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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

From Today's Papers - 04 May 2011

Defence officials ‘overlooked’ security threat
Mumbai, May 3 Several Defence Ministry officials, who had vested interests in the Adarsh Housing Society scam, had compromised on the security threat from the high-rise building in upscale south Mumbai, a Brigadier from the Army's state headquarters here said.  "Senior officials like retired Major General T K Kaul and A R Kumar and several others were interested parties in the Adarsh Society and hence compromised their stand on the security threat faced by the Army due to the construction of the building," Brigadier Deepak Saxena, from the Army's Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa Headquarters, told the two-member inquiry commission here. The Brigadier told the commission that he would submit tomorrow a list of the officers who misused their official position to favour Adarsh Society. — PTI

Billion-dollar question Did Pakistan know about Osama?
Pakistan’s Janus-faced position in the “war on terrorism” was untenable all along and has become all the more so after the killing of Osama Bin Laden in an American operation in Abbottabad. Extremely embarrassing questions are bound to be asked. Was the imposing, fortified building where Osama had been staying for so many years an ISI safehouse? If not, was it not the height of incompetence that the city housing a military academy and three different regiments did not know that the world’s most wanted terrorist was hiding within shouting distance? Ironically, it was in Abbottabad itself that Pakistan army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had boasted only recently that his country had managed to break the back of terrorism. Well, the back may or may not have been broken but the hale and hearty head was definitely positioned just a few metres away mocking at him.  Equally ambivalent is the Pakistani stand whether it was in the know loop about the Navy Seal midnight operation that the US launched or not. The Pakistani government has been maintaining an embarrassed silence, knowing full well that if it tries to take credit for the precision strike, it would become a target of terrorist reprisals. There are radicals galore in Pakistan itself who have found this US action on Pakistani soil as highly objectionable. What is odd is that so many helicopters zeroed in on Abbotabad and the radars and anti-aircraft guns installed in the military town did not get a whiff of that.  Pakistan’s goose is cooked either way. It is damned if it says it went along with the US, and it is damned if it says it was not aware of what the Americans were doing. Of late, American criticism of its overt and covert support to terrorists had been growing more and more explicit. Circumstantial evidence about its exact role will be available soon enough. It was getting billions of dollars ostensibly for helping the US in the war on terrorism. If the pinpoint intelligence about Osama was not provided by it, that largesse might very well dry up. Not a small price to pay for its two-timing.

The war on terror Time to watch Al-Qaida, its affiliates
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is right in declaring after the death of Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden that the war on terror is not over. The battle against the syndicate of terror has to be continued to ensure that the world remains free from terrorist attacks. But this is not so easy. In fact, the killing of Osama was easier than eliminating Al-Qaida and the ideology it represents. The remaining part of the anti-terrorism drive is more difficult because the most dangerous terrorist outfit of the world has been functioning through smaller outfits allied to it and its offshoots like Al-Qaida in Arabia with its headquarters in Yemen and Al-Qaida in Iraq. In the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, it has been functioning through the Taliban, the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammed and some other such organisations. These hardcore associates of Al-Qaida may become more active in taking revenge for Osama’s killing as their key leaders like Ayman Al-Zawahri, Mullah Omar and Hafiz Saeed are very much active with a vast network of their own.  There are, no doubt, any number of Muslims who have nothing to do with what Osama has been preaching and what his terrorist ideology stands for. In the opinion of such people, both Islam and Muslims have suffered considerably because of the activities of Osama and, therefore, his end is a relieving development. But the reactions of some people in the Arab world, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir in India tell a different story. The followers of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam in Pakistan holding a rally to condemn the killing of Osama at the hands of US forces and hardcore Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Gilani describing the killed terrorist mastermind a “martyr” indicate that Al-Qaida can sustain itself unless a concerted drive is launched to destroy it ideologically.  There is the danger of anti-Americanism getting strengthened in areas where this sentiment has been there for a long time. US President Barack Obama has done well to highlight the point that America would never be against Islam and that Osama was a “mass murderer” and not a “Muslim leader”. He will now have to concentrate on issues like the cause of Palestinian homeland and quick US withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan to prevent Al-Qaida and its affiliates from exploiting the situation.

