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SADDAM HUSSEIN & PERVEZ MUSHARRAF - An Open Letter To American Friends

Paper No. 670                                                23.04.2003
by B.Raman


Dear friends of the USA,

The US  has successfully overthrown President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Before and during  the war, President George Bush repeatedly emphasised that this was not a war against Iraq and the Iraqi people, but against the dictatorial regime of Saddam for harbouring international terrorists, for acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and for destroying democracy and suppressing his people.

2. Addressing a joint press conference in September last year, President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of the UK referred to the dangers of the leakage of Iraq's WMD into the hands of terrorists and said that his removal and the seizure of his WMD stocks were, therefore, necessary in the interest of international peace and security.

3. Now that Saddam is gone, let us examine the track record of Pakistan and its military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, under all the three heads used against Saddam, namely, support to terrorists, proliferation of WMD to rogue States and terrorist groups and suppression of democracy.

4. Let us take support to terrorism first. The following facts speak for themselves:

* In March,2003, the Lahore police filed a case in the High Court against a doctor accused of collaborating with Al Qaeda.   The High Court ruled the charge inadmissible even at the preliminary stage. It pointed out that Al Qaeda had not been banned in Pakistan as a terrorist organisation under the Anti-Terrorism Act and hence belonging to it or collaborating with it was not an offence.  The Government said that by oversight it had not banned Al Qaeda and promised to do so immediately.  It is yet to be done.

* According to a report dated April 11,2003, of the Associated Press of Pakistan, a Government-owned news agency, during a visit to Peshawar in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) the previous day, Musharraf was asked about the activities of Al Qaeda in Pakistani territory.  He replied (to quote the APP):"I do not know any Al Qaeda. " That is  exactly what Saddam had said when Gen. Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, during one of his interventions in the UN Security Council, accused him of complicity with Al Qaeda.

* In the beginning of 2002, bin Laden and other leaders and members of Al Qaeda moved into Pakistan from Afghanistan to escape capture by the American special forces searching for them in the mountains and caves of Afghanistan.  Initially they took shelter in the mosques and madrasas (religious schools) of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan adjoining the Afghan border.  They then spread to the interior towns and cities of Pakistan, away from the border as they were afraid that the US special forces operating in Afghan territory might cross into Pakistani territory and arrest them.

* Musharraf denied that they had crossed over into Pakistani territory and taken shelter in its towns and cities. Despite this, officers of the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) established the presence of Abu Zubaidah, the then No. 3 of Al Qaeda, in Faislabad, a big town in the Punjab province of Pakistan, in March,2002; of Ramzi Binalshibh, another top leader of Al Qaeda at Karachi, Pakistan's biggest and most important city, in September,2002; and of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, described by US and French counter-terrorism experts as bin Laden's operations chief and as the man who orchestrated the terrorist strikes of 9/11 at Rawalpindi in March, 2003. Rawalpindi is called the twin city of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. It is where the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army are located.  It is where Musharraf has his house as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS). It is where many retired and serving officers of Pakistan's Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) live. When confronted by the FBI with evidence of their presence in these cities, Musharraf had no other alternative but to arrest them and hand them over. Apart from these three instances, there is not a single  case since 9/11 in which Musharraf's police and intelligence agencies, on their own without pressure from the FBI, had established the presence of the absconding leaders of Al Qaeda and taken the initiative in arresting them and handing them over to the US.

* Abu Zubaidah was living in the house of a leader of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), a Pakistani terrorist organisation, with its headquarters at Muridke, near Lahore, which has a mosque and a guest house constructed by bin Laden.  bin Laden used to stay in this guest house and pray in this mosque during his visits to Pakistan in the  1990s.  All the terrorists, who participated in the 9/11 terrorist incidents, had stayed in this guest house on their way to Al Qaeda's training camps in Afghan territory and on their way back to the US for carrying out their terrorist attacks.  The LET is a member of bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF). Along with Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), another member of the IIF, it had organised an attack on the Indian Parliament in December, 2001.  After this incident, the US State Department designated the LET and the JEM as Foreign Terrorist Organisations under a 1996 law.  Under US pressure, Musharraf too declared them as terrorist organisations and banned them on January 15,2002, and arrested their leaders and cadres. But, he did not extend the ban on their activities to Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan) and the FATA. The POK and the Northern Areas are adjoining the Indian border. It is from there that the ISI organises terrorist operations in Indian territory, using these and other Pakistani terrorist organisations, which are members of the IIF.  The FATA is adjoining the Afghan border. It is from there that the remnants of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Gulbuddin Heckmatyar's Hizbe Islami organise attacks on the US forces operating in Afghan territory.  After some weeks, Musharraf released the arrested leaders and cadres of the LET and the JEM on the ground that there was no evidence of their involvement in terrorism. These organisations started operating openly again under new names and played an active role in the various anti-US demonstrations in different Pakistani cities during the war in Iraq. Prof.Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed, the leader of the LET, visited Rawalpindi and participated in an anti-US demonstration there and made a speech calling for a jihad against the US. He has since claimed that some of his men had been "martyred" in the jihad against the US forces in Iraq and buried there and promised financial assistance to their families. The annual conventions of the LET are attended by many serving and retired officers of the Pakistani military and its nuclear and missile establishment.

