Pakistanis See FBI in Shadows
walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue Sep 3 08:59:07 MDT 2002
(This helps explain why the US wants to have
its soldiers abroad exempted from the scrutiny
of any court it doesn't control. Note the small
reference to US officials asking the Pakistani
government, and obtaining, permission to go
into and search the room of a US film-maker
named John Turner.
(The man who is discussed here, had not
broken any local laws, had expressed his
political disagreement with US policies in
Afghanistan and the Middle East. He was
quickly deported from Pakistan.)
Pakistanis See FBI in Shadows
Asia: Counter-terrorism agents from the U.S. work alongside
local security forces that have long been accused of human
By PAUL WATSON and JOSH MEYER
TIMES STAFF WRITERS
August 25 2002
KARACHI, Pakistan -- On the front lines of a shadow war
against terror in Pakistan, FBI agents are working
undercover with local security forces who have a long
history of human rights abuses.
The joint effort is cloaked in secrecy. The U.S. and
Pakistani governments won't officially discuss exactly how
many FBI agents are working in Pakistan, citing security
concerns and the political fallout that President Pervez
Musharraf could face.
Some Pakistani officials say privately that the number of
FBI counter-terrorism specialists in Pakistan is in the low
hundreds. An FBI official, speaking in Washington on the
condition of anonymity, confirmed that "between several
dozen and a hundred" FBI agents are in Pakistan at any one
time, working closely with local and federal police and
Some human rights experts contend that any FBI agents or
other Americans involved in the initial arrests share
criminal responsibility if the detainees are tortured or
Pakistan, according to the FBI official and other U.S. law
enforcement authorities, has become one of the most
important--and active--beachheads in the bureau's
anti-terrorism effort. But it is also among the most
sensitive given the country's strong undercurrent of Islamic
extremism and anti-Americanism.
The FBI's precise activities are unclear. Officially, about
a dozen agents are providing "technical assistance,"
including sharing information on terrorist groups and
training Pakistani police to track down and apprehend
Islamic militants. Other agents are working with Pakistani
police in old-fashioned "search and arrest" dragnets.
There have been some high-profile successes in the
cooperative effort, including the capture of a top Al Qaeda
leader, Abu Zubeida, and some of his lieutenants in March at
a fortified safe house in Faisalabad, and the identification
of suspected "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla.
But there is mounting suspicion in Pakistan that U.S.
investigators, believed to be from the FBI or CIA, are
involved in the pursuit and arrest of people who have then
disappeared, or quietly been deported, as Musharraf's
government tries to control Islamic extremists.
In interviews, relatives of terrorist suspects have
described groups consisting of two to four foreigners
participating in Pakistani police raids, usually as silent
observers who closely monitor searches.
FBI officials, as well as a senior Pakistani military
officer involved in the anti-terrorism effort, confirmed
that agents have gone on many such raids dressed in local
garb so as to not attract attention. Those agents, said one
FBI official, are acting in an advisory capacity only.
None of the detainees' relatives or lawyers suggested that
U.S. officials were directly involved in harming anyone, but
they said they do fear that Pakistani police are torturing
the prisoners once they are out of sight.
The U.S. is a signatory to a 1984 treaty that bans
participation or complicity in the torture of prisoners or
other forms of mistreatment. The prohibition became U.S.
law, said Kenneth Roth, executive director of the New
York-based Human Rights Watch.
"If they are actively participating in the arrest and
incommunicado detention of a suspect, anyone involved in law
enforcement knows those circumstances are an invitation to
torture," Roth, a former federal prosecutor, said from New
"So they would have to demonstrate considerable naivete to
think these people were going to be put up in a five-star
hotel," he said.
Some U.S. constitutional scholars and legal experts said
that even with the treaty, it would be nearly impossible to
hold the United States liable for the actions of its
partners in the war on terrorism, including the torture of a
To do so, a plaintiff would essentially have to prove that
the torture was done at the direction of the United States,
or with the direct participation of U.S. officials, said
Jonathan Turley, a professor of constitutional law at George
"You can't just make the case that the U.S. failed to
intervene," Turley said. "It would require a very high level
of proof.... It is a very high threshold."
