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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The mystery deepens

Well... not really. After reading this blockbuster piece in Canada's Globe and Mail, Indian newspapers feel they have their smoking gun: the connection between Al Qaeda and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism against India.
A police officer familiar with Mr. bin Laden’s compound in the scenic town of Abbottabad said the location was used by Hizbul Mujahedeen, one of the biggest militant outfits in the disputed territory of Kashmir. Like other groups fighting Indian troops in the borderlands, HM’s radical membership has never been rounded up by Pakistani forces and some analysts say Islamabad covertly supports the group.

Any link to HM would deepen Pakistan’s embarrassment over Mr. bin Laden’s death. Pakistan has denied any collusion with terrorists, saying that its leading intelligence service had been sharing information with U.S. counterparts since 2009 about the compound where Mr. bin Laden was found.

Still, in the wake of the raid, Islamabad scrambled to ensure that precise ownership of the compound would not become public knowledge.

“The place belonged to Hizbul Mujahedeen,” the police officer said. “But the authorities have asked us not to share any information about the exact ownership.”

Land-registry officials in Abbottabad, known in the local language as patwaris, were summoned to a meeting on Tuesday and urged to keep quiet.

“The patwaris are meeting right now,” a local official said. “They are being instructed not to say anything about the land-ownership issue.”

American officials have described the owners as “brothers,” and neighbours recalled seeing a pair of men, possibly ethnic Pashtuns from the rugged western frontier, who largely kept to themselves.
Clearly, there's a lot more to this story, and since no one outside the failed state has the power to investigate, we may never find out.

It is plain, from the story, that even police officers know which houses in Abbotabad were owned by anti-Indian terrorist groups, and they were allowed to operate freely within a military zone. Indeed, that's hardly surprising, given the Pakistani army's mission ("There are two countries in the world, and we have to weaken the other one").

The story, of course might be as simple as a member of one terrorist group loaning its safehouse to the icon of all Islamist terrorist groups. And the coverup might just be Pakistan trying to cover up some element of the state sponsorship of Hizbul Mujahaddin rather than Al Qaeda.
“If I were a prosecutor at the United States Department of Justice … I would be tempted to call a grand jury,” wrote Steve Coll, a Pulitzer-winning biographer of Mr. bin Laden. “Who owned the land on which the house was constructed?”

If the ownership were traced to HM, it would mark an unusual example of co-operation between the militant group and its more extreme cousin, al-Qaeda. HM has maintained a narrow focus on removing Indian forces from Kashmir, while Al-Qaeda pursues global ambitions.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of links between Hizbul Mujahedeen and Osama, but its members would probably admire him,” said Kamran Bokhari of Stratfor international analysts.

But adding the policeman's inadvertent admission to CNN's report that even foreign reporters in Abbotabad's papers are checked several times a week by the military town's zealous security agents, you have to wonder how no one in Abbotabad could have known who lived there. Even the Pakistani media is aghast.
The idea that Mr. bin Laden’s presence went unnoticed did not sit well with Pakistan’s media, however. Dawn, a leading newspaper, pointed out that the head of the country’s military, General Ashfaq Kayani, had visited the nearby Kakul Military Academy on April 23 and bragged that his forces had broken the “terrorist backbone” in the country.

“Was the general completely unaware that the most wanted man lived but a short distance away?” the newspaper asked, in a sharply worded front-page analysis.

Another major newspaper, The Nation, expressed similar sentiments in an unsigned report on the front page: “The presence of the world’s most wanted terrorist in such a strategically sensitive city is beyond the understanding of a sane man.”

Bottom line, Pakistan has a lot of 'splanin' to do. The problem is that Pakistan is a failed state. The civilian authorities have no control over the army or the intelligence services. No one knows for sure which elements of the army control which elements of the intelligence services, whether it's the other way around, or if sections of the two organizations are completely melded. Even Pakistanis don't know who's actually running the Pakistani's military-industrial-terrorist complex. Furthermore, the country's location means it will always matter in geopolitics; as long as Russia, China, India and Iran matter, so will Pakistan.

Like North Korea, it has little human capital and produces little that the world wants to purchase, but it does have the ability to send nuclear weapons to terrorists. Therefore, Pakistan will always have the ability to hold the world hostage.

Finally, China is more than willing to become feudal overlord if the US backs out on finanical assistance, and, indeed, will eventually have a lot more cash to throw its way than we do. Both China's and Pakistan's militaries share a dislike for India. It only helps that they are neighbors; for centuries, China has always had a great fondness for buffer states, Tibet being only the most recent example. So US foreign policy towards the nation will continue to be horribly complicated, even if we are to pull out of Afghanistan.

No matter what congressional blowhards say this week, the direction of Pakistan policy will continue to be a huge conundrum in the US national security establishment. 

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