- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

Pakistan's recent arrests of suspected al Qaeda operatives represents a psychological and logistical triumph over the terrorist network. The arrests particularly of Khalid Shaik Mohammed, who is believed to have masterminded the September 11 terrorist attacks have been noted by the world and al Qaeda. And though one can hardly quarrel with success, the arrests also bring to the fore some pressing questions for Pakistan.
Working with leads from interrogations of Mohammed, Pakistani authorities arrested over the weekend Yassir al Jaziri, a lead al Qaeda communications operative. The Moroccan national was picked up without incident in a posh neighborhood of the eastern city of Lahore. Although al Jaziri isn't among the 20 most-wanted al Qaeda members, his capture could significantly disrupt the group's communications between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Last week, Pakistani authorities also arrested at least five additional al Qaeda suspects.
And Pakistan's arrest of Mohammed earlier this month represents the highest-ranking al Qaeda operative to be picked up anywhere thus far. Mohammed is allegedly No. 3 in the group's hierarchy and one of America's most-dangerous enemies.
Bill Gertz, a reporter for The Washington Times, said in a March 2 article that, according to a senior U.S. official, Mohammed has admitted in interviews to having helped plan the September 11 attacks and is believed to have dispatched al Qaeda member Jose Padilla to the United States to mount a radiological attack. Mohammed was arrested just outside of Islamabad in the early morning of March 1, while deep in slumber.
But, just how did Pakistan make these arrests? Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, known as the ISI, has long been characterized as an institution within itself and not entirely under Islamabad's control. Given ISI's renegade qualities, it long has been unclear how reliable Pakistan would be as a partner in counter-terror efforts. But former Pakistani officials say that these arrests demonstrate that, if Washington brings enough pressure on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to arrest al Qaeda members, Mr. Musharraf in turn pressures the ISI, which is prodded into action. In fact, some sources said the ease with which these al Qaeda members were arrested indicates the ISI knew all along where these al Qaeda members were. Others reject that probability, pointing out that integration has been al Qaeda's most effective camouflage.
Former Pakistani officials agree, though, that the ISI, and perhaps much of the Pakistani population, make a distinction between international terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda, and the terrorist groups that are active in the Indian state of Kashmir, a rebellious and predominantly Muslim state. Mr. Musharraf hasn't leaned hard on the ISI to arrest the groups active in Kashmir, and one official said that President Bush is well aware of Pakistan's unwillingness to prosecute them, and has desisted from bringing U.S. pressure to bear on this point, not wanting to destabilize Mr. Musharraf's rule.
But to some degree, the alleged threat of instability has been Mr. Musharraf's scapegoat. And Pakistan must be made to understand that the Kashmiri dispute won't be resolved through the slaughter of innocents. If Pakistan wants to be a bona fide member of the civilized world, it must do its part to reign in this terrorist activity. Since both Pakistan and India are nuclear powers, the whole world has an interest in seeing the Kashmiri issue resolved through dialogue as soon as possible.
Pakistan has significantly bolstered U.S. security by shaking up al Qaeda, a triumph Mr. Bush has recognized, in part by extending a waiver of trade and aid sanctions against Pakistan. But, it would be a mistake for America and others to ignore Kashmiri-related terrorism.

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