The truth is that the three murdered Pakistani Baloch politicians had become a political liability and a security risk for Brahamdagh Bugti and a threat to his entire infrastructure of terror inside Pakistan. The three had developed a good working relationship with Pakistani security officials during hostage negotiations. Brahamdagh and his handlers knew that the three were in direct contact with Pakistani security officials and could compromise the security of the terrorist activity and the routes of secret funding from across the border and the terrorist hideouts inside Pakistan. The inside story of five days that changed Balochistan, a story of deception, intrigue and espionage.
By AHMED QURAISHI
Tuesday, 14 April 2009.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—Two distinct sketches are emerging of what happened in Pakistan’s largest province –Balochistan— over the past ten days.
The three murdered Pakistani Baloch political activists were in contact with Pakistani security and intelligence officials during the negotiations to release John Solecki, an American citizen and U.N. official. The three were also in contact with U.S. diplomats, U.N. officials, and with the kidnappers. In fact, the three politicians were considered to be part of the political front of the terrorist-insurgent movement that has its logistical, financial, and military bases in Afghanistan, built with generous funding over the past five years after the American occupation of that country.
So there is no question that Pakistan’s security agencies were in direct contact with the three politicians. Before their murder, the terrorists-separatists did not dare publicize their presence and actions and relied on sporadic violence to spread terror and create media impact. The triple murder changed everything. It gave these separatist and terrorist elements an opportunity for the first time to publicly display their anti-Pakistan activities. In a tribal society like that of the Pakistani Baloch, controlled by a handful of tribal bosses through intimidation, brutality and economic control, the majority succumbed to the terror.
But who murdered the three local politicians?
The following report is based on firsthand information of what transpired between April 4 and April 9, five days that give the clearest insight yet into the wider battle in and around Pakistan.
What is beyond doubt is that Mr. Solecki was kidnapped by terrorists trained and financed by Brahamdagh Bugti, a grandson of the late politician-turned-terrorist Akbar Bugti. [Mr. Bugti was a smalltime village thug who murdered his cousins and relatives, stole their lands and exiled them to other parts of Pakistan. He got lucky when huge reservoirs of natural gas were found in the lands under his forced control. Mr. Bugti received a fortune every year from the federal government as ‘royalty’ for selling the gas. For three decades, his village lived in abject poverty as Mr. Bugti refused to allow the government to build schools or allow the poor villagers to improve their lifestyles. Mr. Bugti spent the money on building and maintaining a small army, a chain of underground prisons and on defending himself against his numerous enemies. After the occupation of Afghanistan, it is believed that the Indians and the Americans sold him on the idea that he could launch a war for an independent country. He apparently received strong guarantees that he will be supported and protected by the United States and India in case of an angry Pakistani reaction, which encouraged him to go to extremes. An advanced insurgency infrastructure complete with printed material in Urdu and English, audio and video tapes and propaganda in local dialects was prepared inside Afghanistan and smuggled to Pakistan. Mr. Bugti launched the war in January 2005, with massive supply of weapons and money. He died almost two years later when his own cousins backed by the Pakistani government stormed into his stronghold and seized their lands and forced him to flee to the mountains.]
Brahamdagh was last sighted in Kabul. Indian intelligence agents posing as diplomats in the Afghan capital are some of his most frequent visitors. The Indian diplomacy and intelligence have been keen since 2002 on finding ways to drive a wedge between Washington and Islamabad. India’s diplomatic actions in this regard are well known but the British and the American media have been silent on growing evidence of Indian covert activities in Afghanistan under an American nod.
One of the earliest Indian actions in Afghanistan after 2002 included acting as a spoiler, poisoning the minds of U.S. military commanders on the ground regarding Pakistan. One of the most common tactics has been to identify and penetrate groups of Afghan resistance fighters and then indirectly goad them into attacking the Americans and leaving behind evidence pointing the finger at Pakistan. Similarly, there have been attacks inside Pakistan where evidence was left behind implicating U.S. intelligence operatives to mislead Pakistani investigators.
