Islamists within ISI may have aided Benazir assassination, analysts fear

A Minister had warned of an ISI within the ISI

The Hindu | Dec 29, 2007

by Praveen Swami

Elements of Pakistan’s intelligence services are believed to have been involved in a string of bombings

High ISI officials are believed to have aided a bombing

NEW DELHI: Islamists within Pakistan’s feared Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate may have helped facilitate the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, by blocking the flow of information on imminent terror threats, intelligence experts here believe.

Elements of Pakistan’s intelligence services are believed to have been involved in a string of recent bombings. A November 24, 2007 suicide bombing outside the ISI’s headquarters, for example, is thought to have been facilitated by an insider who passed on secret hand-signals that allowed officers of the rank of Brigadier and above to drive through entry checkpoints.

High officials within the ISI are also believed to have aided the September 4, 2007, bombing of an unmarked bus carrying ISI employees to work.

Pakistan has admitted that at least four junior Army officers, the pool from which the ISI draws its cadre, and six Air Force personnel were involved in a December 2003 attempt to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf himself.

Pakistani officials have long acknowledged that drives to cleanse the military of Islamists have had only limited success. In May 2005, Minister of State for Religious Affairs Amir Liaquat Husain publicly warned of the existence of “an ISI within the ISI, far more powerful than the original.”

He added: “There exists an internal threat, far greater than the outer one. Well, internal includes the Army.”

Much of the attention has focussed on the Hizb ut-Tehrir (Party of Liberation). Founded by the Jordanian cleric Taqiuddin an-Nabhani in 1953, the organisation flowered in the United Kingdom and France. Educated young people formed much of its following. Bangalore engineer-turned Glasgow suicide-bomber Kafeel Ahmed is among those believed to have passed through its mill.

Since 2000, both Pakistani and Indian intelligence analysts have repeatedly warned of growing Hizb ut-Tehrir penetration of Islamabad’s security services, spearheaded by United Kingdom-based activists of Pakistani origin. Hizb ut-Tehrir activists have also been suspected, but never established, to have helped facilitate al-Qaeda operations in Pakistan outside of the violence-torn North-West Frontier Province.
Islamist threats

Perhaps significantly, the Hizb ut-Tehrir issued calls opposing the elections just days before Ms. Bhutto’s assassination. On Eid day, December 21, Hizb ut-Tehrir pamphlets distributed outside the Jamia Masjid Quba in Islamabad’s G-9 neighbourhood called on Pakistan’s people to “reject elections in this colonialist system and establish the Khilafah [caliphate].” “How long,” it went on, “will you participate in elections within a system that produces traitor after traitor? Changing faces in the current kufr [infidel] system in January 2008 is no more than opening the door for even more years of misery.”

“Therefore,” the pamphlet went on, “it is not allowed for any Muslim to vote for candidates in the current kufr system.”

The Hizb ut-Tehrir pamphlet ended with a blunt warning: voting would be a “haraam [forbidden] action and will be an act of direct assistance in supporting the kufr system, which Islam has forbidden. Hizb ut-Tehrir calls you, O Muslims, to reject any support for the present corrupt system and establish our Khilafah in its place, apply our law, Shariah, and elect a Khaleefah [caliph].”

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