|Pakistan: FBI rules the
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - Pakistani forces have killed at least
12 and arrested 12 suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda
fighters over the past two days in a major operation at
Angoor Adda, a small town on the border with
The operation is being widely
hailed in Pakistan as a demonstration of the country's
commitment to the US-led "war on terrorism".
this is only a part of the story. The clash
was orchestrated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI) as a direct result of its deep
penetration - and even control - of the Pakistani
The roots of this
involvement can be directly traced to the fallout from
the events of September 11, 2001, which saw Pakistan
throw in its lot with the US. This entailed Islamabad
withdrawing its long-standing support for the Taliban in
Afghanistan, which it had helped propel into power in
1996, and opening its air bases to the US military for
operations in Afghanistan.
It also allowed US
intelligence to establish a finger-hold in the country,
which the FBI has now turned into a vice-like grip
through an ever-expanding network that has infiltrated,
to various degrees, Pakistan's armed forces, the police
and intelligence agencies.
The FBI varies its
presence according to requirements in its hunt for
al-Qaeda suspects, with the total number deployed
anywhere between 50 and 100. It has at least three
active cells, in Peshawar, on the border of the
Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where many
al-Qaeda are known to hide, in the volatile port city of
Karachi and in the capital Islamabad.
initially kept a low profile, working mostly at the
direction of the all-powerful Inter-Services
Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's premier intelligence
outfit and effectively the architect and orchestrator of
Pakistan's strategic policies.
Now, however, the
FBI works autonomously, with its own separate
organizational setup. This includes communications to
track both mobile and land telephone calls, as well as
sophisticated bugging devices. Each cell has these
capabilities. In Karachi, the FBI cell operates in the
Defense Housing Authority Phase VIII complex. Only two
or three army officers are attached to this cell, purely
for coordination purposes.
Not all are happy
with this state of affairs. According to one ISI person
posted in Karachi, who requested not to be named when
talking to Asia Times Online, "After September 11, 2001,
we were given instructions to work along with FBI
operators. Initially they were given a room in the ISI's
operations office. They used to give commands to us, and
we had to obey them. For instance, once they asked us to
send a packet somewhere. We packed it and informed them
that the parcel was ready. They unpacked the parcel and
asked an ISI employee to repack it in front of them.
This is the way the FBI operators showed their
domination over the ISI staff. At first they asked us to
coordinate in operations. Later on they were given a
separate place of work, then they cultivated local
police officers, and several times they did not bother
to inform the ISI about their operations."
FBI cells have established direct control over the law
enforcing agencies, such as the police, who take orders
from FBI agents. In return, they are believed to be
handsomely rewarded financially. The ISI is aware of who
is on the FBI's payroll, but can do little about it.
"There is no precedent,"
says a retired army brigadier who was in charge
of ISI operations in Afghanistan during the Soviet war
of the 1980s. "Pakistan was a frontline state against
the former USSR during the Afghan war. The CIA was
thickly involved in operations, but the CIA was not allowed
to go beyond Islamabad. Their planes, loaded with
missiles and ammunition, used to land at Islamabad airport, but
these consignments were just handed over to an ISI cell,
which used then to pass them on to the mujahideen in
Afghanistan," the brigadier said. "Even on a strategic
level, the ISI used to plan operations single-handedly.
The CIA only looked after the financial aspects of
Now, the FBI has virtually
unlimited access and control, including airports, and
now it has emerged that it has recently been given
access to the bank accounts of Pakistani citizens.
to well-placed sources in the Pakistani intelligence
community, some the country's former clandestine
operations have now been curtailed, such as
one involving the national carrier, Pakistan International
Airline (PIA). PIA was once extensively used for
"back-channel diplomatic activities", such as shifting
missiles under the cover of routine cargo. But under
heavy US pressure, PIA's reservation system is now
hosted in Texas through the Sabre Group, and the
movement of each and every passenger is carefully
monitored, as is the cargo.
According to the
Pakistani English daily, The News International,
Pakistan has allowed information about foreign currency
bank accounts in Pakistani banks to be shared with
government authorities in the US. The FBI, according to
the paper, is "seeking, and getting, the private account
details of remittances being sent into banks in Pakistan
from anywhere in the world".
continued, "Under an agreement between the authorities
of the United States and Pakistan, banks in Pakistan
will be giving details of remittances flowing in or out
of foreign currency accounts, which will be handed to
the FBI," the paper quoted a Wall Street banker as
saying. "The agreement has come into effect and the
Pakistani banks are collecting details on deposits and
withdrawals into and from their foreign currency
The American official, who also works
as a consultant for a think tank that is collating
information on remittance flows from Islamic states to
the US and vice versa, said that the idea was to track
the pattern of the flow of funds for possible dubious
uses. "The [United States] government wants to make sure
that the funds are not being used to finance terrorist
activities ... and Pakistan is one of the countries
under observation [for the flow of remittances]."
