Tag Archive | "Mehsud"

Bhutto Case: Musharraf, others issued fresh notices

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Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court (LHC), Rawalpindi bench, on Monday issued fresh notices to Gen. (retd.) Pervez Musharraf and others in the case of Chaudhry Muhammad Aslam, who is seeking a court directive to register an FIR [Police Report] against them for their alleged involvement in the murder of Benazir Bhutto.

Chaudhry Aslam, who is the former protocol officer of Benazir Bhutto and an injured witness to the incident of December 27, 2007, prayed to the LHC to issue orders for registering an FIR against the former president Pervez Musharraf, Rehman Malik, Dr. Babar Awan, Punjab’s former [PML-Q] Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi,
Intelligence Bureau’s former Director-General Syed Ejaz Shah, former caretaker interior minister Lt. Gen. (retd.) Hamid Nawaz, [ex-Interior Secretary Kamal Shah] and former Director-General of the Ministry of Interior Brig. (retd.) Javed Iqbal Cheema in the Benazir murder case.

The petitioner has nominated some 14 respondents in this case that include senior officials of the Rawalpindi Police at that time when the assassination took place. The petitioner prayed before the Court that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto was a conspiracy hatched by the respondents.

Talking to The News, Chaudhry Aslam said a laser beam strike and not a lever caused the death of Benazir. The petitioner said Musharraf was the key beneficiary from the death of Benazir, whose party [PPP] was the greatest rival to his [PMLQ-MQM] men in [parliamentary] elections.

The BB’s protocol officer in his court petition pointed out that Ms. Bhutto herself had pointed the finger of suspicion at Pervez Musharraf and Pervaiz Elahi for their alleged efforts to eliminate her. He alleged that police officers on duty had helped the killers by changing the route and washing away the crime scene on the night of Dec. 27 [2007].

He also accused some PPP leaders of being involved in the murder because they escaped from the scene of the tragedy while the petitioner himself was injured. He alleged that Rehman Malik had derived financial benefits after the murder of Benazir Bhutto.

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US threatens airstrikes in Balochistan

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PKonweb Report

The United States is threatening to launch airstrikes on the Taliban leadership it says is holed up in Quetta. The US has told Pakistan that it may start launching drone attacks against the Taliban leadership in the city of Quetta in a major escalation of its operations in the country, The Telegraph reported today.

Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister, said the US had so far been unable to provide detailed intelligence to target the Quetta Shura. He said: “We need real-time intelligence. The Americans have never told us any location.”

US State department and intelligence officials delivered the ultimatum to Asif Ali Zardari, last week as he visited the US for the United Nations’ security council sessions and the G20 economic summit.

According to the Guardian, Islamabad government has argued that the Quetta Shura, led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, does not harm Pakistan. It has said that dealing with other militants such as those in the Swat valley was a higher priority, Daily Telegraph reported.

But last week Anne Patterson, America’s ambassador to Islamabad, told the Daily Telegraph that the offensive in Swat was not targeting the insurgents posing the greatest danger to Nato forces in Afghanistan.

The threat from Washington comes amid growing divisions in the US capital about whether to send more troops to Afghanistanor reduce them and start targeting the terrorists.

In a leaked strategic assessment of the war, top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal warned that he needed reinforcements within a year to avert the risk of failure.

Although no figure was given, he is believed to be seeking up to 45,000 troops by the end of this year.

Last week McChrystal denied any rift with the administration, saying “a policy debate is warranted”.

The Biden (US VP) camp argues that attacks by unmanned drones on Pakistan’s Tribal Areas, where many Al Qaeda leaders are thought to be hiding, have been successful.

Sending more troops to Afghanistan has only inflamed tensions.

The Times story quoted “senior Pakistani officials in New York” as saying that the US had asked to extend the drone attacks to areas of Balochistan, including Quetta.

There has been tacit cooperation over the use of drones although publicly Islamabad denounces their use.

Some British officials told the Times that drone attacks on Quetta would be “unthinkable”.

Western intelligence officers have alleged that Taliban sympathisers have helped some of the insurgency’s leaders to move to Karachi, where it would be impossible to strike with Drones due to populace density and political sensitivity.

