Bajour mayhem and Pakistan’s power mafia
07 November, 2006
By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Whenever an act of absolute shame with unabashed brazenness is committed by the Praetorian ruling mafia in Pakistan words of an American lawyer in the famous Aamil Kansi case in a US court, that sentenced him to death for terrorism, reverberate in my ears. During the course of his trial the American lawyer remarked: "These Pakistanis, they can sell their mothers for just a few American dollars".
Mir Aamil Kansi, a Pakistani Baloch, had been a CIA operative during the American Jihad against Soviet occupation. Once the Jihad was over most of its operative that did the dirty jobs for it discovered themselves to be redundant. Being highly trained and one among quite a few of them enamoured by their tribal moorings of vendetta, Mir Aamil Kansi found himself deeply hurt and humiliated by the American let down amounting to betrayal. Having being used like a condom, the post-Jihad treatment to people like of him in the forefront of the battle—nay the entire population of Afghanistan —had hit his raw nerve.
Like all daring Balochs, he decided to singe the CIA beard in its den in Langley (Virginia) in February 1993. He masterminded his entry into what is known as a steel- bunkered cobweb of concrete spread over several thousand square meters of land treasuring geo-strategic secrets of nations, leaders and other key players on the world stage. He made a mince meat of the high security network, violated it most brazenly and in broad-daylight under the view of closed circuit cameras riveted on him, shot dead two CIA officials. And more like James Bond, he also managed to escape out of the sequestered CIA headquarters unscathed, un-noticed and undetected.
He was back home in Pakistan after his killing adventure and was leading a normal life among his people. ISI and the other intelligence agencies, however, were keeping a track of him. After all he had huge reward money on his head and that too in US dollars. In June 1997 as his ill luck would have it, he moved into Dera Ghazi Khan for a few days. He took accommodation in a local hotel and thought that he was innocuously un-noticed and safe. Pakistani spy hounds, however, were on his scent. They spotted him and reported his presence to the so-called Tehajudguzar president who in turn did not waste time to inform the Americans to make their kill and reward him. In a joint operation by American marines assisted by ISI, Mir Aamil Kansi was raided and arrested while he was soundly asleep.
The normal procedure—if at all the Pakistani president wanted to hand him over to the Americans since he was wanted in the United States—was to send Aamil Kansi to the relevant Pakistani court for legalising his extradition to the United States on an American request. The Pakistani law had to be shown at least some respect by the person who was designated as its supreme upholder by the Constitution by providing Mir Aamil Kansi an opportunity to defend himself against charges seeking his extradition. Despite the fact that Kansi's extradition could not be stopped, "FL" wilfully allowed Pakistan 's independence and sovereignty to be shred into pieces by denying Aamil his legal rights.
Aamil Kansi was caught napping by the American marines who had no business to carry out their raid in sovereign Pakistani territory. To cover up their extra-territorial operation President Farooq Leghari popularly known as "FL" among his close friends for obvious reasons of usability and instant disposal as well, ordered his media managers to give the raid the spin of an ISI operation helped by the Americans. From Dera Ghazi Khan hotel arrested Aamil Kansi was bundled into an American helicopter and airlifted to Afghanistan to show that he had been nabbed there. We do not know who got American reward on Aamil Kansi's head, the upsurge of personal prosperity in "FL" house and sharing of the crumbs by those who handled the operation in the country's premier intelligence agency were rather gloating and bloating as well.
This lengthy digression becomes relevant on two accounts in the context of the recent horrendous Bajour killings in Pakistan and the disclosure of the most brazen fact by General Pervez Musharraf in his Arabian night memoirs that Islamabad received millions of dollars from the United States for handing over hundreds of "terrorists" confirming most equivocally that whether it is the Praetorian regime or the terrorists—both are having best of the two worlds— "making a living out of terrorism"—as Selig Harrison candidly put it about the players in the game.
An official report released recently in Washington says Pakistan has received the lion's share of a "total of $6.64 billion for 2002-2007 for the coalition fighting terrorism: about $3.6 billion for operations from January 2002 through August 2005, an amount roughly equal to one-quarter of Pakistan's total military expenditures during that period". The report says that US-Pakistan relations were subject to fluctuations until 9/11 but after 9/11 they improved remarkably because Pakistan became "a key ally in US-led counter-terrorism efforts". Another report says that that Musharraf regime charged US 5,000 for each "suspected terrorist" delivered to Washington.
