Who killed Benazir Bhutto? Who really is Qari Saifullah Akhtar?

[Some people blame it on the fact that Pakistan's laws contain no legal precedents for prosecuting acts of terrorism, but it is a fundamental flaw much bigger than some legal loopholes.  These terrorists could easily be prosecuted for individual acts of murder if there was a judicial will to accept the challenge.  Pakistani government cannot treat terrorism as a crime, because too often, it is just another tool in the State's toolkit.  Pakistan's secret terror army is no different than America's secret terror army, because, for the most part, they are the same armies.  Pakistan is merely more blatant in its almost open use of terrorism as state policy.  SEE: Pakistan’s Best Terrorists Wait In Jail Cells, On Call Something must open this stinking can of rotting worms.  A real investigation of the Benazir Bhutto murder would do just that.  That is why there will never be a satisfactory investigation.  We see the beginning of this with the scattering of the key witnesses before they can be called to testify.]

Who killed Benazir Bhutto? Who really is Qari Saifullah Akhtar?

by Yousuf Nazar

Pakistani police officers assist injured militant commander Qari Saifullah Akhtar, centre face covered, as he exits following a court appearance in Rawalpindi, Pakistan in 2007 (Photo source)

Source: State of Pakistan

The following was originally published on February 17, 2008.

What happened after he was let go in May 2007 is not known. What is known that instead of trying to prosecute and convict him, the government chose to keep him in ‘custody’ after his arrest in August 2004. It first denied before the Supreme Court on May 5, 2007 that he was in its custody and then quietly released him and informed the Supreme Court on May 26, 2007 that he had been released.

Is Qari Saifullah Akhtar a jihadi? Is he a militant? Is he a rogue double agent who turned his back on the ISI? If so, why no attempt to try him and get a conviction from the court? OR is he an ‘intelligence asset’, a handy tool to be manipulated and dumped at an appropriate time?

QARI SAIFULLAH AKHTAR HAS BEEN AT LARGE IN PAKISTAN SINCE MAY 2007.

Who is Qari Saifullah Akhtar?

1. Was he involved in the assassination attempt on Benazir Bhutto on October 18, 2007?

2. Is there a connection between his “release” from the custody of the intelligence agencies in May 2007 and the phenomenal rise in bomb attacks during the second half of 2007?

3. Why did the government keep him for nearly three years, first denied he was in its custody and then released him?

Qari Saifullah Akhtar’s role in bomb attack on Benazir Bhutto on October 18, 2007 in Karachi

Benazir Bhutto writes in her last book about October 18, 2007 bomb attack in Karachi:

Quote:  “later I was informed of a meeting that had taken place in Lahore where the bomb blasts were planned. According to this report, three men belonging to a rival political faction were hired for half a million dollars. They were, according to my sources, named Ejaz, Sajjad and another whose name I forgot.  One of them died accidentally because he couldn’t get away fast enough before the detonation. Presumably this was the one holding the baby. However, a bomb maker was needed for the bombs. Enter Qari Saifullah Akhtar, a wanted terrorist who had tried to overthrow my second government. He had been extradited by the United Arab Emirates and was languishing in Karachi central jail. According to my second source, the officials in Lahore had turned to Akhtar for help. His liaison with elements in the government, according to this source, was a radical who was asked to make the bombs and himself asked for a fatwa making it legitimate to oblige. He got one.(p.221)” Unquote.

Who is Qari Saifullah Akhtar?

A notorious character and the Amir of Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami, Saifullah Akhtar emerged on the national scene when in October 1995, General Abdul Waheed Kakkar, the then chief of the army staff under Benazir Bhutto, discovered a plot by a group of army officers headed by Major General Zaheer-ul-Islam Abbasi to have him and Benazir assassinated, capture power and proclaim the formation of an Islamic Caliphate in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Abbasi and his army associates were arrested. They were found to have been plotting in tandem with a group in the Harkat-ul-Ansar(HuA) led by Qari Saifullah Akhtar. But while Abbasi and his associates were court-martialled and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, the Qari was released without any action being taken against him.

Before 1990, there were two jihadi organisations called the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-Al-Islami (HuJI). The HuM was headed by Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil and the HuJI by Qari Saifullah Akhtar. Around 1990, the two merged to form the HuA, with Maulana Khalil as the amir and Qari Akhtar as the deputy amir. Amjad Farooqi  - the alleged assassin of Musharraf – who was shot dead in a police encounter, used to work closely with the Qari.In the late 1980s, Abbasi as a brigadier was posted to the Pakistani high commission in New Delhi as head of the ISI station in India. The Government of India had him expelled. On his return to Pakistan, he was posted to the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan).  In the beginning of the 1990s, without the clearance of General Asif Nawaz Janjua, the then COAS under Nawaz Sharif, Abbasi organised a raid on an Indian Army post in the Siachen area and was beaten back by the Indian Army with heavy casualties.  Janjua had him transferred out and censured. Since then, he had been nursing an anger against the Pakistan army’s senior leadership and hobnobbing with the Qari.   A few months after capturing power on October 12,1999, Musharraf had Abbasi released from jail. He formed an anti-US organisation called Hizbollah, which acted in tandem with the HUJI. In December 1999, a group of Pakistani hijackers, said to be belonging to the HuM, hijacked an aircraft of the Indian Airlines, which had taken off from Kathmandu, and forced the pilot to fly it to Kandahar. They demanded the release of Omar Sheikh, a British Muslim of Pakistani origin, and Maulana Masood Azhar, a Pakistani Punjabi belonging to the HuM.  The Government of India conceded their demands in order to terminate the hijacking.  Amongst the hijackers was a Pakistani Punjabi by name Mansur Hasnain. Sections of the Pakistani media reported that this hijacker was none other than Amjad Farooqi, who was subsequently found involved in the assassination attempt on Musharraf.  On January 12, 2002, under pressure from the US in the wake of the attempted terrorist strike on the Indian Parliament at New Delhi in December 2001, Musharraf announced a ban on the Lashkar, Jaish and SSP and had their leaders arrested or placed under house arrest.  However the ban did not apply to  the HuM and HuJI, and the government did not take any action against Qari Saifullah Akhtar and Amjad Farooqi.

On May 20, 2002, the Friday Times published the following story titled: “The biggest militia we know nothing about”:

Ary Digital TV’s host Dr Masood,  while discussing the May 8 killing of 11 French nationals in Karachi, named one Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami as one of the suspected terrorists involved in the bombing. When the Americans bombed the Taliban and Mulla Umar fled from his stronghold in Kandahar, a Pakistani personality also fled with him. This was Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the leader of Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami, Pakistan’s biggest jehadi militia headquartered in Kandahar. No one knew the name of the outfit and its leader. A large number of its fighters made their way into Central Asia and Chechnya to escape capture at the hands of the Americans, the rest stole back into Pakistan to establish themselves in Waziristan and Buner. Their military training camp (maskar) in Kotli in Azad Kashmir swelled with new fighters and now the outfit is scouting some areas in the NWFP to create a supplementary maskar for jehad in Kashmir. Its ‘handlers’ have clubbed it together with Harkatul Mujahideen to create Jamiatul Mujahideen in order to cut down the large number of outfits gathered together in Azad Kashmir. It was active in Held Kashmir under the name of Harkatul Jahad Brigade 111.

Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami and the Taliban:

The leader of Harkat al-Jahad al- Islami, Qari Saifullah Akhtar was an adviser to Mulla Umar in the Taliban government. His fighters were called ‘Punjabi’ Taliban and were offered employment, something that other outfits could not get out of Mulla Umar. The outfit had membership among the Taliban too. Three Taliban ministers and 22 judges belonged to the Harkat. In difficult times, the Harkat fighters stood together with Mulla Umar. Approximately 300 of them were killed fighting the Northern Alliance, after which Mulla Umar was pleased to give Harkat the permission to build six more maskars in Kandahar, Kabul and Khost, where the Taliban army and police also received military training. From its base in Afghanistan, Harkat launched its campaigns inside Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Chechnya. But the distance of Qari Saifullah Akhtar from the organisation’s Pakistani base did not lead to any rifts. In fact, Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami emerged from the defeat of the Taliban largely intact. In Pakistan Qari Akhtar has asked the ‘returnees’ to lie low for the time being, while his Pakistani fighters already engaged are busy in jihad as before.    The Harkat is the only militia which boasts international linkages. It calls itself ‘the second line of defence of all Muslim states’ and is active in Arakan in Burma, and Bangladesh, with well organised seminaries in Karachi, and Chechnya, Sinkiang, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. (The latest trend is to recall Pakistani fighters stationed abroad and encourage the local fighters to take over the operations). Its fund-raising is largely from Pakistan, but an additional source is its activity of selling weapons to other militias. Its acceptance among the Taliban was owed to its early allegiance to a leader of the Afghan war, Maulvi Nabi Muhammadi and his Harkat Inqilab Islami whose fighters became a part of the Taliban forces in large numbers. Nabi Muhammadi was ignored by the ISI in 1980 in favour of Hekmatyar and his Hezb-e-Islami. His outfit suffered in influence inside Afghanistan because he was not supplied with weapons in the same quantity as some of the other seven militias.   According to the journal Al-Irshad of Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami, published from Islamabad, a Deobandi group led by Maulana Irshad Ahmad was established in 1979. Looking for the right Afghan outfit in exile to join in Peshawar, Maulana Irshad Ahmad adjudged Maulvi Nabi Muhammadi as the true Deobandi and decided to join him in 1980. Harkat Inqilab Islami was set up by Maulana Nasrullah Mansoor Shaheed and was taken over by Nabi Muhammadi after his martyrdom. Eclipsed in Pakistan, Maulana Irshad Ahmad fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets till he was killed in battle in Shirana in 1985. His place was taken by Qari Saifullah Akhtar, which was not liked by some of the Harkat leaders, including Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khaleel who then set up his own Harkatul Mujahideen. According to some sources, Harkatul Mujahideen was a new name given to Harkatul Ansar after it was declared terrorist by the United States. Other sources claim that it was Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami that had earlier merged with Harkatul Ansar. But relations with Fazlur Rehman Khaleel remained good, but when Maulana Masood Azhar separated from Harkatul Mujahideen and set up his own Jaish-e-Muhammad. Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami opposed Jaish in its journal Sada-e-Mujahid (May 2000) and hinted that ‘you-know-who’ had showered Jaish with funds. Jaish was supported by Mufti Shamzai of Banuri Mosque of Karachi and was given a brand new Laskar in Balakot by the ISI.

Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami and Kashmir jihad:

The sub-militia fighting in Kashmir is semi-autonomous and is led by chief commander Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri. Its training camp is 20 km from Kotli in Azad Kashmir, with a capacity for training 800 warriors, and is run by one Haji Khan. Harkat al- Jahad al-Islami went intoKashmir in 1991 but was at first opposed by the Wahhabi elements there because of its refusal to criticise the grand Deobandi congregation of Tableeghi Jamaat and its quietist posture. But as days passed, its warriors were recognised as ‘Afghanis’. It finally had more martyrs in the jehad of Kashmir than any other militia. Its resolve and organisation were recognised when foreigners were seen fighting side by side with its Punjabi warriors. To date, 650 Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami mujahideen have killed in battle against the Indian army: 190 belonging to both sides of Kashmir, nearly 200 belonging to Punjab, 49 to Sindh, 29 to Balochistan, 70 to Afghanistan, 5 to Turkey, and 49 collectively to Uzbekistan, Bangladesh and the Arab world. Because of its allegiance to the spiritual legacy of Deobandism, Harkat al- Jahad al-Islami did not attack the Tableeghi Jamaat, which stood it in good stead because it became the only militia whose literature was allowed to be distributed during the congregations of the Tableeghi Jamaat, and those in the Pakistani establishment attending the congregation were greatly impressed by the militia’s organisational excellence. It contained more graduates of the seminaries than any other militia, thus emphasising its religious character as envisaged by its founder and by Maulvi Nabi Muhammadi. It kept away from the sectarian conflict unlike Jaish-e- Muhammad but its men were at times put off by the populist Kashmiri Islam and reacted violently to local practices. In Central Asia, Chechnya and Burma: The leader of Harkat al-Jahad al- Islami in Uzbekistan is Sheikh Muhammad Tahir al-Farooq. So far 27 of its fighters have been killed in battle against the Uzbek president Islam Karimov, as explained in the Islamabad-based journal Al-Irshad. Starting in 1990, the war against Uzbekistan was bloody and was supported by the Taliban, till in 2001, the commander had to ask the Pakistanis in Uzbekistan to return to base. In Chechnya, the war against the Russians was carried on under the leadership of commander Hidayatullah. Pakistan’s embassy in Moscow once denied that there were any Pakistanis involved in the Chechnyan war, but journal Al-Irshad (March 2000) declared from Islamabad that the militia was deeply involved in the training of guerrillas in Chechnya for which purpose commander Hidayatullah was stationed in the region. It estimated that ‘dozens’ of Pakistani fighters had been martyred fighting against Russian infidels. When the Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami men were seen first in Tajikistan, they were mistaken by some observers as being fighters from Sipah Sahaba, but in fact they were under the command of commander Khalid Irshad Tiwana, helping Juma Namangani and Tahir Yuldashev resist the Uzbek ruling class in the Ferghana Valley. The anti-Uzbek warlords were being sheltered by Mulla Umar in Afghanistan.  Maulana Abdul Quddus heads the Burmese warriors located in Karachi and fighting mostly in Bangladesh on the Arakanese border. Korangi is the base of the Arakanese Muslims who fled Burma to fight the jehad from Pakistan. A large number of Burmese are located inside Korangi and the area is sometimes called mini-Arakan. Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami has opened 30 seminaries for them inside Korangi, there being 18 more in the rest of Karachi. Maulana Abdul Quddus, a Burmese Muslim, while talking to weekly Zindagi (25-31 January 1998), revealed that he had run away from Burma via India and took religious training in the Harkat seminaries in Karachi and on its invitation went to Afghanistan, took military training there and fought the jehad from 1982 to 1988. In Orangi, the biggest seminary is Madrasa Khalid bin Walid where 500 Burmese are under training. They were trained in Afghanistan and later made to fight against the Northern Alliance and against the Indian army in Kashmir. The Burmese prefer to stay in Pakistan, and very few have returned to Burma or to Bangladesh. There are reports of their participation in the religious underworld in Karachi.   Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami has branch offices in 40 districts and tehsils in Pakistan, including Sargodha, Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan, Khanpur, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Mianwali, Bannu, Kohat, Waziristan, Dera Ismail Khan, Swabi and Peshawar. It also has an office in Islamabad. Funds are collected from these grassroots offices as well as from sources abroad. The militia has accounts in two branches of Allied Bank in Islamabad, which have not been frozen because the organisation is not under a ban.The authorities have begun the process of reorganisation of jehad by changing names and asking the various outfits to merge. Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami has been asked to merge with Harkatul Mujahideen of Fazlur Rehman Khaleel who had close links with Osama bin Laden. The new name given to this merger is Jamiatul Mujahideen. Jamaat Islami’s Hizbul Mujahideen has been made to absorb all the refugee Kashmiri organisations. Jaish and Lashkar-e-Tayba have been clubbed together as Al-Jahad. All the Barelvi organisations, so far located only in Azad Kashmir, have been pout together as Al-Barq. Al-Badr and Hizbe Islami have been renamed as Al-Umar Mujahideen.

In a report in The News of September 28, 2004  titled ‘Real conspirators in Musharraf case may never be exposed,’ Kamran Khan,  wrote: ‘Senior lawyers say that the killing of Amjad Farooqi, the main accused in President Musharraf and Daniel Pearl cases, may also influence the final outcome of the two most important cases.  ‘A nationwide military investigation launched after two assassination attempts against President Pervez Musharraf last year had unveiled that some civilian and low level military individuals were the field operatives while Amjad Farooqi played an anchor in the abortive bids on Gen Musharraf’s life.  ‘Because of the most sensitive nature of the probe the principal investigative work was carried out under the supervision of the Commander Corps 10, who received inputs from all federal and provincial law enforcement agencies in the most extensive investigation of a crime case in Pakistan,’ Khan said.  ‘“It was very important to catch Amjad Farooqi alive,”‘ Khan quoted a senior law enforcement official as saying. ‘”Farooqi was the key link between the foot soldiers and those who ordered the murder.”‘  ‘”Amjad Farooqi is now dead with the most important secret and we still don’t know for sure the real identity of the Pakistani or Al Qaeda or any other foreign elements who had launched Farooqi into action to remove General Musharraf from the scene,” said another senior law enforcement official.’