One line of thinking in the current Pakistani investigation into the murder of the three politicians is that there is a high probability that the Indians initially encouraged Brahamdagh to kidnap Solecki to add new tensions to the frail Pak-American relationship. That was the original plan. The U.S. media would jump on the story as another example of anti-Americanism in Pakistan and embarrass the Pakistani government and military. The upshot for Brahamdagh would be more international news coverage.
That was apparently the original plan. What Brahamdagh and his handlers did not expect is that the kidnapping would backfire and blow the cover of the terrorists and their links all the way inside Afghanistan.
Immediately after Solecki’s kidnap, the Pakistani authorities wasted no time in reminding the Americans of the information that Pakistan shared at the highest levels with the United States in July 2008 about Indian activities inside Afghanistan. Adm. Mullen and Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Stephen R. Kappes were shown irrefutable evidence on how the Indians were using Brahamdagh right under the nose of the U.S. military in Afghanistan.
In February 2009, after kidnapping Solecki, Brahamdagh’s men and his backers tried to create the impression that there are many separatist groups backing his cause. The first demand made by the kidnappers was to release Pakistani Baloch women detained by security forces. This turned out to be an outright lie. Prisons in the entire province and other parts of Pakistan were checked and it was confirmed there was not a single Pakistani Baloch woman in jail or detention. No one had registered any case of missing Pakistani Baloch women as the separatist propaganda from Afghanistan alleged. The elected provincial government of Balochistan, which is considered to be sympathetic to the separatist tribal chiefs including Brahamdagh, was allowed access to all parts of the Pakistani security establishment – civilian and military – to ascertain this fact. This proved a blessing in disguise. One of the most lethal propaganda tools exploited by Brahamdagh Bugti and his backers was proven false.
In the initial days after Solecki’s kidnapping, some of the Baloch tribal chieftains sympathetic to Brahamdagh and his grandfather [and equally corrupt and tyrannical like him] tried to mislead Washington and the U.N. against Pakistan by suggesting that Pakistani intelligence agencies were behind the kidnapping of Solecki.
But the Pakistani government moved quickly to turn the tables on the terrorists and their Afghan-based masters.
On Feb. 27, 2009, Frontier Corps Chief Maj. Gen. Saleem Nawaz told reporters in Quetta that all the four major separatist groups that release statements to the media don’t even exist. “Organizations like the Balochistan Liberation United Front, the Baloch Liberation Army, the Baloch Republican Party, and the Baloch Republican Army are one and the same. Brahamdagh Bugti is behind these organizations,” he said. “Brahamdagh is involved in a series of kidnappings, targeted killings, sabotage and attacks on forces and installations in different parts of the province.”
None of these groups existed before the Americans came to Afghanistan in 2001.
So the writing was clear on the wall for the Pakistanis, the United Nations and the United States that the Indians at some level were involved in kidnapping Mr. Solecki through Brahamdagh Bugti and their recruits inside Pakistan and that individuals based in U.S.-run Afghanistan issued the orders for the kidnap.
But did Pakistani intelligence agencies kill the three politicians who helped release Solecki?
Why The Three Were Killed
The timeline here is very important:
- 4 April 2009: Mr. Solecki is released by the terrorists after receiving a huge payment worth several million dollars.
- 6-7 April 2009: Mr. Richard Holbrooke receives the biggest cold shoulder any senior U.S. official has received on Pakistani soil since 9/11.
- 9 April 2009: The mutilated bodies of the three politicians are found dumped in a public area.
Pakistani police, security and intelligence organizations are not beginners in their fields. Even if any one of them were to kill the three activists, no one would have dumped the bodies in full public view and certainly never after a high profile hostage negotiation involving the three murdered activists where they also interacted with U.N. and U.S. officials.
The truth is that the three murdered Paksitani Baloch politicians had become a political liability and a security risk for Brahamdagh Bugti and a threta to his entire infrastructure of terror inside Pakistan. The three had developed a good working relationship with Pakistani security officials during hostage negotiations. Brahamdagh and his handlers knew that the three were in direct contact with Pakistani security officials and could compromise the security of the terrorist activity and the routes of secret funding from across the border and the terrorist hideouts inside Pakistan.
