THE WAR COMES TO PAKISTAN – IN THE LINE OF FIRE

THE WAR COMES TO PAKISTAN

The United States was not the only casualty of 9/11. The attacks hit Pakistan differently, but with equally savage force. We feel the ramifications to this day. No other country has faced as many threats on as many fronts. We stood with the United States, and we stand with the entire world, in opposing terrorism. Yet we face threats from within and without. Afghanistan is our neighbor; we share a porous bound­ary and religious, ethnic, and tribal affinities as well as familial links. Many of our tribes originally come from Afghanistan, and there have been numerous intermarriages among them, across the border. We also have a large number of Afghan refugees who made Pakistan their home after the Soviets invaded their country in 1979. Twenty-five years later, we have 4 million Afghan refugees, the largest refugee population in the world. We have had to bear most of their economic and social cost, especially after the Soviet withdrawal and America’s abandonment.

 

images (1)Yet another front was public opinion at home: whereas most Pakistanis condemned the 9/11 attacks, there was also a strong sentiment against the United States’ reaction. That sentiment was encouraged partly by the religious lobby and partly by pre-existing anti-American feelings left over from the United States’ abandonment of Pakistan after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

 

Twenty-one years earlier it was natural for us to join the jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, because we did not want the Soviet Union to consolidate its position and turn its attention toward our warm waters. In 2001 it was just as natural for us to join the war against terror because Pakistan had been a victim of sectarian and external terrorism for years, and certainly had no desire to be “Taliban­ized.” In both instances, it was in our national interest to do what we did. Just as we could not tolerate Soviet hegemony, under no circumstances could we tolerate homegrown terrorism or extremists who try to indoctrinate our society with a radical and violent interpretation of Islam.

 

Ironically, once we started clamping down on terrorism, yet another front opened against us: militant extremist organizations around the world put a price on my head and unleashed foreign terror in our country. In 2002, terrorists attacked worshipers in a church in Islam­abad, children in a Christian-run school in Murree, and patients in a Christian hospital in Taxila. French naval technicians and the U.S. consulate in Karachi were bombed, and the American journalist Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered.

 

In this chapter and the following chapters, I will tell the stories of some of our most important victories in the war on terror. We have done more than any other country to capture and kill members of al Qaeda, and to destroy its infrastructure in our cities and mountains. Many of these stories have not been told in full before now.

 

On January 23 and 24, 2002, the world’s media received e-mails saying that the journalist Daniel Pearl had been kidnapped. Pearl, a citizen of both the United States and Israel, was the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal. The ransom demanded by the kidnappers was the release and return to Pakistan of Pakistani prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, the immediate end of the United States’ presence in Pakistan, the delivery of F-16 planes that Pakistan had paid for but never received, and the release of Mullah Zaeef, the former Afghan ambassador of the Taliban regime to Pakistan. The e-mails also stated, “We assure Amer­icans that they shall never be safe on the Muslim Land of Pakistan. And if our demands are not met this scene shall be repeated again and again.”

 

I was incensed when I learned of this, disgusted that these criminals were distorting a religion of peace and beauty and using it as a cloak for their sins. Islam places the highest emphasis on the rights of the human being regardless of class or creed, and condemns murder and suicide as very great sins.

 

I immediately ordered all agencies to find Pearl’s kidnappers and launch a rescue operation. The e-mails were traced to three men: Fahd Nasim, Suleman Saqib, and Muhammad Adil. We discovered that these e-mails had been sent not only to the media but also to the gov­ernments of Pakistan and the United States. They had been forwarded to someone else as well-a man named Omar Saeed Sheikh.

 

The Wall Street Journal informed us that Pearl, who had arrived in Pakistan on December 29, 2001, with his wife, Marianne, had come to interview Pir Mubarik Ali Shah Jilani in connection with the story of the so-called “shoe bomber,” the Briton Richard Reed. However, the Journal was unaware what Pearl had been doing on the day of his kid-napping, or whom he was meeting. It is likely that Pearl was chasing a story and in doing so broke what journalists tell me is a cardinal prin­ciple of safety: informing someone beforehand of where they are going.

 

Our police detained and interrogated Jilani, who told them that Omar Sheikh had been very eager to meet the journalist. With this sec­ond mention of Omar Sheikh’s name, it seemed clear that he was involved in the affair.

