(aljazeera.com)Prosecutors allege Musharraf was part of a conspiracy to kill Bhutto, but Musharraf has denied the charge & [EPA]
Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will be arrested in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto if he returns to the country, a government prosecutor has said.
There is no need for any “fresh arrest warrants” for him as a court has already issued orders for his arrest, prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali told reporters on Saturday.
Hours earlier, Musharraf told a Pakistani news channel that he would come back later this month to contest the next parliamentary elections.
Musharraf has been living in London and Dubai since 2008 when the government, led by Bhutto’s party, forced him to resign.
Bhutto was killed in 2007 in a gun and suicide bomb attack near the capital, Islamabad, after returning home to contest elections. Musharraf, at the time, had blamed the Pakistani Taliban for her murder, but the prosecution alleges he was part of the plot.
In November, a Pakistani court formally charged seven, including two senior police officers and five suspected Taliban fighters, for their alleged role in Bhutto’s killing. Musharraf was not among those charged at the time.
Musharraf now heads his own faction of the All Pakistan Muslim League, a small political party that does not have any major base in the country. Some of his former supporters have quit his party.
His spokesman, Fawad Chaudhry, asserted that the arrest warrant for Musharraf had no legal value.
“We have challenged this arrest warrant in a court,” he said, adding that Musharraf would announce a final date for returning home this week, but “he will come back soon to lead the nation”.
Ongoing power struggle
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari has said leaving office is not an option and that no one has asked him to resign, responding to speculation that the powerful military wanted his departure.
“No one has asked for it yet. If someone does, I’ll tell you,” Zardari, who appeared in good spirits after medical treatment in Dubai last month, said in a pre-recorded interview with one of the country’s most popular television anchors.
Zardari is facing his biggest political crisis since he took office in 2008 over an unsigned memo to the Pentagon that sought US help in reining in Pakistan’s generals, who have ruled the nation for more than half of its history.
Zardari’s deeply unpopular government is opposing an investigation ordered& by the Supreme Court into the memo, contending that only a parliamentary committee on national security is entitled to investigate.
Although his position is largely ceremonial, Zardari wields considerable influence as leader of the ruling party and any forced departure would be a humiliation for the civilian leadership and could throw the country into turmoil.
When asked in the interview if “escape” was an option for him, Zardari replied: “Why should it be?”
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The cellphone of Osama bin Laden’s trusted courier, which was recovered in the raid that killed both men in Pakistan last month, contained contacts to a militant group that is a longtime asset of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, senior American officials who have been briefed on the findings say.
Athar Hussain/Associated Pressvia nytimes.com
The discovery indicates that Bin Laden used the group, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen, as part of his support network inside the country, the officials and others said. But it also raised tantalizing questions about whether the group and others like it helped shelter and support Bin Laden on behalf of Pakistan’s spy agency, given that it had mentored Harakat and allowed it to operate in Pakistan for at least 20 years, the officials and analysts said.
In tracing the calls on the cellphone, American analysts have determined that Harakat commanders had called Pakistani intelligence officials, the senior American officials said.
So what if Pakistan was hiding Bin Ladin? What then?
…The Pakistani Army continued its links with the Harakat leadership, in particular Mr. Khalil, Pakistani officials and analysts said. In 2007, Mr. Khalil was used by the Musharraf government as a member of a group of clerics who tried to negotiate an end to a siege by militants at the Red Mosque in Islamabad…
…Another Pakistani militant leader closely connected to Bin Laden is Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the leader of Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami. Mr. Akhtar stopped in South Waziristan on the way to Afghanistan just months ago, a militant interviewed by phone said. The presence in Waziristan of Mr. Akhtar — who is wanted in connection with the attack that killed Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister, in 2007 — demonstrated that he could still move freely without ISI interference. A report by the Pakistani Interior Ministry said that Mr. Akhtar had visited Bin Laden in August 2009 near the border with Afghanistan to discuss jihadist operations against Pakistan, according to an account that was published in the Pakistani newspaper The Daily Times in 2010.
It is the only recorded episode showing that Bin Laden’s presence inside Pakistan was known to Pakistani intelligence, until the American raid that killed him.
Harakat has especially deep roots in the area around Abbottabad, and the network provided by the group would have enhanced Bin Laden’s ability to live and function in Pakistan, analysts familiar with the group said. Its leaders have strong ties with both Al Qaeda and Pakistani intelligence, and they can roam widely because they are Pakistanis, something the foreigners who make up Al Qaeda’s ranks cannot do.
Even today, the group’s leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, long one of Bin Laden’s closest Pakistani associates, lives unbothered by Pakistani authorities on the outskirts of Islamabad.
The senior American officials did not name the commanders whose numbers were in the courier’s cellphone but said that the militants were in South Waziristan, where Al Qaeda and other groups had been based for years. Harakat’s network would have allowed Bin Laden to pass on instructions to Qaeda members there and in other parts of Pakistan’s tribal areas, to deliver messages and money or even to take care of personnel matters, analysts and officials said.
Wielding a Militant Tool
Harakat is one of a host of militant groups set up in the 1980s and early ’90s with the approval and assistance of Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, to fight as proxies in Afghanistan, initially against the Soviets, or against India in the disputed territory of Kashmir. Like many groups, it has splintered and renamed itself over the years, and because of their overlapping nature, other groups could have been involved in supporting Bin Laden, too, officials and analysts said. But Harakat, they said, has been a favored tool of the ISI.
Harakat “is one of the oldest and closest allies of Al Qaeda, and they are very, very close to the ISI,” said Bruce O. Riedel, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and the author of “Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad.” via nytimes.com