|The group is responsible for some of Afghanistan's highest-profile attacks, including a January 2008 attack on the Serena Hotel in Kabul - a favorite expat haunt - and an April 2008 assassination attempt against Afghan president Hamid Karzai. US and Nato commanders have called Haqqani their greatest strategic threat in Afghanistan.
Haqqani also maintains extensive connections to Pakistan's security services, which views the Haqqani network as a strategic asset against neighbouring India.
Afghanistan's insurgents are motivated by a complicated mix of grievances, but fighters in the Haqqani network reportedly have a more ideological bent than other groups. Anand Gopal, a Kabul-based journalist, has reported that "a significant proportion of Haqqani fighters double as madrassa students".
Across the border, meanwhile, the Pakistani Taliban's umbrella organisation - the Tehrik-i-Taliban - encompasses militias led by several commanders, including Hakimullah Mehsud, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, Maulvi Nazir and others. They are supported by a number of sympathetic groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
The extent of the Pakistani Taliban's ties to its Afghan counterpart is hotly debated. Journalists and analysts have identified growing co-operation between the two groups over the last few years.
Regardless of the operational linkages, though, it's clear the groups are motivated by different grievances: The Afghan insurgency opposes the foreign presence in Afghanistan, while the Pakistani Taliban primarily fights the government in Islamabad.
[Description of Source: Doha Al Jazeera.net in English -- Website of the Al Jazeera English TV, international English-language news service of Al-Jazirah, independent television station financed by the Qatari Government; URL: http://english.aljazeera.net ]
Pakistan: Col Imam's Death Said 'Caused Wedge' Between TTP, Afghan Taliban
SAP20110331106049 Karachi PKKH in English 25 Mar 11
[Report by Rahimullah Yusufzai: "Spy or Intermediary?"; For assistance with multimedia elements, contact OSC at (800) 205-8615 or OSCinfo@rccb.osis.gov.]
[Text disseminated as received without OSC editorial intervention]
After almost a month of his execution, the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) issued a gruesome videotape in the third week of February to confirm the death of retired Pakistan Army Colonel Sultan Amir Tarar, commonly known as Colonel Imam, which was his code name as a long time operative of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Not many people knew his real name. For 11 years as an agent of the ISI, his fictional name defined the Chakwal-born soldier who wielded enormous influence during the various stages of the Afghan conflict due to his close ties to the mujahideen and the Taliban. He had trained a large number of Afghan fighters battling the Soviet occupation forces; he befriended scores of mujahideen and commanders, including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Ahmad Shah Masood and Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani; he had known Afghan Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar; he escorted several US and other western leaders, including the then CIA deputy director and now Defense Secretary Robert Gates, as well as Congressman Charlie Wilson on visits to the mujahideen and functioned as Pakistan's consul general in Herat, western Afghanistan.
Ironically, he met a violent end at the hands of the Pakistani Taliban, who have increasingly charted their own course after initially expressing loyalty to Mullah Omar. Appeals for mercy by certain Afghan Taliban commanders including Sirajuddin Haqqani and former Afghan mujahideen and Pakistani religious scholars also failed to move the TTP head, Hakimullah Mehsud, who was seen in the video personally supervising Colonel Imam's execution. The videotape also provided evidence after months of speculation that Hakimullah Mehsud was alive and kicking - and still in command of the TTP.
Colonel Imam's body still hasn't been returned to his grieving family though he was executed in late January somewhere in South or North Waziristan. All media reports that his body had been found near Miramshah, headquarters of North Waziristan, turned out to be untrue. In fact, the delay in releasing his body to the family has fuelled speculation that the video of his execution could be a fake. Most accounts, though, corroborate the news of his death.
His kidnapping in March last year was an indication of the generation gap and the splintering of militants of different persuasions presently operating on both sides of the Af-Pak border. In the past, Colonel Imam would have been welcomed and feted as an honoured guest by the Afghan mujahideen and Taliban, and also by some Pakistani militants. But times have changed. The new generation of militants operating under the TTP banner or linked to its like-minded groups considered Colonel Imam as an enemy and wanted to use him as a bargaining chip for the release of fellow militants and ransom money.