 

We had been looking for Omar Sheikh since the e-mails, but at first he could not be traced, although the police did manage to trace some of his friends and relatives, and we arrested them. It was only when a man named Adil Sheikh was arrested that the police obtained Omar Sheikh’s phone number. Adil Sheikh confessed that he was an accomplice to Pearl’s kidnapping, as was the elusive Omar Sheikh.

 

By tracing the e-mails sent by Omar Sheikh’s accomplices to the media, the police had been able to capture some of his key accomplices and relatives, and his own family as well, including his eighteen­month-old son. Finally, on February 5, 2002, Omar Sheikh surren­dered, presenting himself before the home secretary, of Punjab. Under interrogation Omar Sheikh revealed that when his family members were arrested he became desperate. He phoned an accomplice in Karachi named Hussein, and told him to release Daniel Pearl. He was then told that Daniel Pearl had been killed (or so he said). The next day Omar Sheikh called Amjad Faruqi, an important al Qaeda terrorist in Pakistan, to confirm the story. Faruqi confirmed that Pearl was indeed dead and had been killed by an Arab. This was the first time that we had heard of Amjad Faruqi. Later, we were to hear of him many times, in

equally deadly circumstances. He was the planner of the attempts to assassinate me.

 

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh’s surrender was formalized on February 12, 2002. It was only after Omar Sheikh’s arrest that we ourselves dis­covered that Daniel Pearl was dead. A gruesome video of Pearl’s slaugh­ter was mysteriously released on the Internet. Although Omar Sheikh confessed in detail to having masterminded and arranged the kidnap-ping, he was adamant that he had not ordered the murder and that Pearl had been killed against his instructions. The story that emerged from Omar Sheikh’s confessions was chilling and sinister.

 

Omar Sheikh is a British national born to Pakistani parents in London on December 23, 1973. His early education was in the United King­dom, although he also spent four years at Lahore’s prestigious Aitche­son College. He then went to the London School of Economics (LSE) but dropped out before graduation. It is believed in some quarters that while Omar Sheikh was at the LSE he was recruited by the British intelligence agency MI-6. It is said that MI-6 persuaded him to take an active part in demonstrations against Serbian aggression in Bosnia and even sent him to Kosovo to join the jihad. At some point he probably became a rogue or double agent. On his return from Bosnia he came to Pakistan and met Maulana Abdul Jabbar, who guided him to Khost in Afghanistan to be trained not in religion but in guerrilla warfare.

 

In 1994, after one year of training, Omar Sheikh went to India on his British passport, along with a band of others, in an attempt to secure the release of Maulana Masood Azhar (associate of Maulana Abdul Jabbar). Azhar had been arrested for instigating conflict in Indian-held Kashmir in February 1994 and was imprisoned for seven years. The method Omar Sheikh and his associates used to pressure the Indian govern­ment was the abduction of three Britons (Rhys Partridge, Paul Ben­jamin Rideout, and Christopher Miles Crosten) and an American (Bela Joseph Nuss) in Delhi on September 29, 1994. All were later released. Omar Sheikh was arrested by Indian security from Uttar Pradesh in 1994. But he was released in 1999 along with Maulana Masood Azhar in exchange for the release of an Indian airplane that had been hijacked to Kandahar, Afghanistan.

After his release, Omar Sheikh settled in Lahore but visited

Afghanistan on four occasions to train operatives of a group called Hart-e Jehadi Islami Afghanistan. He claims that during these visits, he met Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar and that although he was not a permanent member of al Qaeda, he helped finance it through ran­som money generated from kidnappings.

In January 2002, Mohammad Hashim, a close friend of Omar Sheikh’s from Hart-e Jehadi Islami Afghanistan, informed him that an American journalist named Daniel Pearl had turned up at the offices of extremist organizations in Rawalpindi and Islamabad to arrange meetings with Pir Mubarik Ali Shah Jilani. At first Omar Sheikh sus­pected that Pearl might be an agent of western intelligence agencies working against extremist organizations. He asked Hashim to arrange a meeting between him and Pearl. This Hashim did on January 10 and 11, 2002. Using a pseudonym, Omar Sheikh introduced himself to Pearl as a follower of Pir Mubarik Ali Shah Jilani. Pearl insisted on a meeting with Jilani, and Omar Sheikh promised to arrange it. The two exchanged telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.