This should as well be read especially in the light of the American lawyer's remark in Aamil Kansi's case that Pakistani power mafia can go to the extent of selling its mothers for few American dollars. How true when we see the General rush out with his pants down putting up a wooden face to own the recent massacre of innocent madressa children in Bajour when it is a common knowledge in the mayhem area endorsed by eye witness accounts that the religious seminary with dozens of tiny tots recanting from the Holy Quran lessons in peace, was mowed into ruthless extinction by a foreign drone—a perfect example of killing with skill. "Showing more zeal than discretion", the General declared that anyone saying that the persons killed in the seminary were not militants is lying and President Bush’s Knight Templar gets an instant endorsement from the White House press secretary, Tony Snow. The general is praised for his "determination" in fighting terrorism—probably he meant to say making a living out of selling terrorism by killing innocent rather than the real culprits.
Equally embarrassing is the comment published in a newspaper that mentions about the Pakistan army command that has been reduced to spinning a cover-up story which everyone finds difficult to swallow. I agree with the comment: "Army spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan, who deserves national sympathy for the visible agony he undergoes when in the line of duty, he has to churn out creative fiction or outright lies, says the school was a 'militant' training facility and that the operation was carried out by the Pakistan military." However, poor Shaukat Sultan's explanation was blown to pieces when ABC News which, quoting sources in the intelligence community, reported that the missile was fired by an American Predator drone and that the target was the Al Qaeda Number Two, Ayman Al-Zawahiri.
Remember this is the same Al-Zawahiri who keeps us on the boil all the time. He continues to blow hot air down our necks by calling upon his Jihadi following in Pakistan to dislodge Musharraf and impose Talibanisation. In early January this year too there was a similar trouble or what the Americans call collateral damage. A house in the village of Damadola, also in Bajaur, was struck by a missile, targeting again the invisible Al-Zawahiri who was expected to be there in response to a dinner invitation—most probably in black tie. Since ignorance is bliss for them, the Americans need not be told that in tribal areas tribal dinners are usually huge—much on the pattern of state banquets—and the entire tribe is invited to break bread with VVIP guests.
The killing of the innocent children—whether by American drone or Pakistani gun ships—has inflamed all and sundry in the northwest. What has been adding salt to the injury is the ill orchestrating by the General and his parroting media spinners that it was Pakistan that did it and that those killed—all of them-were terrorists. As the Chinese say a good photograph is better than 40,000 words, one such picture of the Bajour seminary shows just a battered wall leaning about to fall to tell the world that is what remained of a brick-built madressa housing 83 children including a few teachers. The bombing of the seminary was so enormous that early morning blossoming faces of the tiny tots were rendered into charred bones beyond recognition.
Musharraf's claim that those killed were terrorists falls flat on his face. In a briefing arranged by the security agencies, it was officially disclosed that no arms were found in the madressa. To justify the attack the officials came up with a unique explanation. It was a pre-emptive strike since the tiny tots were to shape up as volunteers for being trained as suicide bombers. While no doubt such an explanation amounts to a slap on the General's face, this officially contradicts his assertion that those killed were "doing military training."
This enormous plethora of white lies nothing but lies has become so bitter to swallow by the people at large that the growing anger against the General who behaving like the man with the thickest skin, confessed it to be a Pakistani military operation—is likely to surge onto the streets in a populist movement against him and coterie that includes an army of co-operative thugs—in defence of Pakistan's independence and sovereignty converted into a fig leaf. While there is hardly any doubt about the inevitability of a change sooner than later, the need of the hour demands a thorough probe into the Bajour incident—whether it was a foreign drone that knocked life out of an entire school or was it a misconstrued military operation by the regime—one of the many resorted to by the General to convince the Americans they need him.
Last but not the least, if any self-respect is left in them or they still have some iota of patriotism hidden somewhere in their lifeless spines, the Pakistani military corps commanders must rise beyond their anachronous existence and tell Musharraf enough is enough. The best exit strategy for the military to save itself from wrath of the masses would be to create conditions and institutions to hold free, fair and transparent elections with even playing field for all the key players—be it Ms Benazir Bhutto, Mian Nawaz Sharif or even Mr Pervez Musharraf minus his uniform and his presidential office. Let the masses have the final say as the sole arbiters of power. That is the only way Pakistan can be saved from becoming a footnote in history.