Pak's status as safe house for jihadis confirmed
TNN | May 3, 2011, 02.31am IST
NEW DELHI: Osama bin Laden's killing "deep inside Pakistan" has again authenticated Pakistan's status as a terror safe haven. Pakistan is known to protect leaders of anti-India groups like LeT and JeM but Osama's death, following a series of arrest of top al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan, confirms that even the leading targets of the "war on terror" found safe hideouts in the country.
The list of al-Qaida leaders held in Pakistan includes names like Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin Al Shibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. Like Osama, these terrorists were not hiding in tribal areas but in urban centres.
Add to these the arrests of Umar Patek, one of the leaders of bomb attacks on foreign tourists in Bali, from Abbottabad, that of Mullah Baradar, one of the senior leaders of Taliban, from Karachi and the fact that the entire Taliban brass is holed up in Quetta, and it becomes clear why Pakistan is seen as the headquarters of Jihad Inc.
Once No.3 in the al-Qaida hierarchy and its main recruiter, Zubaydah was arrested from a house in Faisalabad where he would move around dressed in a burqa. Seven months later, one of the main 9/11 accused, Ramzi bin Al Shibh, was traced to Karachi where he was held after a gun fight. Next year, in what was probably the most important arrest made by the US authorities in the war against terrorism, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a key 9/11 planner, was arrested from a house in a posh Rawalpindi colony. He was sharing the house with the leader of a religious party when he was nabbed.
One top Taliban leader who indeed was hiding in a tribal area was Mustafa Abu Al Yazid. He was said to be next only to Osama and Ayman Al Zawahiri when he was killed by a US drone in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area last year.
The presence of hardcore terrorists is facilitated by the growing appeal of fundamentalism but also raises doubts about Islamabad's intention.
Security expert Brahma Chellaney said the spotlight will inevitably turn now on Pakistan, the world's main sanctuary for transnational terrorists. "The fact that Bin Laden's hideout was located not in the mountains of Waziristan but in the military town of Abbottabad only underscores the major protection he must have received from the ISI to help him elude the US dragnet for nearly a decade," he said.
"The breakthrough to hunt him down came only after the US deployed a number of CIA operatives, Special Operations forces and contractors deep inside Pakistan without the knowledge of the Pakistani military," he added. Bin Laden's most likely successor is Ayman Al Zawahiri who is said to be hiding somewhere on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.