Observers are of the view the US already have tacit approval from Islamabad on Drone strikes inside Pakistan on ‘actionable intelligence’ based high value targets. Islamabad denies such agreement exists.

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New evidence surfaces on Benazir Bhutto’s death

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SEP 18 - UNITED Nations investigators are preparing to question former president Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, amid mounting doubts over official versions of how she died and claims of a cover-up.

The Weekend Australian Magazine reveals today evidence that a bullet - probably sniper fire from a high-velocity rifle - killed the former prime minister.

The Musharraf regime said a “bump on the head” resulting from a Taliban or al-Qa’ida suicide bomber killed Bhutto on December 27, 2007, shortly before an election she was expected to win.

This evidence contradicts the regime’s claim that the murder was the work of the Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US unmanned drone attack.

There is no history of the militants using sniper fire - or even regular gunfire - in any of the hundreds of suicide attacks they have mounted in Pakistan.

Also revealed in The Weekend Australian Magazine is detail of the cover-up that followed Bhutto’s murder. The crime scene in Liaquat Bagh, a park in Rawalpindi, was washed with high-pressure hoses within 45 minutes of the blast, destroying almost all forensic evidence.

Naheed Khan, Bhutto’s political secretary for 23 years, who cradled her head as she died, told The Weekend Australian Magazine: “There were bullets coming from different directions. There are lots of high buildings overlooking the area. This was a typical intelligence (agency) operation.”

Ms Khan’s husband, senator Safdar Abbasi, who is also a doctor, was in the Toyota Landcruiser when Bhutto was attacked. “The way she died - her instant death - suggests very sharp sniper fire. A typical intelligence (agency) operation.”

The Weekend Australian Magazine reveals that, despite the law in Pakistan mandating autopsies in all cases of murder, and doctors attending Bhutto telling police that one should be carried out, none was performed on her or others who died in Liaquat Bagh.

Within hours, her body had been flown to Sindh province for burial, without a full forensic examination.

There is no suggestion of any involvement by Mr Musharraf in her murder. But the UN investigators want to question the former general. Given the authority he wielded in Pakistan, including over the army and its agencies, Mr Musharraf, 66, is thought to be in a better position than most to cast light on events surrounding the assassination.

At his apartment off London’s Edgeware Road, living under the protection of the British government, Mr Musharraf has appeared untroubled by demands to bring him back to Pakistan. He has played bridge with friends and eaten out during the holy month of Ramadan.

An internationally brokered secret deal allowed Mr Musharraf to step down and assured his future security.

After long delays in getting Security Council approval for its mission, the UN investigators started looking into Bhutto’s death in July and are expected to report to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this year.

The investigators are reported to be preparing to talk to people in London and Washington, including CNN presenter Wolf Blitzer. On October 20, 2007, Bhutto sent Blitzer an email, through a friend, reading: “If it is God’s will, nothing will happen to me. But if anything happened to me, I would hold Pervez Musharraf responsible.”

Investigations into Bhutto’s killing are the subject of controversy in Pakistan.

(News source from: The Australian)

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Huge cache of weapons recovered in Karachi

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PKonweb Monitor

SEP 15 - Police in Karachi Tuesday recovered a huge cache of weapons, including rocket launchers, and anti-tank mortars, foiling an apparent bid to carry out terror attacks in this port city.

Most US and NATO supplies to Afghanistan pass thorugh this city. The port and shipping minister Babar Ghori said that Karachi’s oil terminal supplies the whole country. “This facility is a storage area, which supplies oil to the entire country and the incident could be a failed attempt to attack the terminal,” he said.

The police recovered 17 hand grenades, nine rocket launchers, five anti-tank mortars, nine Kalashnikovs, and two jackets used in suicide bombings from a drain near Saeedabad police training center Tuesday morning, Online news agency reported. Saeedabad sits on the road to the insurgency-ridden province of Baluchistan.

According to the police, an official noticed the bags in the drain and informed the authorities concerned, which took the bags in possession and recovered the said weapons.

The bomb disposal squad was also summoned to the spot, which neutralized the hand grenades and mortars.

