Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pakistan : More Than 70 Police, Soldiers Killed In Revenge Attacks For Red Mosque Massacre

Peace Deal Between Tribal Pro-Taliban Leaders And Musharraf Torn Up

New Holy War Looms

The revenge attacks from Islamists in remote tribal Pakistan against the Musharraf military dictatorship were expected to be fierce, and they were.

More than 70 people, mostly Musharraf soldiers and police, were blown to pieces over the weekend, in a string of attacks and suicide bombings.

Islamists have called for a holy war against the Musharraf regime, and few serious commentators doubt that it won't become a reality. The peace agreement reached between Musharraf and pro-Taliban tribal leaders in the north west of Pakistan's remote territories has been torn up. Local leaders have now vowed to go to war on the Pakistan military.

Perversely, having a holy war declared against himself, and having suicide attacks and Islamist terrorism explode across the country, will actually work in President Musharraf's favour, at least on one key issue : he will realistically be able to delay the coming elections, as he will be able to declare his country is in a state of national emergency.

From AFP :

At least 14 people were killed Sunday in a blast at a police recruitment centre in North West Frontier Province, hours after two explosives-packed cars plowed into an army convoy in the province's Swat Valley, claiming 17 lives.

The previous day, a suicide car bomber killed 24 people in a similar attack on a paramilitary convoy in North Waziristan tribal region, launching the string of attacks that has also left scores of troops and civilians wounded.

The bloodshed came amid outrage across the mainly Muslim nation over the army's raid last week on Islamabad's Red Mosque, which has saddled President Pervez Musharraf with the worst crisis since he took power in 1999.

The army attack that killed 86, mostly militants, led Al-Qaeda's number two to call for jihad against the Pakistan government, which has sent thousands of troops into remote tribal areas to try to keep a lid on bubbling popular anger.

Pro-Taliban militants in North Waziristan scrapped a controversial peace accord reached with the government last year, in which the tribal groups had promised to hunt down foreign fighters in return for security assurances.

The Taliban Shura (Taliban Council) said in pamphlets that it would refuse all dialogue and cooperation with authorities after the government had failed to meet a Sunday deadline to abandon 25 new military checkpoints.

"We had signed the agreement for the safety and protection of the lives and property of our people," the statement said. "But the government forces continued to launch attacks on the Taliban and have killed a number of people."

Militants last week had attacked police and security posts in the Swat Valley after local pro-Taliban cleric Maulvi Fazlullah in radio broadcasts urged followers to wage jihad over the mosque attack.

President Musharraf has vowed to crush all "extremists" and promised to "root them out from every corner of the country."

Exactly the kind of talk Bush Co. likes to hear, but an incredibly hard reality to bring to life. Musharraf has neither the military or police resources to "root them out" from every remote territory, mountain pass, isolated valley or city back alley in the country. Most Pakistanis support Musharraf in fighting Islamic extremists, but the pro-Taliban tribes hare believed to have deep and loyal ties to valuable and important members of the military infrastructure.

This report claims that Al Qaeda was behind the Red Mosque uprising, based on "secret Pakistani government documents" :

...leaked reports from the Government claiming that documents recovered from the mosque and the neighbouring madrassas prove conclusively that al-Qa'ida - and specifically Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri - directed the uprising, maintaining close contact with Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who died in the battle.

Intelligence officials also claimed al-Qa'ida had sent foreign fighters to assist in the rebellion, with Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Cheema saying yesterday the bodies of at least 10 such Chechens and Arabs had been recovered. But as the Government counted the cost of the suicide attacks and anti-government protests swept several cities over the storming of the mosque, it was the controversy over the real death toll that spelled trouble ahead for President Pervez Musharraf.

General Hamid Gul, a powerful former head of the ISI spying agency who is now one of the President's most trenchant critics, said yesterday the emerging accounts of women and children who were killed could lead to the military ruler's downfall. "The Government is trying to hide the number of young girls killed," he said. "As the truth comes out that young girls were gassed and burnt, riddled with bullets and killed, it'll be bad for Musharraf."

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Brigadier Cheema maintained that claims about the death toll and the killing of women and children were being "exaggerated". He said a total of 103 people had been killed.

He conceded, however, that after the operation ended, "22 charred bodies", including those of seven children, were found in the courtyard of the mosque, and that the bodies of nine females were recovered from a room of the Jamia Hafsa girls' madrassa.

Adding to General Musharraf's difficulties, tribal militants in the province linked to the Taliban and al-Qa'ida said they had given him a four-day deadline to remove Pakistani army checkpoints from the province or they would tear up the so-called "peace accord" they signed with him last year.

For all the horrors of Iraq, and the civil war and its associated terrorism and street fighting, the real 'War On Terror', as defined as being a war against Islamic extremism, is likely to consume Pakistan and Afghanistan, and all the tribal lands in between in the coming months.

US Special Forces will have to get involved, if they aren't already. Pakistan, of course, is a nation armed with nuclear weapons.

And the US government, the US military itself, along with the shared/combined intelligence resources of countries like the UK, Germany, France, Russia, China and Australia, would never let Islamic extremists get within a thousand metres of any known nuclear weapon in the world, if they can actually stop such activity, and you'd presume this would be the top priority for all the major players in the 'War on Terror'.

The risk for all nations, obviously, would simply be far too high to allow the risk to even come close to reality.

The United States is constructing a controversial new military base at the Ghakhi Pass, on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border :
Militants believe this is in preparation for an operation inside Pakistan to clamp down on them as well as to renew the hunt for bin Laden and his associates. As a result, the militants have attacked the new base in an attempt to delay its construction.

"This is a matter of life and death for the mujahideen. We will shed our blood, but we will never let this base be completed..."

A remarkable admission from a US official comes via The Times Of India. The US government is paying the Musharraf regime more than $100 million a month for 80,000 Pakistani soldiers and police to man the border with the Afghanistan, primarily to keep pro-Taliban tribal militias and fighters from entering the Afghanistan war :
The money is meant to be "reimbursements" to Pakistan "for stationing troops and moving them around, and gasoline, and bullets, and training and other costs that they incur as part of the war on terror," US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, told a Congressional panel.

"That's a lot of money," Boucher admitted before the panel about what amounts to a $ 1.2 billion per year reimbursement. "I don't know if it comes to the whole amount of their expenses, but we support their expenses, yes."
The US government is estimated to have spent more than $10 billion is such funding to the Musharraf regime in the past five years of the 'War on Terror.'

The obvious question is how much corruption is involved with such huge amounts of money for equipment, gear, weapons and "expenses". The obvious answer is plenty. And no doubt there is a vast blackmarket trade in smuggling weaponry and ammunition into Afghanistan across remote and unsecured border regions.

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