Originally Published 2004-09-02 07:02:44 Published on Sep 02, 2004
ACT 1: March 2002. Abu Zubaidah, a Palestinian member of Al Qaeda, was arrested in Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab by the Pakistani authorities and handed over to the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He was the operational chief of Al Qaeda; his arrest was a major breakthrough, we were told. This is hardly supported by the report of the 9/11 Commission.
The Al Qaeda Striptease
ACT 1: March 2002. Abu Zubaidah, a Palestinian member of Al Qaeda, was arrested in Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab by the Pakistani authorities and handed over to the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He was the operational chief of Al Qaeda; his arrest was a major breakthrough, we were told. This is hardly supported by the report of the 9/11 Commission. <br /> <br /> ACT 2: September 2002.Ramzi Binalshibh was arrested in Karachi and handed over to the FBI. He was the man, we were told. Not Abu Zubaidah. A real breakthrough, it was claimed. He figures frequently in the report, but one does not get the impression that he was as great a cat's whiskers as made out to be.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> ACT 3: March 2003. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) was arrested in Rawalpindi and handed over to the FBI. What a breakthrough, it was said. The real mastermind of 9/11. The evil genius of Al Qaeda. Of all the jihadi terrorists, he figures the most frequently in the report. Almost as frequently as Gen.Pervez Musharraf. The report does give the impression that his was the brain which conceived of the plans for 9/11 and orchestrated their execution. He is a Pakistani from Balochistan, who grew up in Kuwait. The plans, which led to the destruction of the two towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and to the attack on the Pentagon and which caused the deaths of 3,500 innocent men, women and children, were conceived not by the brain of bin Laden or a Muslim of any other nationality. They were conceived and got executed by the mind of a Pakistani. If KSM's was the mastermind and he was the real evil genius, how about those in Pakistan, who sheltered and protected him in Karachi from 1998 till September 2002, when he ran away to Quetta when the FBI came to know of his presence in Karachi? How about those who sheltered him in Quetta? How about those in Pakistan's Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) and Army who sheltered him in Rawalpindi, right under the nose of Musharraf, when he fled there from Quetta, when the FBI established his presence in Quetta? Are they any the less evil? The Commission, which goes into great detail on his activities from Karachi before 9/11, is strangely silent on his activities there between 9/11 and March,2003.An American journalist of Indian sub-continental origin, who is a good personal friend of Marianne Pearl, the widow of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist kidnapped and beheaded in Karachi in February,2002, mentioned in an article in the online journal "Salon" in October last year that the US intelligence had informed Marianne that it was KSM, who had her husband killed. That means, KSM is a good friend of Omar Sheikh, who had organised the trap for Daniel. That means, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which was operating Omar Sheikh as a source, must have known of this friendship. That means, the ISI must have known of KSM's presence in Karachi even in 2002, if not before. Why did it not act against him? The biggest deficiency in the 9/11 report is that it has restricted its enquiries to what happened before 9/11. It has not gone into what happened after 9/11---the kidnapping and beheading of Pearl, the grenade attack in an Islamabad church in March 2002 which killed the wife and daughter of an American diplomat, the attack on French submarine engineers in Karachi thereafter and the car bomb explosion outside the US Consulate in Karachi in June 2002. Without going into them, how can one assess what is the threat today and what will be the threat tomorrow? The reason why the Commission did not go into post-9/11 happenings is not difficult to understand. The US intelligence did not want it to. From the sanitised summaries of the interrogation reports shared with the Commission, the CIA and the FBI excluded all references to post-9/11 developments. If they had shared them too, US public opinion would have been wiser about the continued collusion of the Pakistani intelligence, or at least sections of it, with Omar Sheikh, KSM and others after 9/11 too. And if it had become wiser, it might have questioned the wisdom of the trust placed in Musharraf, widely kinown in Pakistan army circles as Tricky Mush, by the Bush administration. KSM also mentioned about one Issa al-Brittani, whom he had sent to the US before 9/11 at bin Laden's instance to case possible economic and Jewish targets in the US . The Commission did not know anything about the identity of this al-Brittani. At least did the CIA and the FBI know about it?