 

It was at this meeting that an idea cropped up in Omar Sheikh’s twisted mind. In what had become a habitual ploy to get the attention of governments, Sheikh would kidnap Pearl to pressure the U.S. gov­ernment to change its policies toward prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay and force it to release a few. He thought first of carrying out the abduction in Rawalpindi but was unable to find a hideout. He then phoned his old colleague Amjad Faruqi, who was delighted to help but said that the necessary arrangements could be made only in Karachi. Omar Sheikh lured Pearl to Karachi by telling him that Jilani was in Karachi and could meet him on January 23, 2002. The trap was set.

 

Omar Sheikh then flew to Karachi. Once in Karachi, Amjad Faruqi directed him to a popular restaurant, Student’s Biryani, where he would meet a man named Hussein. Omar Sheikh complied and was accompanied by two colleagues: Asim Ghafoor and Salman Saquib. The three men met Hussein, who took them to Aga Khan Hospital to meet yet another man, who called himself Ahmad Bhai. It was Ahmad Bhai whom Amjad Faruqi had enlisted to carry out the kidnapping.

When they met, it became apparent to Omar Sheikh that Ahmad Bhai had enough experience to handle the operation. He tested Ahmad Bhai by asking to be shown the location where Pearl would be held, but Ahmad Bhai refused, saying that the site could not be compromised because it was also required for other operations. At Omar Sheikh’s request, Ahmad Bhai agreed to arrange for an English interpreter.

That evening, Omar Sheikh went to a McDonald’s with his friend Adil Sheikh, from whom we later obtained Omar Sheikh’s con-tact numbers. He told Adil about his abduction plan. Adil, also trained in Afghanistan, became excited and expressed interest in joining the plot.

 

The final meeting between Omar Sheikh and,Ahmad Bhai took place on January 22, 2002. Adil was also present, as was another accom­plice of Ahmad Bhai’s named Imtiaz. It was agreed that Ahmad Bhai would deliver photographs of Pearl in captivity to Omar Sheikh at a particular mosque, as confirmation of his kidnapping. They purchased a Polaroid camera and showed Ahmad Bhai and Hussain how to use it. Omar Sheikh then paid Ahmad Bhai 17,000 rupees and gave both men two messages-one typed in English and the other in Urdu-and instructed them to e-mail these to the media along with the photo-graphs after the kidnapping.

 

All that was left to do now was to ensnare the victim. Omar Sheikh contacted Pearl by e-mail and informed him that a man named Iftikhar would receive him at the airport and take him to Pir MubarikAli Shah Jilani. Iftikhar, of course, was a fake name. The man who met Pearl was one ofAhmad Bhai’s accomplices. Pearl arrived in Karachi on January 23, 2002, and was kidnapped the same day by Hussein, Adil, Ahmad Bhai, and Imtiaz near the Metropole Hotel.

 

Omar Sheikh flew to Lahore the same day. That evening Hussein informed him that the deed had been done. From then on, Omar Sheikh remained in constant telephone communication with Salman Saqib, Adil, Hussein, and Ahmad Bhai to supervise and guide them.

 

At first I could not understand why Omar Sheikh had surrendered to the police. Why didn’t he escape? Only after all the pieces had been put together did I realize that Omar Sheikh had panicked because the situ­ation had spiraled out of his control. He didn’t expect the media back-lash; he didn’t expect the police to be so efficient in tracking him and his friends, family, and accomplices; he didn’t realize that the people he had enlisted to help in the kidnapping were hard-core criminals who wouldn’t necessarily take instructions from him. He was now trying to save himself, thinking that by surrendering he might be treated leniently.

 

On February 21, 2002, the horrifying videotape of Pearl’s murder was released. It didn’t show the faces of his murderers. In addition, we had nobody. Then, in May 2002, we arrested someone named Fazal Karim, an activist of Lashkar-e Jhangvi, the militant wing of the Sunni sect known as Sipah-e-Sahaba. We had arrested him for other reasons, but when we interrogated him we discovered that he was involved in Pearl’s slaughter. He also told us that he knew where Pearl was buried. He was asked how he knew. Chillingly, he replied-without remorse-that he knew because he had actually participated in the slaughter by holding one of Pearl’s legs. But he didn’t know the name of the person who had actually slit Pearl’s throat. All he could say is that this person was “Arab-looking.”