Earlier on April 30, 2010, the TTP had executed another former ISI official, Squadron Leader (retd) Khalid Khwaja, who had accompanied Colonel Imam on that fateful journey to North Waziristan in March 2010, because the Pakistan government refused to accept their demands. The militants-turned-kidnappers had secured a hefty ransom for releasing Asad Qureshi, the British documentary filmmaker of Pakistani origin, and his local driver Rustam Khan. Qureshi was lucky to have survived even if the experience may haunt him for the rest of his life.
Colonel Imam and Khalid Khwaja, both simple soldiers, had actually accompanied Qureshi to North Waziristan to enable him to film his documentary on the impact of US drone strikes and the civilian casualties caused by them. They were hoping to use some of their contacts and goodwill to do the job, and also get a feel of the place. It was naïve of them to go to North Waziristan, the stronghold of local and foreign militants of every persuasion, especially after having publicly criticised the Pakistani Taliban. As pointed out by Usman Punjabi, or Mohammad Omar as he used to introduce himself in his phone calls and emails to members of the media, Colonel Imam and Khalid Khwaja used to label the Pakistani Taliban as terrorists and instead shower praise on the Afghan Taliban. As head of a faction of militants that variously described itself as Punjabi Taliban and Asian Tigers, he argued, "It was wrong of them to describe us as terrorists. We, too, are fighting jihad," while speaking to this writer from Miramshah shortly before he was killed due to the infighting that erupted between different factions of the militants over the issue of kidnapping of Colonel Imam and Khalid Khwaja, and sharing of the ransom money. This stance of theirs regarding the Pakistani Taliban was used as grounds for justifying their murder.
The situation remained confusing and complex from the moment Colonel Imam and his colleagues were kidnapped right until the end when reports emerged in late January 2010 that the retired colonel had been executed or had died of heart attack.
The Asian Tigers, a name unheard of until then and obviously coined to hide the identity of the kidnappers, claimed responsibility for the kidnappings and said demands had been forwarded to the concerned people without elaborating. It soon emerged that the Punjabi Taliban - or jihadists who had quit their mainstream militant organisations due to the latter's close links with Pakistan's security establishment - had linked up with the TTP and were involved in the kidnappings. Usman Punjabi became the link between the militants holding the four men and the outside world. He was the one who had invited the former ISI operatives to North Waziristan and trapped them. In fact, the militant group holding them was led by one Abdullah Mansoor, who had split from the anti-Shiite Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and aligned with the splinter faction Lashkar-i-Jhangvi al-Alami.
It was after Khalid Khwaja had been executed and a ransom deal for the release of Asad Qureshi was being worked out that militants holding Colonel Imam developed differences among themselves. This resulted in the killing of Usman Punjabi and five of his men at the hands of his former colleague Sabir Mehsud, who belonged to South Waziristan and who had more fighters under his command than the militants from the Punjab. The incident enraged Hakimullah Mehsud, who sent his men to execute Sabir Mehsud and members of his band and take custody of Colonel Imam. Those seeking Colonel Imam's release were then required to approach Hakimullah Mehsud, who presented tough conditions including the release of his men in the custody of the government and also the payment of ransom. Subsequently, hopes for a deal were raised when reports emerged that Colonel Imam could be freed on payment of ransom. His execution was sudden and shocking for all those trying to negotiate a deal as the talks with the TTP had not broken down yet.
