Pakistan’s military wary of infiltrators
Attack on base stirs suspicions
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Embarrassed by the Osama bin Laden raid and insurgent attacks on high-security sites, top Pakistani military officials are increasingly concerned that their ranks are penetrated by Islamists who are aiding militants in a campaign against the state.
Those worries have grown especially acute since the killing of bin Laden less than a mile from a prestigious military academy. The infiltration by heavily armed insurgents last week of a naval base in the city of Karachi — an attack widely believed to have required inside help — has only deepened fears.
The Army’s chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who, like the government, has expressed anger over the secret US raid, was so shaken by the discovery of bin Laden that he told US officials his first priority was “bringing our house in order,’’ according to a senior Pakistani intelligence official.
“We are under attack, and the attackers are getting highly confidential information about their targets,’’ the intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Pakistani intelligence agents have begun rounding up dismissed navy personnel over suspicions that militants who carried out the attack on the Karachi naval base had inside knowledge, the Associated Press reported yesterday, citing security officials.
One former commando, Kamran Malik, and his brother were detained Friday in Lahore. Malik was dismissed from the force after fighting with a senior officer around 10 years ago, said the official and the man’s father. It was unclear whether the men had any link to the raid in Karachi.
Pakistan’s military leaders said they purged the ranks of Islamists shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, the nation’s top officials have made repeated public assurances that the armed forces are committed to the fight against extremists, and that Pakistan’s extensive nuclear arsenal is in safe hands.
But US officials remain unconvinced, and have repeatedly pressed for a more rigorous campaign by Pakistan to remove elements of the military and intelligence services that are believed to cooperate with militants.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday emphasized US demands for greater cooperation in the war against Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other violent Islamist organizations in Pakistan. Clinton said the United States would be looking “to the government of Pakistan to take decisive steps in the days ahead.’’
It is unclear how authentically committed Kayani and other top military leaders are to cleansing their ranks. US officials and Pakistani analysts say support by the nation’s top military spy agency for insurgent groups, particularly those that attack in India and Afghanistan, is de facto security policy in Pakistan.
But Kayani is under profound pressure, both from a domestic population fed up with insurgent attacks and from an international community that views the bin Laden hideout as the strongest evidence yet Pakistan is playing a double game. US officials say they have no evidence top Pakistani leaders knew about bin Laden’s redoubt, but they are still examining intelligence gathered during the raid.
Some say they doubt Kayani or Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, head of the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, had direct knowledge; others find it hard to believe they did not.
US officials have emphasized billions of dollars in US aid could end if Pakistan is found to have harbored the Al Qaeda leader.