 

He led us to the small house in a neighborhood in Karachi where Daniel Pearl had been held captive. He then took us to a plot of land nearby and told us where he was buried. We exhumed the body and found it in ten badly decomposed pieces. Our doctors stitched the pieces back together as best as they could. I have seen the photographs. Needless to say, they are disturbing.

 

The man who may have actually killed Pearl or at least participated in his butchery, we eventually discovered, was none other than Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, al Qaeda’s number three. When we later arrested and interrogated him, he admitted his participation.

 

In July 2002, an anti terrorism court in Pakistan gave Omar Saeed Sheikh the death penalty. The case is currently on appeal. Daniel Pearl’s murder was one of many terrorist acts in Pakistan after 9/11, but it was particularly gruesome. War correspondents share something with sol­diers: when they opt for this profession they know the dangers. May his soul rest in peace.

 

Unfortunately, Daniel Pearl wasn’t the only foreigner killed on our soil by terrorists in 2002. There were several other incidents, though we did break all the cells involved.

 

On a warm Sunday morning-March 17, 2002-the prayers of wor­shippers at the Protestant International Church in Islamabad’s diplo­matic enclave were shattered when a man ran in and started hurling hand grenades. About seven or eight were thrown, of which three failed to detonate. Six people were killed and forty-two injured, includ­ing the Sri Lankan ambassador. Perhaps saddest of all was the tragic death of Kristen Wormsley, an eighteen-year-old American girl attend­ing the International School of Islamabad. Although we arrested a large number of suspects, nothing could be established conclusively, because the terrorist had blown himself up, leaving no clues.

 

Five months later, in the idyllic hill resort town of Murree, which is about 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) above sea level and a popular destination for summer holidays, terror struck again in a Christian school. There are a number of very good schools in Murree, some of which are run by Christian missionaries, and many people from all over the country send their children there. On August 5, 2002, three masked men wear­ing tracksuits started to enter the school compound. The guard at the gate tried valiantly to stop them but was shot dead. The sound of the shot alerted the school staff to the imminent danger, and they quickly locked all the doors. The scuffle with the guard and the gunshot caused such a commotion that the terrorists were forced to abandon their mission and run into the forest.

 

It so happens that a police station and an army garrison are very near the school. So is the army’s dog breading center. So is a small village. Many people thus heard the shot and ran to the school. Finding the guard dead and his killers gone, soldiers of the Pakistan Army took tracker dogs and chased the terrorists into the forest. The villagers joined the chase. One of the villagers was a retired junior commissioned officer of the Pakistan Army. He actually spotted the three fleeing men and ran after them. He managed to corner them by a cliff above the Jhelum River and threatened to kill them if they didn’t surrender. It was a tense moment. Suddenly, all three men climbed onto a boulder and without warning blew themselves up. Two fell headlong into the fast-flowing river. Only one body was recovered. Again, we had no useful evidence.

 

Four days after the attack on the school, the terrorists struck again. This time the target was a Christian hospital in Taxila, renowned for its humanitarian work. It also has a church. On August 9, 2002, just as people were coming out of a church service, three men forcibly entered the grounds and hurled two grenades at the worshipers. One man and four women were killed, and twenty injured. The attackers fled immediately. The police rushed to the scene and found one of the terrorists dead outside the gate, killed by a hand grenade. Nobody actually saw how this man died, though one assumes that he held the grenade in his hand too long. At the scene of this attack, unlike the previous two attacks, we found a helpful clue. The dead man had a photocopy of his identity card in his pocket. His name was Kamran Mir.

 

  Two teams-one from the army and the other from the police-were assembled to carry out the investigation. They went to Kamran Mir’s home and found vital clues there as to the identities of some of his accomplices and the terrorist group to which he belonged. They also found some addresses and phone numbers. They learned that Kamran Mir went by the alias M. One of his friends was a man called Moham­mad Ayaz, who went by the name of Waqar. They managed to trace the whereabouts of Waqar through his cell phone and arrested him.