* Ramzi Binalshibh was found living in a flat in Karachi belonging to a local member of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEL) of Pakistan.  Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was arrested from the house of a women's wing leader of the JEI in Rawalpindi. The JEI is the most important and active Islamic fundamentalist party of Pakistan, which is virulently anti-US and fiercely pro-Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda since 9/11. It is very close to Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies.  Lt.Gen.(retd) Hamid Gul, former Director-General of the ISI in the 1980s, is an active member of the JEI.  In the 1990s, he used to be the head of the Pasban, a militant wing of the JEI.  Since 9/11, he and the JEI leaders have been alleging that the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US were carried out not by Al Qaeda, but by Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, to defame Islam and provoke the US into attacking Islamic countries.  As proof of this, Gul has been alleging that none of the Jewish persons working in any of the establishments in New York's World Trade Centre attended office on 9/11 on secret instructions from Mossad and that, as a result, no Jewish person was killed.  In a media briefing at the ISI headquarters after the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Maj.Gen.Rashid Quereshi, the media spokesman of Musharraf, strongly defended the JEI against allegations of its involvement with Al Qaeda.  He claimed that the involvement of some members of the JEI in sheltering some Al Qaeda leaders did not mean that the JEI as an organisation was involved. The JEI is the leading member of the six-party fundamentalist coalition called the Muttahida-Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) which came to power in the NWFP after the elections of October, 2002.  In Balochistan ther MMA has formed a coalition Government with the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League ( Qaid-e-Azam). The impressive electoral performance of this coalition in October last was facilitated by actions of Musharraf such as breaking Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) in NWFP and withdrawal of the pending cases under the Anti-Terrorism Act against the members of the coalition who wanted to contest the elections.  After coming to power, the coalition released all the cadres of terrorist organisations still in detention.  It has provided shelter to the surviving members of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Hizbe-Islami in the mosques and madrasas of the NWFP and Balochistan and asked the provincial police not to co-operate with the FBI in its investigations and raids for arresting the absconding terrorists.

* Amongst other terrorists against whom cases were withdrawn by Musharraf to enable their election was Maulana Azam Tariq, the leader of the Sunni extremist Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). Its militant wing called the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) was banned as a terrorist organisation by Musharraf himself on August 14, 2001, and the SSP was banned on January 15, 2002.  Despite these bans, the Election Commission did  not  disqualify the candidature of Maulana Azam Tariq, who managed to get elected to the National Assembly. The LEJ, which is also a member of bin Laden's IIF, was designated by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation last year following its involvement, along with the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist ; the murder of the wife of an American diplomat and their daughter through a grenade attack in an Islamabad church; a suicide car bomb explosion outside a Karachi hotel which killed some French submarine engineers; another suicide car bomb explosion outside the US Consulate-General in Karachi; an attack on a group of German and other foreign tourists travelling by road to Xinjiang in China along the Karakoram Highway; and attacks on Christian establishments in different parts of Pakistan. Despite this, Maulana Azam Tariq remains untouched and moves around without any action against him.

* The HUM, under its then name of Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA), was designated by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in October,1997, because of its involvement in the kidnapping of some American and other Western tourists in India's Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) in 1995. One of these kidnapped tourists, an American, managed to escape from custody. The fate of the remaining is not known, but they are feared dead long ago.  Despite this, Musharraf has not yet formally banned the HUM as a terrorist organisation under Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Act. Nor has he banned the HUJI.  Both the HUM and the HUJI are also members of bin Laden's IIF. Last year, the HUM started operating under the name HUM (Al-Alami meaning International). Some of its leaders have recently been convicted by a Karachi court and sentenced to death for their confessed involvement in the planning and execution of the car bomb explosion outside the US Consulate. Despite this, there is as yet no ban on this organisation.

* Musharraf has been making contradictory statements on Al Qaeda and bin Laden. Sometimes he says he is not aware of any Al Qaeda. On other occasions, he says there could be some members of Al Qaeda in Pakistani territory and claims to be co-operating with the US in arresting them.  Initially, he said that bin Laden must be dead. Then he said that while there was a possibility that bin Laden might be still alive, he was definitely not in Pakistan.  He has recently admitted the possibility that bin Laden might be in Pakistan, but denied any knowledge of his whereabouts. All the recorded video and audio cassettes of bin Laden calling for jihad against the USA and Israel were handed over to Al Jazeera either in Karachi or Islamabad. The Pakistani authorities have till now not taken any effective action to prevent the dissemination of these cassettes (calling for terrorist attacks) from Pakistani territory.

* The case relating to the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl is being adjourned month after month under some pretext or the other.  A special anti-terrorism court had found Omar Sheikh and his accomplices guilty and sentenced Omar himself and another person to death.  Others were sentenced to life imprisonment. They went in appeal against the conviction.  The hearing in the appeal is yet to start and has already been delayed for eight months.  The Karachi media has been alleging since July last that Fazal Karim, a terrorist who has admitted to having slit the throat of Pearl was in the custody of the Pakistani authorities and that for some reason they have not prosecuted him. Till recently, the Pakistani authorities denied these reports. Only earlier this month, in response to a court directive in a habeas corpus case have they admitted his whereabouts, but they are still silent on his involvement in the murder of Pearl and are avoiding explaining why they are not prosecuting him.

* Under the UN Security Council Resolution No.1373., the Pakistani authorities were required to freeze the bank accounts of terrorist organisations.  Before doing so last year, the ISI tipped off these organisations of the impending action, thereby enabling them to withdraw or transfer the bulk of the money  to other accounts in different names. As a result, only Rs. 900  were found in the account of the JEM, US $ 252 in the account of Al Qaeda held in the name of Ayman-al-Zawahiri, its No. 2, and Rs. 4742   in the account of the HUM. Pakistani Rs. 65 are equivalent to one US dollar.

5. How about US and other Western civilians killed by terrorists operating from Pakistani territory? Here are the facts and figures:


* The assassination of two CIA officers outside the CIA headquarters in Langley by Mir Aimal Kansi, a Pakistani national belonging to the SSP, in January,1993.  He was found guilty by a US court and was recently executed in the USA. When his body arrived in Pakistan, speeches were made by the fundamentalist members of the NWFP and Balochistan provincial assemblies hailing him as a martyr in the Islamic cause.

* The explosion in the World Trade Centre in New York in February, 1993. Ramzi Yousef, a Pakistani national, was one of the principal accused in the case. He escaped to Pakistan after the explosion. He and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad went to Manila and planned to blow up a number of US aircraft. The Filippino authorities were alerted to their presence and activities following a fire in their flat. They escaped to Pakistan, where Ramzi was arrested by the Benazir Government in 1995 and handed over to the USA where he has since been convicted.

* The kidnapping and murder of five Western tourists by the HUM in J&K in 1995.

* The assassination of an American diplomat and two US oil company executives in Karachi in different incidents in 1995. The SSP was suspected.

* The 9/11 terrorist strikes in US territory, which resulted in the death of over 3500 innocent civilians. The perpetrators of these strikes stayed in the guest house of the LET at Muridke while on their way to Afghanistan for training and on their way back to the US. The money for the operation was transmitted to them through Pakistan.  Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and Ramzi Binalshibh, both of whom had assisted bin Laden in orchestrating these strikes, were found and arrested in Pakistani territory.

* The kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl in Karachi in in 2002.

* The murder of French submarine engineers in Karachi in 2002.

* The murder of the wife of an American diplomat and their daughter in an Islamabad church in 2002.

* The car bomb explosion outside the US Consulate in Karachi in 2002 killed many Pakistani civilians, but there were no American casualties even though the bomb was directed at the Consulate.

6. Saddam Hussein had ruthlessly supressed both Shia and Sunni fundamentalism.  He had banned loudspeakers in mosques, madrasas, receipt of foreign money by religious elements,and involvement in political activities by Mullas and Imams.  How about Musharraf?


* In January,2002, Musharraf had promised to put an end to the use of madrasas for promoting terrorism, but he has not yet done so.

He put severe restrictions on the political activities and demonstrations of non-religious parties in order to prevent them from mounting a challenge to his rule.  He got the leading lights of these  parties involved in a plethora of fabricated cases to prevent them from contesting the elections.  He banished Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister, from the country and prevented Benazir from returning to the country by threatening to arrest her if she did so.

* But, he gave all facilities to the religious fundamentalist parties for holding public meetings and demonstrations. He withdrew all pending cases against them, even under the Anti-Terrorism Act, to enable them to contest the elections.

* Before Musharraf staged the coup and seized power in October,1999, religious fundamentalist parties in Pakistan never used to get more than about three per cent of the votes polled. Thanks to the assistance from him, they got 11 per cent in the October elections and have come to power in two provinces, which are vital to the US from the point of view of its war against terrorism. If Musharraf continues to favour and assist them in the same manner, they may one day come to power in Islamabad itself and get their finger on the nuclear button.

Despite all this, he is looked upon by the US as a stalwart ally and showered with one economic bonanza after another.