The police believe that the recovered weapons belong to the terrorists, who Monday night tried to attack Kemari oil terminal.

Three men wearing women’s burqa tried to enter the oil terminal in the city but were resisted by a security guard.

They shot dead the guard and fled when a police patrol team engaged them in a firefight, according to police.

Police seized 10 grenades, three Kalashnikovs and women’s purses crammed with bullets and cartridges.

The attackers, according to the police, planned to blow up the Kemari oil terminal, which is being used for fuel supplies to NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan.

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Jaish ‘building a huge base’ in Bahawalpur- Report

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SEP 13 - A report filed by McClatchy Newspapers Pakistan-based special correspondent Saaed Shah claims that the banned militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), is setting up a huge new base in the outskirts of Bahawalpur.

“Pakistani authorities have turned a blind eye to the new base, in the far south of Punjab province, even though it is believed to have been built to serve as a radical madrassah - Islamic school - or some kind of training camp”, Saeed Shah reports in his latest dispatch datelined Bahawalpur.

According to Shah’s report, Jaish members, who were behind ‘a spectacular attempt’ to assassinate then-president Pervez Musharraf in 2004 were were also involved in training and commanding the Taliban guerrillas who overran the Swat valley.

The whole story:

Jaish-e-Mohammad (”army of Mohammad”), which is linked to a series of atrocities including an attack on the Indian parliament and the beheading of the American journalist Daniel Pearl, has walled off a 4.5 acre compound just outside the town of Bahawalpur.

Pakistani authorities have turned a blind eye to the new base, in the far south of Punjab province, even though it is believed to have been built to serve as a radical madrassah - Islamic school - or some kind of training camp.

British security sources believe Rauf helped organise the July 7 and 21 attacks in 2005. He was born in England to Pakistani parents and brought up in Birmingham where his father was a baker. It was in Bahawalpur that Rauf was arrested in 2006, before his mysterious and still unexplained escape from custody.

While world attention has been focused on the menace of the Taliban in the north west of Pakistan, the bases of Jaish and a string of other similar jihadist groups in southern Punjab have gone largely unnoticed.

Yet Punjabi extremist groups send thousands of recruits to fight British soldiers in Afghanistan.

Bahawalpur is a backwater, a dusty, dirt-poor town which is swelteringly hot in summer. Its isolation allows it to function quietly as a centre for ideological indoctrination and terrorist planning, a jihadist oasis surrounded by parched fields. Once mentally prepared, promising students are dispatched to camps for training jihadists in warfare, in the north west of the country.

Jaish members were behind a spectacular attempt to assassinate then-president Pervez Musharraf in 2004. They were also involved in training and commanding the Taliban guerrillas who overran Pakistan’s Swat valley.

The terrorist group was reputedly formed with help from Pakistan’s ISI military spy agency as a weapon to be used against their arch-enemy India, and the two organisations are understood to remain close.

Aside from Rauf, two other two other notorious British-Pakistani militants had connections with Jaish: Shehzad Tanweer, one of the 2005 bombers of the London transport system; and Omar Sheikh, who was found guilty in Pakistan of the murder of the American journalist, Daniel Pearl. It emerged last week that British intelligence believes that Rauf is still alive, despite claims that he died in a US missile attack in Pakistan’s tribal area in 2008.

Bahawalpur and the surrounding districts also serve as a safe resting place for jihadists battling in Afghanistan, including, it is believed, for British-born Muslims who go to fight there. They have respite from the threat of US spy planes that patrol the tribal area in the north west, killing militants with deadly missile strikes.

In Bahawalpur alone, there may be as many as 1,000 madrassas, many of which teach a violent version of Islam to children, who are mostly too poor to go to regular school.

Jaish has its headquarters in Bahawalpur and it openly runs a imposing madrassah in the centre of town, called Usman-o-Ali, where it teaches its extremist interpretation of Islam to hundreds of children every year.

The group was banned by Pakistan back in 2002 and designated by the US as a “foreign terrorist organisation”. The Sunday Telegraph was prevented from entering the madrassah, which also has a mosque that should be open to everyone.

