What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Breaking news: Pakistan has social structure, not only a chain of command

See here.

But it is still mostly that (broken-looking) chain of command causing a lot of trouble, apparently. Military officers, retired and non-retired... Ok, admittedly, also problematic are our broken conceptual frameworks used to interpret what the Pakistani military and Pakistani jihadists are doing.

A recent case for an example. By chance, just on the day when this particular "revelation" came, which I am about to discuss, I watched A mighty heart, the movie about Daniel Pearl's kidnapping about Angelina Jolie playing Daniel Pearl's wife.

So, there's this guy named Haroon Rashid, a retired major of the Pakistani Army. He decided to continue life with the Harkat-ul Mujahedeen after retirement. This so reminds me of a former US Army guy whose story I heard of - the guy converted to become a devout Muslim, of a rather literalist kind, after retirement, and told a journalist once that Islam (the kind he was practicing) was almost like the military used to be for a way of life, only the military was never at any moment so strict... Only, of course, in Pakistan, similar life paths are produced on a different scale.

Back to Rashid - he was involved in kidnappings that were important for independently financing the HuM operations he participated in. Four kidnappings we are talking about. One of these was film director Satish Anand's abduction. Anand was taken captive on October 21, 2008 from megacity Karachi, just like Daniel Pearl more than six years before him. He surfaced in the NWFP then, this April, not long ago. At that point, references made in the Pakistani media pointed to Harkat-ul Jihad-i Islam as behind the case. Big difference? Probably not really.

Haroon Rashid was just transferring an abducted trader from Rawalpindi to Waziristan when he was arrested. And then he was asked questions, and after a while he gave some answers. From this it transpired he had been part of the assassination of Major General Faisal Alvi, in November last year. He so confessed.

As to Alvi, the late Major General was gunned down in Islamabad in that November killing. He was shot several times in his car one morning, together with his driver. His attackers used 9 mm guns, not necessarily what you would expect from Harkat-ul Mujahedeen.

Alvi was a former head of Pakistan's SSG, the Special Services Group, roughly the local equivalent of the British SAS, a link that has some significance since Alvi was born a British citizen in Kenya, and had excellent relations with the SAS. In 2005 he was removed from his position by Prez-Gen Musharraf, under complicated circumstances. He discovered certain interesting dealings of some generals, allegedly. The latter might have been afraid of him, so speculation goes, and they may have set up a neat trap for Alvi, walking straight into which the Major General said some offensive comments about Musharraf that were recorded and then shown to... Musharraf. The case is made more interesting by the fact that Alvi is said to have included ties between Baitullah Mehsud and the generals concerned in his accusations against his ill-wishers.

Anyway, by November 2008 he decided to do something. He wrote a letter to COAS (Chief of Army Staff) Kayani about the generals, naming names. He is complaining there, mostly about his unmerited fate, for example how his enemies retained money that he should have been paid upon retirement and gave it to him only in small details, as "oxygen for survival." How his daughter's marriage suffered (divorce) after his removal as head of the SSG in 2005. How he had to "struggle in the civil world for a living," while his enemies retained high positions in the army. Not much about Baitullah Mehsud, though, in that letter, which leaves open the question whether the letter's part with Alvi's promise to "furnish all relevant proof" really concerned Taliban ties.

Anyway, Carey Schofield, a journalist of the Times met Alvi shortly before Alvi's death, in a restaurant named Talkingfish (think of that name for a sec...).

That's why we have the letter, because Schofield and the Times published it to us, in that censored form.

Alvi was killed four days later, and those generals, who were supposed to be afraid of him, might have felt some relief with this, speculate some people. Of course, if the Harkat-ul Mujahedeen are named as the assassins, then the Alvi case can be nicely tied back to SSG operations in Waziristan, for which this might have been just revenge.

What strikes the observer, totally baffled as he or she may be by this stage, is that of all insurgents it was Baitullah Mehsud that was supposedly named by Alvi according to Schofield. Let us quote the original story from Schofield:
"He told me how one general had done an astonishing deal with Baitullah Mehsud, the 35-year-old Taliban leader, now seen by many analysts as an even greater terrorist threat than Osama Bin Laden. (...) according to Alavi, a senior Pakistani general came to an arrangement with Mehsud “whereby – in return for a large sum of money – Mehsud’s 3,000 armed fighters would not attack the army."
Some questions come up WRT that text. What analysts compare Baitullah Mehsud to OBL? How "many"? And, like, you mean, that Baitullah Mehsud that is interchangeably referred to now as an Indian or a US agent in Pakistani public and media discourse? (See example.)

A few last words about Haroon Rashid. His brother, Captain Khurram, died fighting ISAF in Afghanistan. Apparently. One of Haroon Rashid's accomplices in the kidnappings, by the name Abdul Basit, was another retired major. Apparently.

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