Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
The New York Times has an intriguing story about the sourcing for a report that did the rounds last week saying that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) rushed Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar to Karachi last week after he suffered a heart attack. (h/t Five Rupees)
To recap, the Washington Post said last week that a private intelligence network, the Eclipse Group, had reported that Mullah Omar had a heart attack on Jan. 7 and was treated for several days in a Karachi hospital with the help of the ISI.
It quoted the Eclipse Group as saying its source was a physician in the Karachi hospital, which was not identified in the report, who said he saw Mullah Omar struggling to recover from an operation to put a stent in his heart. “While I was not personally in the operating theater,” the physician reported, “my evaluation based on what I have heard and seeing the patient in the hospital is that Mullah Omar had a cardiac catheter complication resulting in either bleeding or a small cerebral vascular incident, or both.”
As is the way of these things, the story did the rounds of the Internet, blogosphere and Twitter until the original source of the report — an unnamed doctor in an unnamed Karachi hospital quoted by a private intelligence network — was obscured under the weight of repetition.
The question of whether the links between the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda can be broken has been discussed at length over the past year or so, and will be a major factor in any eventual peace settlement with insurgents in Afghanistan.
So it’s interesting to see this post by Alex Strick van Linschoten highlighting what he calls the first semi-official acknowledgement from a Talib – former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef - of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Bruce Riedel, who led a review of the “Af-Pak” strategy for the Obama administration, says the United States must now target Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, following the apparent death of the chief of the Pakistani Taliban this month.
The one-eyed, intensely secretive founder of the Afghan Taliban is a much more elusive and important player in the “terror syndicate” attacking Pakistan, Afghanistan and the NATO mission in Afghanistan than Baitullah Mehsud, reportedly killed in a U.S. drone strike, Riedel says.
Concern is mounting over the health of John Solecki, an American working for the UNHCR, who was kidnapped from the Pakistani city of Quetta 45 days ago.
The UN said it was worried about an apparent deterioration in his health after a little known Baluch group, which says it is holding him, called a local news agency saying he was seriously ill with a heart condition.
The Pakistani state may be facing its most serious threat since its birth more than six decades ago, begging the question of who controls the militants who are expanding their influence across the country.
The question has arisen in the light of escalating violence inside Pakistan including the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team despite a call reported to have been made by the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, urging Pakistani militants to stop fighting at home and instead focus on Afghanistan.