Jaish’s new site, about 5km (3 miles) out of Bahawalpur at Chowk Azam, on the main road to Karachi, is much larger, with evidence that it could contain underground bunkers or tunnels. Surrounded by a high brick and mud wall, little can be seen from the road.

However, The Sunday Telegraph discovered that it has a fully-tiled swimming pool, stabling for over a dozen horses, an ornamental fountain and even swings and a slide for children – all belying claims by the group and Pakistani officials that the facility is simply a small farm to keep cattle. There were signs of construction activity.

A man at the site, who gave his name as Abdul Jabbar, who wore a visible ammunition vest under his shirt, would not allow The Sunday Telegraph to enter, and suggested it was time for the newspaper to leave.

“We’re not hiding anything. Nothing happens here. We have just kept some cattle for our milk,” said Mr Jabbar, who sported the long hair that is typical for Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.

A man on a motorbike followed as The Sunday Telegraph drove away.

The new facility is known to the regional administration and, with a hefty army cantonment in Bahawalpur, the military would also be aware.

It has deeply worried some Pakistani security personnel. One described it as a “second centre of terrorism”, to complement the existing Jaish madrassah in the middle of town.

The officer, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that Jaish should never have been allowed to buy the land.

He said they initially acquired 4.5 acres, then they forced the adjacent landowner to sell them another 2 acres. “It’s big enough for training purposes,” he said.

On the inside walls, there are painted jihadist inscriptions, including a warning to “Hindus and Jews”, with a picture of Delhi’s historic Red Fort, suggesting they will conquer the city.

Bahawalpur was where Rashid Rauf fled in 2002, after being implicated in the murder of his uncle in the UK. His family friend Ghulam Mustafa, a radical imam, ran a madrassah, the Dar-ul-Uloom Medina.

He married Mr Mustafa’s daughter, and his wife and children are still believed to live there.

No-one was willing to talk about Rauf in Bahawalpur.

Attaur Rehman, the deputy head of the Dar-ul-Uloom Medina madrassah, which is run out of an unmarked building in a back street and is closely associated with Jaish, said: “We don’t say anything about this, I won’t talk to you. I’m fed up with you media people.”

Publicly, Pakistani officials insisted that the new compound is innocuous and even that there is no extremist threat in Bahawalpur.

Mushtaq Sukhera, the Regional Police Officer for Bahawalpur, the most senior police officer for the area, admitted that the Usman-o-Ali madrassah in the middle of Bahawalpur “belongs to “Jaish” . He said that Jaish also owned the facility out of town. “But there’s nothing over there except a few cows and horses,” he said.

“No militancy, no military training is being imparted to students (at Usman-o-Ali),” said Mr Sukhera. “There is no problem with militancy (in south Punjab), there’s no problem with Talibanisation. It’s just media hype.” Others tell a different story. Somewhere between 3,000 and 8,000 men from southern Punjab are currently fighting jihad in Afghanistan or Pakistan’s north western tribal area, according to independent estimates, said Ayesha Siddiqa, an analyst who has studied the area.

They are often known as the “Punjabi Taliban”, whereas the main Taliban forces are ethnic Pashtuns, the group that straddles north west Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“These guys [in Bahawalpur] aren’t connected with a war, they don’t have any ethnic affiliation with Afghanistan,” said Dr Siddiqa. “These guys are purely ideologically motivated. That makes it much more difficult to crack them during investigation or to break their will to fight.”

Story link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/6180118/Al-Qaeda-allies-build-huge-Pakistan-base.html

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Did army trick the Taliban spokesman to surrender?

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PKonweb Monitor

SEP 12 - Did the army nab the Taliban spokesman and four of his accomplices by conning them into peace talks?  The elusive Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah claims that is so the case in his tape recorded message sent to the media.

The purported tape has surfaced amidst reports Tehreek-e-Taliban Swat chief Mullah Fazlullah has decided to surrender, a private TV channel quoted its sources as saying on Saturday. According to the channel, he had been wounded and was in hiding in a cave. The law enforcement agencies had cordoned off the area of his hideout, the channel added. Security forces had been told to complete the operation in Swat before Eid, the channel concluded.