&nbsp; <br /> <br /> ACT 4: April, 2003.A man projected as a principal suspect in the case relating to the attack on USS Cole, the US naval ship, at Aden in October,2000, was arrested in Karachi. His name was initially given as Khalid bin Attash. It was subsequently changed to Walid bin Attash. It hardly matters whether you call him Khalid or Walid. You will be none the wiser. The choice is yours. A great catch, we were told. Musharraf got another pat in the back. From the Commission's report, he does not appear to have been such a great catch. Another person was arrested along with bin Attash. A nephew of KSM, we were told. Handed over to the Americans. Disappeared from press headlines. Nobody knows whether he was identified and what happened to him.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> ACT 5: October 2003. Musharraf sent his troops into South Waziristan much to the applause of the Americans. To smoke out bin Laden and other dregs of Al Qaeda. For the first time since Pakistan's creation in 1947, its Army had ventured into this God forsaken area, we were told. Pak TV reported the exploits of the Army day after day, hour after hour. Al Qaeda's camps destroyed. Dozens killed and arrested. So we were told. The only confirmed killing so far is that of Hassan Mahsun, an Uighur terrorist. What happened to those arrested? Innocent Pakistani tribals or Arabs? Al Qaeda or something else? When you are watching a striptease show, you should not ask questions. Just watch.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> ACT 6:February-March,2004: The Pakistan Army ventured back into South Waziristan. A high-value target surrounded, we were told. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian No. 2 to bin Laden, Musharraf told the US officials and media, which lap up whatever he says just as they lapped up everything Ahmed Chalabi told them about Iraq. It turned out to be an Uzbek. Tohir Yuldeshev, leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. There would have been some saving grace at least if he had been caught. No. He managed to just drive through a Pakistani army cordon and escape to fight another day. Doesn't matter, said Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Pakistan's Information Minister. The Army had caught or killed dozens of other Al Qaeda dregs, he claimed.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> ACT 7: June,2004. Within a few days of an abortive attempt to kill the Corps Commander of Karachi, Faisal Saleh Hyat, Pakistan's Interior Minister, proudly announced the case had been solved and those responsible arrested. They belonged to an organisation called Jundullah (Army of Allah), he said. A new organisation, of which the ISI was not aware till then, we were told. Trained in South Waziristan by Al Qaeda, we were further told. South Waziristan had been swarming with Pakistani troops, helicopter gunships and 007s of the US since October, 2003. How come Al Qaeda managed to run training camps right under the nose of the Pakistan Army and American 007s just as KSM had managed to live right under the nose of Musharraf in Rawalpindi? Don't ask inconvenient questions. Just watch the show. You have no idea what more is to come. Along with the Jundullah members, one more guy was arrested. A nephew of KSM, we were told. How many nephews KSM has? As many as the bras that a striptease dancer has. A woman of Karachi filed a hapeas corpus in a Karachi court that the man arrested was her husband and not a nephew of KSM. In Pakistan, such fine distinctions are irrelevant. What matters is what Musharraf says. If he says he is a nephew of KSM, so he is.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> ACT 8: July 25, 2004. After an encounter lasting over 12 hours during which noone was killed and not many bullet marks were left anywhere, the ISI announced the arrest of a group of Al Qaeda members at Gujrat in Pakistani Punjab. The leader was a Kenyan national, we were told.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> ACT 9: July 29, 2004. Sorry. He was actually a Tanzanian. That too a famous Tanzanian. None other than Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani wanted by the US for his involvement in the explosions outside the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. When was his identity established and announced? Three hours before Senator John Kerry was to make his acceptance speech at the Democratic Presidential convention. Investigation revealed that Ghailani had been living at Gujrat for some months. Many local police officers were suspended for not detecting his presence. It is learnt that in their explanations they admitted they were aware of his presence in Gujrat, but said that they had not acted against him because the ISI had brought and kept him there. Ghailani had escaped to Pakistan immediately after the explosions of 1998. How come the ISI was not aware of this all these years and became aware of it only just before the Democratic Party's Convention?