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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

From Today's Papers - 24 May 2011

India ups vigil after Karachi strike
Ashok Tuteja Tribune News Service  New Delhi, May 23 The terror attack on the Mehran naval base in Karachi has once again raised concerns in India about the threat of Pakistan nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of terrorist groups.  Home Minister P Chidambaram, meanwhile, expressed his sympathy for those killed in the attack at Pakistan’s port city. He said India would have to remain constantly on the vigil due to the happenings in its neighbourhood.  “We are not happy about the incidents in Pakistan. We are sorry that lives are lost,” he added.  Official sources said the attack in Karachi had raised several questions on the safety of nuclear installations in the neighbouring country. On top of it, Pakistan was hell bent upon increasing its nuclear arsenal.  On the audacious terror attack in Karachi, the sources said it was quite clear that it was a well-organised atrike. “It seems a lot of planning had been done…it also shows that terror groups in Pakistan can strike at the time and place of their own choosing,” they added. It was a sophisticated strike using heavy weapons since it was a joint base of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy.  The sources said India had apprehended an increase in terror attacks in Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2 at Abbottabad by the US forces. However, the attack of the magnitude of the one on the naval base was quite shocking.  Sources said the safety measures at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad were also being reviewed from time to time in view of the constant threat from terror groups. The government has provided bullet-proof cars to all senior officials.  All officials posted in the Indian mission have been asked to curtail unnecessary travel and venture out only with proper security guards. Meanwhile, on reports about the killing of Taliban chief Mullah Omar, the Home Minister said there were contradictory versions and “we have to wait and see whether that report is correct.”

Pak frees airbase after a 16-hr battle with Taliban
P-3C Orion aircraft destroyed; 14 killed Afzal Khan in Islamabad  Pakistani commandos today regained control of a key military airbase here that was stormed by Taliban fighters after 16 hours of gun battles that killed 10 security personnel and destroyed two US-made surveillance planes.  Interior Minister Rehman Malik and naval chief Admiral Noman Bashir separately talking to newsmen confirmed that two P-3C Orion aircraft acquired from the US were destroyed. The destruction of the surveillance aircraft was termed as a crippling blow by defence experts to the country’s navy.  Four militants were also killed. They were a part of the group of heavily armed terrorists who made the brazen attack on PNS Mehran, the naval air station within Faisal airbase, at about 10.40 pm last night.  Within minutes of entering the base, the attackers lobbed grenades and fired rockets that destroyed two US-made P3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft.  The attackers then exchanged heavy fire with security forces within the airbase before being holed up in several buildings.  Scores of elite naval and army commandos were brought in to flush out the terrorists and the operation to clear the airbase ended this afternoon.  Malik told reporters that 10 security personnel, including a navy lieutenant and three naval commandos, were killed and 15 others injured. The attack was carried out by about six terrorists, four of whom had died while two got away, he said.  At least one of the dead terrorists was a suicide bomber who blew himself up, Malik said. The minister initially said 15 security personnel had died in the attack but subsequently revised the figure.  Malik said 17 foreigners who were on the airbase, including 11 Chinese and six Americans, were removed to safety by security forces. All of them were safely whisked away while fierce shootout was on between the militants and the commandos.  The Naval chief told reporters the attackers were trained and experienced fighters who were crack marksmen. They caused considerable damage to the airbase by firing rockets, he said.  “Those who want to destabilise Pakistan, look at their goals and targets. They are destroying those assets bought with national funds which would be needed by the military in the event of hostilities,” Malik said.  As more details emerged of the attack, it appeared it was carried out by a much small group of terrorists than was earlier reported.  Officials said the attackers sneaked up to the perimeter of the airbase by moving along the Malir river. They cut through barbed wire barricades and entered in three groups, Malik said.  A photograph of one of the dead terrorists provided to the media by Malik showed a young man wearing dark blue or grey clothes and sneakers.  Malik said the attackers were aged between 22 and 25 but evaded questions about their ethnicity. “They were fair and sharp featured,” he said. A probe will be conducted by the police, paramilitary Pakistan Rangers and intelligence agencies to establish the identity of the attackers and their facilitators, he said.  Taliban and Al-Qaida had vowed to avenge bin Laden’s killing by carrying out attacks in Pakistan and the US. The attack will add to the embarrassment of the Pakistani military, which has faced tremendous criticism for failing to detect bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.  The high-security area where the attack occurred houses the PAF’s Southern Air Command, Air War College and museum as well as PNS Mehran, the main naval air station in Karachi. (With inputs from agencies)

