|Asia News Digest
Musharraf: CIA Paid Millions for Al-Qaeda Suspects
According to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, on his visit to the USA last week, the CIA has paid Islamabad millions of dollars for handing over more than 350 suspected al-Qaeda terrorists to the United States. Musharraf, however, did not reveal how much the U.S. taxpayers had paid to Pakistan.
The Pakistani President's statement caught the Bush Administration by surprise. The administration does not want the U.S. population to know that their best ally in the "war on terror" was getting paid like a common bounty hunter. As a result, Washington has come forward to refute Musharraf's statement.
An unnamed U.S. Department of Justice official was quoted by the IndiaDaily Sept. 26 as saying: "We didn't know about this. It should not happen. These bounty payments are for private individuals who help to trace terrorists on the FBI's most wanted list, not foreign governments."
Earlier, during his U.S. visit, Musharraf had said that former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the Stone Age," if it did not back the United States in the "war on terror," in the aftermath of 9/11. The statement surprised the White House, which tried to distance itself from the charge.
Domestic Opposition to Thai Coup Appears
Five schools were torched in the Kamphaengphet province, about 320 km north of Bangkok, a reported stronghold of the ousted Thai Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, MSN News reported from Bangkok Sept. 27. The incident has raised suspicion that the opposition to the Thai military, which led the coup, is now getting ready to make its appearance.
"The army has sent a team to investigate the incident and has not yet ruled out the possibility that this was an act of anger from people who lost power," said Col. Banyong Sirasunthorn, a spokesman for the Third Army region. There is some speculation that the act of burning down of the schools could be opposition to the closing down of some 400 community radio stations by Lt. Gen. Saprang Kanlayanimatr, one of the major players in the latest coup.
On Sept. 26, coup leader Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin announced that the military has written a temporary constitution appointing themselves advisers to any interim government. According to the U.S. private intelligence outfit Stratfor, Sondhi has indicated that the military would pick the Prime Minister for the interim government on Oct. 1, and that he will be a general. This has led some to speculate that Surayud Chulanont, a former commander and a close adviser to the Thai king, will receive the appointment.
Pakistan's ISI Helped al-Qaeda, Says MI6 Agent
A report issued by a British "think-tank linked to the MI6," has accused the Pakistani secret service ISI of indirectly supporting terrorist groups including al-Qaeda, and called on President Pervez Musharraf to dismantle it. The BBC announcement of the report Sept. 28 came out hours before Musharraf landed in London, following his trip to Washington, for his meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
While Musharraf reacted angrily, the British Ministry of Defense said the document was merely an academic one and did not represent the views of either the ministry or the Blair government.
There is no question that both MI6 and the ISI, we well as the CIA, were fully involved in building up al-Qaeda during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. After the Soviets left, the CIA pulled out, leaving al-Qaeda in the hands of the British and Pakistani services. The building up of the Taliban, strengthening of al-Qaeda, and making Afghanistan its headquarters, were a conscious Pakistani policy, led by its intelligence agencies. MI6 helped them all along and now since the Islamic fanatics have broken their vow and are going after the British as well, British "think tanks linked to the MI6" have become active in blaming Pakistan for all this.
Truce Contributes to Taliban Resurgence in Afghanistan
There has been a sharp increase in infiltration from Pakistan into Afghanistan since President Musharraf signed a truce with the tribal agencies. According to an unnamed American army officer in Afghanistan, American troops have seen a tripling of attacks since the truce between the Pakistani army and pro-Taliban tribesmen that was supposed to stop cross-border raids by militants. The U.S. officer said that the ceasefire, begun on June 25, cemented by the signing of a peace treaty on Sept. 5, has contributed to the Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan. He said ethnic Pushtun insurgents are no longer fighting the Pakistani troops and are using Pakistan's North Waziristan border area as a command-and-control hub for attacks in Afghanistan.
Tasnim Aslam, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman rejected the U.S. officer's claim, saying: "We don't agree with this. These are just excuses. Whatever is happening, it is deep inside Afghanistan and is not because of Pakistan."
In Washington, President Bush, lacking any capability to handle this complex situation, entertained both Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Musharraf at the White House on Sept. 27, urging them to cooperate in the U.S.-led abstract "war on terror." The two Presidents have engaged for months in accusing each other for the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.