Thursday, June 23, 2005

No sooner did the FBI arrest two Pakistanis, father and son, in Lodi (Calif.), and allege the son, Hamid Hayat, 22, was trained at an al Qaeda terrorist training camp near Rawalpindi, Pakistan, than the military regime went into deep denial. How could Osama bin Laden’s terrorists operate a training facility near the army’s principal garrison town where President Pervez Musharraf has his principal residence at Army House? The very idea was too ridiculous to be taken seriously.

Think again. Hamid told the FBI his father had paid for his trip back to Pakistan and his training at a jihadi facility called Tamal in Rawalpindi run by Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

It so happens there is just such a jihadi training facility known as Dhamial within the sprawling army city, 20 minutes from Islamabad, the capital. But it isn’t run by firebrand Fazlur Rehman, one of two chairmen of Mutahhida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), the coalition of six Islamist politico-religious parties that emerged from the last elections as the third-largest group in Pakistan’s National Assembly (and governs two of Pakistan’s four provinces). The top honcho at Dhamial (which the FBI phonetically juxtaposed to Tamal) is another jihadi extremist, Fazlur Rehman Khalil.

Dhamial has trained hundreds of youngsters to become good jihadis. But Mr. Musharraf has had to develop a Jekyll and Hyde personality that distinguishes between what the U.S. considers terrorists and what Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency considers patriotic jihadis, holy warriors that backed Taliban rule in Afghanistan before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the liberation of Indian-held Kashmir.

Mr. Musharraf is committed to eradicating al Qaeda and is convinced he speaks the truth when he assures his American allies there is no terrorist training camp in Pakistan. But if he were serious about eliminating militancy that is borderline terrorism, he would have ordered Dhamial closed. Instead, it has been allowed to train jihadis with impunity, both before and since September 11. Thus, deep denial became policy.

One knowledgeable Pakistani who is familiar with Mr. Musharraf’s split personality that speaks one language to U.S. interlocutors and another to MMA chieftains is Husain Haqqani, associate professor of international relations at Boston University. Mr. Haqqani served in a wide variety of key posts in his native Pakistan that included ISI, ambassador to Sri Lanka, and advisor to Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, two former prime ministers and Pakistan’s principal democratic leaders, in exile abroad and banned by Mr. Musharraf from returning.

In his latest book, “Pakistan Between Mosque and Military” (Carnegie 2005), Mr. Haqqani says, the military regime’s priority appears to be to suppress or deny bad news rather than change the circumstances that give rise to it.

Rehman Khalil, Mr. Haqqani reminds us, was one of the signatories of Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa against the United States and all Americans, and was reported to be in the Afghan camp President Clinton ordered hit by U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles in 1998. Following the terrorist attacks on America of September 11, 2001, and Mr. Musharraf’s decision to answer affirmatively President Bush’s are-you-with-me-or-against-me phone call, Rehman Khalil’s Harkat-ul-Mujahideen organization was banned. He quickly popped up again as the leader of the equally extremist Jamiat-ul-Ansar.

Bugged by U.S. questions about the wisdom of letting Khalil run free, Mr. Musharraf finally ordered him arrested in March 2004 — only to have him surface again seven months later a free man. When news broke of the FBI arrests in Lodi (where 2,500 of the town’s 62,000 residents are Pakistanis and Pakistani Americans), Khalil slipped underground and the authorities said they couldn’t find him.

As Mr. Haqqani points out, the same government that kept Benazir Bhutto’s husband Asif Ali Zardari in prison for eight years without a conviction has never found sufficient grounds for detaining all manner of jihadi-preaching extremists.

Nor can Mr. Musharraf accede to repeated U.S. requests for direct access to Abdul Khader Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and the Don Corleone of a nuclear black market that sold America’s enemies — North Korea, Iran and Libya — the wherewithal to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Suspicion is growing in U.S. intelligence circles that those protecting A.Q. Khan wish to keep open the option of a lucrative nuclear black market for future years. Pakistan’s national hero acquiescing to CIA interrogation would most probably trigger widespread riots in the country’s major cities.

Abu Ghraib prison pictures, the Newsweek story about Korans flushed down the toilet, Amnesty International’s preposterous and insidious comparison of Guantanamo to the Soviet forced labor concentration camps, and the anti-U.S. insurgency in Iraq, all have been force multipliers for venting anti-U.S. feelings in Pakistan and in the rest of the Muslim world.

Pity poor Karen Hughes who as the Bush administration’s image-improvement czarina has to swim against a rip tide — without any salmonlike attributes.

This same powerful current keeps Mr. Musharraf from cracking down on Taliban’s Pakistani support group. “Pakistani authorities cannot eliminate the international terrorist network or the sectarian militias without decapitating the domestic jihadis groups,” writes Mr. Haqqani. What the FBI did in California, President Musharraf cannot do in his own country.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

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