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Polish Engineer Beheaded on Seventh Anniversary of Pearl's Throat Being Slit

A spokesman of the Darra Adamkhel Valley (DAV) branch of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is reported to have phoned the “News” of Pakistan on February 7,2009, to claim that following the repeated refusal of the Government to release four detainees of the TTP, the DAV branch beheaded on February 6,2009, a Polish engineer by name Peter Stanczak, who was kidnapped from the Pind Sultani area of Jund in the Attock district of the Punjab on September 28, 2008. The spokesman also reportedly said that the beheading was also in reprisal against repeated strikes by the Predator (unmanned) aircraft of the US on suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs in the Pakistani territory. He accused the Pakistani Government of tacitly co-operating with the US in these air strikes. He added that the DAV branch originally wanted to demand also the withdrawal of the Polish troops in the NATO contingent in Afghanistan, but decided not to do so. Stanczak was employed by a Polish firm which has been helping in Pakistan’s national seismic survey .

2. The beheading of the Polish engineer has increased concern over the fate of an Iranian and an Afghan diplomat and a Chinese engineer, who were also kidnapped in the tribal belt last year to demand ransom and the release of some Taliban members detained by the Pakistani authorities. They have not so far been released. The anger against the Chinese was initially over their suspected role in allegedly pressuring the previous Musharraf Government to raid the Lal Masjid in July,2007, following the kidnapping and humiliation of some Chinese women working in in the Islamabad area by some students of the madrasas attached to the Masjid. Though the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad strongly denied that it had made Musharraf order the raid, the TTP has not been convinced of their denial. This anger has been exacerbated by the pre-Olympics arrests by the Chinese authorities in the Xinjiang province of a number of Uighurs, with some of them allegedly having links with Pakistan-based Uighur groups and madrasas. The Lal Masjid itself had some Uighur students—boys and girls–in its madrasas. The Chinese arrested them either as a precautionary measure before the Olympics or during their investigation into some terrorist incidents in the province.

3. The beheading of the Polish engineer coincided with the seventh anniversary of the murder of Daniel Pearl, a Jewish American journalist, by slitting his throat after keeping him in captivity for some days. He had gone to Karachi from Mumbai, where he was posted as the South Asia correspondent of the “Wall Street Journal ,” in January,2002, to enquire into the suspected Pakistani links of Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, who unsuccessfully attempted to blow up an American plane with some explosives concealed in his shoes. Pearl fell into a trap carefully laid by a group of Karachi-based jihadis led by Omar Sheikh, a British resident of Pakistani origin, who was one of those released by India to secure the release of the passengers of an Indian Airlines plane from Kathmandu hijacked to Kandahar by some terrorists belonging to the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) in December 1999. Another Pakistani detainee released alng with him by India was Maulana Masood Azhar, who then belonged to the HUM. After his return to Pakistan after being handed over by India to the hijackers in Kandahar, Azhar split from the HUM in January,2000, and formed the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM). Omar Sheikh also joined the JEM.

4. According to the Pakistani version, the kidnapping and the subsequent murder of Pearl by slitting his throat were carried out by a mixed group of terrorists belonging to the HUM (Al Alami meaning International), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the JEM and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), an anti-Shia organisation. Omar Sheikh planned and orchestrated the kidnapping. Thereafter, he surrendered to Brig.Ijaz Shah, who was then posted as the Home Secretary of the Government of Punjab. Before this post, he had served in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and was considered close to Pervez Musharraf. Pearl’s throat was slit in the beginning of February,2002, and his body was buried in a plot of land allegedly belonging to a charity organisation linked to the JEM. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM), who allegedly co-ordinated the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US on behalf of Osama bin Laden, and who is now in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, is reported to have told the US authorities that it was he who slit the throat of Pearl. The remains of the body were recovered by the Karachi Police during the investigation and identified. It was reported that the entire slitting of the throat was video recorded by the terrorists and sent to bin Laden.

5. A number of alleged perpetrators was arrested by the Pakistani police and prosecuted. Omar Sheikh was sentenced to death. He appealed against the sentence. The appeal has not so far been taken up for hearing by the Anti-Terrorism court, which has granted one adjournment after another to the lawyers of Omar Sheikh under some frivolous ground or the other. According to reliable police sources, since the present Government headed by Yousef Raza Gilani came to power after the elections of February 18,2008, Omar Sheikh has been granted a number of facilities such as the use of mobile telephones, frequent visits by his friends and associates in Pakistan and the UK etc. For all practical purposes, he is reportedly guiding the activities of the JEM from the jail. A detailed report on his activities from jail carried by the “News” of December 18,2008, is annexed.

6. The JEM has been closely allied with the Swat Valley branch of the TTP and its cadres have been involved in the operations of the TTP against the Pakistani security forces. Just as the killers of Pearl disposed of his body after slitting his throat and circulated only a video-recording to prove his execution according to the so-called Islamic laws, the killers of the Polish enginner have also said that they wold not return his dead body and that they would only circulate a video-recording of his beheading as proof of their claim.

