Osama Getting Expensive As Al Zawahri Risks Arrest

Farooq Sulehria


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Pakistan. All eyes on Tribal Areas. Speculations abound: Osama is under arrest. Rumours going around: Al-Zawahri is to be arrested soon. These rumours going around Pakistan have been echoed by world press as well. Speculations are not baseless. General Musharraf, the self appointed military president of Pakistan, spin the rumours on March 18 in an interview with CNN. Musharraf told CNN: “We feel that there may be a high-value target. I can’t say who.” Asked whether there was heavy fighting, President Musharraf said, “Yes, the resistance that is being put up by the people there has made us feel that there may be a high-value target. I can’t say who.” He is right while talking about the resistence.

Pakistan military is using gunship helicopters. A reporter, according to Daily Times Lahore, claims to have seen 15 helicopters in the area. Brig (r) Shah said, “Paramilitary troops backed by the army and attack helicopters are taking part in the operation. We are using heavy weapons because they are also using heavy weapons against our forces,” he said. However, he said the use of warplanes could not be ruled out if the situation warranted. The resistence to protect 'high value target' turned serious on March 16 when a shoot out between Pakistani troops and so-called Al Qaida members left 39 dead. Repotedly, 12 Pakistani troops while 27 Al-Qaida members were killed in the shootout. By the time, this report is filed more reports of casulities are pouring in. Musharraf claims that there are possibly 600 Al Qaida members hiding in Tribal Areas.

The region called Tribal Areas, is administrated by Pakistan. But in many ways, Tribal Areas have kind of autonomous status, since British Days. This region is a kind of buffer zone between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Wana, a small town in Tribal Areas, is the battle ground for current fights between Pakistan military and Al-Qaida fighters. Musharraf revealed the big presence of Al Qaida members in Tribal Areas for the first time while addressing a gathering on March 15. Few days before his interview with CNN. At the same function, he also publicaly accused for the first time, Al-Qaida for carrying out suicide attacks against him on Dec24 last year. It was a Libyan Al-Qaida member, he said who had masterminded the attacks. The presence of US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Pakistan capital Islamabad, while Musharraf was announcing the encirclement of a 'high value target' further strengthens the speculations. US Secretary of State Colin Powell during a one-day visit to Pakistan capital announced that the United States would designate Pakistan a “major non-NATO ally” status. But it is not yet clear who this 'high value ' person is.

According to CNN coresspondent, Brown and his sources, which include Pakistani intelligence, it is believed that al Zawahri was among 200 well-equipped Al Qaeda fighters cornered near the Afghan border. Most of teh Pakistani newspapers are pointing out Al-Zawahri as the 'high value' person. Osama cannot be ruled out either. RUMOURS STARTED END-FEB: The rumour-mills were set in motion by Iran Radio by end Feb. On Feb 27, Iran Radio in its Pashto service, aimed at Pashto speaking Pakistan region and Afghanistan, claimed that Osama bin Laden has been arrested. Next day, both Pakistan and United States were quick to deny the reports. Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency's Pashtun language services had reported that Osama was arrested in Pakistan's tribal regions. The report, which could not be independently verified, said the alleged arrest took place "some time ago" but gave no further details. Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri told reporters next day at a press conference that he could not confirm reports carried by "international media" that Osama had been arrested in Pakistan. Same day, in Washington, a senior US defence official denied the report, telling Reuters it was "another piece of stray voltage that's passing around outthere."

According to AFP, the Iranian correspondent responsible for the report told Reuters that the radio had also reported Osama's capture a year ago. But said a new source had told him on Friday the Al Qaeda leader had been seized "a long time ago". Following these denials, very next day on Feb 29, US media reported that Osama Bin Laden crossed into Pakistan on Feb 27 and is closely guarded by Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters disguised as a Pakistani tribesman. The reports said Bin Laden "is currently hiding" in a remote area in South Waziristan near the Afghan border. Wana is located in Waziristan. DIRTY DEAL: Robert Fisk while addressing a seminar here in Stockholm last year had remarked in a light vein that Osama would be arrested before US elections in November 2004. It seems what he said was taken seriously by Texas (cow)boy. US administration is well aware that no one knows about Al-Qaida network in Afghanistan better than Pakistan military. It will be perhaps not possible to arrest Osama without a helping hand lent by Musharraf. It was perhaps in this background that few weeks ago when Nuclear scandal hit Pakistan, USA was keeping a mum. Also, USA needs Pakistan troops to engage them in countries where is it falling short of troops. Musharraf on the other hand, is now clearly faced with life or death situation with regard to fundamentalists. At the time, he came to power, and particularly after S11, he was trying to please US administration by taking some cosmetic steps against fundamentalsits. However, his support for fundamentalists remained intact. It could not go on any more in changed world situation where imperialism and funmentalists, two old buddies, are realy in contardiction.

