MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR
The Baloch Hal
The Pakistani militaryconfirmed that a top Al-Qaeda leader, Younis Al Mauritani, who had specially been designated by the terrorist organization’s slain founder Osama bin Laden to target economic interests in the United States, Australia and Europe, had been detained from Quetta.
Al Mauritani was detained with Abdul Ghaffar Al Shami (Bachar Chama) and Messara Al Shami (Mujahid Amino), two other important operatives of the global Jihadist network. The significant arrests were made in a joint operation by the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and the Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan on “technical support” provided by the US intelligence services.
A press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistan army, said Al Mauritani was planning to target United States economic interests including gas/oil pipelines, power generating dams, and strike ships/oil tankers through explosive laden speed boats in International waters.
Al Mauritani’s actual position in Al-Qaeda is still murky. According to Long War Journal al Mauritani rose to popularity last year “after he was identified as directing a plot by al Qaeda to attack multiple targets in Europe in a Mumbai-like terror assault.”
“The number 3 designation is often assigned by Western officials and media to al Qaeda’s suspected operations chief… al Mauritani is a senior member of al Qaeda’s external operations council, the division that is tasked with hitting the US, Europe, and allied nations. Al Mauritani, Adnan el Shukrijuma, and Ilyas Kashmiri are believed to be the senior-most members of the external operations council,”reported the Journal.
The arrests have deepened Al-Qaeda’s crisis which began with the dramatic killing of its chief Osama bin-Laden. This significant development occurred a week ahead of the ten year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. This indicates that the battle against Al-Qaeda and its like-minded global terrorist outfits is not over even after a tumultuous decade.
The US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has welcomed the capture of Al-Qaeda top leader. A Reuters report indicates that the Americans will most likely seek access to the detained Al-Qaeda leader for further investigations.
Some overexcited observers are viewing this as a major development to improve strained relations between Islamabad and Washington which have been deteriorating since the beginning of this year. Multiple factors, such as theRaymond Davis case, killing of Osama bin Laden and Pakistan’s refusal to grant visa to American military trainers, on the one hand and American decision to withhold $800 million dollar to the Pakistani army, on the other hand, contributed to the worsening diplomatic and strategic relations.
Pakistan’s commitment in fighting Islamic terrorist groups will remain questionable until it voluntarily carries out operations against Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders. As long as only the US and NATO orders compel Islamabad to move against terrorists, it should be assumed that Islamabad is only pretending as a partner in the war against terror.
Since 2001 when the Taliban regime was ousted from Afghanistan, we have beenexpressing our concerns over the safe heavens the Pakistani secrete services were providing to Islamic militant groups in the provincial capital, Quetta. The fundamentalists brought with them the culture of suicide bombings in Quetta and intimidated the government functionaries to such an extent that they did not ever take action against the foreign nationals linked to Al-Qaeda and hiding in Balochistan. There was a time when the US and Afghan governments insisted that Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban, was hiding with the powerful Quetta-Shura. The Americans were so incensed with these reports that on at least three occasions they decided to carry out drone strikes on Quetta.
Almost all of the times, top Pakistani civil and military officers had denied the presence of the Quetta Shura or any other militant inside Balochistan. So had they been lying with the people and the media for so long until the Americans tracked the key Al-Qaeda leader? Probably, yes.
Younis Al Mauritani’s arrest does not suggest any policy or attitude change on Pakistan’s part. It simply appears to be a compulsion for the Pakistani authorities as they rightly believe that they’ve faced more humiliation in the past few months than their due share. They are caught up in a situation where the military’s collusion with the Islamists is repeatedly exposed in public and military assistance from Washington is permanently prone to suspension.
Wednesday’s twin suicide bombings in Quetta city on the Frontier Corps (FC), which killed at least twenty-two people including a top colonel of the federal paramilitary force and the wife of the Deputy Inspector General (DIG), appear to be a reaction to the recent arrest. The military has to learn lessons that until it totally unplugs all forms of support to either for good or bad Taliban, it will continue to face more humiliation before the peace-loving international community and violence from terrorist Islamic groups.