A report published by the News on August 5, 2008 includes the following (apparently based on information given by the ISI officials):
” The top US military commander and the CIA official were also asked why the CIA-run predator and the US military did not swing into action when they were provided the exact location of Baitullah Mehsud, Pakistan’s enemy number one and the mastermind of almost every suicide operation against the Pakistan Army and the ISI since June 2006. One such precise piece of information was made available to the CIA on May 24 when Baitullah Mehsud drove to a remote South Waziristan mountain post in his Toyota Land Cruiser to address the press and returned back to his safe abode. The United States military has the capacity to direct a missile to a precise location at very short notice as it has done close to 20 times in the last few years to hit al-Qaeda targets inside Pakistan.Pakistani official have long been intrigued by the presence of highly encrypted communications gear with Baitullah Mehsud. This communication gear enables him to collect real-time information on Pakistani troop movement from an unidentified foreign source without being intercepted by Pakistani intelligence.” Both the CIA and the ISI have been playing a double game. Fighting and nurturing terrorists and warlords at the same time! Why?
Now please carefully read the following published and circulated by the State of Pakistan on January 31, 2008.
Nicholas Schmidle, who was expelled from Pakistan in January 2008 for writing a detailed report in the NY Times on the tribal areas and the NWFP, later wrote in the Washington Post, “foreign journalists are barred from almost half the country; in most cases, their visas are restricted to three cities — Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. In Baluchistan province, which covers 44 percent of Pakistan and where ethnic nationalists are fighting a low-level insurgency, the government requires prior notification and approval if you want to travel anywhere outside the capital of Quetta. Such permission is rarely given. And the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where the pro-Taliban militants are strong, are completely off-limits. Musharraf’s government says that journalists are kept out for their own security. But meanwhile, two conflicts go unreported in one of the world’s most vital — and misunderstood — countries.”
What does the government want to hide? Most governments make every effort to expose terrorists. Authorities pursue them relentlessly including placing advertisements about purported crimes, requesting people to come forward and give information. When arrested they prosecute the alleged terrorists vigorously and publicize convictions. But no such pattern in Pakistan. The website of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency lists only two, yes only TWO terrorists from the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) as wanted. The star of ‘Jaish-e-Muhammed’ Masood Azhar was allowed to escape. The other star, Omar Saeed Sheikh, is still alive (ostensibly because his case is under appeal) although he was sentenced to death in July 2002. The alleged ‘master mind’ of the plan to blow up trans-atlantic flights, Rashid Rauf, has mysteriously escaped and the government does not even want to hear about it. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the master mind of 9/11, has been kept in Guantanamo since 2004 and has not been tried. Abdullah Mehsud (Baitullah’s relative ) was released by the U.S. from Guantanamo and allowed to return? Why? So that they can issue threats to blow up the White House (interview to Al-Jazeera on Jan.29, 2008) and provide justification for the so-called ‘War on Terror’ which has not seen a single terrorist attack on the U.S. soil since 9/11?
Let’s now talk about Baitullah Mehsud who became a big militant leader soon after Abdullah’s release by the U.S. government from Guantanamo Bay in March 2004. Until the end of 2004, Baitullah Mehsud (former FATA secretary Brig. Mahmood Shah says he is in 40s) lived in the shadow of his daring and charismatic fellow tribesman, Abdullah Mehsud, who, with his long black hair, was considered a terrorist rock star. Abdullah fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance and in 1996 lost a leg when he stepped on a land mine. He was taken captive by warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum who turned him over to American forces. Abdullah Mehsud was sent to Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba and held for two years, insisting the whole time that he was just an innocent tribesman. He was released in March 2004 for reasons which remain unclear and returned to Waziristan. Soon after his return, he orchestrated the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers working on a dam in his region, proclaiming that Beijing was guilty of killing Muslims. He also ordered an attack on Pakistan’s Interior Minister in which 31 people perished. The government came under tremendous pressure from the Chinese to hunt Abdullah after the killings of their engineers.