The brutal manner of Colonel Imam's execution in the presence of Hakimullah Mehsud explained the latter's anger. In his statement before the execution, the TTP leader accused Colonel Imam of so many things that it seemed he was convinced that the former ISI operative had s pecifically come to Waziristan to spy on him and provide intelligence for the Pakistan Army's strikes and US drone attacks on his hideouts. Militants often argue that the punishment for spies is death and this was the reason that both Khalid Khwaja and Colonel Imam were executed. In their view, both were spies although it is far-fetched that the two retired military officers, who were critical of Pakistan's alliance with the US and unhappy over Islamabad's decision after 9/11 to break with Afghan Taliban, would still be working for the ISI. In fact, the military authorities would have made a real effort to save them had they still been working for the ISI and were in any way useful to the military or the government. Rather, their families were disappointed that the military didn't do more to secure their release.
One fallout of Colonel Imam's execution is that it has created mistrust and caused a wedge between the TTP and other militants, particularly the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network. Those aware of Colonel Imam's services to the cause of the Afghan jihad and the Afghan Taliban were clearly unhappy with the TTP and Hakimullah Mehsud and were privately criticising him for executing the former ISI official. In fact, serious doubts have arisen about Hakimullah Mehsud's agenda after this incident. Though the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network have refrained from publicly condemning Hakimullah Mehsud and the TTP for killing Colonel Imam and Khalid Khwaja, they are unlikely to trust him anymore.
[Description of Source: Description of Source: Karachi PKKH in English -- Website of Pakistan Ka Khuda Hafiz, or "May God Protect Pakistan," a "leading alternative policy institute and news service" which has staunch anti-US commentators--Hamid Gul and Shireen Mazari--on its board. PKKH has been observed working closely with banned terrorist group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, during the recent floods. However, the organization claims that it is not "funded by or affiliated to any political or religious parties or individuals, corporations, media organizations, or intelligence agencies," and "condemns terrorism and oppression of the masses in all its forms"; URL: pakistankakhudahafiz.com]
Asia Times: 'Imran Khan in Taliban Peace Spotlight'
CPP20110419715059 Hong Kong Asia Times Online in English 0748 GMT 19 Apr 11
[Report by Syed Saleem Shahzad: "Imran Khan in Taliban Peace Spotlight"; headline as provided by source]
Imran Khan, the former Pakistan cricket captain turned politician, is in the spotlight as Pakistan develops a roadmap for reconciliation with the Taliban that aims to close down the war theater inside its borders.
Khan, who leads the opposition Tehrik-e-Insaaf party, has emerged as a potential prime minister after the country's military oligarchs built a consensus that peace is unlikely in the absence of out-of-the-box thinking and that an internationally credible person is needed to lead the process. Serving and retired military officers and academics, businessmen and politicians sense that neither the current Pakistan military and political leadership, nor Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has the ability to deliver a result. They believe the best hope lies in a person who can be trusted in all quarters - by the Taliban, political Islamists, liberal secularists, Western capitals, India and other regional players.
Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani led an unprecedented entourage, including Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani and Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the director general of the Inter-Service Intelligence, to Kabul last week to officially inaugurate the peace reconciliation process with the Taliban under the auspices of Washington and London. The decision had already been made that the Afghanistan and Pakistan governments will occupy a central role in a reconciliation process that could bring the Taliban into the mainstream Afghan political process.
Khan, 58, is leading a two-day sit-in outside Peshawar, capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, planned for Saturday and Sunday to block supply convoys ferrying goods to North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops in Afghanistan. People displaced by the war have vowed to join the protest, which is against United States drone attacks. Khan has been a fervent critic of the Pakistan government, claiming it is subservient to the United States in the region.
Several months before the leaders of the two countries met in Kabul, the Pakistan military establishment began preparations for reconciliation and it was agreed that Khan would be suitable for leading the peace process.
A prominent Urdu media commentator of right-wing leanings, who is close to both Khan and army chief Kiani, arranged a series of meetings between the two which eventually led to a consensus around Khan becoming the next leader of the country.
While no formula was finalized, according to sources, general elections scheduled for February 2013 could be brought forward and a political alliance engineered that would result in a simple majority under which Khan would be installed as prime minister. Another scenario would be for Khan to take the lead in an interim government.