Earlier reports said Fazlullah was either dead or too wounded to be effective any more. In fact, several weeks back security czar Rehman Malik had claimed he was “decommissioned - an eumiphism for death.

According to Khaleej Times report filed by its Islamabad based correspondent Afzal Khan, the army has rejected Taliban allegation that it tricked Taleban’s most wanted spokesman Muslim Khan and his four other colleagues on pretext of peace negotiations.

“There could be no talks with terrorists,” army spokesman Maj-Gen. Athar Abbas said while referring to the statement by acting spokesman of the Taleban Salman. “Those wanting to surrender should lay down arms before security forces or law-enforcement agencies,” he said.

Taleban’s acting spokesman Salman released to the media a taperecording purported to be that of Swat’s Taleban chief Maulana Fazlullah in which he accused the Pakistan army of arresting his spokesman Muslim Khan and four members of Shura (advisory council) of the Taleban after inviting them for peace negotiations.

In the message Fazlullah conceded that his organisation had been weakened as a result of the army operation but vowed to continue fighting for the cause of enforcement of Islamic Shariah (code) in the region and elsewhere.

“The Taleban movement is presently in a state of illness. When you are ill, your activities are curtailed. That is what has happened to Taleban organisation, but it would bounce back,” Fazlullah said. In his recorded message, Fazlullah spoke hurriedly in Pashto. At times, it was difficult to understand his words. It wasn’t easy to tell that the voice indeed was of Fazlullah even though it largely sounded familiar.

Fazlullah mentioned the Tehrik-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP) founder Baitullah Mehsud in his message and stressed that all Pakistani Taleban wished to die like him. “Like Baitullah Mehsud, all Taleban fighters want to embrace martyrdom. Getting arrested while fighting for a cause is no big deal for the Taleban,” he maintained. He said the Taleban in Swat and Malakand would continue their struggle for the enforcement of real Shariah and offer every sacrifice to achieve this goal.

According to Fazlullah, the Taleban still possessed ‘fidayee’ (suidie bombers) power and those in doubt should ask Russia, the US and Nato about the Taleban prowess.

The whereabouts of Fazlullah remain unknown. The army has been claiming that he was wounded in an earlier military action. There have also been reports that he was under siege in a mountainous area in Swat.

Fazlullah said he had lost confidence in the Pakistan Army after it allegedly invited his group for talks and arrested the five negotiators. He said a need may arise again for the government and the military to talk to the Taleban, but the Swat Taleban had decided never to hold any negotiations with the rulers.

Link to the KT story: http://www.khaleejtimes.com/displayarticle.asp?xfile=data/international/2009/September/international_September615.xml§ion=international&col=

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Gen (R) Musharraf speaks on 9/11: Sawal Yeh Hai

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SEP 11 - Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf gives 45-minute live interview to Dr Danish on Sawal Yeh Hai.

When asked who did 9/11, he said it was Al Qaeda certainly. “We interrogated them when we caught some of them. Conspiracy theories are wrong and baseless”, he added.

Musharraf said it was a 100 percent correct decision to take a U-turn on Pakistan’s Afghan policy after September 2001. The decision was in the national interest of Pakistan itself and not just for others. If we did not decide then to do so we would have faced grave danger to our country and to our national interests. Even now we face grave dangers, he added.

“On joining war on terror, we also gained economically, but the decision was in national interest and not an economic or transactional matter”, Musharraf added.

“We were frontline state during 1979 -1989and (10 years) and now again we are frontline state since 2001 (8 years todate), he commented.

America and the West should keep this in mind including anti-US feelings in Pakistan that inspite of being an ally during Afghan war as well as now there is anti-American feelings among the Pakistanis because of their transactional attitude, he alluded to.

Al Qaeda men are in the mountains and we should not deny it. We should work to get rid of them for our own stability, he added.

“It is our ‘defensive compulsion’ to own and maintain nuclear deterrance”, he said. “We still have threat from our eastern border, therefore we cannot compromise it”, he added.

Musharraf’s perception that we still have enemy on our eastern border undermines US policy statements for the region that Pakistan should stop worrying about India being an enemy and consider ‘existential threats’ it is facing on its western border.