Pak pushed to the wall over Osama taint
Pakistan has a lot of explaining to do; US says Islamabad was in the know of Laden shelter Ashish Kumar Sen in Washington DC  Osama bin Laden’s death in a firefight with US forces in a million-dollar mansion 30 miles outside Islamabad has raised questions about Pakistan’s complicity in concealing the Al-Qaida leader.  “I think it is inconceivable that Laden didn’t have a support system in the country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time,” John Brennan, US President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, told reporters on Monday.  Laden was killed on Sunday after he was tracked to a compound in the garrison city of Abbottabad, located close to the elite Pakistani Military Academy at Kakul town.  Last week, Pakistan’s Army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, told graduating cadets at the academy that the “back of terrorism” in Pakistan had been broken.  Hamid Gul, a former chief of the ISI, said Laden was in Abbottabad unknown to authorities “is a bit amazing.”  Apart from the military, “there is the local police, the Intelligence Bureau, military intelligence and the ISI. They all had a presence there,” said Gul, according to an Associated Press report.  Members of the Congress and analysts said the pressure was now on Pakistan to reveal when it first knew about the Al-Qaida leader’s whereabouts.  Sen Joe Liebermann, Connecticut Independent, told MSNBC that the “burden of proof... is on the Pakistanis to convince us that they really did not know” where Laden was hiding. Sen Susan Collins, Maine Republican, accused Pakistan of playing a “double game.”  Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership have insisted for years that Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are not in Pakistan or that they are hiding in the mountainous tribal belt along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Instead, Laden was found living comfortably in a $1 million mansion in a town where affluent families reside.  “We are very concerned that he was inside Pakistan,” a senior US official told reporters in a background briefing early on Monday.  Previously, Al-Qaida No. 3, Abu Faraj Al-Libbi and September 11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed were both captured in residential areas in Pakistan.  “What this shows is that Pakistan has been complicit with Osama bin Laden; that they have sheltered him,” Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, told reporters on Monday.  “Even if Pakistani diplomats have been sincere, the fact of the matter is that the ISI seems to have been running the show and the diplomats were quite irrelevant,” he added.  Joshua Foust, a fellow at the American Security Project and former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, told The Tribune that Laden’s location made him question “how much the Pakistani Government really knew, and how believable their denials of his whereabouts really were.”  Ayesha Siddiqa, an Islamabad-based political analyst, said: “All fingers are now pointed at Pakistan.”  The US team did not encounter any Pakistani authorities during the operation.  Foust said it was interesting that Pakistani forces, which have previously fired on US helicopters, did not respond for 45 minutes. “We’re not getting the full story on Pakistan’s involvement,” he said.  Last month, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta met ISI chief Lt Gen. Shuja Pasha in Washington.  Siddiqa said if the operation against Laden was the result of an agreement reached between the two spy chiefs, US-Pakistan relations will remain tense but intact.  The ties between the two countries have been strained in recent months by the revelation ofthe identity of theCIA’s station chief in Islamabad, an incident involving CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who killed two Pakistanis in Lahore on January 27; and a covert US drone program that targets suspected terrorists in Pakistan.  C. Christine Fair, an assistant professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace andSecurity Studies, saidthe repercussions of Laden’s death on the US-Pakistan relationship would be determined by the role Pakistan played in the mission.  “Did they help in anyway with his capture... or did they facilitate his safety? After all, he was in Abbottabad, not Wana,” she said referring to a Pakistani town in the South Waziristan agency near the Afghan border.  A senior US intelligence official, who briefed reporters on background, said the Pakistani authorities were unaware of US interest in the compound, but did provide information related to it “to help us complete the robust intelligence case that... eventually carried the day.”

Bin Laden death will not affect Qaeda: Jihad leader
Cairo:  A founding member of Egypt's Islamic Jihad and friend of Al Qaeda's new chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri told AFP Tuesday that Osama bin Laden's death will not affect the organisation and pleaded against revenge attacks.  Aboud al-Zumur, who was in jail with Zawahiri after the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981, said bin Laden was a "martyr" whose death at the hands of US special forces in Pakistan "will solve nothing."  "Al Qaeda is not a person, it is an institution," said Zumur, who was freed from prison after a popular revolt ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February.  "Solving the problem entails withdrawing from occupied territories and a balance in US policy towards Palestine."  

Army didn't object to construction'
MUMBAI: Around 2004, the army lost possession of the Colaba land on which the Adarsh housing society was built.  This is what Brigadier Deepak Saxena on Tuesday told the two-member judicial commission probing the scam surrounding the 31-storey tower of Adarsh housing society where several politicians, bureaucrats and top defence officials allegedly connived among themselves to buy flats on a land originally meant for defence personnel. The Brigadier, who is being cross-examined by panel counsel Dipan Merchant, said the "army did not file a complaint against losing the Khukri eco-park land", as it was called.  In his two affidavits on the behalf of the army, the Brigadier said the Indian Army had historically been in possession of the plot, Block VI at Backbay Reclamation in Colaba. He said his words were based on internet information, which was based on history books. However, he clarified that he could not vouch for "its veracity" as he had "not checked the history books". The Brigadier added the army never took action to stop the construction of the tower, which came up despite its claim of it being a security threat.  When Merchant asked Brig Saxena about a 1960s letter from the then city collector to the military estate officer, informing him about the state's decision not to transfer the plot to the defence ministry, the Brigadier said the "letter was not challenged". He was also questioned about another letter, written by Col S S Jog on the behalf of General Officer Commanding (Maha, Guj, Goa) to the city collector in April 2000, stating that "Bloc VI falls outside military property" and that the military was "not concerned" about the land. The army officer said the "letter was written by a person working under an interested party". He claimed the "interested party" was the then GOC who got a flat in Adarsh, or rather his son did. "It was Maj Gen A R Kumar," he said. Brig Saxena was also grilled about a third letter (Sept 2004) and signed by "B K Singh for Stn Cdr", that clarified that the Adarsh building posed "no security threat". The Brigadier said this, too, was written by an interested party.  The army's stand before the panel, comprising retired HC judge Justice J A Patil and ex-chief secretary P Subrahmanyam, is that Adarsh was a security risk and the land "was not asked to be transferred to the ministry from the state" because it was always theirs.