 

   This was our first vital arrest in the bombings cases. Waqar confessed to supplying the grenades, explosives, and pistols to the terrorists. He also revealed the identity and whereabouts of twenty other members of his group. Most crucially, he revealed the identity of Saif-ur Rahman Saifi-the mastermind behind the three attacks. It was Saifi who had provided the grenades, explosives, and pistols to Waqar.

 

    Saifi was arrested on August 14, 2002. Under interrogation he claimed that the motive behind the attacks was retaliation against the United States for its invasion of Afghanistan and the treatment meted out to Muslims in Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Palestine. Ironically, what Saifi perhaps didn’t know at the time was that these attacks had been con­ceived earlier, by someone else, for an entirely different motive.

 

Saifi had been trained in terrorism at the Afghan camp of Maulana Masood Azhar (maulana means “cleric”). We had actually arrested this fake maulana in January 2002, when he was released by India as part of the bargain for their hijacked plane. Now he feared that we would hand him back to India. To preempt this, he instructed two more so-called maulanas, one of them his associate Abdul Jabbar, to unleash terrorist attacks in the country as a demonstration of his organization’s power and to display their anger at the possibility that he would be handed over to India.

 

Abdul Jabbar contacted Osama Nazir, who along with Saifi had been trained in Masood Azhar’s Afghan camp. He told Nazir to attack foreigners and Christians in Pakistan. But suddenly, just a few days before these attacks were due to take place, Masood Azhar ordered Abdul Jabbar to abort the plan. He claims that once he was satisfied he would not be handed over to India, he ordered the operation stopped.

 

Abdul Jabbar asked Nazir to abandon the plan, but perhaps because the disciple had become more fervent than the teacher, Nazir refused. Defiantly, he disassociated himself from Jaish-e7Mohammad and assembled about fifteen like-minded terrorists. He divided them into two groups: one headed by himself and the other by Saifi, who carefully planned the three attacks. The group headed by Saifi was called Fiday­een. It was Fidayeen that carried out these attacks.

 

Saifi was a highly indoctrinated person. Once he was arrested in Multan on August 15, 2002, he confessed that he also had links with Lashkar-e Jhangvi, the militant wing of the Sunni sectarian Sipah-e-Sahaba, and also al Qaeda. Thus did the nexus of al Qaeda and our local extremist organizations become clear: al Qaeda provided the money, weapons, and equipment, and the local organizations provided the manpower and motivation to actually execute the attacks. Further investigations also revealed that Azhar Masood’s brother-in-law, Yousuf Azhar, and Fazal Karim, who led us to Daniel Pearl’s grave, provided funds for these attacks. As for Osama Nazir, the explosives expert, he was arrested in Faisalabad in 2004 on Eid day, which takes place at the end of the holy month of Ramadan during which Muslims fast between dawn and dusk.

 

One other attack in 2002 struck terror into one of our cities. Once again, we tracked down the perpetrators and brought them to justice.

 

At seven forty-five AM on May 8, 2002, terror struck in Karachi when a bus of the Pakistan Navy pulled out of the Sheraton Hotel and a car driven by a suicide bomber rammed into it. A huge explosion shat­tered the bus, the hotel, and another hotel opposite. The bus had been carrying French engineers and technicians who were working on a submarine project. Eleven French nationals and two Pakistanis were killed. Twenty-four people were injured. Many vehicles nearby were damaged. The New Zealand cricket team was staying in the same hotel and was just about to leave for the playing field at the time. Luck­ily, none of the players was hurt, but all of them were so traumatized by the event that they called off the tour and went home.

 

A joint investigation was initiated between Pakistani investigators and their French counterparts. The suicide car was traced to a showroom in Karachi. A salesman at the showroom recalled having sold the car to three persons, whom he helped us sketch, but still we were no closer to finding the culprits. Our next break came in September, when a man who was already in our custody told investigators that he knew of an activist by the name of Sharib who had been intent on attacking the French technicians. Sharib was arrested on September 18, 2002. He denied involvement, but said he knew who was responsible. Two men-Asif Zaheer and Sohail Akhtar of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen al-Alimi (HUMA)-had planned the attack.

 

Next we arrested Asif Zaheer on December 28, 2002. He immedi­ately confessed to his involvement and told us the identity of the suicide bomber. Actually, Asif Zaheer claims that he was originally selected to be the suicide bomber but pulled out and offered a heavily indoctri­nated man called Rashid instead. It was not until March 17, 2004, that his accomplice Sohail Akhtar was arrested.