Musharraf said back-stabbing is going on Pakistan from Afghanistan and it should stop. both India and Afghanistan are active in this matter, he said in so many words without specifically naming the both.

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The Taliban’s New Enemy- Sultankhel Lashkar

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PKonweb Monitor

500 mumbers of the Lashkar of Sultankhel are taking on the Taliban in the Lower Dir and Swat Valley.

According to Reza Sayah of CNN who visited the lashkar camps with an army major Hasnain, these vigilante-styled volunteer-based private army called ‘lashkar’ have established their presence in lower Dir and Swat valley, manning vantage points to thwart any attempts by the Taliban to revisit the cleared region.


Armed with weapons (Russian made heavy machine guns and weapons caches from the fleeing Talibans) and supported by the army, security forces, these lashkars are providing 24/7 vigil.

They have been supportive, successful in several encounters and they are tough - strong, says Major Hasnain Shah to Sayah.

The US and its allies have used such strategy (volunteer army) successfully in Iraq. While it seems ot be working in the northern lawless region of Pakistan, news on the other side of the Pak-Affhan border is not that encouraging. The belt adjoining these areas consist of Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan.

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Is Mehsud dead or alive and Musharraf trial

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Aug 10 episode of Capital Talk: Maulana Noor ul Haq Qadri (Fata), Senator Zahid Khan (ANP), Senator Abdul Khaliq Pirzada (MQM) and Maulana Miraj ud Din (JUI) participate and discuss Baitullah Mehsud episode and Musharraf potential trial for treason.

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Baitullah: Dead or alive, his battle rages

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By Syed Saleem Shahzad

Pakistan and United States officials are scrambling to verify reports that Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was killed in a US Predator drone attack in the South Waziristan tribal area on Wednesday.

“Our assertion is that Baitullah Mehsud is dead, based on the intelligence inputs provided to us. However, we will go for ground verification to 200% confirm that he has been killed in the air strike,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Friday.

The TTP was reported by some news channels as confirming the death of Baitullah and his second wife in the August 5 drone strike. According to these reports, the TTP said Baitullah’s funeral had already been held and that his successor would be named on Friday.

A Mehsud jirga (council) meeting in the capital Islamabad has not commented on the reports, but Baitullah’s biggest rival in South Waziristan, Haji Turkestan Bhitni, says Baitullah, who has a US$5 million bounty on his head, is dead.

Baitullah, in his mid-thirties, has been linked to a series of attacks in Pakistan, including the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007.

If Baitullah is dead, it would be a massive blow to the Taliban as he has been a major binding force between al-Qaeda, Pakistani militants, tribal militants and the Afghan Taliban, especially in Helmand province.

The Taliban would be hard-pressed to find a replacement for him as he was the perfect successor in a long line of Taliban chiefs. These include Nek Mohammad (killed in an air strike by American forces in South Waziristan in June 2004) and Abdullah Mehsud (killed in a shootout with security forces in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province in June 2005).

Over the past few years, the small, diabetic yet hugely charismatic Baitullah has established himself and his TTP, a militant umbrella group primarily in conflict with the central government, in South Waziristan and beyond. Many view him as a bigger threat than al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

After the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan following the US invasion in late 2001, all of the powerful Arab commanders who had been in the country made for South Waziristan just across the border. They immediately set about using their money and ideology to rear a new generation of ideological allies. It took a few years to achieve this, but the results were obvious, from Nek Mohammad to Abdullah Mehsud to Baitullah Mehsud.

Baitullah began as a poor foot soldier in the Taliban’s rag-tag army in Afghanistan. He is the son of a minor cleric but dropped out of a madrassa (Islamic seminary).

Arabs such as the head of al-Qaeda in Pakistan, Khalid Habib, and al-Qaeda’s best trainer, Abu Laith al-Libbi, took the ambitious Baitullah under their wing, showering him with off-road vehicles and loads of weapons. And importantly, Qari Tahir Yuldashev, the chief of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, placed his 2,500 hardened fighters at Baitullah’s discretion. Baitullah lived with the Uzbek, who became his biggest ideological inspiration.