The undeclared Pak mission - Behind feverish disclaimers lie clues to Islamabad’s co-operation with US in killing Osama
San Francisco, May 3: There has been a coup d’etat in Pakistan. A quiet one. But it is a coup that may change the course of history not only in South Asia but in the entire Islamic ummah or community.  By giving up Osama bin Laden, the Pakistan Army’s wildest trump card in the cat-and-mouse game between Islamabad and Washington that reached a critical point when CIA contractor Raymond Davis was arrested, factions in the Pakistani establishment which seek a continued alliance with the US have displaced those who want Pakistan to be part of a global Islamic resurgence.  It was a cat-and-mouse game between Langley, the CIA headquarters, and Rawalpindi, seat of the Pakistan Army General Headquarters, which began with the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 when the Americans, foolishly trusting Gen. Pervez Musharraf then, enabled the Inter-Services Intelligence to facilitate the safe passage of Osama from the Tora Bora mountains through deceit.  The Americans were to regret their foolishness for a whole decade.  The arrest of Davis in January for killing two men who were widely believed to have been ISI agents, the arrest of at least one other CIA contractor, the denial of visas to American “diplomats” by Pakistan, the near breaking point in ties between the ISI and the CIA — all made it necessary for Pakistan to choose between being dumped by the US for needling them in Afghanistan using its proxies or extending their full and unstinted co-operation to Washington in return for continued military and other assistance.  The army faction that supports a deep alliance with the US has won out and proved its loyalty to Washington.  Contrary to the carefully cultivated perception in Washington and Islamabad about the fallout of killing Osama, a new phase in the US-Pakistan security alliance has been sealed in Abbottabad with the blood of the Saudi billionaire-turned-terrorist.  The best accounts of the operation which killed bin Laden are not to be found in the US media, which is behaving as if it is embedded with the CIA like American journalists were with the US forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and swallowed army propaganda for which newspapers like The Washington Post later apologised.  Revealing details about Sunday’s Abbottabad operation are to be found in the Chinese media, especially China’s official news agency, Xinhua, which has no pretensions to media freedom unlike its American counterparts.  The Chinese have the best sources in Pakistan, given the all-weather friendship between Islamabad and Beijing.  Xinhua says electricity was cut off to Abbottabad as the operation to kill Osama began. That shows complicity with the Americans not only within the Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi but down the line to the local administration that controls the electricity switching stations.  Xinhua says security forces cordoned off the entire area near Osama’s safe house before the Americans attacked it and no one was allowed to enter or leave the operational surroundings during the attack.  That only means the Pakistanis knew what was going to take place, although it is only logical that reasons for sealing off the area would not have been communicated down the line to the local police or paramilitary units.  Xinhua also says residents of Abbottabad took videos and cellphone pictures from their rooftops as the spectacular helicopter landing and firefight was under way.  But Pakistani security forces went round from house to house collecting memory cards from cameras and seizing videos from residents soon enough so that the pictures were not transmitted freelance by what modern TV would call citizen journalists.  All this could not have been organised by the Pakistanis after the event, which means, circumstantially, that the killing of Osama was a well co-ordinated US-Pakistani operation down to local ward-level in Abbottabad.  Besides, Abbottabad is the seat of a brigade of the second division of Pakistan’s Northern Army Corps and several other sensitive army establishments, including a key military training academy.  Metaphorically, even a fly cannot circle the skies of that city without escaping the attention of the defence network that guards Abbottabad.  It is for this reason and to keep up the fiction that the US and Pakistan did not co-operate in killing Osama that an official statement was issued in Islamabad today that “US helicopters entered Pakistani airspace making use of blind spots in the radar coverage due to hilly terrain”.  The statement added that “US helicopters’ undetected flight into Pakistan was also facilitated by the... efficacious use of latest technology and ‘nap of the earth’ flying techniques”.  At the same time, the Pakistan Army did not want its people to lose faith in Rawalpindi as the guardian of their country’s borders and their defence.  Hence, a paragraph in the statement which asserts that “it may not be realistic to draw an analogy between this undefended civilian area and some military (and) security installations which have elaborate local defence arrangements”.  But to think that American helicopters carrying heavily armed personnel who attacked Osama’s hideout could have violated Abbottabad’s air space without help from Pakistan is pure fiction that is meant for the masses who are vulnerable to jihadi sermons in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Inflaming those masses could mean difficulties for the Americans everywhere.  But it is true that “Abbottabad and the surrounding areas have been under sharp focus of intelligence agencies since 2003, resulting in highly technical operation by ISI which led to the arrest of high-value al Qaida target in 2004”, as the statement claims.  Of the greatest significance, however, is the revelation in the statement that “as far as the target compound is concerned, ISI has been sharing information with CIA and other friendly intelligence agencies since 2009. The intelligence flow indicating some foreigners in the surroundings of Abbottabad, continued till mid-April 2011”.  The Pakistani statement is remarkable for its candour between the lines because it is admitting that in April 2011, the ISI stopped sharing information about Osama with the Americans because of strains between their respective intelligence outfits.  As a result, the Americans had to put off their plans to kill or capture bin Laden in mid-April, plans which began when Pakistan shared that intelligence from 2009, because the operation could not be undertaken without Islamabad’s full support.  The internal power struggles in the Pakistani establishment were resolved when it was decided that not only will intelligence co-operation be revived but also that to make up with the Americans, they would sacrifice Osama.  That is tantamount to a coup within Pakistan which paves the way for stronger, better and deeper ties between Pakistan and the US, belying Indian hopes to the contrary.  The Pakistani statement truthfully claims that “reports about US helicopters taking off from Ghazi airbase are absolutely false and incorrect”. The US has enough capabilities for an operation of this kind not to want to use Pakistan’s military facilities.  All it needed was logistics support and unimpeded passage into Abbottabad.  There is irony in the portion of the statement which says the “CIA and some other friendly intelligence agencies have benefited a great deal from the intelligence provided by ISI. ISI’s own achievements against al Qaida and in the war on terror are more than any other intelligence agency in the world”.  There is a ring of truth in it with their sacrifice of their biggest trump card in dealings with the US, namely the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama.  And finally, some window dressing: “The Government of Pakistan expresses its deep concerns and reservations on the manner in which the Government of the United States carried out this operation without prior information or authorisation from the Government of Pakistan.”