August 8, 2004: Qari Saifullah Akhtar arrested

On  August 8, 2004, the then Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced the arrest of ‘wanted militant’ Qari Saifullah Akhtar: “We confirm that we have arrested [Qari] Saifullah Akhtar. He was on our wanted list for a very long time before, but he was not available. We did not know his location. And now from UAE, we got the information, and they delivered him to us. And now he is in our custody.”

According to a Radio Free Europe report dated August 9, 2004: “Pakistani security officials believe Akhtar is an important terrorist figure with links to Al-Qaeda. His arrest is part of a series of apparent breakthroughs in recent weeks in efforts to infiltrate Islamic terror networks.  Recent arrests are the latest in a month-long crackdown in which more than 20 terrorist suspects have been captured in Pakistan.”We are trying our best. We have arrested the most valuable people. We never go to the small arrests or the people who are expediters. We have gone for the planners. And the best planners, we have arrested,” Ahmed said. “And I think that these arrests will make a big change in their activity. They will not be in a position to [attack] some big target. Or [if there is] something [that] they want to do, it’s not [going to be] easy to do for them.” Akhtar is known to have been involved with Pakistani intelligence agencies through much of the 1990s before his group was outlawed and he left the country. His capture is being interpreted by many in the United States as a sign that the government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is joining the war on terrorism with renewed vigor.  Pakistani security agencies also recently arrested Fazalur Rehman Khalil, accused of leading another outlawed group with links to Al-Qaeda, Harakatul Mujahedin.”

The Daily Times wrote an editorial [August 09, 2004] after the arrest of  Qari Saifullah Akhtar:

“ Qari Saifullah Akhtar — born in 1958 in South Waziristan — is a graduate of the Banuri Masjid in Karachi. He was a crucial figure in Mufti Shamzai’s efforts to get Osama bin Laden and Mullah Umar together as partners-in-jihad. Qari Saifullah Akhtar first came to public view when he was caught as one of the would-be army coup-makers of 1995 led by Major-General Zaheerul Islam Abbasi, but saved his skin by turning ‘state witness’. (Some say he was defiant but was still let off.) After that, he surfaced in Kandahar and from 1996 was an adviser to Mullah Umar in the Taliban government. His fighters were called ‘Punjabi’ Taliban and were offered employment, something that other outfits could not get out of Mullah Umar. His outfit had membership among the Taliban too. Three Taliban ministers and 22 judges belonged to his Harkat.  In difficult times, the Harkat fighters stood together with Mullah Umar. Approximately 300 of them were killed fighting the Northern Alliance, after which Mullah Umar was pleased to give Harkat the permission to build six more ‘maskars’ (training camps) in Kandahar, Kabul and Khost, where the Taliban army and police also received military training. From its base in Afghanistan, the Harkat launched its campaigns inside Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Chechnya. It finally became the biggest jihadi militia based in Kandahar located in the middle of the Taliban-Al Qaeda strategic merger.  The Harkat called itself ‘the second line of defence for all Muslim states’ and was active in Burma, Bangladesh and Sinkiang. Because of their common origin in the Banuri seminary, Harkat al-Jihad al-Islami and Harkatul Mujahideen were merged in 1993 for the sake of “better performance” in Kashmir. The new outfit was called Harkatul Ansar, the first to be declared as a terrorist organization by the United States after one of its commanders formed an ancillary organization, called Al Faran, and kidnapped and killed Western tourists from Kashmir in 1995. Qari Saifullah Akhtar fled from Kandahar after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001 and hid  South Waziristan.  Qari Saifullah’s outfit was truly international. When the Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami men were seen first in Tajikistan, they were mistaken by some observers as being fighters from Sipah Sahaba, but in fact they were under the command of a Punjabi commander, helping Juma Namangani and Tahir Yuldashev resist the Uzbek ruling class in the FerghanaValley. Out of the two Uzbeks being sheltered by Mullah Umar in Afghanistan, one was killed and the other was recently wounded during the Wana Operation inSouth Waziristan. The Harkat used to be entrenched in Karachi, looking after its Burmese warriors. They were located inside Korangi and the area was sometimes called mini-Arakan. The Harkat opened 30 seminaries for themselves inside Korangi, there being 18 more in the rest of Karachi. In Orangi, the biggest seminary was Madrasa Khalid bin Walid where 500 Burmese were once under training. They were later trained in Afghanistan and directed to fight against theNorthern Alliance and against the Indian army inKashmir.  Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami had branch offices in 40 districts and tehsils in Pakistan, including Sargodha, Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan, Khanpur, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Mianwali, Bannu, Kohat, Waziristan, Dera Ismail Khan, Swabi and Peshawar. It also had an office in Islamabad. Funds were collected from these grassroots offices as well as from sources abroad. The militia had accounts in two branches of Allied Bank in Islamabad. Qari Saifullah’s repatriation signals the closing of the Saudi channel of escape for the Deobandi jihadis. But Qari Saifullah was not the only one hiding in that region. There were other less known personalities with contacts who could go at will to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to bide their time when the political heat increased in Karachi and their ‘handlers’ told them to take a sabbatical. For Qari Saifullah Akhtar the sabbatical is now over.  The timing of Qari Saifullah’s repatriation is significant. It happened after the arrest of Al Qaeda operative Muhammad Khalfan Ghailani from Gujrat along with Al Qaeda’s computer genius Muhammad Naeem Nur Khan. It is said that the Pakistani agencies recruited Khan as a double agent and were thus able to communicate with Al Qaeda through him. Because of a premature disclosure of Khan as a double agent in the United States, the slowly tightening noose around Al Qaeda in the UK had to be quickly sprung. The home-coming of Qari Saifullah Akhtar could well be connected with the revelations made in Gujrat.”