&nbsp; <br /> <br /> ACT 10: August, 2004. Tom Ridge, the US Homeland Secretary, announced with great fanfare that the US intelligence had come to know of plans of Al Qaeda to blow up US and international economic targets in New York, New Jersey and Washington DC. It had cased those buildings. Heavily armed US security forces personnel took up positions around all these buildings. Barricades were put up. All staff and visitors were checked. Obliging TV channel crews beamed visuals of these all over the world. Many watched it. Including Osama bin Laden, presuming he is still alive, and his boys. They now know the buildings which were not guarded. Someone in the US intelligence tipped off the press that the information was three years old. Sheepishly Ridge and his officers admitted that this was so. They said that this does not mean the danger is any the less. Al Qaeda plans its operations years in advance. Nobody drew the attention of Tom Ridge to the fact that KSM had reported about the casing of the economic targets by al-Brittani in his interrogation report. Why the US public was not informed of it at that time and no security precautions were taken? Was it because no Republican Party presidential convention was due last year? Don't ask stupid questions. Watch the show.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> ACT 11: August, 2004. Faced with increasing skepticism, US officials leaked to the media that the information was from a so-called computer wizard of Al Qaeda, a Pakistani by name Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, arrested in Lahore. The Pakistanis hit the ceiling. Accused the US of blowing up a sensitive ongoing operation by revealing the identity of a collaborating detenu. They admitted such an arrest now that the US has blown his cover. It was he who led them to Ghailani, they claimed.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> ACT 12: August,2004. The British got into the act. Arrested 12 persons--Dhiren Bharot alias Bilal, a Hindu convert to Islam, and 11 others, seven of them of Pakistani origin. Hey presto. Dhiren is none other than al-Brittani. Or, rather, al-Brittani was none other than Dhiren. A key Al Qaeda operative, said some. In fact, the leader of the local Al Qaeda cell, said others. The information came from the Pakistanis, admitted the British, but they had been keeping a watch on Dhiren even earlier. Dhiren and others were planning a terrorist strike against the Heathrow airport, said the Pakistanis. No such information, said the British. bin Laden and his Al Qaeda are very security conscious. How come they trusted Dhiren, a Hindu convert to Islam? Dhiren was known to KSM as al-Brittani and to Noor Khan as al-Hindi. Was he known to anyone else as al-Pakistani or al-Kenyan? His family had migrated to the UK from Kenya in 1973.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> ACT 13: August, 2004. The so-called nephew of KSM arrested in June back in the headlines. It was he who led the Pakistanis to Noor Khan and it was Noor Khan who led them to Ghailani, we were told.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> ACT 14: August, 2004. Like a magician taking rabbits out of his hat, as the Republican presidential convention and his visit to New York during which he is to meet Bush for another pat in the back approached, Musharraf started finding Al Qaeda dregs all over Pakistan---Arabs, Uzbeks, South Africans and Pakistanis. A plot for simultaneous attacks on Musharraf's palace and the US Embassy in Islamabad, the GHQ in Rawalpindi and other places discovered and foiled. Many more dregs arrested. Al Qaeda penetrated. The days of its dregs numbered. Claims galore from the Interior and Information Ministers. Pakistani backers of Al Qaeda identified and under watch. Do you know who is the principal backer, according to these Ministers? Musharraf? No. Lt.Gen.Ehsanul-Haq, DG of the ISI? No. He is none other than Javed Ibrahim Paracha , a close associate of Nawaz Sharif and a member of Nawaz's faction of the Pakistan Muslim League. Yes sir. You now know how the Al Qaeda had remained undetected all these years in Pakistan. Because of the support from Nawaz's Muslim League.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Should one laugh or cry? Don't do either. Keep watching the show. There are more striptease acts to come as the US Presidential elections and the deadline for Musharraf to resign as the Chief of the Army Staff approach. Bush and Tricky Mush need each other. And they both need Osama. Bush for winning re-election. Mush for getting US support for his planned violation of the Pakistani Constitution in order to be able to continue as the COAS after December 31.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> There is another striptease going on in Iraq.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Another show, another day.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> (The writer is Distinguished Fellow Observer Research Foundation , Chennai Chapter ) <br /> <br /> <em>* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.</em>
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