Did General Kayani and Pasha give shelter to Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad?
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By B Raman
Issue Net Edition | Date : 08 May , 2011

The General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army abruptly  announced on the night of September 29, 2008, that Major-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the Director-General of Military Operations (DGMO), had been promoted as Lt. General and posted as the DG of the ISI in place of Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj.

Lt. Gen. Pasha, who was promoted from the rank of Brigadier to that of Maj.Gen. by Musharraf in January, 2003, had commanded an infantry brigade, a mechanised infantry brigade and an infantry division  and had served as the Chief Instructor of the Command and Staff College.   In 2001-2002, as a Brigadier, he served as a Contingent and Sector Commander with the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone. In October, 2007, Musharraf agreed to a request from Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, to relieve Pasha from the post of the DGMO so that he could be appointed as the Military Adviser, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, in the UN headquarters, in place of General Per Arne Five of Norway. An announcement on his posting in the UN headquarters was also made by the office of the UN Secretary-General.

Taj was removed from the ISI by Kayani allegedly under dual pressure from the US as well as China.

But, this posting did not materialise. In view of the Swat Valley coming under the control of the Taliban-affiliated Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) headed by Maulana Fazlullah, Musharraf ordered a special military operation against the TNSM and asked Pasha in his capacity as the DGMO to co-ordinate it. Pasha got Sufi Mohammad, former chief of the TNSM, who was in detention since 2002, released and sought his help in the operation. In January, 2008, Pasha announced that his troops had defeated the TNSM and freed the Swat Valley from the control of the TNSM. His claim came to haunt him shortly thereafter when the TNSM, which had withdrawn into the hills, staged a comeback and re-established its control over large areas of the Swat. In August, 2008, shortly after the return of Gilani from a visit to Washington DC, Gen.Kayani ordered another special operation against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Al Qaeda in the Bajaur Agency of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and asked Pasha to co-ordinate it too. Despite repeated claims of the Army having inflicted heavy casualties on the TTP and Al Qaeda, the two put up a determined fight against the Army and the Frontier Corps.

The “Dawn” of Karachi reported on September 29, 2008, as follows: “Military operations against militants have been a mixed bag of successes and setbacks; however no timeframe could be given with regard to the ongoing campaigns, sources in the military said. ‘It is a continual operation. It is not going to end in 2008 and it is not going to end in 2009. Don’t be optimistic, as far as the timeframe is concerned. It is a different ground and it will take some time’, military sources said in a media briefing.” Thus, as the DGMO, Pasha had a colourless record. That, despite this, he was posted as the DG, ISI, showed his closeness and loyalty to Kayani, who had taken him for his secret meeting with Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, US Joint Chiefs of Staff, on board a US aircraft carrier, on August 26,2008, and not Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj. It was speculated at that time that Taj did not accompany Kayani to the secret meeting with Mullen because the Americans did not want him.

Despite repeated claims of the Army having inflicted heavy casualties on the TTP and Al Qaeda, the two put up a determined fight against the Army and the Frontier Corps.

Thus, in any enquiry regarding collusion between the ISI and OBL since 2005 which enabled OBL to live in Abbottabad, the main suspicion has to be on Nadeem Taj followed by Pasha and Kayani. Another person, whose contacts with Al Qaeda would call for a detailed enquiry is Brig (retd) Ejaz Shah, another officer highly trusted by Musharraf, who served as the Director of the Intelligence Bureau during this period.

When he was in the ISI, Shah used to be the handling officer of Osama bin Laden and Mulla Omar, the Amir of the Taliban. After Musharraf seized power in October, 1999, he had him posted as the Home Secretary of Punjab. It was to him that Omar Sheikh, who orchestrated the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist, surrendered because Omar Sheikh knew him before and was confident that Ejaz Shah would see that he was not tortured.

After the murder of Pearl, there were many allegations regarding Shah’s role.  Musharraf tried to protect him by sending him as the Ambassador to Australia or Indonesia. Both the countries reportedly refused to accept him. Musharraf then made him the DG of the IB. As the DG of the IB, he saw to it that the death sentence against Omar Sheikh for his role in the Pearl case was not executed. The courts have been repeatedly postponing hearings on the appeal filed by Omar Sheikh against the death sentence. Before her return from political exile in October 2007, Benazir Bhutto had named him as one of the officers from whom a threat to her security could arise.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

B Raman

Former, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai & Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat. He is the author of The Kaoboys of R&AW, A Terrorist State as a Frontline Ally,  INTELLIGENCE, PAST, PRESENT & FUTUREMumbai 26/11: A Day of Infamy and Terrorism: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

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