Thank god for Nawaz Sharif
Thank God, we have a person like Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan. He gives a glimmer of hope that the nation may one day assert itself to have the elected representatives control the armed forces.   Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister of Pakistan, said at a press conference in Karachi that the formulation of his country’s policies should be the prerogative of the elected government instead of the military and the intelligence agencies. He was only pointing out the basic tenets of democracy. We — as many as 12 from different walks of life — while travelling through Pakistan last month, could see how sick the people were of a rule where they had no say and where the military and intelligence agencies had the last word.  The nation’s anger is justified when such a goof-up takes place: None of those who claim to be the custodians knew that Osama bin Laden was living in the heart of Pakistan. And when the 40-minute long operation of killing him takes place, neither the military nor the intelligence agencies knew about it. In fact, this was the time President Zardari’s government should have put the military on the mat. Instead, the ruling elements arranged to have a unanimous resolution passed by the National Assembly and the Senate to stand behind the military. By condoning the criminal negligence, the two houses of parliament do not in any way help those who should have been held accountable in the military and intelligence agencies.  Once again, the rhetoric against India may have simplified the situation but no effort seems to have been made to ascertain the underlying causes of the malady. Nawaz Sharif is quite right that “Pakistan must stop treating India as its biggest enemy”. The India bogey is a dead horse which has been whipped again and again.  True, Pakistan’s army chief is India-centric and makes no bones about it. But even he has not opposed the talks which are currently taking place between India and Pakistan. Probably, he, too, realises that the common man in Pakistan wants to live in peace with India and take advantage of its economic development through trade and other new mutual transactions.  I thought when the late Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif signed the Charter of Democracy, they had given a joint undertaking to build tomorrow’s Pakistan, which would have the military only for defence and not to dictate or thwart the rule by the people. When I reminded Nawaz Sharif of the charter during my visit to Lahore, he said that he stood by every word of it but felt helpless because President Zardari was dependent on the military. I wish I could have asked Zardari to make Benazir’s dream come true. But he is so anxious to stay in power that he has no time to recall what the Charter says, much less implement it. Yet, there was a time when Zardari was keen on friendship with India. Why and how he lost the way is beyond me.  I hope that the talks between New Delhi and Islamabad are successful and the solution of one problem leads to the solution of others. Both must realise that there is no alternative to peace. However, both must also respect each others sensibilities. India is not worried about whether ISI chief Lt-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha visits the country or not. But it is indeed concerned over the ‘involvement’ of the ISI in the 26/11 attacks by terrorists on Mumbai. Pakistan, too, may have something against India on Balochistan. That, too, should be discussed.  I find Prime Minister Manmohan Singh totally committed to having good relations with Pakistan. His visit to Pakistan later in the year may assure the country that he would walk an extra mile to bury the hatchet. Both President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani have their compulsions. But if they were to make a joint front with Nawaz Sharif on detente with India, they may succeed.

India worries about coastal security after Karachi attack
ADDIS ABABA: Terrorist attack on the Karachi military base, exposing vulnerabilities in Pakistan's security apparatus, has deepened New Delhi's worry about the disarray in the neighbouring country, besides underlining the need for shoring up Indian coastal security.  "India's concern is of Pakistan losing its internal coherence," said a top source in the government, reacting to the deadly terror strike in Karachi.  The attack on the Karachi defence establishment, a nerve centre of operations against the Taliban, is ominous. "The Karachi base is a joint base for the Pakistan naval aviation, its navy, air force and the army. It was part of a series of attacks on Pakistan's security services. It was aimed at crippling the forces that fight the Taliban in Afghanistan," said a top source in the Indian strategic establishment.  The Indian security establishment does not see the attack as adding or subtracting to the already existing threat perception of India. According to it, the attack was designed against those engaged in liberating Afghanistan from the Taliban. However, it feels that it is a chilling reminder for the country to take measures to guard the coastline. "It may have many lessons for India. We will assess our coastal security in the backdrop of the happenings in Karachi," the source said.  In New Delhi, Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrasekhar held a review meeting on coastal security with all agencies concerned. States along the western coast are being alerted to step up surveillance in the light of the terrorist strike in Karachi. While India is better prepared than earlier to deal with sea-borne terror, security sources emphasise that much remains to be done.  Indian security establishment is awaiting information to find out whether terrorists who attacked the Karachi base were helped from within. "The picture about the Karachi attack is still hazy. We have to see how they (terrorists) infiltrated the military base," said a source.  For the Indian security establishment, the audacious attack reinforces the assessment about things being on a slippery slope. But they do not see the current attack or similar events heightening the possibility of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal falling in rogue hands. "The possibility of its nuclear arsenal falling in rogue hands is a cause of concern. And we have been talking to our friends," the source said reflecting the global concern about the vulnerability of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.  The real threat to Pakistan's nuclear weapons may not come from Karachi-style attacks, but from lack of adequate control over them. "The real threat is not from such attack...Responsible quarters of government should control the nuclear establishment because a lot of lethal stuff is lying all around Pakistan," the source said, echoing the perception of risks emanating from dispersed authority and creeping radicalisation of Pakistan's military.  India is concerned over the increased nuclear activity in Pakistan. There have been reports that Pakistan is building its fourth reactor at the Khushab military facility and estimates made by the security and intelligence officials suggest that Pakistan now has the capability to add 8-10 such weapons every year.  India was prepared to meet any eventuality. "Our nuclear doctrine is very clear. There will be massive retaliation against anyone who uses nuclear weapon against us. The retaliation will be assured and massive."

Implicating ISI in terror, Headley says hatred of India after 1971 war drove him to LeT
CHICAGO/WASHINGTON: Hatred of India arising from Pakistan's defeat in the 1971 war drove him to the terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, David Coleman Headley, the Pakistani expatriate who involved in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack told a Chicago court on Monday while implicating Pakistan's spy agency ISI in nurturing terrorism.  Headley, who took the stand as a prosecution witness on the opening day of the trial of his once close buddy Tahawwur Hussain Rana, told the court that he disliked Indians for "dismembering" Pakistan and was haunted by memories of his junior school being bombed. He and Rana shared room at a military boarding school where he said India and Indians were frequently discussed. He also mentioned that in the early speeches about Jihad, he heard it mentioned that, "one second conducting Jihad was equal to one hundred years of praying."  Headley was still being questioned sequentially about his involvement in terror and the nexus between the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba when the court broke for lunch, but his initial answers appeared to implicate ISI in planning and fostering terrorism.  He chronologically mentioned his handlers in LET, including the others charged along with Rana, in a recent second superceding indictment, including Pasha, Kashmiri, Saajid and Major Iqbal. He also related various types of camps he attended in different regions of Pakistan, ranging from essential espionage, to arms training, surveillance training and hand to hand combat.  "These groups operate under the umbrella of the ISI... They coordinate with each other," Headley told the court, recalling that one time, when he suggested that LeT sue the U.S government for designating it as a terrorist organization, LeT leader Zaki-ur Rehman said "he would have to consult the ISI."  Headley also related how his LeT handler Ali took his phone number and told him that a "Major Iqbal" would be calling him about an operation in India. The prosecution case mentions a "Major Iqbal," believed to be a serving ISI officer, who is alleged to have coordinated the Mumbai attacks.  Much of what Headley said is related in the prosecution's chargesheet but his elaboration under oath from the witness box puts Pakistan's terrorism sponsorship under the arclights. At many points during his testimony, Headley provided graphic details of his interactions with ISI and LeT personnel and their close ties.  Headley spoke of attending LeT lunches with the organization's supremo Hafiz Saeed, currently under state protection, and operations commander "Zaki," presumably Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, currently under arrest. He said he told them he wanted to fight in Kashmir but "I was told they (LET) would find something better and more suitable for me." That assignment turned out to be scouting Mumbai for the 2008 terrorist attack.  Wearing a casual grey jacket over a grey T-shirt, Headley began testifying after both the prosecution and the defense completed opening arguments that each lasted 45 minutes. In appearance, he looked more Caucasian than Pakistani, a fact that he himself remarked about when he spoke of the circumstances under which he changed his name.  Headley said when he was arrested in 2005 near Peshawar, the Pakistanis did not believe him when he said he was one of them. "They thought I was a foreigner." Subsequently, prior to the Mumbai attack, he said he changed his name, under "Zaki's advice," so that "nobody would be able to tell I was a Muslim or a Pakistani."  Earlier, maintaining that "not every player carries a weapon" in the terror game and supporters are equally as critical, the prosecution portrayed the defendant Rana as a maniacal plotter who was heard saying after the Mumbai carnage that the dead terrorists "should get Pakistan's highest military honor."  But the defense responded with a picture of Rana as a model student who went on to medical school and served as a doctor in the army, even as Headley, previously known as Daood Gilani, went astray. "David Headley is a master manipulator who made a fool of Doctor Rana," defense attorney Charlie Swift maintained.  Swift described Rana as "a master manipulator, manipulating three different organizations, the LeT, the ISI and the DEA (American Drug Enforcement Authority) all at the same time, while also manipulating several relationships and wives." Finally he sought to manipulate the government to secure his own life in return for 'betraying' Rana, he said, adding "Headley now needed a home run or a touchdown, so he changed his story and said Rana knew everything.  The courtroom drama aside, disclosure of ISI-LeT nexus and their involvement in the Mumbai attack comes at a time Pakistan's role in terrorism is under worldwide scrutiny, particularly after the US elimination of Osama bin Laden, even as the country itself is under attack from terrorists it has allegedly fostered. Headley's initial testimony, as widely expected, is seen to have exposed Pakistan as a state perpetrator of terrorism, even though its people are also victims of the same menace.

Beijing to operate Gwadar Port: Pak Defence Minister
Beijing, May 23(ANI): Pakistan's Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar has said China has agreed to Islamabad's request to operate the underused Gwador Port on the expiry of Port of Singaporean Authority's (PSA) term of agreement.   The PSA is to operate the port for 40 years. This contract was earlier challenged in courts and a review was ordered by the Chief of Navy Staff, Admiral Noman Bashir.  "We are grateful to the Chinese Government for constructing the Gwadar Port. However, we will be more grateful to the Chinese Government if a naval base is being constructed at the site of Gwadar for Pakistan," the Wall Street Journal quoted Mukhtar, as saying.  Mukhtar's statement indicated that Pakistan is projecting China as a powerful alternative ally should the United States reduce military assistance to Islamabad.  China and Pakistan are in the talks to build an oil pipeline from Gwadar to northwestern China, as also two railway lines connecting Gwadar to China.  Mukhtar said Pakistan had also asked for an unspecified number of 4,400-ton frigates on a "credit basis" from China, and requested Beijing to train Pakistani naval personnel on submarines. China has also agreed to expedite the delivery of 50 jointly developed JF-17 fighter jets to Pakistan, possibly within the next six months.  Pakistani officials have said Gwadar would emerge as a trade hub for Central Asia and a transit point for Chinese oil imports.  Meanwhile, India's Defence Minister, A.K. Antony, has expressed concern over the growing Sino- Pakistan military ties, and said the Indian response would be to build up its own military arsenal.  One analyst said China's strategy to expand its influence in Pakistan is a part of its effort to contain India in the long-run.  "China is trying to undercut the U.S.'s numerous interests in Pakistan. Gwadar was the linchpin of [the] 'string of pearls' strategy and the latest news adds to that. India faces a unique challenge that no other country does. Its two nuclear-armed neighbours are closely aligned and are stepping up joint military programs. India will have to step up its deterrent capabilities," said Strategic Studies Professor at the Centre for Policy Research, Brahma Chellaney.

India Accelerates Fighter Deal
NEW DELHI — Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony says India’s much-anticipated choice in its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) program could occur before the end of March 2012.  India wants to expedite the deal in part because Pakistan is expecting a speedy delivery of 50 JF-17 aircraft, which originally were to be spread out over two years, according to defense ministry officials.  Pakistani Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar has been quoted saying that his country is seeking delivery within six months of the JF-17 Thunder single-engine multirole fighters, which were developed by China and Pakistan.  A Pakistan air force spokesman says the first batch of these aircraft will be handed over to Islamabad within weeks.  The agreement to expedite the delivery came as Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, held talks in Beijing on May 19.    Antony has expressed discomfort over this development. “It is a matter of serious concern for us. The main thing is, we have to increase our capability — that is the only answer,” he says.  Last month, India short-listed the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale for the estimated $11 billion contract to provide 126 fighter jets (Aerospace DAILY, April 28). India rejected Boeing’s F/A-18E/F and Lockheed Martin’s F-16. Russia’s MiG-35 and Saab’s Gripen also were shut out.  The Indian air force is buying the MMRCA to replace its aging Soviet-era MiG-21 fighters, which date back to the 1960s.  “The negotiation for crucial commercial terms will begin next month,” says Michael Christie, senior vice president at BAE Systems India. BAE is part of the Eurofighter consortium, along with Alenia Aeronautica and EADS.  The first 18 jets will be bought in “fly-away” condition, and the remainder will be produced under license with a selected vendor in India.  According to sources close to the project, the government has initiated negotiations with the bidders on offset requirements. India has fixed offset obligations at 50%, requiring that half of the deal’s worth be reinvested in Indian industry. 