Khan's leadership role has found favor across Pakistan's political spectrum, including the Muttehada Quami Movement (MQM), the second-largest party in the ruling coalition and largest urban party in Sindh province. The Awami National Party (ANP), the largest Pashtun nationalist party, which governs Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, and Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam, the two main Islamic parties, also back the role.
ANP president Asfandyar Wali Khan, a strong critic of the US drone attacks, has backed the process started in Kabul and said his party had always supported dialogue with "saner elements" among the Taliban.
Imran Khan's position has been lauded by the militants and his popularity in Pakistani tribal areas is unparalleled. In 2007 in Afghanistan, Naseeruddin Haqqani, the son of legendary Afghan commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose Haqqani network is regarded the most lethal network against the Western coalition in Afghanistan, met with Imran Khan and in that way Khan indirectly entered into a dialogue process with the Taliban.
In the second week of March, Khan held a long meeting with the US ambassador in Islamabad, Cameron Munter. A few days later a major shift in his politics surprised many. Khan produced a stateme nt supportive of MQM policies despite formerly filing a money laundering case against MQM leader Altaf Hussain in a British court.
There is a long-held understanding within Pakistan's military that any reconciliation process with the Taliban would require a whole package dealing with the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the affiliated group on one side and another with the the Western coalition, India and other regional players. The job requires credible leadership.
Pakistan supported the Taliban movement when it emerged in the mid 1990s. When the student militia formed its government in Kabul, Pakistan stood behind it in the face of global opposition. After al-Qaeda attacked the United States on 9/11, Pakistan tried to explain to the world the difference between al-Qaeda and the Taliban and emphasized the need to engage with the Taliban.
However, the Pervez Musharraf administration's arguments were dismissed by George W Bush and Pakistan's logistical support helped American-led international forces toppled Taliban's ragtag militia government by the end of 2001.
In 2006, the Taliban re-emerged as a powerful armed opposition group and stunned the world with organized attacks throughout southern Afghanistan. Within a few years, according to influential Western think-tanks, they had expanded their influence to over 80% of the country and in several parts even established local rule.
Western experts are still at a loss to explain what exactly happened between 2002 to 2006 to bring the defeated Taliban back as a major player in Afghanistan, with some claiming Pakistan's ISI backing amid a resurgence in Pashtun nationalism which supported the Taliban. However, it is likely a due to a dialectic of al-Qaeda-affiliated groups. Al-Qaeda migrated into Pakistani tribal areas in 2002 and worked with different tribes, gradually succeeding in replacing Pakistan's tribal system with the al-Qaeda affiliated structures in Pakistani tribal areas as well as in southeast Afghanistan.
Al-Qaeda's strategy from 2002 was to regroup pro-Taliban factions and pitch them in Afghanistan's southwest in 2006 to support the Afghan Taliban. In early 2007, under a meticulous strategy, al-Qaeda retreated into the tribal areas and in mid-year moved into Pakistani cities to pressurize Pakistan to stop supporting the American war in Afghanistan. It countered American moves in Pakistan for establishing a broadbased anti-Taliban alliance and assassinated Pakistan's former premier Benazir Bhutto, thwarted a peace reconciliation process which was inaugurated in Kabul in 2007 through opening a war theatre in Malakand-Swat and carried out so many attacks in Pakistani cities and tribal areas by the beginning of 2008 that they outnumbered insurgent attacks against occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan
By the middle of of 2008, al-Qaeda's leadership receded into Pakistani tribal areas and then expanded operations across the world including Yemen, India, Somalia and Europe.
On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, it is clear to the world community that dealing with the Taliban is not an open and shut case that ends in simply signing an agreement.
Why Imran Khan?
Imran Khan captained the winning Pakistani cricket team in the 1992 World Cup in Australia and returned to Pakistan a national hero. He then pursued the cause of establishing a free cancer hospitals in memory of his deceased mother Shaukat Khanum, who died of cancer.
