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Pakistan gets its man ... sort of
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - Two days after Pakistani officials announced the death of Amjad Farooqi, the circumstances surrounding the killing of the person who is being billed as the country's most wanted man as well as a senior al-Qaeda figure remain murky.

Farooqi had been indicted in connection with the beheading of US journalist Daniel Pearl in early 2002 and named by President General Pervez Musharraf as a mastermind of two bomb attacks against the president's motorcades in December last year. Officials had published a picture of Farooqi, with a reward of $330,000 for information leading to his arrest.

The official version runs something like this: Farooqi was tracked through his mobile telephone to a hideout in Nawabshah, a town 170 miles north of the port city of Karachi. Security forces surrounded the house and met heavy automatic gunfire from within. During the firefight, Farooqi and two others were killed, and three alleged accomplices were arrested. According to official leaks, Farooqi might have been close to Abu Faraj al-Libbi, a Libyan alleged to be al-Qaeda's head of Pakistan operations, who could now also have been arrested.

"Farooqi's elimination is a crushing blow to the al-Qaeda network in Pakistan because he was the man who had been providing al-Qaeda terrorists with the manpower to carry out attacks," a senior Pakistani security official was quoted by the French news service Agence France-Presse as saying.

Certainly, this is the view now widely disseminated in the international media, and used as proof that Musharraf is keeping up his side of the bargain in hunting down al-Qaeda operatives in the US's "war on terror".

However, extensive Asia Times Online research throws up a different picture.

Before the "war on terror" was launched after September 11, 2001 - when Musharraf threw in his lot with the US - Farooqi was an impoverished foot soldier in a jihadi organization. It is only in the past six months that he has suddenly emerged as a "kingpin" and super villain, with the source invariably being from the official side.

Farooqi never got to tell his side of the story. His last words, as he lay mortally wounded, were, "Oh God, you are the only one who sees." He then recited a few verses from the Koran and died.

Apart from a few paragraphs in the Punjab police's "red book", Farooqi led a largely insignificant life, until, overnight almost, he was elevated to being close to Khalid Shiekh Mohammed, mastermind of the September 11 attacks.

According to information gathered by Asia Times Online from various sources, including his native villagers, jihadi friends and security files, Farooqi was born in the early 1970s in Chak 487 GB. Tehsil Samoundri, District Faisalabad, to a family that had migrated to Pakistan at independence in 1947 from Indian Punjab's Houshyarpur district.

Farooqi's childhood was passed in extreme poverty, and in need of a better life his family sent him to an uncle's home in Toba Tek Singh, where he completed his intermediate studies. Amjad had three brothers and three sisters. The most educated in the family is brother Javaid Iqbal, a graduate who now runs a private school. The other brothers are Fida Hussain, 28, and Amir, 22. The sisters, Zahida Parveen, Shahida Parveen and Khalida Parveen, are all married in different villages in Shiekupura and Faisalabad.

Farooqi married his maternal uncle's only daughter, Shabana Kausar, six years ago. They have a daughter. Shabana Kausar has lived at her father-in-law's residence since October 2001, when the US attacked Afghanistan. Since about that time, Farooqi had been in hiding as he was wanted in connection with the Pearl murder. Shabana Kausar has two brothers, Shebaz and Aqlak.

Different sources in his native town of Toba Tek Singh told Asia Times Online that Farooqi collected funds for jihadis in the 1980s, and he was known to have taken part in the Afghan jihad against the Soviets in 1987. Later he made many visits of Kashmir and Afghanistan, like thousands of other jihadi foot soldiers. He was also associated with the Harkatul Ansar (HA). The HA emerged from the Harkat-i-Jihad-i-Islami, which was declared a terror organization by the US in the 1990s. The HA is led by Maulana Fazalur Rehman Khalil. Later he was thought to have been in contact with the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ), a banned Pakistani outfit involved in sectarian killings.

Punjab police intelligence departments files mention Farooqi as active with the LJ's commander, Shakil Ahmed, who was later killed in a police encounter near Wehyari (Punjab). Soon after Farooqi's name appeared in these files, intelligence organizations, including Inter-Services Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau, studied his files, but failed to definitively link him to any organization. Several called him a stand-alone operator.

Subsequently, a high-profile official report allegedly based on investigations from several intelligence sources maintained that he was in contact with militants in South Waziristan, and that he also acted as a go-between for Khalid. The same report said that Farooqi was a lieutenant of the founder of jihadi outfits in Pakistan, Saifullah Akhtar, who was recently arrested in the United Arab Emirates and handed over to Pakistan.

Along with his alleged connection with Pearl's murder and the assassination attempts on Musharraf, in which junior army officers were also said to be involved, the heat was on Farooqi now.

Different proxy intelligence networks informed the security agencies about his presence in Faisalabad, Kamalia, Karachi and Waziristan. In a matter of a few months, about 50 raids were conducted to find him. According to Criminal Investigation Department records, on January 11 this year a raid was conducted on Farooqi's father-in-law's house, number 687/27 GB, Tehsil Kamalia district, Toba Tek Singh. Six people were arrested, including his brother-in-law Aqlak and cousin Attaul Manan.

After this raid, there is no record of any further ones, although police and security agencies from time to time claimed that they were near to arresting Farooqi. Asia Times Online reported on September 28 that Farooqi was probably arrested some months ago (In Pakistan, dead men tell no tales).

Identity crisis
According to Asia Times Online sources, Farooqi's death did not play out as planned. The authorities wanted to keep the encounter - which could well have been staged - a secret until Musharraf returned from his overseas visit to the US, at which time Farooqi's body would be produced.

However, a Dubai-based television channel broke the news of the encounter just a few hours after it took place. The Ministry of Information immediately intervened and ordered all stations to remove the clip. But Reuters news agency had already picked up the item and distributed it all over the world, although quoting senior officials who would not confirm Farooqi's death.

By Tuesday morning the media were full of reports on Farooqi's death, and the establishment reacted by releasing what it claimed was Farooqi's computerized identity document. No one is questioning that Farooqi is the one who was killed in the shootout - it was him.

What is at issue is the identity card shown to the media. A number of significant details indicate that it could not have been Farooqi's legitimate one - from the fonts used in its design to the data it carried, and importantly, that it was computerized - such cards only came into force after Farooqi had been declared a wanted man. How, then, could he have obtained an official ID? It appears that having been forced into making a hasty announcement, the establishment did a poor job on faking the ID.

In the end, though, the officials produced their "high value" target, which pleases the US, and with the murder of Pearl and the assassination attempts on Musharraf pinned on Farooqi, awkward questions over these issues can be laid to rest.

Remember Farooqi's dying words," Oh God, you are the only one who sees."

(Mohammed Tahir, editor of Weekly Wajood, also contributed to this report.)

Syed Saleem Shahzad, Bureau Chief, Pakistan Asia Times Online. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com

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Sep 29, 2004



In Pakistan, dead men tell no tales
(Sep 28, '04)

Pakistan serves the US heads, not tales
(Aug 20, '04)

 

     
         
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