US warns Pakistan of ‘severe consequences’

Agencies May 09, 2010

WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in remarks made public on Saturday that Pakistan faces “very severe consequences” if a successful terror plot like the failed Times Square bombing was traced to it.

“We’ve made it very clear that if – heaven-forbid – an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences,” Clinton told CBS’s “60 Minutes” program, according to excerpts released by the TV network. However, Clinton also acknowledged Pakistan’s increased cooperation in the war on terror, but said the US expected more.

Pakistan’s attitude toward fighting Islamic terrorists had changed remarkably. “We’ve gotten more cooperation and it’s been a real sea change in the commitment we’ve seen from the Pakistan government,” she said. “We want more. We expect more,” she added. The latest update on the ongoing investigation is that Shahzad’s family knew at least two key Pakistani militants who were involved in terrorist activities, reported The Los Angeles Times.

Citing an unnamed US government source, it said the circle of acquaintances included someone who became a Taliban leader and another who took part in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The newspaper said US officials believe the Pakistani-born Shahzad’s family background may help explain why he became radicalised and allegedly contacted the Pakistani Taliban on the internet. “What we don’t know is if he was actively recruited by these guys or if he recruited himself,” the paper quotes a senior US official as saying.

On Saturday, Pakistan received a letter from the US, formally requesting an investigation regarding Shahzad, said Interior Minister Rehman Malik, promising to investigate links between him and militancy in the country. Malik said he had received a formal request from US authorities to look into possible links with militants in tribal areas of northwest Pakistan.

“Today we received a formal request from them in which they have divulged some details about the charges,” Malik told reporters in Islamabad. “They think that (Faisal) Shahzad has been visiting South Waziristan and meeting Qari Hussain and Hakimullah Mehsud. But it all needs confirmation.” Malik stressed that it was for Pakistani security officers to carry out the investigation into possible links with militants. “Only Pakistani agencies will investigate this matter,” he said.

Nevertheless, The Washington Post reported Saturday that a Federal Bureau of Investigation team arrived in Pakistan on Friday, with investigators focusing on whether foreign terrorist money helped finance the operation. The 30-year-old Shahzad who faces five terror charges has not asked for a lawyer during questioning, officials said. He has not yet appeared in court after waiving his right to a speedy arraignment.

However, it has since been learned that Shahzad was driven by Sheikh Mohammed Rehan, a known militant, from Karachi to Peshawar in July 2009, and then on to Waziristan and its training camps there, The Times said. Rehan was arrested in Pakistan this week with several others, and Shahzad’s father, Baharul Haz, was questioned but not arrested, the report said. A government source said Baharulhaz knew Baitullah Mehsud, a leading Taliban militant in Waziristan, The Times noted.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 09/05/2010