At the same time, Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul retired from the Pakistan Army and began working on a new plan for the future leadership of the country. He chose three prominent Pakistanis; namely, former governor, renowned social worker and reformer Hakim Mohammad Saeed, the social worker and philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi, and Imran Khan. Saeed refused to take part in politics, and was gunned down in front of his clinic in 1998. Edhi left Pakistan in the mid 1990s, alleging that Pakistani intelligence was trying to force him into politics. Imran Khan agreed to take a political role.
The transformation of an Oxford University political sciences graduate seen as a sex symbol in the West into a politician who penned articles in leading Urdu newspapers against the Western lifestyle and Westernized thinking in Pakistan stunned many.
After the October 12, 1999 military coup, Khan jumped on Musharraf's bandwagon but by 2003 he had distanced himself from the president. The military establishment continued to engage him. However, Khan has remained a major campaigner against the Pakistan military's oppression of Islamic forces. Even in 2009, as all Pakistani politicians including Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz Group supported military operations in Swat, he insisted that they could only breed militancy.
This weekend's protests in Peshawar are likely to be seen as the curtain-raiser for Khan's entry into the AfPak arena.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
[Description of Source: Hong Kong Asia Times Online in English -- Online newspaper focusing on political and economic issues from an "Asian perspective," with over 50 contributors in 17 Asian countries, the United States, and Europe, and a branch office in Bangkok; successor of the Hong Kong/Bangkok-based print daily Asia Times that closed in 1997, it claims an average of 100,000 daily site visitors, with 65% of the audience based in North America, and 22% in the Asia-Pacific region; tends to be critical of the United States; URL: http://www.atimes.com]
Pakistan: Commentary Discusses Abduction, Assassination of Former ISI Official
SAP20110501109007 Rawalpindi Nawa-e Waqt in Urdu 01 May 11
[Commentary by Amir Hamza: "Colonel Imam: Martyrdom and Motives"]
Murder of abducted person during talks was surprising;
Effective voice in support of the Taliban fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan fell silent;
Whether Colonel Imam, a trustee of important national secrets, was compelled to work against the country or was punished for not accepting false and baseless charge sheet;
67-year-old courageous Colonel Imam, who spent difficult times in caves and basements for 11 months, bravely embraced death.
Talking about the killed of Colonel Imam, a great mujahidin of Jihad-e-Afghanistan, and its motives, it is utmost necessary that the horrible scenes of the video, in which all scenes of his murder were meticulously documented with a clear aim and were released to media across the world, are kept in view. Internationally renowned Colonel Imam was considered to be undisputed representative of the Islamic jihadist forces because of his unblemished past and was an effective voice in support of the Taliban fighting the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Allama Tahir Mahmood Ashraf rightly said: "Col Imam remained attached to Jihad-e-Afghanistan from black to white hair."
At the time of the 9/11, he was Pakistan's consul general in Herat province of Afghanistan and when returned to Pakistan after the US invasion of Afghanistan, he devoted all his capabilities for withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and establishment of peace in the region. In this regard, he used to explicitly give his viewpoint on the national and international media. Before his departure to North Waziristan in March 2010, he prepared a brief entitled "Taliban" and handed it over to General Mirza Aslam Beg. In the brief, he presented the historical background of the Taliban, their impact on the Afghan culture and his opinion about their future role. The brief was entitled "Future Scenario". "There is no chance of the defeat of the Taliban because of the extraordinary leadership, high standard objectivity and unconditional support of people. The 30-year war has removed many leaders from the scene and today it is only Mullah Muhammad Omar Mujahid, who enjoys the most public support. Mullah Omar, who has much enthusiasm for peace and prosperity in Afghanistan, devoted and brave, can demonstrate flexibility at a suitable stage. He is ready to listen to his trusted former colleagues. In a message received on 25 January 2010, he has asked his friends to play their role in talks, which reflects his commitment to peace. [Col Imam was asked that after forming an 8 to 10-member group of learned, statesman and wise experts, he should start work on their 10-point agenda, which is logical as well as practical.] In this regard, the first step will be formation of Loya Jirga and interim government."