January 18, 2005  Supreme Court dismisses Qari’s petition

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition against the arrest of alleged Al Qaeda operative Qari Saifullah Akhtar and directed the petitioner to first move the High Court by filing a habeas corpus writ petition. A Supreme Court bench of Justice Hamid Ali Mirza and Justice Falak Sher ruled that the arrest in this case was not a matter of public importance, hence a constitutional petition could not be filed directly in the Supreme Court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

May 5, 2007  Supreme Court told Qari not in government custody

About Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the concise report presented by the National Crisis Management cell to the Supreme Court, revealed, “He is engaged in jihadi activities somewhere in Punjab”, thus denying that Qari Saifullah was in government’s custody.  Qari Saifullah’s lawyer, Hashmat Habib told the bench that government is aware of the whereabouts of Qari Saifullah since he was handed over to the Pakistani government by the UAE authorities on August 8, 2004. He substantiated his statement by narrating NCMC’s Director General Javed Iqbal Cheema’s [Admin note: the current spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, who made extremely controversial statement about recording Baitullah Mehsud’s telephone call to ‘prove’ he was behind her murder] interview to a newspaper on August 9, 2004; saying, “Qari Saifullah is in custody of law enforcement agencies and Pakistani agencies are interrogating him.” Hashmat Habib said that the then Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid’s statements given in August 2004 also confirmed that Qari Saifullah was in government’s detention. After listening to the arguments given by both the sides, Justice Javed Iqbal ordered that a specific report about Qari Saifullah be furnished in the next hearing.

May 26, 2007 Supreme Court told Qari has been released

Director Crisis Management  Cell Col (retd) Javed Iqbal Lodhi told the Supreme Court Friday that so far 98 missing persons have been traced. The two member bench comprising Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar and Justice Falak Sher directed the interior ministry to submit affidavits about those who have reached their homes so that information could be collected as to who had picked them up and under what charges and circumstances. The bench also asked the authorities to expedite their efforts to find out whereabouts of remaining 156 missing people and coordinate with all the intelligence agencies including MI, ISI and the interior ministry officials of all four provinces. The counsel for Qari Saifullah Akhtar said he had been released after detention by the security agencies for two years and nine month.

The terrorist released and at large

What happened after he was let go in May 2007 is not known. What is known that instead of trying to prosecute and convict him, the government chose to keep him in ‘custody’ after his arrest in August 2004. It first denied before the supreme court on May 5, 2007 that he was in its custody and then quietly released him and informed the supreme court on May 26, 2007 that he had been released.

Is Qari Saifullah Akhtar a jihadi? Is he a militant? Is he a rogue double agent who turned his back on the ISI? If so, why no attempt to try him and get a conviction from the court? OR is he an ‘intelligence asset’, a handy tool to be manipulated and dumped at an appropriate time?

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