The Afghan Taliban, who were in the process of organizing themselves to fight in Afghanistan and were desperately trying to avoid a head-on confrontation with Pakistani forces in the tribal regions, were not pleased with the killing of the Chinese engineers. Abdullah was made a deputy of Baitullah Mehsud and a shura or tribal council was set up which further undermined his authority. It was said at the time that the Taliban preferred a cool-headed Baitullah over the temperamental Abdullah. Dejected, Abdullah left for Afghanistan to fight in Musa Qilla in the southern Afghan province ofHelmand and was killed by security agencies in the Zhob area of the south-western province of Baluchistan while returning home to Pakistan.
Mehsud’s first battlefield experience was in Afghanistan in the late 1980s against Soviet invaders. His mentor at the time was Jalaluddin Haqqani, a powerful commander in eastern Afghanistan backed by the United States against the Soviets. Now Haqqani is wanted as a terrorist by the U.S. and NATO but the CIA has also been trying to get his support according to the Wall Street Journal. The ISI once considered him a ‘moderate’ Taliban.
For almost three years now, Baitullah Mehsud has been the leading face of militant resistance whose influence, security officials acknowledge, transcends the borders of South Waziristan, according to the sources in the governments of Pakistan and the United States. But there is little independent reporting on the tribal areas. Most of the so-called experts writing for the think tanks have never visited these areas. Mostly they cite each other in their papers or quote US or Pakistani officials.
That the government had acknowledged Baitullah Mehsud as the new chief of militants in the Mehsud part of South Waziristan came in February, 2005, when it entered into an agreement with him in Sara Rogha following violent clashes and ambushes. He was reportedly paid Rs.20 million as part of this deal though it remains unclear who picked the tab, Pakistani or the U.S. government? But read the following report of Jan. 30, 2005 published by the Daily Times, Karachi:
“Baitullah Mehsud gets ready to surrender, Sets aside demand for amnesty to Abdullah Mehsud
By Iqbal Khattak
PESHAWAR: A key local Taliban militant expressed his willingness to surrender to the government after holding talks with tribal elders and clerics at an undisclosed location in South Waziristan Agency, said one of the negotiators on Saturday.
Baitullah Mehsud, a key tribal Taliban commander in the troubled South Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan, expressed readiness to surrender, Brig (r) Qayyum Sher, a member of the peace committee that met the militant, told Daily Times from Tank.
“He (Baitullah) is ready to settle the matter with the government,” said the tribal negotiator. “We met him today and he said he is ready to resolve the matter.” The tribal negotiator said Baitullah did not press his old demand that his comrade Abdullah Mehsud should also be pardoned if he surrenders. “He (Baitullah) will surrender alone,” said Brig Qayyum.
However, the peace committee will discuss modalities for Baitullah’s surrender with the government. “The modalities will now be sorted out with the government. How, when and where he will surrender will be discussed with the military and the political administration,” said Brig Qayyum.
A military source told Daily Times that Baitullah’s surrender would prove a serious setback to Abdullah Mehsud. “That is what we want. But we have to wait for the moment when he (Baitullah) surrenders,” the source said on condition of anonymity. Lt Gen Safdar Hussain exempted Abdullah Mehsud from amnesty after his alleged involvement in two Chinese engineers’ kidnapping in October last year.
Brig Qayyum said Baitullah, who unlike Abdullah Mehsud and Nek Muhammad was not in the media limelight, set no conditions for his surrender and the Peshawar corps commander had already declared amnesty for him if he laid down arms.
Gen Safdar set a January 26 deadline for the two militants to surrender or “face military onslaught” and hoped sanity would prevail upon Baituallah to live peacefully. However, Gen Safdar had refused to pardon Abdullah Mehsud.
He pledged to cease attacks on security forces and government installations in return for a commitment by the government to withdraw forces from the Mehsud territory and not to take any punitive action against him and his associates. This followed a brief lull in fighting, prompting the then Pakistani army corps commander, Peshawar, Lt-Gen Safdar, to declare Baitullah Mehsud a “soldier of peace” after a meeting with him at Jandola in August, 2005.