A military crackdown against Pakistani jihadi outfits after the 2002 failed assassination attempt on then-president General Pervez Musharraf caused an exodus of militants to the tribal areas. Prominent among them were leading jihadi Qari Zafar and veteran Kashmiri guerrilla commander Ilyas Kashmiri.

They were all given protection by Baitullah, along with famed Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, and Baitullah was on his way to becoming one of the most influential people in the region.

By 2007, Baitullah was sending hundreds of groups of men a year into Helmand, making him the number one contributor in fueling the Taliban-led insurgency against foreign forces in southwestern Afghanistan. He also provided suicide bombers for al-Qaeda’s missions in Pakistan and generated funds by using his tribal bandits.

If Baitullah is dead, his successor would inherit a far bigger empire than the one Baitullah took over as Pakistani Taliban chief. The new man would also face the likelihood of a showdown against the Pakistani military, which in recent months has been preparing for an offensive in South Waziristan, as well as arming Baitullah’s rival tribal militias.

The present United States Central Command chief, General David Petraeus, came up with the idea of arming tribal militias and using them against foreign al-Qaeda elements in Iraq in 2007. That Iraqi experience sparked the imagination of the seasoned British ambassador in Kabul in 2007, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, and he tried the same idea with arbakai - volunteers who answer the call of their tribal elders to protect their villages. It failed.

Similarly, the Pakistani security apparatus has begun arming militias to defeat the Taliban. However, they have fatefully pitched one tribe against the other and instead of a Taliban defeat, the specter of inter-tribal war looms.

In the event of Baitullah’s killing, tribal rival Haji Turkestan Bhitni would be the immediate beneficiary; the Taliban and al-Qaeda will carry on as before.

A capital gathering
For the past five days, members of the Mehsud tribe have gathered in Islamabad to develop a consensus on a joint strategy for peace in the restive tribal areas. They aim to meet with top military officials and the prime minister in an attempt to persuade them that their current approach is wrong, whether Baitullah is dead or alive.

Members at the jirga include a former member of parliament, an incumbent member of the senate, tribal elders, traders and businessmen now living as diaspora across the country.

Haji Mohammad Khan Mehsud is the son of Nawaz Khan Mehsud, who was killed by militants in 2004 (before Baitullah’s emergence) as part of their campaign to reduce the influence of tribal elders. His native town is Makeen in South Waziristan, also the home of Baitullah. He spoke to Asia Times Online.

“We are not with Baitullah Mehsud and we do not support him. We do not understand this military operation which targets everybody except the real target,” Haji Mohammad Khan said in anguish.

“Haji Turkestan Bhitni comes from our area [South Waziristan]. He is the new guide for the military in the region, like Baitullah used to be. Now Turkestan’s people are settling their scores against every Mehsud. They lead the military to any home of the Mehsud people, in Tank and in Dera Ismail Khan, and then raids are conducted.

“We have told military officials many times that had we been with Baitullah, we would not be living as refugees in different cities. But the officials do not take heed of our requests. Target[ed] killings of our young boys is another element in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank by the Bhitni tribe, which is armed by the Pakistan army. I ask the authorities, who benefits from this policy? Of course, our disillusioned boys will join Baitullah,” Haji Mohammad Khan said.

The Pakistan army has beefed up its presence all around North Waziristan and South Waziristan and the cities adjacent to the tribal areas. A ground operation has been pending for several weeks, although the Pakistani Inter-Services Public Relations denies any plans for action in the near future in South Waziristan. The Pakistan army would face extremely difficult terrain there and very hostile Taliban factions which have unexpectedly set aside tribal differences and feuds to present a united front.

In response to this the army has begun arming militias to pitch them against the Mehsud tribe, headed by Baitullah, who has broken the tribal system and turned it into a virtual militant gang which generates money through robberies and kidnappings all over Pakistan, in addition to suicide attacks.

Recently, the Pakistani security forces carried out an extra-judicial killing of five Mehsud tribesmen and their bodies were sent to South Waziristan with a message to Baitullah that the “more you defy us, the more you will collect the bodies of your tribal men”. (See Pakistan wields a double-edged sword Asia Times Online, July 18, 2009.)

