Friday, October 19, 2007

Bhutto Confused Over Her Attackers?

By Cernig

Something weird is going on with Bhutto's statements on the assasination attempt yesterday.

Most American media outlets are going with the AP's report, citing it as the source for her blaiming Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
She said she had prior warning that Taliban and al-Qaida suicide squads would try to kill her upon her return, and that she alerted President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in an Oct. 16 letter. She said there were two attackers in the deadly bombing; her security guards, she said, found a third man armed with a pistol and another with a suicide vest.

"There was one suicide squad from the Taliban elements, one suicide squad from al-Qaida, one suicide squad from Pakistani Taliban and a fourth group, I believe, from Karachi," she in a news conference.
But the UK media is reporting her apportioning of blame rather differently.

The Guardian reports Bhutto as saying in an interview with Paris match magazine that she's blaming elements within Musharaff's regime - especially within the ISI - holdovers from the reign of General Zia, who sicced the Taliban on her:
Benazir Bhutto today accused supporters of the former Pakistani military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq for the assassination attempt that turned her homecoming into a bloodbath.
"I know exactly who wants to kill me," she told the French magazine Paris-Match. "They are dignitaries of General Zia's former regime who are behind extremism and fanaticism."

...She praised those who died while protecting her as heroes, and said she did not blame the government for the attack. However, she called for an inquiry as to why street lights had been switched off during her procession.

"If the street lights had been on, we would have spotted the suicide bombers," she said. "The guards had floodlights on, but it was difficult to scan the crowds as there were so many people".

Denouncing her would-be assassins as trying to destroy Pakistan and saying they had damaged Islam, she added: "It is against our religion to kill innocent people".

The Pakistani government has blamed Islamist militants for the assassination attempt. Police are focusing on militants linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida based in tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, where they have stepped up attacks on Pakistani troops.

However, Ms Bhutto pointed to Pakistan's powerful intelligence services, the ISI.

General Zia seized power in a coup against Ms Bhutto's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in 1977. The general, who died in a mysterious plane crash in 1988, had Mr Bhutto tried on trumped-up charges and executed.

"We have to purge elements still present in our services," Ms Bhutto told Paris-Match. "Many went into retirement and then were taken back. Today, they hold much power. For them I represent a danger - if I bring back democracy to the country, they will lose influence".
The BBC essentially supports the Guardian's version, saying:
She said she had been warned that Taleban, al-Qaeda and an unspecified group in Karachi were planning attacks on her, but she blamed "certain individuals who abuse their positions" - without specifying what these positions were - for orchestrating the blasts.
You have to have been looking very hard in the other direction over the last years to have missed the fact that the ISI has always been a major supporter of both the Taliban and Al Qaeda, using those and other Islamist terror groups as proxies in struggles with rival states. Thus my asking yesterday when the news of the attack first broke "ISI or Islamists?"

Regular commenter Charles from Mercury Rising blog points to a 2001 article by the prestigeous Jane's Defense Group which highlights just how enmeshed the ISI is in Islamist terror currents.
Pakistan’s sinister Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) remains the key to providing accurate information to the US-led alliance in its war against Osama bin Laden and his Taliban hosts in Afghanistan. Known as Pakistan’s ‘secret army’ and ‘invisible government’, its shadowy past is linked to political assassinations and the smuggling of narcotics as well as nuclear and missile components.

The ISI also openly backs the Taliban and fuels the 12-year-old insurgency in northern India’s disputed Kashmir province by ‘sponsoring’ Muslim militant groups and ministering its policy of ‘death by a thousand cuts’ that so effectively drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan and led to their political demise.

...Former Pakistani president General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, who was ultimately assassinated along with his ISI chief, expanded the agency’s internal charter by tasking it with collecting information on local religious and political groups opposed to his military regime. Under Gen Zia the ISI’s Internal Political Division reportedly assassinated Shah Nawaz Bhutto, one of the two brothers of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, by poisoning him on the French Riviera in 1985. The aim was to intimidate Miss Bhutto into not returning to Pakistan to direct the multi-party movement for the restoration of democracy, but Miss Bhutto refused to be cowed down and returned home, only to be toppled by the ISI soon after becoming prime minister in 1988.

The ISI is believed to have recently formed a secret task force under Gen Ahmed comprising Interior Minister Lt Gen (retd) Moinuddin Haider and Deputy Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Muzaffar Usmani to ‘destroy’ major political parties and the separatist Mohajir Quami Movement (MQM) in southern Sindh province.

This task force has reportedly encouraged not only religious Islamic organisations such as the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JuI) but also sectarian organisations such as the fundamentalist Sipah Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (which are closely linked to the Taliban and Bin Laden) to extend their activities to Sindh. These organisations are believed to have ‘slipped the ISI collar’ and begun recruiting unemployed Sindhi rural youth for the Taliban, posing a threat to Gen Musharraf's co-operation with Washington by formenting jihad against the West.

...A Director General, always an army officer of the rank of lieutenant general, heads the ISI, which is controlled by Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence and reports directly to the chief of army staff. As the current ISI chief, Gen Ahmed is assisted by three major generals heading the agency’s political, external and administrative divisions, which are divided broadly into eight sections:

* Joint Intelligence North: responsible for the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Kashmir insurgency. This section controls the Army of Islam that comprises Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda group and Kashmiri militant groups like the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (banned by the US last week), Lashkar-e-Toiba, Al Badr and Jaissh-e-Mohammad. Lt Gen Mohammad Aziz, presently commanding the Lahore Corps and a former ISI officer, reportedly heads the Army of Islam, which also controls all opium cultivation and heroin refining and smuggling from Pakistani and Afghan territory.
It should be noted that recently Musharraf promoted his most trusted army ally to succeed him as head of the military at the beginning of the month. General Ashfaq Kiyani was made Vice-Chief of Army Staff and will replace Musharraf himself as head of the military if the dictator follows through on his promise to remove his uniform. The general was promoted to that key role from his previous post as head of the ISI.

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