7. Despite the strong statements made periodically by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani about their determination to put an end to terrorism originating from Pakistani territory, their policy towards the terrorists has been even more soft than the policy followed by Musharraf. The Pakistani Police have virtually suspended their investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, allegedly on the orders of Rehman Malik, the Internal Security Adviser, under the pretext that since the UN Secretary-General has agreed to order an investigation by a three-member team of international experts, there is no need for a duplicate enquiry by the Pakistani Police. Rehman Malik was acting as the co-ordinator of physical security for Benazir when she was in political exile and was responsible for her security at the time of her assassination. He is considered close to Zardari. When the Sindh National Front of Mumtaz Ali Bhutto, a cousin of the late Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto and a founder-member of the Pakistan People’s Party, raised the issue of the alleged lack of interest in the investigation of her assassination, the office-bearers of the SNF were harassed by the police and got arrested on allegedly trumped-up charges.

8.The terrorist groups are having a free run not only in the tribal belt, but also in Punjab and there are fears of their activities once again spreading to Karachi as it had in 2002 when Pearl was kidnapped and killed, a group of French submarine engineers was blown up and there was an explosion outside the US Consulate in Karachi. The death of an American diplomat in Karachi on the eve of the visit of former US President George Bush to Pakistan in March,2006, and the unsuccessful attempt to kill Benazir Bhutto in Karachi in October,2007, on her return from political exile showed that various terrorist groups have retained their capability for terrorist strikes in Karachi.

9.The Government of Zardari has not taken any action against Brig (retd).Ijaz Shah and Lt.Gen (retd) Hamid Gul, who were named by Benazir before her return from exile as posing a threat to her security. Nor has it taken any action against Qari Saifullah Akhtar of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), who had been specifically named by her as responsible for the unsuccessful attempt to kill her in Karachi in October,2007. She had named him because in 1995, when she was the Prime Minister, he had unsuccessfully conspired with a group of army officers to have her killed along with Gen.Abdul Wahid Kakar, the then Chief of the Army Staff, and stage a coup. Nor has the Government of Zardari taken any action against Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the TTP, who was the main suspect in her assassination.

10. The terrorist situation in Pakistan has gone from bad to worse since the present Government came to power. The terrorist groups based in Pakistan have not only stepped up their activities in Pakistani territory, but have also extended their activities beyond the borders of Pakistan. The vehicular bomb explosion outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul in July,2008, the Mumbai terrorist strike of 26/11 and the kidnapping and beheading of the Polish engineer are but a few of the examples showing that the terrorists of different organisations are once again having a free run in Pakistan. (8-2-09)

(The writer , Mr B.Raman,is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies.E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

ANNEXURE ( From the “News” of December 18,2008)

By Amir Mir

LAHORE: In a sensational development, authorities have claimed busting a clandestine terror network set up by jailed killer of Daniel Pearl inside the Hyderabad Jail and the Sindh government has suspended senior police and jail officials after a large number of cell phones, SIMs and other equipment were recovered.

Highly-placed Interior Ministry sources confided to The News on Wednesday the jailed terrorist had also threatened Gen Pervez Musharraf on his personal cell phone in the second week of November and planned to get him eliminated by a suicide bomber.

The caller reportedly told the former president: “I am after you, get ready to die.” Subsequent investigations by the authorities revealed the threatening phone call was made by someone from the Hyderabad Central Jail. Being a suspect, Sheikh Omar was placed under observation before it transpired that he was the one who had threatened the former strongman.

The authorities came to know that a plot had been hatched by Sheikh Omar to eliminate the then-president with the connivance of some Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militants, with whom he had long been in touch over the phone.

As Omar’s death cell was thoroughly searched, three mobile phones, six batteries, 18 SIMS of almost every cellular company and chargers were seized from his possession. Further scanning of the alleged terror mastermind’s telephone records revealed he had been making calls all over Pakistan to former Jihadi associates as well as relatives in Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi and Peshawar.

Interestingly, however, his mobile phone records revealed besides having revived his contacts with the outer world, Omar had also been in touch with Attaur Rehman, alias Naeem Bukhari, a key Lashkar-e-Jhangvi operative arrested by the Karachi police on June 5, 2007 in connection with the January 2002 Daniel Pearl murder case.

When the barracks of Naeem Bukhari, being held in the Sukkur Central Jail, were searched, the authorities recovered one mobile phone and three SIMs he had been using to stay in touch with Omar and some other LeJ accomplices in Karachi and Rawalpindi.

During the ensuing interrogations, Naeem Bukhari was learnt to have revealed that the LeJ operatives had already been directed by Sheikh Omar to target Musharraf either in Rawalpindi or in Karachi, preferably by using a suicide car bomber.

The LeJ militants had thus been monitoring Musharraf’s movements to target him while travelling between his Army House residence in Rawalpindi and his Chak Shehzad farmhouse on the 1-A Park Road on the quiet suburbs of Islamabad or to blow up the bridge on Shara-e-Faisal during his next visit to Karachi at the precise moment when his convoy would reach there from the Quaid-e-Azam International Airport.