 

Three of the terrorists received the death penalty and their property was confiscated by Karachi’s antiterrorism court.

I was enraged by these heinous acts of barbarism-enraged that people who called themselves Muslims could launch an unprovoked attack on Christians or foreigners, enraged that through their vile acts these terrorists were perverting our faith, which tells us that Christians are among the “people of the Book,” that we should show discernment when fighting for the cause of God and not fight those who have not harmed us, that murder and suicide are grievous sins.

 

I assumed that we would face more attacks at home. Little did I realize that the targets would include me, and later our finance minister Shaukut Aziz, in addition to Lieutenant General Ahsan Saleem Hayat, our Karachi Corps commander. Although I am getting slightly ahead of our story, the latter two attacks are worth describing here, because they show once in that even a serious attack, with deadly power, can miss its target because of the smallest details of the moment.

 

Early on the morning of June 10, 2004, I was informed that there had been a serious attempt to assassinate our corps commander in Karachi, Lieutenant General Ahsan Saleem Hayat (who is now the vice chief of the army staff). This was most disturbing. The attempts against me, I believe, targeted me as the president of Pakistan more than as the chief of the army staff This was the first attack on a senior serving army offi­cer. In the war against terrorism, another threshold had been crossed.

 

I immediately telephoned Ahsan and found hire well composed, considering that seven of his guards and his driver had been killed. He gave me the story.

 

The general was on his way to work. Just as his car reached the bridge that connects the wealthy neighborhood of Clifton, near the Arabian Sea, to downtown Karachi, it was met with a hail of bullets. The military police jeep ahead of him bore the brunt of the attack, but kept moving. Sadly, all seven men in the jeep behind the corps com­mander’s car were killed. So were two innocent bystanders. The corps commander’s driver was shot in the head and seriously injured, while his co-driver was also shot, and died on the spot. Yet as luck would have it, even with the injury his foot stayed pressed hard on the accelerator, and the car did not stop. If it had stopped, the general would have been killed. Because of the attack, the traffic in front had disappeared, so there was nothing to stop the car. At first it started moving in a zigzag pattern, but Ahsan’s aide-de-camp, seated right behind the driver, leaned forward and got hold of the steering wheel.

 

The general’s assassins had planned the ambush carefully and carried it out meticulously. at went wrong had all to do with luck. His would-be assassins had placed an improvised explosive device on the road, which was to be triggered by a cell phone the moment his car went over it, the idea being that the car would come to a halt and they would let loose with their guns from two directions. But fate had its own plans. The phone call to activate the explosive device never con­nected, and Ahsan’s car went safely by it. In a panic, the assassins let loose their barrage of fire from the bridge, in front of the car, and also from the side, where they were hidden in an open lot. A failed phone connection, a dead driver’s foot on the accelerator, and the presence of mind of the aide-de-camp, who finally managed to jump in front and

take control of the car, robbed the attackers of their goal. 

 

This is how the plans of rats and terrorists come to naught.

Yet again our investigators found the cell phone. The terrorists had made a few calls on it before trying to activate the explosion. Given our previous experience, we quickly traced the calls to a particular house. When our investigators got there, they found that it was the house of the main planner of the assassination operation. He was there, and was arrested, but obstinately denied complicity, even in the face of the evidence from the cell phone’s call data. But his mother was there too, and she persuaded her son to cooperate. So one by one he called all the terrorists involved in the plot to his house, and one by one they were arrested. It all happened on the night following the attack. This is how the terrorist group Jundullah was smashed. It was a great break‑through, because this very group had been involved in several other high-profile terrorist attacks in Karachi.

 

    On July 30, 2004, Shaukat Aziz had finished addressing a by-election rally in his constituency, about an hour’s drive from Islamabad. There is always a crowd of people at successful political rallies, and this was no different. It’s uncanny, but a day earlier I had a hunch about Shaukat’s safety and had given him a bulletproof car from my pool. However, it had a left-hand drive, as in the United States, whereas most of our cars have right-hand steering. So the driver was sitting on the left side and Shaukat Aziz was sitting behind him. Just as the car started to move, a suicide bomber came through the milling crowd, placed himself a few

feet from the front left door of the car, raised his right arm, and blew himself up, causing a massive explosion.