In Pakistan, arrests without warrants, disappearing
prisoners and mysterious deaths in detention are chillingly
common, human rights reports by the U.S. government and
private groups have shown.
For years, the reports have shown a pattern of police
abuses, including torture, the rape of female prisoners and
illegal detentions to pressure the families of wanted
The FBI official said the bureau and Justice Department are
acutely aware of the potential pitfalls of pairing up with
local police in countries such as Pakistan, where the
accepted standards of police behavior are lower than in the
Many such countries, U.S. officials said, engage in torture
of suspects and other human rights abuses. How to conduct
overseas investigations in alliances with such governments
is an ongoing problem in the growing assault on terrorism,
These operations go beyond Pakistan, and beyond the FBI,
which has made the transition from a primarily domestic law
enforcement agency to one focused on gathering intelligence.
The United States has deployed CIA agents, State Department
officials, military intelligence operatives and others in
covert capacities to go after terrorism cells the world
But Pakistan is considered critical because potentially
hundreds of Al Qaeda and Taliban members are thought to have
found a haven there after the U.S. military strikes in
"What do you do [otherwise]?" one FBI official said. "Not do
"We go where our leads take us," the official said. "If
there is a presence in another country, we will work with
the law enforcement and intelligence services in those
countries. But because a particular intelligence service has
been accused of abuses does not mean you can walk away from
investigating matters in that country."
The FBI and Justice Department officials would not comment
on a U.S. role in any particular raids. But witnesses to the
arrest of Atta ur Rehman, suspected leader of the radical
Islamic group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, connected to the kidnapping
and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl, suspect that
there were indeed U.S. agents present.
The June 16 police raid on the home of Rehman's family went
down just before the first call to prayer, when everyone was
still asleep in a shanty house targeted as a terrorist's
Pakistani Rangers, whose officers use the assault rifles,
armored vehicles and heavy machine guns of a military force,
kicked open the flimsy front door. Then dozens stormed into
the house waving assault rifles and shouting for people to
put their hands up, witnesses said. Rehman's sister Kulsum
Bano hurried into another room to hide her face.
By the strictures of purdah, the ancient tenet of orthodox
Islam that guides a woman's modesty, she could not be seen
by any male outside her family, let alone angry police who
rousted her from bed.
In another room, the police found the man they wanted:
Rehman. Police know him better by an alias, Naeem Bukhari,
and say he commands the notorious Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
Rehman had given them the slip two years earlier, but
authorities began searching for him in earnest after he and
his militants were accused of kidnapping and murdering Pearl
and bombing the U.S. Consulate here.
Rehman was living in his family's home when the police came
to get him just two days after a suicide car bomber attacked
the consulate, killing 12 Pakistanis. FBI agents joined the
investigation immediately after the blast.
Watching from the shadows while police searched her home,
Bano noticed four foreign men in plainclothes among the
uniformed federal Rangers. They didn't say a word but moved
from room to room, closely watching the search of cabinets,
drawers and other areas, she recalled recently.
Because the foreigners never spoke, Bano said she has no
idea who they were.
About half an hour after storming into the house, police
dragged Rehman by the hair and collar, and shoved him into a
white car at gunpoint.
That's the last his family has seen of him. A provincial
judge ordered local police to produce Rehman in court. They
insist that they don't have him, and never did.
"We fear that they will torture him to death because they
are not acknowledging his arrest and are not disclosing his
whereabouts," his sister said.
The day after the raid, Bano's lawyer went to the provincial
High Court to file a habeas corpus application, which
demanded that police either charge Rehman or set him free.
In the application, she accused police of taking her brother
without an arrest warrant, illegally detaining and torturing
him, and demanding a bribe of about $5,000 for his release.
She named four officers from the Sindh provincial force's
criminal investigation division: Deputy Supt. Zulfiqar
Junejo, Inspector Sajjad Haider, Supt. Farooq Awan and
Officer Fayyaz, whose first name was not given.