According to the newspaper report, when
approached, an official at a branch of a Pakistani bank,
after some hesitation, confirmed that details of all
remittance flows from the US to foreign currency
accounts in banks in Pakistan and vice versa were being
given to US authorities. He refused to disclose which
"authorities" he was referring to.
official also conceded that it was "basically illegal"
to share private details of account holders with any
authority, especially those not falling into the
jurisdiction of the banking realm.
basically a political decision," the official said. "We
are living in strange times. We have to sacrifice some
private rights and freedoms for larger collective
He added, "The current Pakistani laws
don't even allow for banks to share private account
details with the Pakistan government, let alone American
or other foreign authorities, but then that is the price
we have to pay for ensuring that a useful channel like
remittances is not abused by people bent on creating
The FBI in action
latest action against al-Qaeda this week, Pakistan
forces are reported to have killed 12 suspected Taliban
and al-Qaeda fighters and arrested 12 more in an
operation at Angoor Adda near the Afghan border. While
in Afghanistan, officials reported, there were 17
deaths, including 10 government soldiers and two
Angoor Adda lies about 65 kilometers
from Wana, the district headquarters of the South
Waziristan Agency of the FATA, in the west of Pakistan.
South Waziristan is the most sensitive agency of
Pakistan; it is not under the direct administration of
the government of Pakistan, but indirectly governed by a
political agent - a system that was enforced by the
Asia Times Online sources say
that most of the suspected casualties and detainees were
Central Asians and Afghans. The operation was conducted
after a fire-fight in Paktika in Afghanistan in which US
forces and gunship helicopters chased the fighters into
The FBI's network in this
territory(which is explained in a January 10 article -
A bloody destiny for South
- sprang into action and
notified the FBI cell in Peshawar, which then called in
the Peshawar Corps to launch the raid.
The FBI's operations in Pakistan apart,
Islamabad has accepted an offer from the US for a number
of the country's army officers to be trained in the US.
In the past few weeks, about 100 officers have
been sent to the US for various short courses ranging
from one to two weeks on the "war on terror". The
officers include those belonging to army field units, as
well as those involved in strategic and ISI services.
The FBI has also held several training sessions
in Karachi in which Pakistan armed forces officials
interacted with FBI operators.
experts take a dim view of this. One told Asia Times
Online that having army units trained by a foreign
intelligence apparatus was like handing over the keys of
the country to another nation as it allowed them undue
influence in the armed forces.
Meanwhile, all is not well in the armed
forces, which contain elements who are not exactly in
step with the country's president, General Pervez
Musharraf, who is also head of the armed forces. Many
resent his siding with the US, and the country's
strategic losses as a result in Afghanistan. Many also
resent him wearing the two hats that he does - military
and civilian - assumed after taking over the country in
a bloodless coup in 1999.
The following are
translated excerpts from a letter doing the rounds in
military circles. It was printed on an army general
our national leader: We on behalf of the Pakistan army
assure the nation that it is your army. This is the army
of Islam and Pakistan, and we expect every member
of parliament, from whichever party he belongs to, to work
for the autonomy of parliament. Pervez Musharraf and his
handpicked gang are imposed at the head of this nation.
They are the national criminals who have not only the
army but have the entire nation hostage. This is the
gang of thieves and looters which has plundered the
whole nation, mercilessly. At the same time, they helped
the American Jews and Christians to kill our Afghan
brothers. Pervez Musharraf has turned Pakistan from the
fort of Islam into a slaughterhouse of the Muslims. Had
this parliament not been in place, our armed forces
would have been sent to kill our Iraqi brothers
side-by-side with US soldiers. We request our national
leadership and officials of the armed forces to bring
the following matters in front of parliament.
An inquiry should be initiated into what happened on
October 12, 1999 [when Musharraf seized power].
Before the US invasion of Afghanistan, all Pakistan
army brigadiers and generals were allotted expensive
plots in Lahore near LUMS [Lahore University of
Management Sciences]. The worth of these plots ranges
between Rs 7 million [US$121,000] to Rs 10 million.
These officers had already received their commercial and
residential land quotas.
Parliament should constitute a judicial inquiry into
the chief justices of the Supreme Court and all four
provincial high courts who were in office on October 12,
Our aim - a free army and an independent
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