7. How about proliferation of WMD by Pakistan to rogue states and terrorists? Again let facts speak for themselves:

* Pakistan has had a long history of a military supply relationship with the rogue state of North Korea, which poses a serious threat to the security of not only the East Asian countries, but also the USA itself.

* In the 1980s, it allowed clandestine military supplies from North Korea for Iran to transit through its territory.

* Under an agreement signed with North Korea in 1993, it has been receiving from North Korea medium and long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

* It paid for these missiles by diverting wheat purchased from the USA and Australia and in cash since 9/11, by taking advantage of the large cash flow from the USA and other countries. But for these wheat diversions and cash payments, the rogue State of North Korea would not have been able to withstand the economic sanctions of the international community against it as it has done.

* In return for the missiles, Pakistan also trained North Korean nuclear scientists in its establishments, allowed North Korean scientists to attend its nuclear tests at Chagai  in May 1998 and transferred uranium enrichment technology to North Korea. Pakistani nuclear scientists have been frequently visiting North Korea.

8.How about dangers of terrorists getting hold of WMD? The only country in the world where this danger is real is Pakistan for the following reasons:


* Pakistan is the only state-sponsor of international terrorism in the world which has a large WMD capability acquired through the assistance of China and North Korea.

* There is sizeable penetration of Islamic fundamentalist elements into its Armed Forces and scientific establishment.

* Pakistan is the only Islamic country in the world,where fundamentalist and jihadi organisations speak of the right and religious obligation of the Muslims to acquire WMD and use it, if necessary,to protect Islam. They project their WMD capability as belonging to the whole of Islamic Ummah. They describe their atom bomb as the Islamic bomb.  Bin Laden picked up his nuclear concepts from the mullas of Pakistan.

* Last year, at the instance of the FBI, Pakistani authorities had to detain two of their retired nuclear scientists (Sultan Bashirudeen and Abdul Majid) for visiting Kandahar and maintaining contact with bin Laden. Though sufficient evidence to warrant their prosecution was not found,their bank accounts were frozen under the UN Security Council Resolution No. 1373 and they have been kept under surveillance.

* A.Q.Khan, the self-styled father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, used to visit Iraq and North Korea  clandestinely and Musharraf had to remove him from active duty in the nuclear establishment under US pressure.

9. Pakistan has a facade of a democracy since October last. Is it real democracy?


* Under Pakistan's Constitution, the President of the country is to be elected by an electoral college consisting of the Federal Parliament and the provincial Assemblies. Since Musharraf was not confident of the support of the members of the non-religious parties, he got himself elected as the President in a rigged referendum for which there is no provision, before ordering the elections of October.

* Under Pakistan's electoral laws, a serving Government servant cannot contest elections to any office. Even after leaving Government service, he or she cannot contest for two years. Musharraf granted himself a special exemption from this provision to enable him to continue to hold charge as the COAS even after getting himself elected as the President.

* Under the rules of appointment and promotions of the Pakistani Armed Forces, a COAS can hold office only for three years from the date of his appointment.  Musharraf has granted himself a special exemption from this rule. He has already held office as COAS for four years and intends doing so for another five years.  He says this is necessary in Pakistan's supreme national interest.

* Under Pakistan's Constitution, all amendments to the Constitution are to be voted by a two-thirds majority by the two Houses of the Federal Parliament and, in some cases, also approved by the provincial Assemblies.  Before the elections, Musharraf, under a Legal Framework Order (LFO), promulgated a number of constitutional amendments granting himself the powers to appoint the chiefs of the armed forces, the judges and chief justics of the provincial and Supreme courts and the Governors of the provinces; to dismiss the elected Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers; to constitute a military-dominated National Security Council; and to dissolve the Parliament. He has rejected the persistent demand of the opposition that he should resign as the COAS, seek re-election as the President in the manner prescribed in the Constitution and submit the LFO to the Parliament for its approval by a two-thirds majority.

10.If Saddam murdered democracy, so has Musharraf.  An objective consideration of what has been stated above would show that Pakistan is a fit case for regime change through pre-emptive action by the USA and the rest of the international community, but we do not suggest military action against it. Military action is always messy, creates more problems than it solves and kills a large number of innocent civilians for the misdeeds and crimes of their rulers. What is called for is political and economic pre-emptive action  as follows:


* Stop all economic assistance to Pakistan so long as Musharraf continues in power.

* Force him to resign and hand over full powers to the political leadership.

* Force the Army to go back to the barracks and obey the political leadership.

* After the political leadership assumes full powers, resume all economic assistance and seek its co-operation to deal with terrorism originating from Pakistani territory, to stop flow of WMD technology to rogue States like North Korea and to prevent the terrorists and jihadis from getting hold of its WMD assets.

God bless America and give it the wisdom and foresight to act before it is too late.


(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Convenor, Advisory Committee, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter. )