Sunday, September 24, 2006
Stone Age Discord
Breaking news from the Telegraph article, "Omar role in truce reinforces fears that Pakistan 'caved in' to Taliban," written by Massoud Ansari and Colin Freeman:
The Taliban's one-eyed spiritual leader, who has a $10 million price on his head for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden after the September 11 attacks, signed a letter explicitly endorsing the truce announced this month. The deal between the Pakistani authorities and pro-Taliban militants in the tribal provinces bordering Afghanistan was designed to end five years of bloodshed in the area.
In return for an end to the US-backed government campaign in Waziristan, the tribal leaders - who have harboured Taliban and al-Qaeda units for more than five years - agreed to halt attacks on Pakistani troops, more than 500 of whom have been killed. The deal has been widely criticised as over-generous, with no way to enforce the Taliban's promise not to enter Afghanistan to attack coalition troops.
The disclosure that Mullah Omar personally backed the deal will come as a fresh embarrassment to Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, who met President Bush in Washington on Friday to discuss security in the region.....
"Had they been not asked by Mullah Omar, none of them were willing to sign an agreement," said Lateef Afridi, a tribal elder and former national assembly member. "This is no peace agreement, it is accepting Taliban rule in Pakistan's territory."
Of course, Pakistan was quick to deny the report:
The government on Saturday denied a report by a British newspaper that the peace agreement in Waziristan was endorsed by Taliban leader Mulla Omar. “There is no truth to the story. We strongly deny that the peace deal with the tribesmen was signed with the consent of Mulla Omar. There was no outsider involved in the agreement,” Senator Tariq Azeem, state minister for information, told Daily Times. He said the peace deal was offered to the tribal elders a long time ago and a recently held jirga of the elders of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) accepted the government’s offer and agreed to sign the peace agreement.
Senator Tariq Azeem is having a crazy weekend, he also had to deny a coup rumour:
Pakistan's government rejected "rumors" of a coup against President Pervez Musharraf that circulated after power failures struck cities, including the capital, Islamabad.
We don't know where these rumors came from, there is no truth in them," Tariq Azeem, the minister of state for information, said today by telephone from Islamabad. "People tell me they came because of power failures. The power has been restored to most parts of the country." The breakdown was because of a technical fault at one of the major transmission lines, Azeem said.
Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in October 1999, has been out of the country attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown by military leaders Sept. 19 in a bloodless coup that took place while he was in New York.
A couple more items from Pakistan's Daily Times worth mentioning.
Four tribesmen including a militant commander and a paramilitary soldier were injured in separate attacks in a restive tribal area bordering Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday. The vehicle of local militant commander Khanan struck a roadside bomb which injured him as well as three others in Shakai village of South Waziristan district on Sunday, a local security official said. It was not clear who planted the homemade bomb which was detonated by remote-control, the official said. Separately, a paramilitary solider was wounded when a rocket fired by militants late on Saturday struck a military camp in Wana, he said.
It's beginning to sound like Iraq over there, perhaps Musharraf's holistic strategy needs some adjustment.
President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s medical check up in a Texas hospital and a countrywide power breakdown combined to spark rumours of a military coup in the country on Sunday.....
Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani said Gen Musharraf visited a friend who is a cardiologist at the hospital and he suggested the president be examined. “He is as fit as a horse,” Mr Durrani said.
However, in Pakistan, various rumours went around stating that the president had been poisoned, had had major heart surgery, or had been "detained" by the US for revealing the Bush administration’s threat to bomb Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks. A nationwide power breakdown in the afternoon then led to further confusion and anxiety, with speculation rampant that someone called General Saleem had staged a military coup and the assemblies had been dissolved.
(Note to self: Before publishing, remember to add a joke here about Musharraf hunting with Vice President Dick Cheney)
Richard Armitage, Daily Times can confirm, did not use the words attributed to him by President Pervez Musharraf in a CBS 60 Minutes interview, namely that unless Pakistan did American bidding, it will be bombed into the “stone age”. However, neither the President of Pakistan, nor Richard Armitage, who has denied using such language, nor President Bush who said he was “taken aback” when he learnt what had been said, is being untruthful. What actually happened was that after his meeting with Richard Armitage, Lt Gen Mahmood Ahmed – who now wears a long, white beard and has reportedly gone Tableeghi – called Gen Musharraf from the Pakistan embassy in Washington. The conversation took place in Urdu and when the president asked him what the bottom line of the American message was, Gen Mahmood replied in Urdu that the Americans were intent on the removal of the Taliban regime and would not let Pakistan stand in their way and if Pakistan did not fall in line and cooperate, “wo hamari eent se eent baja dey gain” or words to that effect. That being so, President Musharraf’s recollection of the conversation with Gen Mahmood, who was then the director general of the ISI, is accurate, only he translated into English what he had been told in Urdu.
(Note to self: Before publishing, remember to add a joke here about the last word in the title of that article without being offensive)
President General Pervez Musharraf on Sunday termed rumours of a coup in Pakistan as nonsense. "Pakistan is not a banana republic. Everything is normal. There is no coup," he said while talking to reporters on Monday.....
