MI-6 could be the reason behind Pakistan’s U-turn on Masood Azhar
On Dec. 9 GEO TV reported the Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar told an Indian TV channel that the chief of Jaish-e-Muhammad Maulana Masood Azhar is under house arrest. The New York Times carried the same story citing Mukhtar’s interview to CNN-IBN. Later on Dec. 12, DAWN carried a front page story saying Maulana Masood Azhar is mostly confined to his home town of Bahawalpur.
On Dec. 17, APP reported that Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that Maulana Masood Azhar is not in custody of Government of Pakistan. Replying to a question, the Foreign Minister explained that Pakistan has taken enough steps to arrest the culprits involved in terrorist activities. He said, “Maulana Masood Azhar is wanted by the Government of Pakistan, but he is not in our custody and he is at large.”
It appears to be a U-turn or a worse; a comical mistake that two senior ministers have contradicted each other in a matter of days on such a sensitive matter. But it is more likely that there is a very serious reason behind this. One could speculate that this U-turn has been made under the ISI’s pressure. But what about MI-6, the British secret service?
Masood Azhar’s name was on the list of people whose extradition has been demanded by India. Masood Azhar is on India’s most wanted list due to his long list of terror activities. India arrested him in 1994 and imprisoned him for being a member of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen.
In December 1999, he was freed by the Indian government in exchange for passengers on the hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814 (IC814) that was held hostage in Kandahar, Afghanistan, under Taliban control. Masood Azhar’s outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed was later alleged to had carried out a string of deadly attacks against Indian targets, including the attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001 that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of a full-scale war.
Following the September 11 attacks, when the USA compelled Pakistan by threatening the then dictator Pervez Musharaf to act against anti-US organizations operating from Pakistani soil, Masood Azhar was detained for a year by Pakistani authorities in connection with the Indian parliament attack, but was never formally charged.
Omar Saeed Sheikh was a close associate of Masood Azhar. He too was arrested and served time in prison for the 1994 abduction of several British nationals in India, an act which he acknowledged. Omar too was freed by the Indian government, along with Masood Azhar, in exchange for passengers on the hijacked Indian Airlines Flight. Masood and Omar addressed public meetings in Pakistan after their release.
Omar Saeed Sheikh is in Hyderabad (Sind) jail still awaiting the disposal of his appeal against the death sentence given to him in 2002, for his role in the kidnapping and murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. He is reported to enjoy comfortable living conditions in the jail.
Omar Saeed Sheikh was declared to be a rogue or double agent by General Musharraf in his book. According to Musharraf, Omar was recruited by MI-6. While the media has castigated the ISI for long, the role of MI-6 has not received the scrutiny and coverage it deserves.
Another person related to Masood Azhar is Rashid Rauf. Rauf was married to a relative of Maulana Masood Azhar. One of Rauf’s brothers, Tayib Rauf, was among those arrested in Britain, although he was later released without charges. Rashid was a dual citizen of Britain and Pakistan who was arrested in Bhawalpur, Pakistan in connection with the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot in August 2006; a day before some arrests were made in Britain. He was declared to be one of the ringleaders of the alleged plot.
It was later revealed that there was hardly a plot. The whole drama was engineered at the personal instance of Dick Cheney, according to a well documented account by Ron Suskind in his book, The Way of the World.
In December 2006, the terrorism charges were dropped. On December 14, 2007, Rashid Rauf mysteriously escaped after attending a court hearing. Authorities said that he escaped after freeing himself from handcuffs. Rauf was reportedly killed by a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan on November 22, 2008. but no proof has been found that he was actually killed. His family denied that he was killed.
The whole affair beginning from the ‘transatlantic flight bomb plot’ to the mysterious dropping of charges against Rashid and his brother, and to the ‘escape’ of Rashid is shrouded in mystery.
It is possible that the MI-6 does not want Masood Azhar to be extradited to India because he might reveal things that might cause a lot of trouble to the British government. This is not the only case of the involvement of MI-6 with the so-called Islamic militants. In 2005, a top former US government prosecutor and US Army intelligence officer John Loftus had told Fox TV that Haroon Rachid Aswat, a key player in London’s July 2005 bombing, worked for MI-6 and that it helped him escape. John Loftus enjoyed exceptionally high secuirty clearance levels, including access to nuclear codes, when he served the US government.
Would the media start to cover what is the hidden side of terrorism? The role of MI-6 and the CIA!