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Monday, March 7, 2011

War On Terror, US Embassy in Islamabad & Haqqani Group: Too Close For Comfort

War On Terror: Is Islamabad Security Compromised?

By Ibn e Mehboob

Islamabad nowadays looks like a fort under attack. To beef up the security and keep the ‘invaders’ at bay, the city is divided in two zones: very high security zone and normal security zone. A number of checkpoints have been established to closely monitor and scrutinize the movement between the two zones and different sectors of the city as well as the entry into this beautiful but highly bugged capital city. Special attention is paid to keep an eye on the people with extremist mindset including various jihadi outfits. But it is strange that an unusual activity or presence of dubious characters is witnessed right in the middle of the high security zone – the Red Zone.

The Red Zone basically consists of very sensitive areas that include the diplomatic enclave, the Presidency, the PM House, PM Secretariat, Parliament, Parliament lodges, Supreme Court, Foreign Office, the Provinces’ Houses, Secretariat, some administrative offices, two five star hotels and a few other sensitive departments’ offices. The zone starts in the North from the streams of the Murree Hills where Quaid-e-Azam University is situated and includes the areas of Bhara Kahu, Banigala of DR AQ Khan, Chak Shahzad and the adjacent localities in the East. The whole lands of the University and the adjacent areas are very picturesque. The landscape looks like a replica of Eastern Afghanistan.

It is in this area where hundreds of Afghan families are settled on the lands originally belonging to the Quaid-e-Azam University and despite repeated attempts, the administration has failed to vacate the lands from the occupation of the Afghans mainly because of the reported pressure of our worthy intelligence agencies. The amazing part of the story is the fact that US Embassy, its proposed extension area and few other facilities are situated in the same diplomatic zone or in the adjacent areas.

There is an amazing development in the area related to Haqqani Group of Afghanistan. While going through Bhara Kahu, just few kilometers away from US Embassy, but surely close enough to be under its surveillance, a vast piece of land is reportedly owned by an Afghan born Najaf Shah. The land holding is also reported to be illegal, as country’s law does not allow any foreign national specially a refugee to buy land in Pakistan. Sources in Islamabad also reveal that two blood brothers of Afghan warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani, namely, Ibrahim Haqqani and Khalil Haqqani are ‘sleeping partners’ of Najaf Shah.

It is noteworthy that United States wanted an offensive against the Haqqani group a few months back but on the intervention of Pakistan and also because of its policy of engagement with Afghan Taliban groups, the strike was postponed.

It may be noticed that the United States has its own network of intelligence working in Pakistan besides the satellite monitoring and intelligence sharing with Pakistan and Afghanistan but right under the nose of its very huge embassy, the presence of Afghan tribes and land holding of the brothers of Mr. Haqqani could be seen as conspicuous gaps in the security.

It would be worth mentioning that a number of terrorist incidents have taken place in the twin cities that include the attacks on GHQ and the United Nations Office and the murder of federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti, and kidnapping attempts of several high profile security related officials. Security agencies have not succeeded so far to trace any major clue in the incidents.  

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