Techie opens account in def ministry officer’s name, held
NEW DELHI: A software professional has been arrested for impersonating an IAS officer with the ministry of defence.  Police said the accused had tried to open an account in a bank in the name of the ministry of defence using forged documents. His motive was to cheat people by telling them they would get freehold defence land in their names. Posing as an IAS officer from South Delhi, he was said to have opened the account with the intent of using it withdraw money that would accrue to him from such fraudulent deals.  The accused, who is the son of a retired army officer, has been identified as Gourav Kumar Singh, 28. He is a resident of Lajwanti Garden area.  Singh approached the State Bank of India branch in North Block on Friday introducing himself as a staff member of the office of the Secretary of Defence.  "He submitted the current account opening form bearing the photograph and stamp of Pardeep Kumar, Secretary at the ministry of defence. He also gave three more documents along with the application form and directed the bank officials to deliver the cheque book at his residence in Lajwanti Garden," said a senior police officer.  Bank officials verified the documents from office of secretary, MOD, and found no such person was sent to the bank for opening the account. The documents were found forged after which the Parliament Street police station was informed.  The accused was later arrested from his residence. "He had planned to open an account in the name of the ministry of defence. For opening the account, he had downloaded the photograph of Pardeep Kumar, the national emblem and stamps of the Secretary, MOD, from different websites," said the officer.  Gourav is the son of Shatrughan Singh, a retired army officer who is settled in Ahmed Nagar.

Foot in mouth
On May 11, 2011, India made public the names of 50 Pakistanis it accused of involvement in terrorist activities in India and which it wanted extradited. On May 20, India withdrew the most-wanted list when it was found that two of the fugitives supposedly hiding in Pakistan were very much in India - one of them in prison! The list was first handed to Pakistan during home secretary-level talks in March but the contents were not made public until this month. The timing of the disclosure immediately raised suspicions: was it a coincidence that New Delhi revealed the list just 10 days after Osama bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad? Clearly, the aim of the disclosure - which even Indian newspaper editorials have called a petty bilateral gambit - was to create more trouble for an already troubled Pakistan reeling under pressure both at home and abroad. The release was perhaps also meant to give cover to Indian army chief VK Singh s and defence, research and development organisation head VK Saraswat s irresponsible boasting of India s ability to mount an Abbottabad-type operation in Pakistan against elements inimical to Indian interests. If the timing of the release didn t already reek of malice, India was caught with foot in mouth when the government learnt that two of the terrorists were in India itself. Stung by the blooper, India withdrew the list even as Home Minister P Chidambaram tried to play down the mistake by saying, I don t think we should make a big issue of it. But there are saner voices who believe this was a monumental lapse that not just embarrassed India but also created unnecessary bad blood with Pakistan. The gaffe should thus serve as a much-needed reminder to the Indian security establishment to sort out its internal troubles rather than always look for a whipping boy westwards.  There is a lesson here for all countries, including Pakistan, that are fighting against security-related concerns like terrorism: professionalism in the conduct of security and intelligence is key to success, as was highlighted by the intelligence failure with regard to Osama. One step in this  direction is internal security coordination and intelligence-sharing. For India, as the latest goof-up has highlighted, this means better coordination between the home and external affairs ministries and intelligence agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation. For Pakistan, this means an overarching body to coordinate intelligence sharing between the ISI, IB, MI, FIA and other intelligence-gathering forces. Developing a culture of institutionalised intelligence coordination is key to a successful counter-terrorism policy.

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