He denied having information about Osama Bin Laden saying, "I do not comment on things I don’t know about."
I'm still not finished with the Clinton and Musharraf post that I had promised for last Friday, and it might be a few days until I finish it.
This Bill Roggio article, "al-Qaeda, Taliban behind the Waziristan Accord" is a must-read, so must-read that I'm not even going to post excerpts from it (oddly enough, the Pakistan website that Roggio extensively quotes from was hit by a hacker yesterday).
Joseph Cannon has a great post called More on bin Laden's death, which utilizes extensive quotes from Bush officials and mainstream newspaper reports over the last five years to scarily suggest "that the Bush administration engineered Osama's escape" from Afghanistan to Pakistan.
If you want to know my thoughts on the reported Armitage "Stone Age threat" to Pakistan after 9/11, Luke at wotisitgood4 front paged a comment I left there:
The motive was to deflect attention from the fact that the Waziristan treaty was indeed agreed to with al Qaeda reps....the fact that the pact has been broken on a daily basis by militant attacks on the government, the press and "US spies"....the fact that Pakistan let as many as 2500 taliban and qaeda prisoners go including one of the daniel pearl killers.
It's bullshit...Pakistan backed the US immediately after 9/11...they were the first almost... And Armitage didn't meet General Mahmood alone...the pakistan ambassador was there and others...
(read the rest of my comment at wotisitgood4)
By email, Luke sent me this November, 2001 article which reported a slightly different version of the "Stone Age" comment:
"The choice is up to you," Colin Powell’s right-hand man, Richard Armitage, is said to have told Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed, who has since been replaced as chief of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, during a September 11 visit to Pakistan’s embassy in Washington. "Help us and breathe in the 21st century along with the international community or be prepared to live in the Stone Age."
But I'd like to add that this L.A. Weekly article is wrong about when Musharraf offered "unstinted cooperation" to the U.S.
Wrong in the very first line of the article, in fact:
On September 13, one day before Pakistan decided to support the United States in the war on terror, Islamabad airport was sealed off.
As the Washington Post reported on September 13, 2001:
Pakistan's ambassador in Washington, Maleeha Lodhi, said she gave [Richard L. Armitage] a message from [Pervez Musharraf] assuring the United States of "Pakistan's unstinted cooperation in the fight against terrorism." Musharraf later told the APP news agency in Pakistan today that he would give the United States his full cooperation.
One day after September 11, 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell wasn't exactly rattling the saber against Pakistan for harboring terrorists:
We have not made a determination yet as to who is responsible for yesterday's attack, but we thought as we gather information and as we look at possible sources of the attack, it would be useful to point out to the Pakistani leadership at every level that we are looking for and expecting their fullest cooperation and their help and support as we conduct this investigation and as we generate more information, and see if they can be helpful in generating information, as well as how helpful they might be if we find a basis to act upon that information.
Finally, for something from the other side, here's excerpts from an essay written by a Pakistani complaining about CNN and Bush Administration "signals" for "new violations" of Pakistan sovereignty (as written for Pakistan's The Nation and linked at Watching America):
President Musharraf's revelation that the United States had threatened to "bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age" makes official what many already knew. And the American arrogance continues, with President Bush declaring that if U.S. intelligence was sure that Osama bin Laden or other terrorist leaders were hiding here, the White House would unilaterally order military action inside Pakistan to take them out. The implication is that the U.S. would feel no need to either inform the Government of Pakistan, or seek its permission. This latest reflection of U.S. arrogance came during Bush's interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
Given the poor quality of U.S. intelligence, especially its human intelligence, and its misuse of intelligence, we in Pakistan should now expect, if politics in Washington so demand, the U.S. military to violate our sovereignty. After all, this is an election year for the Congress and Republicans are sliding in the polls. While the Foreign Office has stated that the United States cannot enter Pakistan to "hunt for Osama," to refute Bush's statement would require a response from the highest levels of our political and military leadership. Without such a rejoinder, even Karzai's bellicosity will increase - as was reflected in his speech before the U.N. General Assembly.
What is so ominous about Bush's statement is that it follows a two-week long campaign of Pakistan-bashing by CNN, with one newsreader referring to Pakistan as Qaedastan. Up to now, the Government of Pakistan has made no protest nor taken any action to deal with CNN's Nic Robertson, the journalist most responsible for distorting facts and reporting half-truths while reporting from Pakistan itself. In fact, one hears that Mr Robertson is given extensive access in Islamabad, both political and in terms of protocol. In any case, it is clear that CNN's propaganda blitz against Pakistan was timed to create the proper media environment for Bush's statement - and most likely Karzai's statement to the U.N. General Assembly.
According to Shireen M. Mazari, "NATO and U.S. military in Afghanistan want to deflect attention from its failures by focusing on Pakistan, making a U.S. military incursion into Pakistan quite likely."
I seriously doubt that.