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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mystery Still Surrounds the Death of Terrorism Mastermind: Hard Days Ahead for Pakistan; Security Establishment Under Strong Attack; Civil Government Comes to Its Rescue; Osamas’ Wife Shifted to Rawalpindi for Treatment; Daughters Are Under Protective Custody, But Where?

By Aijaz Ahmed:
President Obama and his security team watching the operation in real time from the White House
Islamabad: The news of  the ‘Operation Get Osama’ and the death of the terrorist mastermind and chief of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden has sent tremors throughout the country. Islamabad, the calm and quite capital of Pakistan, seems under a complete shock with mystifying meetings, phone calls and tight lips of the top brass, making the situation more difficult & incomprehensible for the observers and diplomatic commentators.
The operation was not a small incident; it was admittedly the biggest development of international importance since 9/11 terrorist attack when twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York were smashed by hijacked jet planes reportedly controlled by Al-Qaeda operatives.

Despite the global implications of the bombshell news, and the ensuing debate at all levels in and outside Pakistan, dilemma of the Pakistani media is the fact that although the operation took place on Pakistani soil, even the minor details of the action, and how the world’s most wanted man was spotted are coming from Washington through US media. 'We are getting the only truth that the United States wants to reveal', said local journalists gathered to cover tri-lateral meeting between Pakistan, Afghanistan and United States.

The only success the Pakistani media achieved during last twenty-four hours was the address of the owner of the mansion like house that Osama was using as his hideout. Both Arshad and his brother Tariq are supposed to be either killed or arrested, but no one except the US security establishment is in a position to reveal their whereabouts.
US Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan: "The minutes passed like days"
 As our readers would be fully aware, Indus Herald has already disclosed most of the information on the operation in its detailed story yesterday. Further details available to us suggest that the two daughters of OBL received some injuries, along with few other members of the family and some guards. Sources have disclosed that initially they received medical aid at Ayub Medical Complex, Abbottabad. The local hospital was completely sealed and no single civilian individual was even allowed to enter during the first part of the day, but later they were shifted to some unknown place due to security concerns, sources confided. The decision was solely taken because of the fears of backlash as information was reportedly leaked to terrorist outfits.

It is also believed that the woman used as human shield and killed was a family member of Arshad and Tariq, and she was not wife of OBL. The second lady who received injuries on left leg has been shifted to Rawalpindi for further investigations and is with Pakistani security agencies, the sources claimed. Passport of the said lady has also been recovered along with damaged computers and a laptop and few light weapons. 

The passport details indicate her name as Amal Ahmed bint e Abdul-Fatah, besides her credentials according to which she is wife of OBL and was born on 27th March 1982. But nobody knows how serious her injuries are and what her condition is now, but it is believed that she is out of danger. It is also said that Ibrahim, son of OBL was among those who were killed in the operation conducted by 79 US Navy SEALs who arrived in four helicopters from Jalalabad. Another lady, supposedly a doctor of Pakistani origin is also injured and arrested in the operation.

Media has also reported about the will of OBL. According to the reported will, OBL has asked his children not to join Al-Qaeda and advised all wives not to marry again.

As far as keeping Pakistan in complete dark about the operation is concerned, it is confirmed that leads were actually provided by Pakistan. It intercepted a telephonic call last year as reported by IH. It is also reconfirmed by the sources that a cover was also provided by Pakistani commandos, but defense sources believe that the secrecy was maintained in the operation proceedings and nobody knew about what is going on and who the Navy SEALs are hunting for. The CIA Chief also indicated that the secrecy was maintained because of the fear that OBL will be tipped off if the intelligence is shared with Pakistan. The US embassy sources while confirming it quoted at least five incidents in the recent past when the shared information was leaked at lower level and the target succeeded to escape.

Meanwhile, a debate regarding the security of the nuclear assets and the performance security apparatus has started in the media. Everybody participating in the debate fears that even India can attack and Pakistan’s defense system may not be able to respond in such a case. “How can I trust such security establishment and intelligence agencies who do not know that such a high value target is residing under its nose” said Nazir Naji, leading columnist and added that how would they be able to protect Pakistan’s nuclear program.

The security establishment is still feeling the aftershocks. The COAS General Kayani hurriedly called off his scheduled Brussels visit and sources confided that the military leadership is amazed at the pressure being exerted by the local media supposedly controlled by the security establishment. Not all but certain anchors of leading TV Channels reportedly having links with one or the other agency are busy in the debate against security establishment that may lead towards worsening relations between the two leading spy agencies, sources believe. According to sources, General Kayani and General Pasha, the ISI head had another meeting with President Zardari and PM Gilani, before PM’s departure to France.

The civilian leadership is said to have expressed dismay over the situation arising from the operation.  However, the policy of maintaining complete silence was drawn with the consultation of Military and civilian leadership, but demand for complete truth is getting stronger with every passing hour. The military leadership after Kargil once again seems to be on the back foot as compared to the civilian leadership as nobody is ready to trust them any more under the current circumstances or without a credible briefing by the ISPR with complete details on the issue.

Meanwhile, on the clear directives of President Zardari, Foreign Office has issued a jointly prepared statement with some strong words to control the damage done so far, but the hawkish media doesn't seem to be satisfied. The statement issued by the government through FO states:
·        The Government of Pakistan recognizes that the death of Osama bin Ladin is an important milestone in fight against terrorism and that the Government of Pakistan and its state institutions have been making serious efforts to bring him to justice.

·        However, the Government of Pakistan categorically denies the media reports suggesting that its leadership, civil as well as military, had any prior knowledge of the US operation against Osama bin Ladin carried out in the early hours of 2nd May 2011.

·        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 Qaeda target in 2004. As far as the target compound is concerned, ISI had 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.   It is important to highlight that taking advantage of much superior technological assets, CIA exploited the intelligence leads given by us to identify and reach Osama bin Ladin, a fact also acknowledged by the US President and Secretary of State, in their statements. It is also important to mention that CIA and some other friendly intelligence agencies have benefited a great deal from the intelligence provided by ISI. ISI’s own achievements against Al Qaeda and in War on Terror are more than any other intelligence agency in the World.

·        Reports about US helicopters taking off from Ghazi Airbase are absolutely false and incorrect. Neither any base or facility inside Pakistan was used by the US Forces, nor Pakistan Army provided any operational or logistic assistance to these operations conducted by the US Forces.  US helicopters entered Pakistani airspace making use of blind spots in the radar coverage due to hilly terrain. US helicopters’ undetected flight into Pakistan was also facilitated by the mountainous terrain, efficacious use of latest technology and ‘nap of the earth’ flying techniques. It may not be realistic to draw an analogy between this undefended civilian area and some military / security installations which have elaborate local defense arrangements.

·        On receipt of information regarding the incident, PAF scrambled its jets within minutes. This has been corroborated by the White House Advisor Mr. John Brennan who while replying to a question said, “We didn’t contact the Pakistanis until after all of our people, all of our aircraft were out of Pakistani airspace. At the time, the Pakistanis were reacting to an incident that they knew was taking place in Abbottabad. Therefore, they were scrambling some of their assets. Clearly, we were concerned that if the Pakistanis decided to scramble jets or whatever else, they didn’t know who were on those jets. They had no idea about who might have been on there, whether it be US or somebody else. So, we were watching and making sure that our people and our aircraft were able to get out of Pakistani airspace. And thankfully, there was no engagement with Pakistani forces. This operation was designed to minimize the prospects, the chances of engagement with Pakistani forces. It was done very well, and thankfully no Pakistani forces were engaged and there were no other individuals who were killed aside from those on the compound.”

·        There has been a lot of discussion about the nature of the targeted compound, particularly its high walls and its vicinity to the areas housing Pakistan Army elements. It needs to be appreciated that many houses occupied by the affectees of operations in FATA / KPK, have high boundary walls, in line with their culture of privacy and security. Houses with such layout and structural details are not a rarity.

·        Questions have also been asked about the whereabouts of the family members of Osama bin Ladin. They are all in safe hands and being looked after in accordance with law. Some of them needing medical care are under treatment in the best possible facilities. As per policy, they will be handed over to their countries of origin.

·        Notwithstanding the above, 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 authorization from the Government of Pakistan.

·        This event of unauthorized unilateral action cannot be taken as a rule. The Government of Pakistan further affirms that such an event shall not serve as a future precedent for any state, including the US. Such actions undermine cooperation and may also sometime constitute threat to international peace and security. 

·        Pakistan, being mindful of its international obligations, has been extending full and proper cooperation on all counter terrorism efforts including exchange of information and intelligence. Pursuant to such cooperation, Pakistan had arrested several high profile terrorists.

·        The Government of Pakistan and its Armed Forces consider support of the people of Pakistan to be its mainstay and actual strength. Any actions contrary to their aspirations, therefore, run against the very basis on which the edifice of national defense and security is based. Pakistan Army and intelligence agencies have played a pivotal role in breaking the back of Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in Pakistan as well as around the World. Most of the successes achieved by the US and some other friendly countries have been the result of effective intelligence cooperation and extremely useful military support by Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan and its security forces have resolved to continue their fight against terrorism till people of Pakistan can live in peace and security.

Despite such a lengthy statement by the foreign Office, it is believed that President Zardari will himself come with some damage control and will take nation into confidence in one way or the other. He according to the sources was advised to sack some of the top military and intelligence officials, but he categorically refused saying that he will not let anybody damage national security institutions.
Map of the area. Photos, courtesy internet

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