Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Further evidence of Pakistani support for the Taliban: The beating of Carlotta Gall and Akhtar Soomro of the New York Times

The Times printed an article by her on January 21, more than a month after the event. It not only told the details of the beating and intimidation but also provided more details about the involvement of the Pakistanis – the ISI as well as in particular Hamed Gul and other un-named officials – in the Taliban movement. It is becoming ever more clear that the Taliban movement is by no means spontaneous or even locally inspired but a deliberate creation of at lease some official Pakistanis. Given the way the government is constituted it becomes ever more clear that Musharraf cannot be totally unaware of what is going on in, as in this case, Quetta.

On December 19, after about “two weeks of reporting” along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, interviewing more than two dozen folks on both sides of the border, Ms. Gall and her photographer, Akhtar Soomro, were attacked in their respective hotels. They seized Mr Soomro’s computer and equipment, held him for five hours. The intruders into Ms Gall’s hotel room twice punched her in the face, knocking her to the floor. The men did not reveal their identity but directed her to the Special Branch of the Interior Ministry to obtain the items they had confiscated. Several hours later their goods appeared but it was clear that all of their notes had been compromised: intelligent agents went around and interviewed the various folks she had interviewed. Intimidation was clearly the intent: They warned Mr. Soomro not to work for the New York Times and told Ms. Gall that she could not visit a certain part of Quetta, Pushtunistan, or interview Taliban; what they said to her contacts was unreported. Mr. Soomro has indeed, for the moment, stepped out of reach.

To strike a woman, to intimidate a reporter and photographer for a newspaper with world-wide readership – this has to be a blunder of colossal proportions. There is no way the event would have been hushed. Why would the Pakistan intelligence service in Quetta have acted so crudely? Perhaps like Daniel Pearle Ms. Gall was getting too close. Was she penetrating the clandestine workings of a powerful intelligence network? Could the rising intensity of criticism for Pakistan’s handling of the Taliban in the frontier areas begun to impinge on their operations? Could this have been merely the behavior of a few rogue officers?

Whatever the reason for their attack, it could hardly improve the situation for Pakistan. In fact, Ms. Gall’s report in the January 21 article revealed more about the connections between the Taliban and Pakistan’s intelligence service. Here are some details she provides:

>> Jamiya Islamiya is a religious school in Quetta that openly sympathizes with the Taliban. A sign in the courtyard exclaims, “Long live Mulla Omar,” head of the Taliban, and “Long live Fazlur Rehman,” leader of the Jamiat ul Uluma-y Islami, a political party that supports the Taliban, and a member of Parliament. “We only provide moral support,” says their official representative. Members of this party frequently visit the school and “people on motorbikes with green government license plates visit at night.”

>> Some of the students in this school have, with “the blessings” of their teachers, gone into Afghanistan as suicide bombers.

>> But contrary to what has been reported about the families in the Arab world, the families of these boys have not rejoiced at their loss. They are afraid to talk owing to fear of the officials. Dozens of families have lost sons in Afghanistan.

>> A former Taliban commander had been jailed by Pakistan intelligence officials because he refused to go fight in Afghanistan. In fact, his incarceration was claimed to be evidence of a crackdown on Taliban.

>> Former Taliban who refused to fight in Afghanistan were arrested, even killed.

>> The intelligence services rigged votes for the militant religious parties because the activities of the parties gave the intelligence services “deniability.” They are fully aware of the training camps of the militant parties where young Taliban recruits are trained.

>> In Pushtunabad, the neighborhood of Quetta Gall had been warned against, Taliban commanders have close contact with members of the intelligence services. Also there is a madrassah where suicide bombers have been trained. Only recently three students were sent into Afghanistan.

>> Afghanistan’s intelligence has arrested two Afghan generals and a Pakistani and charged them with spying for Pakistan.

>> General Hamed Gul, former director of the ISI, publicly supports the Taliban insurgency. He visits the madrassahs producing Taliban fighters, and even speaks in support of jehad at their graduation ceremonies. He has an office in Nowshera from which he “facilitates” the training and logistic support for the Taliban.

>> A number of young men from the district of Pishin, NW of Quetta, have been killed in fighting in Afghanistan.

>> The small town of Karbala in this district is a center of the Taliban jehad: it is notably more prosperous than any of its neighbors, with “lavish houses, mosques, and madrasas”.

>> A family in the Pishin area lost one of their sons. They were searching for information about him when they discovered a Taliban propaganda CD showing their son taking an oath before the Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah. The family blames the Pakistan ISI for the recruitment of their son for suicide.

Indeed, one of them believes all of the Taliban are creations of the ISI. “All Taliban are ISI Taliban. It is not possible to go into Afghanistan without the help of the ISI.”

Pakistan’s fingerprints seem to be all over the Taliban.

No comments: