Thursday July 18, 2024

‘Husain Haqqani Network’

By Mazhar Abbas
March 14, 2017

Pakistan's former ambassador in the US, Husain Haqqani, who once was considered as the blue-eyed boy of the country's security establishment, now hardly misses any chance to embarrass them. Since Memogate scandal, during Mr Zardari government, he is now a persona non grata.

In his latest article, he claimed that his 'connection' helped the Obama administration to trace al-Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden. In a way, he called himself more loyal than Shakil Afridi. One wonders whether he got the 'reward money' or Afridi.

Whether his claim is a myth or reality, but the timing of this article is nothing but to stress the Trump administration to get tough with Pakistan. His latest claim has also put the PPP and Mr Asif Zardari in a difficult position. Merely by keeping distance from his statement would not be enough, but the former president needs to clarify the role of Husain Haqqani, during his tenure as ambassador.

It is important to trace Pakistan's role in the fight against al-Qaeda since 9/11, and if it could be instrumental in tracing al-Qaeda's No 3, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the alleged mastermind of 9/11, No 4, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and top six others, brother of Bali bomber, why it did not help in tracing No 1, i.e. OBL. Earlier, in the 1990s, Pakistan also played its role in tracing Ramzi Yusuf and Aimal Kansi, both arrested in joint FBI-ISI operations.

After hearing such claims, one wonders his role behind the famous controversial article of former president, Asif Ali Zardari in which he praised Abbottabad operation within 24 hours. It was surprising because the former president was also the Commander-in-Chief, and the question was not about the presence of OBL, but how without any permission or information, a foreign force violated territorial independence of another country.

In the past, there had been joint operations to trace al-Qaed's top operatives. But the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and Ramzi Shibh was excursively carried out by Pakistan's law-enforcement agencies. This writer is witness to Shibh's arrest from an apartment in Defense House Society, Phase-11, Karachi. He, along with two others, was arrested after four hours of encounter on Sept 2, 2002 as they were allegedly planning an attack on the US Consulate in Karachi on the first anniversary of 9/11.

Sources said that a night before his arrest, a raid was also conducted to arrest Khalid Sheikh Mohammad from a flat in Khalid Bin Walid Road, but he allegedly escaped the arrest. However, some of his family members were detained. He was later arrested from a house of a religious party leader in Rawalpindi.

US Navy SEALs operation that allegedly killed OBL on May 2 did raise a lot of questions on Pakistan's intelligence failure and its response to territorial violation, but one wonders what kind of help someone like Husain Haqqani could have provided other than allowing the CIA under cover agents with visa facilities and that too in alleged connivance with Zardari's administration.

The timing of the article is more important than the content itself, which has no major disclosures or added information. It has come at a time when the Trump administration had been advised by the anti-Pakistan Congressmen to dump Pakistan as an ally or a partner in the war against terrorism, an accusation which has been countered by a US general, who considered Pakistan as an important partner which helped in tracing Haqqani Network. Perhaps, Husain Haqqani Network has other ideas to appease the Trump administration.

Despite anti-Muslim stance, US President Donald Trump did not include Pakistan's name in the six countries (now excluded Iraq too), for a travel ban. He still wants to engage Pakistan. It is true that much clarity would have come on this issue had the Abbottabad Commission report been released. It is always important that if a commission is constituted on such matter and that too after hours long debate in the parliament, non-publication often led to speculations.

Hundreds of al-Qaeda operatives had been arrested in Pakistan, at times with FBI's assistance. Pakistan fell victim to a series of terrorist attacks because of these operations and, from 2002 to 2005 witnessed some of the worst suicide bombings.

Former president, General (retired) Pervez Musharraf, survived two major suicide attacks. Once former prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, also came under suicide attack, but remained lucky. Unlike Musharraf or Aziz, the terrorist finally succeeded in killing another former premier, Benazir Bhutto, one of the strongest voices against global terrorism.

Prior to the US-led attack on Afghanistan, Musharraf sent former ISI chief General Mahmood and, later on two top Islamic clerics -- Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai and the late Mufti Muhammad Jamil Khan -- to convince Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar to either hand over OBL or ask him to leave Afghanistan.

Husain Haqqani raised the question that who gave Pakistani visa to OBL. It would have been better had this question been asked from the US administration, as he had come to Afghanistan and later on to Pakistan in the 1980s for 'Jihad-e-Afghanistan’.

Who knows better than Husain Haqqani, who himself during those years was a 'reluctant jihadi’, who started his political career as a student leader of Islami Jamiat-e-Tulba (IJT) and later on was given the task and groomed Mian Nawaz Sharif, particularly his speech and interviews. Many believe that General Zia's administration asked him for it.

There is no doubt that Husain Haqqani has his own quality as a good writer, speaker and very articulate too. Leaving his IJT background in practical life, he offered his services first to Nawaz Sharif and later on to Benazir Bhutto, and both were impressed by the quality he possessed. Even former ISI chief, Lt-Gen Hameed Gul was found of him before he was appointed as high commission to Sri Lanka. When he joined the PPP, he first became secretary information and then Pakistan's ambassador to the US.

He has the capacity to use people. He once used the rightists or Islamists, and now he considers himself as liberal or moderate. He has already written two books, both worth reading, whether one agrees with the content or not. But, one wonders someone like him could have been instrumental in tracing someone like OBL. His maximum role could not be different from Shakil Afridi i.e. a facilitator.

Pakistan, in the past, had remained the 'training ground' for terrorists as it remained the breeding ground for 'jihad-e-Afghanistan.' It is true that we are the worst victim of some of our own policies, particularly when it comes to 'non-state actors’. But, in the post-9/11, Pakistan had done more than been asked as it fought the battle, which no other coalition partner did. It lost 60,000 people, over 20,000 soldiers, arrested top al-Qaeda operatives and Taliban leaders.

Swat, Malakand, and North Waziristan operations led to major decline in terrorism. Whether Pakistan had the prior knowledge of OBL's presence or not, the fact remains that Pakistan had no role in making of al-Qaeda or groups like Daesh.

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang.

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO