Who really killed Daniel Pearl?
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Apr 6 11:19:22 MST 2002
Counterpunch, April 6, 2002
Who Really Killed Daniel Pearl?
The US is ignoring evidence of links with Pakistan's secret service
By Tariq Ali
Lahore, Pakistan-- It has been a stunningly beautiful spring in
Pakistan. But the surface calm is deceptive. When the war in
Afghanistan began, I suggested that the Taliban would be rapidly
defeated and that the "jihadi" organisations and their patrons would
regroup in Pakistan and, sooner or later, start punishing General
Musharraf's regime. This process is now under way.
In recent months, the jihadis have scored three big hits: the
kidnapping and brutal murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter,
Daniel Pearl; the assassination of the interior minister's brother;
and the bombing of a church in the heart of Islamabad's tightly
protected diplomatic enclave. There have also been targeted killings
of professionals in Karachi: more than a dozen doctors belonging to
the Shi'a minority have been shot.
All these acts were designed as a warning to Pakistan's military
ruler: if you go too far in accommodating Washington, your head will
also roll. Some senior journalists believe an attempt on Musharraf's
life has already taken place. Are these acts of terrorism actually
carried out by hardline groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harkatul
Ansar, which often claim them? Probably, but these groups are only a
shell. Turn them upside down and the rational kernel is revealed in
the form of Pakistan's major intelligence agency - the Inter-Services
Intelligence (ISI), whose manipulation of them has long been clear.
Those sections of the ISI who patronised and funded these
organisations were livid at "the betrayal of the Taliban". Being
forced to unravel the only victory they had ever scored - the Taliban
takeover in Kabul - created enormous tensions inside the army. Unless
this background is appreciated, the terrorism shaking the country
today is inexplicable.
Colin Powell's statement of March 3, exonerating the ISI from any
responsibility for Pearl's disappearance and murder, is shocking. Few
in Pakistan believe such assurances. Musharraf was not involved, but
he must know what took place. He has referred to Pearl as an "over-
intrusive journalist" caught up in "intelligence games". Has he told
Washington what he knows? And if so, why did Powell absolve the ISI?
The Pearl tragedy has shed some light on the darker recesses of the
intelligence networks. Pearl was a gifted, independent-minded
investigative journalist. On previous assignments he had established
that the Sudanese pharmaceutical factory - bombed on Clinton's orders
- was exactly that and not a shady installation producing biological
and chemical weapons, as alleged by the White House. Subsequently, he
wrote extensively on Kosovo, questioning some of the atrocity stories
dished out by Nato spin-doctors to justify the war on Yugoslavia.
Pearl was never satisfied with official briefings or chats with
approved local journalists. Those he was in touch with in Pakistan
say he was working to uncover links between the intelligence services
and terrorism. His newspaper has been remarkably coy, refusing to
disclose the leads Pearl was pursuing.
Any western journalist visiting Pakistan is routinely watched and
followed. The notion that Daniel Pearl, setting up contacts with
extremist groups, was not being carefully monitored by the secret
services is unbelievable - and nobody in Pakistan believes it.
The group which claimed to have kidnapped and killed Pearl - "The
National Youth Movement for the Sovereignty of Pakistan" - is a
confection. One of its demands was unique: the resumption of F-16
sales to Pakistan. A terrorist, jihadi group which supposedly regards
the current regime as treacherous is putting forward a 20-year-old
demand of the military and state bureaucracy.
The principal kidnapper, the former LSE student Omar Saeed Sheikh -
whose trial begins in Karachi today - has added to the mystery. He
carelessly condemned himself by surrendering to the provincial home
secretary (a former ISI operative) on February 5. Sheikh is widely
believed in Pakistan to be an experienced ISI "asset" with a history
of operations in Kashmir. If he was extradited to Washington and
decided to talk, the entire story would unravel. His family are
fearful. They think he might be tried by a summary court and executed
to prevent the identity of his confederates being revealed.
So mysterious has this affair become that one might wonder who is
really running Pakistan. Official power is exercised by General
Musharraf. But it is clear that his writ does not extend to the whole
state apparatus, let alone the country. If a military regime cannot
guarantee law and order, what can it hope to deliver? Meanwhile,
Daniel Pearl's widow is owed an explanation by her own state
department and the general in Islamabad.
Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 04/06/2002
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