The meeting followed accusations by Baitullah Mehsud that the government was not honouring its commitments, was refusing to withdraw its forces and was continuing to attack his mujahideen. Violence erupted again in the restive tribal region and a time came when the government’s writ was restricted to the compounds of the political administration. ”
Why was not Baitullah captured when he was ready to surrender? Instead, he was given money and allowed to grow his militia from a few hundred to nearly 20,000? Why? Who made the decision?
Baitullah Mehsud addressed his tribe after the Sararogha pact and clearly swore allegiance to Mullah Umar of the Taliban. His power over the two agencies is owed to his wealth and his ability to wage war. He goes around in a bullet-proof car and is followed around by 30 armed guards. Like Nek Muhammad, he too has two wives and has three castle-like houses in North and South Waziristan. Although he is not a tribal leader by lineage or by election, he is more respected as a warlord by the people of the two agencies than any other person. Although he denies that he received Rs 20 million (2 crore) from the secret funds of the government without signing a receipt, corps commander Peshawar General Safdar Hussain is on record as saying that the money was indeed set aside for him.
Government officials now claim that Baitullah has been running a number of training camps for militants and suicide bombers. And in January 2007, helicopter gunships targeted what the government claimed was a militant compound, killing 20 people. Baitullah responded angrily and threatened revenge which he said “would be such that it would pain their heart”. It was followed by a string of suicide attacks in Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan and Islamabad. By this time, government officials had begun pointing the accusing finger at Baitullah Mehsud. A UN report released in September 2007 blamed Baitullah for almost eighty percent of suicide bombings in Afghanistan. Now since when has the UN become so well informed as to be able to account for the exact percentage of the perpetrators of suicide bombings as to their source? Who is feeding this information (or disinformation).
In an address to the nation on January 2, 2008, Mr. Pervez Musharraf said that he believed Maulana Fazlullah and Baitullah Mehsud were prime suspects in the assassination of Bhutto.In its January 18, 2008 edition, The Washington Post reported that the CIA has concluded that Mehsud was behind the Bhutto assassination. “Offering the most definitive public assessment by a U.S. intelligence official, [Michael V.] Hayden said Bhutto was killed by fighters allied with Mehsud, a tribal leader in northwestern Pakistan, with support from al-Qaeda’s terrorist network.”
The CIA is really well informed! It could not trace Mullah Omar (who reportedly lived in Quetta) or Osama (who escaped helped by the cease fire ordered by Dick Cheney at Musharraf’s request in 2001) in more than six years but it can “conclude’ within three weeks of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto that Mehsud was behind it. Meanwhile Talibans in Afghanistan want to distance themselves from him?
According to a DAWN report (Jan. 28, 2008), the Taliban in Afghanistan have distanced themselves from Pakistani militants led by Baitullah Mehsud, saying they don’t support any militant activity in Pakistan. “We do not support any militant activity and operation in Pakistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Dawn on telephone from an undisclosed location on Monday. The spokesman denied media reports that the Taliban had expelled Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. “Baitullah is a Pakistani and we as the Afghan Taliban have nothing to do with his appointment or his expulsion. We did not appoint him and we have not expelled him,” he said.
Now a $10 billion question? What is the end-game of the U.S. if Baitullah Mehsud is indeed an ‘intelligence asset’ of the CIA? Is the aim is to create a theatre of the ‘War on Terror’ in Pakistan to create the justification for the landing of the U.S. troops so that the republican administration can continue to tell American people that it is fighting terrorism while spending billions to enrich the military-industrial complex, win the next elections in Nov. 2008 and tighten its control over Pakistan to pursue its anti-China and anti-Iran foreign policy goals?
For those Pakistanis who may think this is far-fetched, here is a quote from “Devil’s Game” by Robert Dreyfuss (pp. 336-337, published 2005). Citing the infamous policy memo written by leading neocons in 1995, entitled, “A Clean Break” to then Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel to ‘contain, destablize, and roll back’ various states in the region, Dreyfuss concludes:
“Neoconservatives want to control the Middle East, not reform it, even it means tearing countries apart and replacing them with rump mini-states along ethnic and sectrian lines. The Islamic right, in this context, is just one more tool for dismantling existing regimes, if that is what it takes.”