Mounting evidence indicates that Brahamdagh or his handlers in Afghanistan ordered the elimination of the three Baloch politicians. The triple murder has clearly served the interest of the separatists-terrorists and their backers. The Pakistani state has been a net loser.
THE AMERICAN CONNECTION
After Mr. Holbrooke’s failed visit to Pakistan on April 6 and 7, three things happened in fast succession.
One, Britain discovered a “very big” terrorist plot, as a British police officer described it, involving 12 Pakistani students. The British Prime Minister immediately telephoned President Zardari and threw his usual line about Pakistan needing to do more in the war against terror. The interesting part is that the Brits failed to offer any evidence to support the existence of the “very big” terrorist plot. Knowing that the charge won’t stick in the courts, London announced it was arbitrarily deporting the students.
At the same time, Indian prime minister made the startling announcement that the Afghan Taliban, who have never operated outside their country, were planning to bomb Indian elections. Again, no evidence whatsoever.
Pakistani officials smelled a rat in both of these statements coming from two close allies of the United States.
These statements, and the dramatic terrorism in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, came immediately after the dressing down that Mr. Holbrooke received in Pakistan.
Could there be an American connection to the disturbances in Balochistan in addition to the Indian connection? The answer, in my view, is yes. Balochistan has U.S. military bases dating back to 2001. Washington has been opposed to China constructing the Gwadar sea port in the province overlooking the Gulf oil supply lines. And CIA is using Pakistani Balochistan to infiltrate the Iranian province of Sistan-Balochistan and ignite a Sunni rebellion there against Iran’s religious Shia regime.
Within hours of the news that the bodies of the three Pakistani politicians were found near the Iran border, and while separatists and terrorists exploited the story to ignite violence and destroy public property, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad released a press statement that appeared to pour fuel on fire and give the impression that Pakistan was somehow responsible for killing its own three politicians. The statement was also a blatant interference in an internal Pakistani issue where the U.S. diplomats had no business sticking their noses.
Encouraged by this unexpected support from the U.S. Embassy, some of the opportunist tribal chiefs in Balochistan who are supporting terrorism were emboldened to demand a U.N. probe, scoring a cheap point against Pakistan and implying that the state was involved in the murders.
WHAT PAKISTAN SHOULD DO
Feudal chiefs in Pakistan, whether in Balochistan or Punjab, Sindh, and NWFP, have traditionally been protégés of the British colonial rule. While there are bright exceptions of Pakistani nationalism by some of the feudal gentry, the majority damaged the interests of Pakistan over the longer run and has generally shown little commitment or a sense of nationalism and destiny with regards to the homeland.
For the short term, Pakistan needs to register murder cases against Brahamdagh Bugti and other terrorists. They should be charged of murdering the poor Pakistani Baloch driver who accompanied Mr. John Solecki’s. The driver was killed in cold blood by Brahamdagh’s terrorists.
The issue of Balochistan is part of a wider problem facing a failed Pakistani political system led by failed feudal politicians. This system needs to be changed and de-politicized to focus on economic development and providing opportunities to Pakistani citizens.
Ethnic-based provinces need to be abolished and existing districts converted into provinces with their own directly elected governors and local parliaments and development budgets. This way Pakistani politics will be localized and prevented from becoming a source of constant headache and destabilization for the state.
This change cannot come through democracy and requires a period of technocratic government backed by the military in the background and tasked with strictly executing a list of urgent political and administrative reforms.
The U.S. is clearly working against Pakistan’s vital security and economic interests in the region. Islamabad should declare Washington’s occupation of Afghanistan as illegal and advise the U.S. to desist from using Afghan soil to destabilize neighboring countries. Pakistan needs to immediately distance itself from the messy American agenda in Afghanistan that is fast turning Pakistan into a war zone. Islamabad should also confront the Americans and the Indians with the evidence that both are exporting terrorism into Pakistan and fostering insurgencies using the Afghan soil. Let the world know what the Americans and their Anglo-Indian poodles are doing in the region.