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Terror report card: Pakistan

By Ali K Chishti

Investigations and background interviews with intelligence and security officers in Pakistan conducted by Daily Times reveal that al Qaeda is looking for new partners and is shifting from “B areas” of Pakistan to “A areas”. The al Qaeda, which is largely an Arab organisation, is on a run and desperately finding new partners because of the increasing drone attacks and falling support from the Pakistanis who consider them fitna. Only a recent survey by an independent organisation in FATA confirms that two-third of FATA residents reject both al Qaeda and the TTP.

The new battleground for al Qaeda is now Pakistan’s biggest cities – Karachi and Lahore – where it has found new partners in the form of the TTP and other third generation terrorist groups like the Pakistani Jandullah, which has previously carried out attacks on the Karachi corps commander and the US Consulate there. Al Qaeda mostly acts as the financier and loan sharks, while the on-field logistics and operational aspect is out-sourced to the local jihadi and sectarian organisations, who are in desperate need of money due to tight monetary controls and greater vigilance in Pakistan.

“Al Qaeda’s new strategy is to bring in the Pakistan Army and divert them from North Waziristan. So, expect more shrine bombings and other targeted assassinations,” a top law enforcement officer confirmed to Daily Times. The TTP, which mostly provides cover to al Qaeda in North Waziristan in exchange for large finances from Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks, is also providing training facilities to al Qaeda newbies who are recruited to carry out attacks in the West. It is to be noted that the five French nationals who were caught in Paris earlier this and conspired to attack France were also trained by the TTP and had a strong North Waziristan connection where at least one of the five bombers had been trained in suicide bombing.

On a totally separate level at a different front due to negligence of Pakistani intelligence agencies and other security officials, Punjabi Taliban – mostly belonging to the former Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and other terrorist groups, which have only recently fallen off from their leadership – have started their activities in at least 18 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Daily Times could confirm the existence of at least six terrorist camps – two in Buner, one in Thanda Pani (Abbotabad), one in Balakot and two in Chitral – while most terrorist organisations had either moved to Azad Kashmir or Waziristan and even, according to one ex-terrorist official in Buner, Muhammad Wazir Khan, “went to Afghanistan to participate in the real jihad”.

The rest of the more extremist ones are in Kunar and Nooristan provinces of Afghanistan fighting against NATO and ISAF. “They are not our problem. We only watch them and cover them,” explained intelligence official about the Kashmiri and Punjabi groups operating on the Pakistani soil. Most of them have strong links to Hibzul Mujahideen, which operates with Jamaat-e-Islami’s cover in the area.

On the other hand, Pakistani intelligence officers are busy in what they do best. Divide jihadis and, according to a senior intelligence official, “This is a time-tested mode of keeping overall control on such groups. Whenever one group is seen getting too strong or influential, the agencies try to split it and sometimes put one against the other.” There had been initial success, but in absence of a central authority to counter terrorism and of a formal mechanism to share and process intelligence reports from all intelligence agencies, nothing would happen, Daily Times had been told by most spy-masters and security experts.

While the TTP and al Qaeda are shifting their strategies, security and intelligence authorities based in both Pakistan and the US are busy analysing who were the real handlers of Faisal Shahzad in Karachi as it is quite apparent that he had the ability to make direct contact with a plethora of terrorist groups operating in the country.

A Western diplomat at the forefront of tackling the issue confirmed to Daily Times, “Our biggest worry right now is to somehow stop Pakistan from being abused as a launching pad and safe haven for sleeper-cell members to come here and go back to bomb Western targets. Another Faisal Shahzad could well end the diplomatic relations with Pakistan.”

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