President of All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS) Hameed Haroon says Saleem Shahzad had told him that he was receiving threats from the ISI. He thus endorsed a similar claim made by Ali Dayan of Human Rights Watch, which the ISI had condemned as false. Another victim of the agency hoods, reporter Umar Cheema, has confirmed in his article in The New York Times (14 June 2011) that the people who thrashed him nearly to death had made it clear that they were not Taliban or al Qaeda.
After what Saleem Shahzad has revealed in his book Inside Al Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 (Pluto Press 2011), other more dreadful possibilities are open for consideration. It could be somebody representing al Qaeda inside the ISI. The book actually tells us how deeply the Pakistan Army is infected. Saleem was a confidant of such a group of officers and could have been killed for revealing too much when he wrote about how Ilyas Kashmiri had attacked PNS Mehran after failing to cow the naval chief into releasing the arrested al Qaeda members found embedded in the navy.
Saleem got the inside track on al Qaeda starting with Captain Khurram Ashiq, who had defected to al Qaeda to die fighting the Nato troops in Helmand in Afghanistan. Khurram’s brother, Major Haroon Ashiq, followed him to North Waziristan along with another officer, Major Abdul Rehman. The Ashiq family was Salafi and the brothers were steeped in Ibn Taymiyya and Syed Qutb, the two presiding saints of al Qaeda. They believed in the Ghazwa-e-Hind hadith and thought the End of the World was near with armies of Imam Mehdi rising from Khurasan (Afghanistan-Pakistan).
Haroon left the army and joined Lashkar-e-Taiba which he told Saleem was an extension of the army. Alienated from the army under Musharraf, he joined Harkatul Jihad alAlami (HUJI) and thus got closer to al Qaeda. As an al Qaeda terrorist, Haroon enjoyed contacts inside the army: “Haroon developed a silencer for the AK-47. This became an essential component of al Qaeda’s special guerrilla operations. He then visited China to procure night-vision glasses. The biggest task was to clear them through the customs in Pakistan. Haroon called on his friend Captain Farooq, who was President Musharraf’s security officer. Farooq went to the airport in the president’s official car and received Haroon at the immigration counter. In the presence of Farooq, nobody dared touch Haroon’s luggage and the night-vision glasses arrived in Pakistan without any hassle [Farooq was a member of the Hizbut Tahrir, a fact discovered by the military intelligence as late as nine months later his posting as Musharraf’s security officer. After being spotted, he was briefly arrested and then retired from the Pakistan Army.]” (p.88)
Haroon is now in Adiala jail in Rawalpindi after failing to kidnap an Ahmadi, Sarwar Khan, in 2009: ‘In custody he admitted to killing Major General Alavi and kidnapping Hindu filmmaker Satish Anand with the help of one Major Basit from Karachi. After he discovered that Anand had no money to give he released him on orders from al Qaeda’s Ilyas Kashmiri — ‘if he embraced Islam’ — which Anand immediately did. Later al Qaeda decided that to refill its empty coffers it will abduct only non-Muslims, in particular, Ahmadis’ (p.95).
Saleem Shahzad’s book highlights the dominance of al Qaeda in Pakistan, including a highly infected Pakistan Army, and gives only a marginal status to its ancillary terrorists. The Punjabi Taliban he subordinates to the Haqqani Network, which in turn is a wing of al Qaeda but is known as a protégé of the Pakistan Army.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2011.