Following suicide attacks on his life, Musharraf was faced with a situation where he should eliminate 'frenkenstien' created by Pakistan military in colaboration with CIA, or get eliminated by the frenkenstien. Also, the economy is doing bad. The Pakistan economy has always been dependent upon foreign aid. Following the end of Afghan war, particularly with the collapse of former Soviet Union, Pakistan lost its strategic importance for US imperialism. A country that used to get most US aid after Israel in 1980s was now facing US sanctions on running its nuclear programme. But Afghanistan perhaps is the trump card that never fails military generals in Pakistan. Military dictator General Zia would not have prolonged his tyrnical rule for 11 years had Afghan war not started in 1979. Again, September 11 provided military generals in Pkaistan to prolong their unpopular rule in Pkaistan. September 11would never have been celebrated so enthusiasticaaly as at GHQ ( military headquarters). US now needed the services of Pakistani generals in Afghanistan to get rid of Taliban. They are always happy to offer services. New York Magazine lifts the veil. It carried a report by end-February: 'The United States has struck a deal with Pakistan to allow US troops to hunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden this spring in an area of Pakistan where he is believed to be operating' Thousands of US troops will be deployed in a tribal area of northwest Pakistan in return for Washington's support of President Pervez Musharraf's pardon of the Pakistani scientist who this month admitted leaking nuclear arms secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea. "It's a quid pro quo," according to a former senior intelligence official. "We're going to get our troops inside Pakistan in return for not forcing Musharraf to deal with Khan." Musharraf has also offered other help in the hunt for Osama, accused of masterminding the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, according to the article. "Musharraf told us, 'We've got guys inside. The people who provide fresh fruits and vegetables and herd the goats' for Osama and his Al Qaeda followers," the intelligence official added.

Both USA and Pakistan have recently denied presenvce of US forces in Pkaistan. But the major non-NATO status being awarded to Pkaistan is not offered for nothing. In teh words of Traiq Ali,'imperialism always acts in its own interest'. As a major non -NATO ally, Pakistan will join an elite group of nations, including Japan, Australia, Israel, Egypt, Kuwait, South Korea, Argentina, Thailand, New Zealand and the Philippines, which are granted significant benefits in the area of foreign aid and defence cooperation. Major non-NATO allies of the United States are eligible for priority delivery of defence material and the purchase, for instance, of depleted uranium anti-tank rounds. They can stockpile US military hardware, participate in defense research and development programmes, and benefit from a US government loan guarantee programme, which backs up loans issued by private banks to finance arms exports. The designation would help Pakistan buy weapons and other security-related equipment from US companies and help train defence personnel in the US. Well, as a matter of fact, this new status will help Musharraf strengthen his support base inside military.More military deals will bring more kickbacks for some genrals. They will be able to stash more money into overseas accounts. Most probably in Switzerland. Masses will have to pay more tax for the arms to be imported under new status.

The US is also extending $3 billion to Pakistan in five years which will help the country in education, basic healthcare and access to clean drinking water. They are also providing $1.5 billion in debt relief.. IF OSAMA IS ARRESTED A humourist put it this way: , As for what to do with Osama bin Laden: Killing him will only create a martyr. Holding him prisoner will inspire his comrades to take hostages to demand his release. Therefore, I suggest we do neither. Let the Special Forces, Seals or whatever covertly capture him, fly him to an undisclosed hospital and have surgeons quickly perform a complete sex change operation. Then we return her to Afghanistan to live as a woman under the Taliban. It remains to besee if Osma's arrrest or AlZawari's arrest will help boast Bush poplartity before election.But it will cost Musharraf a lot. Musharraf will expose himself to more suicide bombers. .He will be more insecure. Already on March 18, threats have been passed by Al-Qaida. Daily Dawn reports: A statement attributed to Al Qaeda has threatened Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries it described as "America's lackeys", with attacks similar to those in Madrid last week. The other countries named in the statement were Britain, Japan, Italy and Australia, an Arab daily reported in its Thursday edition. "To America's lackeys we say: a lackey of America has destroyed his future by allying himself with the tyrant of the century," said the text, signed by Abu Hafs al Masri/Al Qaeda Brigades received by Al Qods Al Arabi newspaper.

"Learn your lesson, you lackeys of America, the brigades of death are at your gates," it warned. "We will strike you with an iron fist, at the appropriate place and time," said the statement, condemning "Arab and Muslim lackeys like (President Pervez) Musharraf and the Al Saud" family, which rules Saudi Arabia. His own house ,military that is to say, is not in order. Tariq Ali puts the support for fundamentalists inside military very high. He thinks fundamentalists enjoy the support and sympthy of 33 per cent inside military. The Muslim masses will feel annoyed and helpless. The helplessness will generate desperation and perhaps may translate to desperate actions expressing through acts of individual terrorism. In Pakistan, the fundamentalists, at present are fats getting unpopular. Their unholy alliance with Musharraf and their 'inactive' support to launch military action in Tribal Areas has exposed their hypocritical role. Some militant splits in the MMA (major fundamentalist alliance currently running governmnets in two provinces) cannot be ruled out. This will lay the new basis for acts of terrorism in Pakistan. By the way; Osama is becoming more expensive meantime. According to a March 19 AFP report: The House of Representatives voted unanimously on Thursday to double the reward for Osama Bin Laden’s capture to $50 million.



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