, at the cost of Rs 80 billion and over 40,000 lives. But this month, almost 10 years on from NATO’s invasion of Afghanistan, there were increasing signs that the current Afghan war, like so many before them, could still end in another embarrassing withdrawal after a humiliating defeat, with Afghanistan yet again left in tribal chaos, possibly partitioned and ruled by the same government which the war was originally fought to overthrow.

Certainly it is becoming clearer than ever that the once-hated Taliban, far from being defeated by the surge, are instead beginning to converge on, and effectively besiege, Kabul in what is beginning to look like the final act in the history of Karzai’s western-installed puppet government. For the Taliban have now reorganised, and advanced out of their borderland safe havens. They are now massing at the gates of Kabul, surrounding the capital, much as the US-backed mujahideen once did to the Soviet-installed regime in the late ’80s. The Taliban controls over 70 per cent of the country, where it collects taxes, enforces the sharia and dispenses its usual rough justice. Every month their sphere of influence increases. According to a recent Pentagon report, Karzai’s government only controls 29 out of 121 key strategic districts. More:

http://www.williamdalrymple.uk.com/

Pakistan: Militants, not India, is top threat

Tom Wright in Islamabad and Siobhan Gorman in Washington in The Wall Street Journal:

Pakistan’s main spy agency says homegrown Islamist militants have overtaken the Indian army as the greatest threat to national security, a finding with potential ramifications for relations between the two rival South Asian nations and for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

A recent internal assessment of security by the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s powerful military spy agency, determined that for the first time in 63 years it expects a majority of threats to come from Islamist militants, according to a senior ISI officer.

The assessment, a regular review of national security, allocates a two-thirds likelihood of a major threat to the state coming from militants rather than from India or elsewhere. It is the first time since the two countries gained independence from Britain in 1947 that India hasn’t been viewed as the top threat. Decades into one of the most bitter neighborly rivalries in modern history, both countries maintain huge troop deployments along their Himalayan border.

“It’s earth shattering. That’s a remarkable change,” said Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism specialist and professor at Georgetown University. “It’s yet another ratcheting up of the Pakistanis’ recognition of not only their own internal problems but cooperation in the war on terrorism.” More:

India Doubts ISI is Shifting Focus to Militants

A case of exploded myths

Stop looking for allies in Pakistan’s elite; they are just an India-obsessed military’s civilian cousins. Mohammed Hanif, the author of the novel “A Case of Exploding Mangoes,” in The New York Times:

Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, has been accused of many bad things in its own country. It has been held responsible for rigging elections, sponsoring violent sectarian groups and running torture chambers for political dissidents. More recently, it has been accused of abducting Pakistanis and handing them over to the United States for cash.

But last week — after thousands of classified United States Army documents were released by WikiLeaks, and American and British officials and pundits accused the ISI of double-dealing in Afghanistan — the Pakistani news media were very vocal in their defense of their spies. On talk show after talk show, the ISI’s accusers in the West were criticized for short-sightedness and shifting the blame to Pakistan for their doomed campaign in Afghanistan.

Suddenly, the distinction between the state and the state within the state was blurred. It is our ISI that is being accused, we felt. How, we wondered, can the Americans have fallen for raw intelligence provided by paid informants and, in many cases, Afghan intelligence? And why shouldn’t Pakistan, asked the pundits, keep its options open for a post-American Afghanistan?

More generally, the WikiLeaks fallout brought back ugly memories, reminding Pakistanis what happens whenever we get involved with the Americans. In fact, one person at the center of the document dump is our primary object lesson for staying away from America’s foreign adventures. More:

It’s no secret what Pakistan’s been doing with the Taliban

Tariq Ali in The Guardian:

David Cameron’s post-WikiLeaks remarks on Pakistan helping the enemy in the Hindu Kush shouldn’t be taken too seriously. The carefully orchestrated “outburst” in India was designed to please his hosts and seal a few business deals (Cameron and Cable are fagging for the British arms industry). It’s all part of the schmoozing.

Pakistan’s official response was equally disingenuous. Since it’s impossible for Islamabad to attack the organ grinder, it went for the monkey.

Meanwhile all sides know full well what the Pakistan army has been doing with various Taliban factions since Afghanistan was occupied nearly nine years ago. Three years ago a US intelligence agent was shot dead by a Pakistani soldier at such talks – as reported in the Pakistani press. A source close to the Pakistani military told me last year in Islamabad that US intelligence agents were present at recent talks between the ISI and the insurgents. No reason for anybody to be surprised. The cause, too, is clear. The war cannot be won.