Anwar Alam Subhani, the force's law officer, denied in a
July 31 affidavit that Sindh police had arrested Rehman.
The affidavit also denied local newspaper reports, quoting
unnamed police officials, that said police seized a massive
arsenal--including four truckloads of ammunition, plastic
explosives, 242 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 136 rocket
launchers and 2,700 hand grenades--when they arrested
Rehman. Bano claims that police left her house with only her
brother and a roll of film, which she says were wedding
Three days earlier, police raided the Karachi home of
another suspected Lashkar-e-Jhangvi member, Mohammed Faisal
Bhatti, around 4:15 a.m. In an affidavit, his mother,
Shahzada Begum, accused three of the police officers named
in Rehman's case of kidnapping her son. Three foreigners in
plainclothes were with about 25 Pakistani police in the
family's apartment for about 10 minutes, Begum said.
Speaking off the record, police have told Pakistani
reporters for several different publications that they have
Rehman and at least two other suspects in Pearl's murder
They say they don't want to charge the men, or publicly
acknowledge that the suspects are in custody, because they
would undermine evidence that convicted the accused
mastermind of Pearl's murder, Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, and
three accomplices last month.
Pakistani police investigators have also suggested privately
that they believe Rehman ordered that Pearl be killed. One
Karachi police source claimed that Rehman brought in three
Yemenis to carry out the murder and the dismemberment of
A Pakistani police officer who participated in a separate
raid on the Karachi hotel room of a U.S. citizen said four
FBI agents, one of them a woman, joined in the June 1
operation after Pakistani police failed to persuade a desk
clerk to cooperate.
Acting on information from U.S. officials, the police went
to the Metropole Hotel and asked the desk clerk to let them
into the room of an American identified as John Turner, said
the source, who spoke on condition he not be named to
protect his job.
Turner, the source added, was a documentary filmmaker
traveling on a U.S. passport, issued at the U.S. Interests
Section in Havana. It contained valid visas to enter
Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan.
The desk clerk only let the police go up to his room after
FBI agents arrived and insisted that he let them in, the
source said. The FBI agents interrogated Turner for about
two hours, and he told them that he had been in Afghanistan
working on a documentary in ethnic Pushtun areas where the
ousted Taliban regime is still popular.
During the questioning, the police source added, Turner was
critical of U.S. policies in Afghanistan and what he called
Washington's support for Israel against the Palestinians.
Both are popular views in Pakistan, and Turner hadn't broken
any local laws, but the source said he was deported anyway.
In a personal court action challenging the FBI's role,
Karachi lawyer Suhail Hameed went to court Aug. 2 to demand
that Musharraf's government show under what, if any, legal
authority U.S. agents are working in the country.
Judges Zahid Kurban Alavi and Ghulam Rabbani dismissed the
petition. They said it was inadequately drafted because, for
example, it failed to include specific allegations of
The lawyer told the judge that he had kept it vague for fear
of being branded an Al Qaeda supporter but said he may
return to court seeking answers on FBI activities.
Islamic extremists have already declared war on the FBI in
hundreds of leaflets distributed in Pakistan's North-West
Frontier Province and the South Waziristan tribal area,
along the border with Afghanistan, as recently as early this
month. The leaflets name 120 people accused of spying for
the FBI and say Al Qaeda members will receive $100,000 for
each one killed.
Suspicion that FBI agents are aiding Pakistani police who
routinely break the law only feeds seething anger among a
small but very dangerous minority of Pakistani radicals,
warned Khawaja Naveed Ahmed, a Karachi lawyer who recently
proved in court that police had secretly detained four of
his clients for more than two weeks in a police station.
"America is the flag-bearer of human rights all over the
world," the lawyer said. "In our country, 70% of the people
are silent. Only people who are either political or victims
are vocal. They naturally are saying this is not a good
practice. It's making new enemies."
Watson reported from Karachi and Meyer from Washington.
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