Sailing close to the wind

Saleem Shehzad's last interview to media lends further credence to theories that ISI is behind his and other murders.

Amina Jilani June 10, 2011

There is much about this country that belongs to shadowland. Balochistan, on a daily basis, is littered with bodies of those killed by ‘unknown’ state and non-state actors, as is Karachi with victims of the daily politico-mafia ‘target killings’. And the horrible death that Saleem Shahzad died lies firmly in shadowland.

Floating around cyberspace, easily available on the internet, is what is said to be the last interview Shahzad gave to the media. On May 21, he spoke with Paul Jay, the senior editor of The Real News Network in Washington. And it provides pointers as to why he may have offended what and whom.

The opening question: “Based partly on what you’ve written, it seems that the more pressure the US puts on the Pakistan Army to participate in the Afghan war and to deal with the al Qaeda-Taliban elements, the more it splits the army. How serious a division is there?”

Saying what we all know, but what many refrain from voicing, Shahzad’s response was simple; not only had the military establishment supported the Taliban through the mid-1990s up into the 21st century, but it also had ‘agreements’ with them and with al Qaeda. When questioned as to the possibility of “a kind of mutiny” in the army, he was quite frank. “Well, it is quite possible.” He spoke of the post-9/11 attacks on president-general Pervez Musharraf, in each of which was found a connection to the Pakistan armed forces and in particular the involvement of “southern Pakistan Air Force officials”. “So you just cannot set aside the element of a limited mutiny in the Pakistan Army. There would certainly be a backlash because you have to appreciate the fact that the Pakistan Army has always been closely allied with Islamist forces.”

He reiterated the ‘agreement’ factor and mentioned the visit of the then ISI chief, Lt-General Mahmud Ahmad, to Kandahar immediately after 9/11 to meet the Taliban government in Afghanistan, as well as al Qaeda, where he “verbally assured Osama bin Laden that Pakistan would not mount any operation against al Qaeda, they would not try to arrest them, and al Qaeda would not retaliate against Pakistan either. So, under the very same agreement, Osama bin Laden and all the top al Qaeda members were allowed to sneak inside Pakistan.”

“Crackdowns” against the jihadis and al Qaeda, as Shahzad termed them, were accelerated in 2003 when “Pakistan intelligence wrongly reported” to Musharraf that al Qaeda was responsible for an attack on his motorcade. “So the element of a limited revolt or mutiny within the Pakistan Army is there and you just cannot ignore it.”

On urban public opinion, Shahzad had it that “the majority of urban Pakistan is completely disillusioned with the Pakistan military establishment... and is very much concerned that Pakistan has turned into a proxy battleground by all sorts of forces, not only from the al Qaeda side and the American side, but the Iranians and Saudis are also very active inside Pakistan and they are paying money to different groups in different militant outfits to settle the score against each other.”

There was some discussion on 9/11 and its instigators and participators, and also on whether the Taliban were ready to now talk to the US. No, unlikely, in view of the killing by the Americans of OBL. “I don’t think the Taliban would behave in a friendly way towards the US.

It is all seemingly innocuous and there is nothing that has not been mooted. But there are bits and pieces that could be irritants to certain ‘state actors,’ particularly in view of Shahzad’s delving into the Mehran affair. As time passes and as more and more commentators express their opinions, the moving finger halts itself and points in one direction — towards the undisputed king of shadowland; the ISI.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2011.


GM Afghan | 10 years ago | Reply The security agencies of the country are no less than criminal gangs. They can target anyone talking sanity. Saleem Shahzad was a courageous man. The people of Pakistan salute him. He wrote what he deemed instrumental for the better future of the country. It is time, according to Mahmood Khan Achakzai, to bring security forces under the control of the elected parliament before they drown us.
Meekal Ahmed | 10 years ago | Reply Madam, excellent as usual.
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