It was after the unearthing of the assassination plot that Musharraf decided to leave for London on Nov 22, 2008 for a short trip — for the first time since his resignation as president in August 2008. Although, he has already returned home, Musharraf is still occupying the Army House due to grave security concerns.

Following the recovery of mobile phones and SIMs from Sheikh Omar, the Sindh Home Department took serious action and suspended (on Dec 1, 2008) Hyderabad Central Jail Superintendent Abdul Majid Siddiqui, his deputy Gul Mohammad Sheikh and four other jail officials on charges of showing criminal negldigence.

According to the Sindh inspector general prisons, both had been suspended by the Home Department on complaints of corruption and maladministration. The IG prisons said there were complaints of serious nature against them, such as providing cell phones and other banned facilities to prisoners, corruption and maladministration. An inquiry officer has already been appointed to probe the charges.

The most astonishing aspect of the episode is that the scrutiny of Omar Sheikh’s mobile phone records proved he had been even calling Maj-Gen (retd) Amir Faisal Alavi, the former General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the elite Special Services Group (SSG) of the Pakistan Army. He was shot dead in Islamabad on Nov 19, 2008 by unidentified gunmen.

Although, the Interior Ministry officials are not ready to speak on the issue, a recent story filed by Carey Schofield of Sunday Times had quoted Maj-Gen Amir Faisal Alavi as having told her during an Islamabad meeting four days before his murder that he knew he would be killed by his own comrades, as he had threatened to expose the Pakistani generals who had been cutting deals with Taliban insurgents.

Sheikh Omar Saeed has not divulged any information so far as to why he had been calling Alavi. But Musharraf has stated in his book “In the Line of Fire” that Omar was originally recruited by the British intelligence agency MI-6 while studying at the London School of Economics.

Omar was sent to the Balkans by MI-6 to engage in Jihadi operations, according to Musharraf, who went on to opine: “At some point, he probably became a rogue or double agent. Sheikh Omar happens to be a British citizen of Pakistani descent, who had first served five years in prison in Delhi in the 90s in connection with the 1994 abduction of three British travellers. But he was released in the first week of 2000 along with Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar and eventually provided a safe passage to Pakistan by the Taliban regime, after India was forced to accept demands of the hijackers of Indian Airliner IC-814.

Two years later, on Feb 12, 2002, Omar surrendered to Brigadier (retd) Ejaz Hussain Shah, his former handler in the ISI, after being accused of abducting Daniel Pearl. At an initial court appearance in April 2002, Omar had almost confessed to his crime by stating: “I don’t want to defend myself. I did this… Rightly or wrongly, I had my reasons. I think our country shouldn’t be catering to American needs.”

As a matter of fact, it is five-and-a-half years since an anti-terrorism court in Karachi sentenced him to death. Omar, a graduate from the London School of Economics, became a Jihadi for the high-profile Pearl murder.

It was on July 15, 2003 that Omar and his three accomplices were awarded life imprisonment by Justice Ali Ashraf Shah in a heavily fortified makeshift court, set up in a bunker underneath a prison inside the Hyderabad Jail. No journalist was allowed to attend the court proceedings and the venue had to be changed three times because of bombing threats and security concerns.

The trial judge was also changed thrice. Forensic scientists initially refused to attend the exhumation of the court for fear they would be killed. Police personnel who were known to confront all kinds of savage criminals behaved like lambs in front of the terrorist and police officers were intimidated by him in the court of law in front of the judge.

As soon as the July 15, 2003 verdict was announced, Omar, who had already been declared a dangerous prisoner and confined to an isolation death cell, reacted defiantly, saying that he would retaliate against the authorities for arranging the sentence. In a message read out by his lawyer outside the court room, Sheikh Omar said: “We shall see who will die first. Either I or the authorities who have arranged the death sentence for me.” Almost six months later, in December 2003, Gen Musharraf survived two separate assassinations attempts in Rawalpindi. The authorities suspect that Sheikh Omar had links with the two suicide bombers who blew themselves up to assassinate Musharraf and the attempts owed to the death penalty awarded to Omar.

As things stand, the anti-terrorist court’s verdict has not been implemented so far and Sheikh Omar continues to avoid being sent to the gallows due to repeated adjournments of his appeal against conviction, pending in the Sindh High Court for years now. Reports emanating from the Hyderabad Central Jail say the guards stationed outside Omar’s death cell are rotated almost daily because he has the ability to influence anyone he meets.

As a matter of fact, Omar had actually managed to prevail upon the first four police constables deployed outside his cell, with all of them growing beards within days after they were assigned to guard his ward. The jail authorities say if the guards outside his cell are not rotated every day, Omar is fully capable of bringing the entire jail staff round to his view. He is presently reading books on history, particularly on World War-I and II, the Cold War and the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.NEWS 18-12-08

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