 

A television cameraman fell to the ground, and his camera dropped from his hand. He got up and ran for his life, leaving behind the cam-era, which, understandably, must have been the farthest thing from his mind. But the camera kept running, pointing in the right direction and recording everything, but sideways, because it was lying on its side. We saw the suicide bomber’s head get torn off his shoulders, literally flying off like a kicked soccer ball. After it fell to the ground it looked like a coconut. The rest of his body was blown to pieces-a leg here, an arm there, the torso somewhere else.

 

Shaukat Aziz later told me that he had turned to his right to talk to the person seated next to him in the backseat. The suicide bomber was to his left, so Shaukat didn’t see him. Since the car was armor-plated, all he heard was a thud, just as I did in the first attempt to assassinate me. Hot air hit his left side, as if from a hair dryer, and the left side of his open jacket moved upward and down. The bomb had made a hole in the window of the driver’s door, and it was through this that the hot air from the bomb came in. Shaukat Aziz saw that his driver was slumped over and thought that he had fainted, so he caught the driver’s shoul­ders from behind and shook him to bring him back t4. his senses. But to his horror he discovered that the poor man was dead. A small piece of shrapnel from the bomb had penetrated the glass of the window and killed him.

 

When Shaukat Aziz escaped from his car, a police officer told him to run for cover, as in all likelihood a second assassin was around to either shoot him or attempt another bombing. That was the usual pattern. The police officer was right: there was indeed a second suicide bomber, although he abandoned his mission and ran away.

 

We came to know that there was a second bomber because before undertaking the operation, both assassins had recorded a video state­ment, which was obviously meant for us but also the world at large. From the video, it seems as if the one who actually blew himself up was the weaker personality-the gullible kind. It could well be that he had been indoctrinated to undertake this mission out of misplaced religious zeal. The runaway, on the other hand, looked smug and far too clever for his own or anyone else’s good. It seems that he was in the plot for the money; and when he saw his accomplice blown up, he left. He has still not been found.

 

Inter Services Intelligence and the police jointly undertook the investigation. The body parts of the suicide bomber had been scattered all over the place, but as is often the case, his head and face were mostly intact. On the inside of his shirt collar was a label that read “Arif Tailor” from a place called Attock (Campbellpur). The police traced Arif the tailor and took him and his workers into custody. Measurements were taken of various parts of the assassin’s dismembered body, and these matched the specifications in the tailor’s register for one of his cus­tomers. The suicide bomber’s thumb impression was also taken from his hand, given to our national database organization, and matched with 67,000 thumb impressions of people from Attock. The list was soon narrowed down to one individual: a twenty-two-year-old Paki­stani named Irfan who, we soon found out, went by the pseudonym Zeeshan.

 

Our suspicions were soon confirmed when an activist of Jaish-e-Mohammad who was already in our custody gave us some valuable leads. On the basis of these leads a number of activists from Jaish were arrested and interrogated. It turned out that Maulvi (a variation of maulana) Imtiaz Ahmed had spearheaded the operation. Although Maulvi Imtiaz Ahmed was a member ofJaish, he also had links with al Qaeda. A day before the assassination attempt, Maulvi Imtiaz brought the two would-be assassins to the house of yet another purported maulvi called Nisar and gave them their final instructions. The next day, the two of them tied explosive belts to their bodies and each took one hand grenade as well. The second suicide bomber was a twenty-five­year-old, Sultan Sikandar. Having fled the scene after Zeeshan had blown himself up, Sikandar went to Maulvi Nisar’s house and returned the belt and hand grenade. He spent the night there, then shaved off his beard, left, and disappeared. We later recovered his belt and found that it was an improvised device fitted with about fifteen pounds (seven kilograms) of explosives wrapped in tinfoil and put into synthetic packets.

 

I was impressed by the way Shaukat Aziz conducted himself during and after the attempt on his life. A general of the Pakistan Army is trained to face bullets and bombs, but Shaukat Aziz was a banker in New York before he came to Pakistan. Yet he handled himself with great equanimity and self-control, and my already high regard for him went up even more. ‘Welcome to the club,” I said to him when I phoned him after he reached home. We are still a club of two in Pak­istan, and hopefully its membership is closed.

 

Written by

Pervez Musharraf

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