Pakistan on alert for Indian attack : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Pakistan on alert for Indian attack

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - While on one hand the military authorities in Pakistan are preoccupied with a seemingly inevitable United States attack on Afghanistan following the Taliban's refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden to the US, they are also concerned about the escalation of Indian troop movements in the Kashmir Valley on the border with Pakistan.

In the wake of last week's terror attacks in the US, the Indian media and leadership have joined together in vilifying Pakistan. They have attempted to bracket Islamabad with the Taliban and bin Laden, to such an extent that President General Pervez Musharraf in his address to the nation this week suggested that the Indian media "lay off".

According to intelligence sources in the Pakistan army, Indian occupation forces have increased their numbers in the Kashmir Valley and near the Rajastan border. The Indian Air Force has also been put on high alert. According to the sources, the Indian government's claim that the escalation is in response to events in Kashmir is nonsense. Rather, they say, it is a cover for a pre-emptive strike against Pakistan.

According to one strategic expert, one way for Pakistan to counter this would be for the groups it supports in fighting for an independent Kashmir to dramatically increase their militant operations. This would tie down Indian troops and divert them from the sensitive Line of Control that separates the two countries.

At the same time, a spokesman for the Lashar-i-Taiba, the most active militant group opposing Indian forces, has stated that the group will not disengage from the Kashmir Valley due to the current situation. On the contrary, in coming days they plan to escalate their activities, and may even extend them to other Indian cities.

Well-placed sources say that at the time that Pakistani Minister of Finance Shaukat Aziz and Minister of Commerce Razzaq Dawood were pleading for their country to provide the US with maximum ground and air facilities so that Pakistan could extract maximum financial benefits, military aides to the president expressed strong reservations.

Military leaders argue, firstly, that if the US is provided free access to Pakistan's strategic areas it will jeopardize the country's military and nuclear installations. Secondly, they point out that Pakistan's forces are engaged on many fronts - Afghanistan, India, its own tribal borders and against Indian insurgents. Yet the Americans, the military argue, have done nothing to reduce pressure on Pakistan.

In another development, according to information gathered by different sources, the Taliban leadership will not ask bin Laden to leave Afghanistan, where the Saudi exile has lived for the past five years. On Thursday the Afghan Islamic Shura advisory council recommended that bin Laden be asked to leave the country. According to the Afghan Consul-General in Karachi, the scholars do not have the authority to enforce their suggestion. The final authority is the country's leader, Mullah Omar, who is insistent that bin Laden remain as a guest.

In response, US President George W Bush has warned again that bin Laden and other terror suspects must be handed over by the Taliban or they "will share in their fate" when the US strikes.

Many different sources close to the Taliban deny that bin Laden has left Afghanistan - various reports have placed him in Chechnya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, on the border with China and even in Indonesia, with some people claiming he left the country many days ago from his hideout in the Afghan hills.

However, a senior member of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam who is a former member of Pakistan's foreign affairs committee and a leading political patron of the Taliban, told Asia Times Online by telephone from the border city of Peshawer that he did not believe that any of this information was true.

The Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Zaeef, also said that it was not possible that bin Laden had been forced out of the country, as this would be an insult to Islam and its Shariat (law).

Meanwhile, protests against the Pakistani government for supporting possible US attacks on Afghanistan turned violent on Friday when police mounted baton charges and fired tear gas at stone-throwing crowds in the port city of Karachi. Militant groups had earlier called for a general strike across the country. As soon as the police action was reported to the different religious groups supporting the strike call, hundreds of activists took to the streets. They blocked roads with burning tires, and liquor shops - a symbol of Western influence - were set ablaze. Over 100 people were arrested. According to reports from Peshawer, Lahore and Rawalpindi there was a complete shutdown.

-- Martin Thompson (, September 21, 2001

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