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November 13, 2013

Is the ISI-Haqqani alliance cracking up?

November 13, 2013

ISLAMABAD: The mystery murder of commander Naseeruddin Haqqani in Islamabad has given rise to the buzz that the decades-old controversial alliance between the Pakistani security establishment and the North Waziristan-based Haqqani militant network is cracking up.
This is happening mainly because of the network’s involvement in several acts of terrorism in Pakistan while working in tandem with the TTP. The group is considered by many as one of the ISI’s strategic assets.
The investigators are still clueless about Naseeruddin’s assassins, with speculation that he might have been killed by his friends-turned-foes in the Pakistani establishment.The TTP spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, has blamed the murder on the ISI and vowed to take revenge. “Naseeruddin Haqqani has been martyred by none other than theISI. He was killed because he had bravely supported the TTP Ameer Hakimullah Mehsud,” Shahidullah told AFP on Monday night when asked about the possible killer.
However, while no one has claimed responsibility for the murder, the ISI circles suspect the hand of either the TTP or Afghan National Directorate of Security. Some say his killing is related to a family dispute he had with a cousin, Ishaq, whom Naseeruddin suspected of working with the Afghan intelligence.
Some think that the Central Intelligence Agency, which runs the drone programme, is behind it. But whoever killed Naseeruddin, the fact remains that he resided relatively openly in the federal capital (despite being wanted by the US) which was simply impossible without the consent of the Pakistani establishment.
His death came a week after a drone strike killed Hakimullah Mehsud. Both the TTP and Haqqani militant network are based side by side in the Miranshah area. Naseeruddin and Hakimullah have been laid to rest at Danday Darpakhel village in North Waziristan’s headquarters Miranshah, where some family members of Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani have been living since 1980. Hakimullah

was also droned in the same village, which is largely administered by the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani militant network.
Despite the known presence of Haqqani network, al-Qaeda and other foreign militants groups in North Waziristan, and repeated requests by the United States that action be taken against them, the Pakistani military authorities are reluctant to proceed against them.
This is despite the fact that the Haqqani network is involved in some of the biggest terror attacks in Kabul, including the January 2008 suicide assault on the Serena Hotel, the February 2009 assault on Afghan ministries, and the July 2008 and October 2009 suicide attacks against the Indian Embassy. American intelligence agencies had confronted the Pakistani government with evidence, including communication intercepts, which hinted at ISI’s direct involvement in the 2008 Indian Embassy suicide bombing.
Following Pakistan’s refusal to act against the Haqqanis, Admiral Mike Mullen, the then US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had singled out the network (in 2011) as “a veritable arm” of ISI — a characterisation Islamabad has disputed.
But almost two years later, the situation seems to have changed quite rapidly, with many in the Pakistani establishment considering the Haqqani militant network as a liability rather than an asset (which the Khakis wanted to use to their strategic advantage after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan).
In fact, the establishment is lately perturbed over increasing number of intelligence reports of ever-growing cooperation between the TTP and Haqqanis, especially while carrying out terrorist activities which are directed against the Pakistani security forces in the tribal belt.
Naseeruddin was using his Shahpur area residence-cum-office in the federal capital not only to run his huge transport business but also as the media office of the Haqqani network. Known in the media as Zabihullah Mujahid, Naseeruddin was a spokesperson for his militant group. He was also the chief finance controller of the Haqqani network and would regularly visit the Middle Eastern countries to raise funds. He was also the leader of the Miranshah Regional Military Shura, one of the four regional commands of the Afghan Taliban.
The US Treasury Department added Naseeruddin to its list of specially-designated global terrorists in July 2010. According to the Treasury, he traveled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates between 2004-2009 to carry out fundraising for the Haqqani Network, al-Qaeda, and Taliban.
Due to his friendly ties with Hakimullah Mehsud, Naseeruddin had been mediating between the Pakistani authorities and TTP leadership for a peace deal. However, he became annoyed with the Pakistani authorities over Hakimullah’s killing in a village that is being controlled by the Haqqani network. Therefore, while accusing Islamabad of having provided intelligence to the Americans about Hakimullah’s precise location in Danday Darpakhel, Naseeruddin simply refused to cooperate with the Pakistani authorities, thus inviting their wrath.
But there are those in the security establishment who believe that Naseeruddin might have been killed by the TTP to avenge the killing of Hakimullah who was guaranteed by the Haqqanis that he would not be harmed if he travelled to Danday Darpakhel.
On the other hand, a spokesman for the Haqqani network, Najeebullah, has blamed the ISI for Naseeruddin’s murder, saying he had been mediating between a powerful agency and the Pakistani Taliban for peace talks. “But he had refused to mediate further following Hakimullah’s death and the subsequent announcement of TTP not to hold any further talks. Naseeruddin’s reluctance to mediate after Hakimullah’s killing must have annoyed the powerful agency to an extent that it decided to eliminate him,” the spokesman of the Haqqani network has been quoted by the media as saying.
In fact, Naseeruddin’s killing is curious in many ways, especially being the manner in which he was shot dead in a busy bazaar of Islamabad.
Most of the Haqqani network leaders of Naseeruddin’s stature have been killed in US drone strikes in the Waziristan tribal belt as had been the case with his brother Burhanuddin Haqqani. But Naseeruddin has been killed far from North Waziristan which is the Haqqani’s base of operations in the Fata and where he was feeling quite safe.
His killing in the federal capital must be hugely embarrassing for the Pakistan government as well as the security establishment, which had fended off American accusations for years that it sheltered the Haqqani militant network.
It was only last year that a leaked ISAF report in Afghanistan claimed that the ISI was directly supporting the Haqqani network’s terrorist campaign inside Afghanistan. “Senior Taliban representatives, such as Naseeruddin Haqqani, maintain residences in the immediate vicinity of the ISI headquarters in Islamabad,” the ISAF report had stated.
Naseeruddin’s killing on the Pakistani territory also mirrors the May 2011 American raid that killed Osama bin Laden at a compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad, highlighting how openly the most wanted al-Qaeda leaders live in Pakistan.

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