Such deeds would never frighten Baitullah, and he quickly exterminates anyone who stands up against him - most recently, Qari Zainuddin Mehsud was assassinated.

Asia Times Online asked engineer-turned-industrialist Haji Mannan Mehsud why the Mehsud tribe had not taken internal action against Baitullah Mehsud’s group.

“Because the government has puzzling policies and they did not support us,” said Haji Mannan, who in 1995 invested 40 million rupees (US$1 million then) in South Waziristan to establish a clarified butter plant. In 2008, the factory was demolished by the army on the pretext of security arrangements. He was not yet been compensated.

Haji Mannan continued, “Before 1999, there was no army to safeguard the borders. It was not required. The tribes were the vanguard of the Pakistani border regions. When in 2000-01 the army came to our areas, the tribesmen actually assisted them and provided them all the logistics [they needed]. Baitullah Mehsud was also their guide, even after 9/11.

“Now the situation has changed and he is accused of being an American agent or an Indian agent. At no time were the tribal elders consulted regarding Baitullah Mehsud, and now our government is arming rival tribes and helping with the massacre of Mehsud’s [tribe], whether they are with Baitullah or not,” Haji Mannan said.

Commenting on the jirga, Senator Saleh Shah told Asia Times Online that nothing had yet been decided and that once it was, the media would be told.

Soon, too, it will emerge whether or not Baitullah Mehsud has been struck down by a predator missile; if he has, a new chapter will open in the troubled tribal regions of Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan. Baitullah’s legacy, though, would ensure that the Pakistani Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies continued his battles.

(Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at [email protected])

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Kaalam Kaar on Express News: Aug 8

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Abbas Ather presents fresh episode of Kaalam Kaar on Express News and discusses whether Pak Taliban chief Mehsud is alive or dead. Columnists: Abdul Qadir Hasan, Mujeeb ur Rehman Shami, Nazir Naji participate.

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Choraha with Hasan Nisar: Aug 8

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Hasan Nisar conducts Aug 8 episode of Choraha and discuss Mehsud killing and Swat Ops with Yasir, Rana Sana Ullah, Rana M. Idrees, Asma Jehangir and Jan Malik.

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Talk Shows

  • POINT BLANK with Mubasher Lucman: Nov 2
    November 3, 2009 | 11:15 am

    NRO and political parties’ stands on it. Guests: Umar Cheema (PTI), Arif Nazami (Analyst), Khawaja Saad Rafique (PML-N), Naveed Chaudhry (PPP) and Altaf Hussain (MQM)

  • BOLTA PAKISTAN on Aaj Tv: Nov 2
    November 3, 2009 | 11:03 am

    Nawaz Sharif’s press conference today opposing NRO. Altaf’s advice to Zardari to give ‘big sacrifice’. MQM decides to oppose NRO. Guests: Umar Warraich, Jam Saqi and Siddique Baloch, Amir Mateen

    November 3, 2009 | 10:52 am

    Capital under seige; NRO in spotlight and MQM’s bombshell. PPP decides to withdraw NRO from Parliament. Guests: Nawaz Sharif

  • ISLAMABAD TONIGHT with Nadeem Malik: Nov 2
    November 3, 2009 | 5:14 am

    NRO and Political Parties. Guests: Sen Afrasiab Khan Khattak (ANP), Iqbal Zafar Jhagra (PML-N) and Senator Saleem Yousaf Ullah (PML-Q)

  • LIVE WITH TALAT on Aaj Tv: Nov 2
    November 3, 2009 | 4:35 am

    Is NRO the most important issue facing the nation? Guests: Bashir Ahmed Bilour (ANP), Capt Safdar (PML-N), Mustafa Azizabadi (MQM), Aasiya Riaz (PILDAT)

  • KAL TAK with Javed Choudhry: Nov 2
    November 3, 2009 | 4:24 am

    MQM, ANP, JUI(F) oppose NRO; PPP loses number game; decides not to table NRO in parliament; Changes expected in system soon. Guest: Kamil Ali Agha (PML-Q)…

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