Word of caution: India can’t rejoice yet
Beyond the obvious embarrassment which the Pakistan establishment, especially the Army and Inter Services Intelligence will have to live down after the killing of Osama bin Laden in premises on the outskirts of a garrison town like Abbotabad, a stone's throw away from the Pakistan Military Academy, K related stories      * Sudden shift: For US, Pakistan is new enemy  akul, there should be no cause to rejoice or be overly optimistic that this incident may work to India's advantage.  Pakistan's strategic culture continues to be premised on opposition to Indian hegemony, primacy of its defence requirements, nuclear deterrence which is claimed to be India specific, assurance of external support from a time tested ally in China, identification with conservative Islamic causes despite facing up to dangers of a blowback in recent times and a quest for stability or strategic depth on its western border through establishment of a friendly government there excluding or reducing influence of India.  The Osama killing revives focus again on the troubled relationship which Pakistan enjoys with the United States. US courtship of Pakistan as a moderate Islamic power with a professional Army was deliberate, not inadvertent, even before 9/11. It has continued despite awareness of the intense and rising anti-Americanism prevalent in Pakistani civil society as also the duplicity of the Pakistani establishment in seeking more and more aid for its military modernisation, which has been couched lately in the requirements for counter-insurgency (COIN) operations , against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in FATA and Swat, while it continues to provide safe haven to the Quetta Shoora and turns a blind eye to Haqqani Shoora's attacks against ISAF in Afghanistan and burning of NATO logistics supply convoys at will as they move through Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa.  So far, including as recently as in the Raymond Davis affair, the Pakistan Army has been able to utilize this dichotomy to its advantage. The successful extermination of OBL may temporarily reverse this. It may be premature to speculate at this point whether this may lead to dividends for either the Pak Army or the US forces as the end game in Afghanistan unfolds. This may depend more on how the Afghan Taliban's threatened spring offensive unfolds in southern and south-eastern Afghan border areas.  While Bin Laden's death will undoubtedly be seen as a major setback in ideological and material terms to the radical Islamic movement in the region, for India it will not alter substantially the threat that it faces from elements involved in cross-border fomenting of terror against it.  Neither should this incident be allowed to engender any romantic notions about emulating a super power's efficient agencies/ special forces in thinking of or talking about taking out personalities inimical to India in similar manner. Instead, vigilance should be enhanced and efforts should continue, to monitor whether this huge embarrassment leads to even minuscule introspection within Pakistan about changing the thrust of policies which have proved counter-productive.

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