Jaish e Muhammed Commander Killed

Police and the Indian 44th Rashtriya Rifles killed a JeM commander in a sweep of Ladkigam Drubgam. The sweep came after intelligence indicated the presence of Jaish e Muhammed in the village, and during the ensuing firefight the JeM commander, Abdul Gani Dar, son of Habibullah Dar of Frisipora Pulwama, was killed.

From Etalaat.net

Baitullah Mehsud Denies Assasination

UPDATE: Let’s get the record and chronology straight — first a lot of press people are getting things wrong. Baitullah Mehsud is self-declared Taliban, of the Pakistani, not Afghan flavor. He is loosely aligned with Al Qaeda, and agrees with them on things, and there seems to be mutual support on occasions.

They are not however welded at the hip, and it’s wrong to call him Al Qaeda. At one point last summer, Baitullah led the tribal alliance of the Mehsuds to expel AQ “foreign fighters” from his region in South Waziristan. At other points there seems to have been mutual support and jobs for each other. This was notable in multiple indicators of both Mehsud and Al Qaeda involvement at the Red Mosque, or Lal Masjid.

Baitullah now leads the combined groups of Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek e Taliban. This was announced earlier this month. He’s denying culpability, Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is claiming credit for the assasination. I find it hard to believe that he had zero involvement as he does have contacts and traffic with Lashkar e Jhangvi, a group under the Harkut ul Jamiyaat Islami (HuJI) umbrella that’s high on the suspect list for this. JI and HuJI have declared allegiance directly to AQ in October, Baitullah has not directly declared allegiance that I have seen. (Someone please correct me here if I missed that.)

Bill Roggio has come up with the best acronmyn for these knit together but disparate groups: Al Qaeda and Aligned Movements, or AQAM.  

As I was suspecting he would, Baitullah Mehsud has denied involvement in the assasination of Benazir Bhutto. There are four probable reasons:

  1. He’s in a delicate position – open alliance with AQ would sap from his regional support.
  2. It keeps the conspiracy theorists humming, feeding political intrigue and dissension.
  3. To protect himself – the backlash from this against the culprit once found will be terrific.
  4. Or maybe he just didn’t do it.

It’s unlikely that he had zero involvement, the message intercept posted yesterday had names in it, and places. While the government could fake this, it’s doubtful that they would use real names and places if they contrived it because those can be checked.

As the new leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban Baitullah’s in charge of a fractious alliance of Pakistani Taliban groups, some who aren’t going to like the way this has unfolded, and who aren’t fond of being directly allied with Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda made clear claim of ordering this action — Baitullah having performed the assasination under their orders would show a definite alliance, which is something that Baitullah can’t afford in South Waziristan where antipathy towards the foreigners, including Al Qaeda, is still high.

Fueling political intrigue seems to be behind the denial judging from the statement of the spokesperson for Baitullah:

In a telephone conversation with Kyodo News, Baitullah Mehsud’s spokesman Maulvi Umar said that Bhutto was killed for political considerations.

“Benazir Bhutto was assassinated clearly by people who wanted to gain politically from her death. This is the work of (intelligence) agencies and the Pakistani government,” he said.

Maulvi Umar said the Pakistani government is blaming Mehsud to bring the Pakistani Taliban into disrepute in Pakistan and crush their growing power.

He said the Pakistani Taliban shared the grief of the people of Pakistan and the world at large at the assassination of Bhutto.

I find the “Taliban sharing the grief of the people” bit to be well… bullshit. Baitullah has directly threatened to assasinate Benazir in the past, and he’s still on my suspect list.

More at Pat Dollard’s

Will Al Qaeda also Murder Cricket in Pakistan?

australian-cricket2.jpgThe Australian Cricket team is considering canceling their tour of Pakistan in March, which will effectively cancel three tests and five one-day games. From Malaysia Sun:

Melbourne, Dec.29 : The Australian cricket team is almost certain to cancel a tour of Pakistan this March.

Cricket Australia said it was monitoring the situation, but stark warnings posted on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website yesterday strongly advised against visits.

“We continue to receive a stream of credible reports indicating terrorists are in the advanced stages of planning attacks. These attacks could target Western or Australian interests and individuals and places frequented by foreigners,” The Australian quoted the Foreign Office advisory, as saying.

Australia is due to leave in mid-March to play three Tests and five one-day games.

Players have expressed reservations about the tour even before the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Test batsman Michael Clarke said he would leave the decision to the Australian Cricketers Association and Cricket Australia.

“We are out of our depths, it’s something we probably shouldn’t even comment on because we don’t know enough about it, or I certainly don’t know enough about it,” The Australian quoted Clarke, as saying.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said yesterday his Government would provide advice to the cricketers.

“Our first and foremost concern, like Cricket Australia’s, is the safety and security of the Australian cricket team and we will be providing, through the Government, every source of information necessary for Cricket Australia to be making an informed judgment about the future of that particular tour,” he said.

More at IHT — it’s not just Australia worried.

All Parties Committee to Discuss Pakistani Elections

The government has decided to host an all party committee meeting to discuss how the upcoming elections should be held. I would wager that they are wanting postponement, and to give PPP some grace to put forth a new candidate for Prime Minister.

Above and beyond that one attendee at the discussion stated that it regardless of the problems in the wake of Benazir’s assasination that it would be impossible to call emergency rule again. This is a wise choice, it would be the exact thing that Al Qaeda was trying to provoke. From Dawn:

ISLAMABAD, Dec 27: The government has decided not to re-impose emergency in the country and instead call an All Parties Conference (APC) to decide about the elections, scheduled to be held on Jan 8, sources told Dawn on Thursday.

They said the decision in this respect was taken at a high-level meeting presided over by President Pervez Musharraf. Sources said the president has asked Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro to immediately hold an APC to seek the consent of all political parties in the country on the issue.

It was decided in the meeting that whatever the decision would be taken by the APC about the elections would be welcomed by the government.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz who also attended the meeting gave detail about the decision taken in it, saying there was no possibility to again impose emergency in the country. “Despite severe reaction of the people on the sad demise of Benazir Bhutto there is no possibility of imposition of emergency again in the country,” he added.

Asked whether the option of postponement of election was discussed in the meeting, he said, it was not come under discussion.

For several reasons the party leaders and stalwarts of the Pakistani People’s Party need to get the party and their people under control. While it is a terrible event, the longer the rage and frustration runs the more property and infrastructure gets destroyed. It is like an earthquake made of angry people, and it must subside.

If it does not the rest of Pakistan will judge that the PPP is out of control, and perhaps not fit to govern. The leaders must regain charge, get a message out to stop the violence, burning, and looting.

The Election Commission will also be meeting Monday to see what steps are next, the PPP needs to come up with a plan, they can’t do that if everyone is still raging.

From Malaysia Sun:

Islamabad, Dec 29 : The Election Commission (EC) of Pakistan is convening an emergency meeting on Monday, suggesting the possibility of the January 8 parliamentary elections being postponed.

According to a report, the prevailing law and order situation has prevented the EC from sending poll materials across the country.

The law and order situation has worsened following the assassination of Benazir Bhutoo in Rawalpinidi. Supporters of Bhutto have gone a violent rampage across the country since her death on Thursday.

Eight offices of the EC were burnt in Sindh Province and all election materials was destroyed, The News reported.