It’s hardly a secret that Pakistan never totally abandoned the Taliban after 9/11. How could they? It was Islamabad that had organised the Taliban’s retreat from Kabul so that the US and its allies could take the country without a fight. The Pakistani generals advised their Afghan friends to bide their time. More:

The Afghan War Diaries: the truth about occupation

Flickr: Dziadek od orzechow's photostream

On Sunday Wikileaks released 75,000 secret US Military reports covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010.  Said to be the biggest leak in Intelligence history, the Afghan war diary is probably the most significant archive released during the course of a war. The war logs reveal the war’s grim toll on civilians, the US-led hunt for the Taliban and how the surge in attacks has been deadly for both troops and civilians. Most significant for India, the war logs also point fingers at Pakistan, revealing the hand of Pakistan’s spy agency, ISI in the insurgency.

Wikileaks’s media partners New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel published reports similtaneously with the leaks. The New York Times described the war logs as “a six-year archive of classified military documents [that] offers an unvarnished and grim picture of the Afghan war”. The Guardian called the material “one of the biggest leaks in US military history … a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and NATO commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency”. Der Spiegel wrote that “the editors in chief of Speigel, The New York Times and the Guardian were ‘unanimous in their belief that there is a justified public interest in the material’”

Read the NYT report here.

Read The Guardian report here

Click here for Der Speigel’s report.

For the original Wikileaks war diary click here.

Pakistan spies have ‘seat on Taliban council’

Andrew Buncombe, The Independent:

Pakistan’s notorious spy agency provides crucial funding and training to Taliban fighters operating inside Afghanistan and is represented on the movement’s leadership council, according to a new report that says links between the two are deeper than previously believed.

Such is the importance of the relationship, says the report, that President Asif Ali Zardari recently visited Taliban prisoners, assuring them they would soon be released and telling them: “You are our people.”

While links between the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and the Taliban have been known for many years, the report by the London School of Economics, based on interviews with Taliban commanders inside Afghanistan, suggests it is the “official policy” of Pakistan, which sees the fighters as providing strategic depth.

“The ISI orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences the movement,” said its author, Matt Waldman. More:

Taking on the Taliban

Steve Coll in The New Yorker:

The Taliban’s jihad, like rock and roll, has passed from youthful vigor into a maturity marked by the appearance of nostalgic memoirs. Back in the day, Abdul Salam Zaeef belonged to the search committee that recruited Mullah Omar as the movement’s commander; after the rebels took power in Kabul, he served as ambassador to Pakistan. “My Life with the Taliban,” published this winter, announces Zaeef’s début in militant letters. The volume contains many sources of fascination, but none are more timely than the author’s account of his high-level relations with Pakistani intelligence.

While in office, Zaeef found that he “couldn’t entirely avoid” the influence of Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence. Its officers volunteered money and political support. Late in 2001, as the United States prepared to attack Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, the I.S.I.’s then commanding general, Mahmud Ahmad, visited Zaeef’s home in Islamabad, wept in solidarity, and promised, “We want to assure you that you will not be alone in this jihad against America. We will be with you.” And yet Zaeef never trusted his I.S.I. patrons. He sought to protect the Taliban’s independence: “I tried to be not so sweet that I would be eaten whole, and not so bitter that I would be spat out.” More:

CIA says it gets its money’s worth from Pakistani spy agency

Greg Miller in the New York Times:

The CIA has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Pakistan’s intelligence service since the Sept. 11 attacks, accounting for as much as one-third of the foreign spy agency’s annual budget, current and former U.S. officials say.

The Inter-Services Intelligence agency also has collected tens of millions of dollars through a classified CIA program that pays for the capture or killing of wanted militants, a clandestine counterpart to the rewards publicly offered by the State Department, officials said.

The payments have triggered intense debate within the U.S. government, officials said, because of long-standing suspicions that the ISI continues to help Taliban extremists who undermine U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and provide sanctuary to Al Qaeda members in Pakistan.

But U.S. officials have continued the funding because the ISI’s assistance is considered crucial: Almost every major terrorist plot this decade has originated in Pakistan’s tribal belt, where ISI informant networks are a primary source of intelligence. More: