Seymour Hersh dishes on Saudi oil money bribes and the killing of Osama Bin Laden


(This interview is republished here with due permission from AlterNet. It was first published here)

Seymour Hersh is an American investigative journalist who is the recipient of many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for his article exposing the My Lai massacre by the U.S. military in Vietnam. More recently, he exposed the U.S. government’s abuse of detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison facility.

Hersh’s new book, The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, is a corrective to the official account of the war on terror. Drawing from accounts of a number of high-level military officials, Hersh challenges a number of commonly accepted narratives: that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the Sarin gas attack in Ghouta; that the Pakistani government didn’t know Bin Laden was in the country; that the late ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in a solely diplomatic capacity; and that Assad did not want to give up his chemical weapons until the U.S. called on him to do so.

Ken Klippenstein: In the book you describe Saudi financial support for the compound in which Osama Bin Laden was being kept in Pakistan. Was that Saudi government officials, private individuals or both?

Seymour Hersh: The Saudis bribed the Pakistanis not to tell us [that the Pakistani government had Bin Laden] because they didn’t want us interrogating Bin Laden (that’s my best guess), because he would’ve talked to us, probably. My guess is, we don’t know anything really about 9/11. We just don’t know. We don’t know what role was played by whom.

KK: So you don’t know if the hush money was from the Saudi government or private individuals?

SH: The money was from the government … what the Saudis were doing, so I’ve been told, by reasonable people (I haven’t written this) is that they were also passing along tankers of oil for the Pakistanis to resell. That’s really a lot of money.

KK: For the Bin Laden compound?

SH: Yeah, in exchange for being quiet. The Paks traditionally have done security for both Saudi Arabia and UAE.

KK: Do you have any idea how much Saudi Arabia gave Pakistan in hush money?

SH: I have been given numbers, but I haven’t done the work on it so I’m just relaying. I know it was certainly many—you know, we’re talking about four or five years—hundreds of millions [of dollars]. But I don’t have enough to tell you.

KK: You quote a retired U.S. official as saying the Bin Laden killing was “clearly and absolutely a premeditated murder” and a former SEAL commander as saying “by law we know what we’re doing inside Pakistan is homicide.”

Do you think Bin Laden was deprived of due process?

SH: [Laughs] He was a prisoner of war! The SEALs weren’t proud of that mission; they were so mad it was outed…I know a lot about what they think and what they thought and what they were debriefed, I will tell you that. They were very unhappy about the attention paid to that because they went in and it was just a hit.

Look, they’ve done it before. We do targeted assassinations. That’s what we do. They understood—the SEALs—that if they were captured by the Pakistani police authorities, they could be tried for murder. They understood that.

KK: Why didn’t they apprehend Bin Laden? Can you imagine the intelligence we could have gotten from him?

SH: The Pakistani high command said go kill him, but for chrissake don’t leave a body, don’t arrest him, just tell them a week later that you killed him in Hindu Kush. That was the plan.

Many sections, particularly in the Urdu-speaking sections, were really very positive about Bin Laden. Significant percentages in some areas supported Bin Laden. They [the Pakistani government] would’ve been under great duress if the average person knew that they’d helped us kill him.

KK: How did it hurt U.S./Pakistan relations when, as you point out in your book, Obama violated his promise not to mention Pakistan’s cooperation with the assassination?

SH: We spend a lot of time with [Pakistani] generals Pasha and Kayani, the head of the army and ISI, the intelligence service. Why? Why are we so worried about Pakistan? Because they have [nuclear] bombs. … at least 100, probably more. And we want to think that they’re going to share what they know with us and they’re not hiding it.

We don’t really know everything we think we know and they don’t tell us everything… so when he [Obama] is doing that, he’s really messing around with the devil in a sense.

…. He [Bin Laden] had wives and children there. Did we ever get to them? No. We never got to them. Just think about all the things we didn’t do. We didn’t get to any of the wives, we didn’t do much interrogation, we let it go.

There are people that know much more about this and I wish they would talk, but they don’t.

KK: You write that Obama authorized a ratline wherein CIA funneled arms from Libya into Syria and they ended up in jihadi hands. [According to Hersh, this operation was coordinated via the Benghazi consulate where U.S. ambassador Stevens was killed.] What was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s role in this given her significant role in Libya?

SH: The only thing we know is that she was very close to Petraeus who was the CIA director at the time … she’s not out of the loop, she knows when there’s covert ops. … That ambassador who was killed, he was known as a guy, from what I understand, as somebody who would not get in the way of the CIA. As I wrote, on the day of the mission he was meeting with the CIA base chief and the shipping company. He was certainly involved, aware and witting of everything that was going on. And there’s no way somebody in that sensitive of a position is not talking to the boss, by some channel.

KK: In the book you quote a former intelligence official as saying that the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the Joint Chiefs as being insufficiently painful to the Assad regime. (You note that the original targets included military sites only—nothing by way of civilian infrastructure.) Later the White House proposed a target list that included civilian infrastructure.

What would the toll to civilians have been if the White House’s proposed strike had been carried out?

SH: Do you really think that at any time this is discussed? You know who’s sanest on this: Dan Ellsberg. When I first met Dan, it was way early—in ’70, ’71, during the Vietnam War. I think I met him before the Pentagon Papers were around. I remember him telling me that he asked that question at a meeting while planning the war [regarding B-52 targets] and nobody had even looked at it.

You really don’t get a very good hard, objective look. You can see a movie in which they seem to do it, but that’s not really so.

I don’t know if [regarding Syria] they looked at collateral damage and noncombatants, but I do know that in wars in the past, that’s never been a big issue. … you’re talking about the country that dropped the second bomb on Nagasaki.

KK: In a recent interview with the Atlantic, Obama characterized his foreign policy as “Don’t do stupid shit.”

SH: I read the Jeff Goldberg piece…and it of course drove me nuts, but that’s something else.

KK: As you point out in your book, Obama originally wanted to remove Assad. Isn’t that the definition of stupid? The power vacuum that would ensue would open Syria up to all kinds of jihadi groups.

SH: God knows I can’t tell you why anybody does anything. I’m not inside their head. I can tell you that the same question was asked by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs—Dempsey—which is why I was able to write that story about their going, indirectly, behind his [Obama’s] back because nobody could figure out why.

I don’t know why we persist on living in the Cold War, but we do. Russia actually did a very good job. They not only did the bombing that was more effective than what we do, I think that’s fair to say. Russia also did stuff that was sort of more subtle and more interesting: they renewed the Syrian army. They took many major units of the Syrian army offline, gave them R&R and re-equipped them. Got new arms, got a couple weeks off, then they came back, got more training and became a much better army.

I think in the beginning, there’s just no question, we wanted to get rid of Bashar. I think they misread the whole resistance. Wikileaks is very good on this…there’s enough State Department documents that show that from 2003 on, we really had a policy—not very subtle, not violent, but millions of dollars given to opposition people. We certainly were not a nonpartisan foreign government inside Syria.

Our policy has always been against him [Assad]. Period.

One of the things that comes across just in the current stories about all the travails we’re having about ISIS allegedly running all these terror teams in Brussels and in the suburbs of Paris… it’s very clear, ironically, that one of the things France and Belgium (and a lot of other countries) did was after the Syrian civil war began, if you wanted to go there and fight there in 2011-2013, ‘Go, go, go… overthrow Bashar!’

So they actually pushed a lot of people to go. I don’t think they were paying for them but they certainly gave visas. And they would spend four or five months, come back and do organized crime and get in jail and next thing you know they’re killing people. There’s a real pattern there.

I do remember when the war began in 2003, our war against Baghdad, I was in Damascus working for The New Yorker then and I saw Bashar and one of the things he told me, he said, ‘Look, we’ve got a bunch of radical kids and if they want to go fight, if they want to leave the mosque here in Damascus and go fight in Baghdad, we said fine! We even gave them buses!’

So there’s always been a tremendous, Why does America do what it does? Why do we not say to the Russians, Let’s work together?

KK: So why don’t we work closer with Russia? It seems so rational.

SH: I don’t know. I would also say, why wasn’t the first door we knocked on after 9/11, Russia’s? They just had a terrible 10-year war with Chechnya. Believe me, the Chechen influence in the Sunni world in terms of jihadism is strong. For example I’ve been told by my friends in the intelligence community that al-Baghdadi (who runs ISIS) is surrounded by a lot of guys with experience in Chechnya. A lot of people involved in that operation did.

So who knows the most about jihadism? You look at it from the Russian point of view—we never like looking at things from other people’s point of view.

KK: In the book you quote a Joint Chiefs of Staff adviser who said that Brennan told the Saudis to stop arming the extremist rebels in Syria and their weapons will dry up—which seems like a rational request—but then, you point out, the Saudis ramped up arms support.

Seymour Hersh: That’s true.

KK: Did the U.S. do anything to punish the Saudis for it?

SH: Nothing. Of course not. No, no. I’ll tell you what’s going on right now … al Nusra, certainly a jihadist group… has new arms. They’ve got some tanks now—I think the Saudis are supplying stuff. They’ve got tanks now, have a lot of arms, and are staging some operations around Aleppo. There’s a ceasefire and even though they’re not part of it, they obviously took advantage of the ceasefire to resupply. It’s going to be bloody.

KK: Just to be clear, the U.S. hasn’t done anything to punish or at least disincentivize the Saudis from arming our enemies in Syria?

SH: Quite the contrary. The Saudis and Qatar and the Turks put money into those arms [sent to Syrian jihadis].

You’re asking the right questions. Do we say anything? No. Turkey’s Erdogan has played a complete double game: for years he supported and accommodated ISIS. The border was wide open—Hatay Province—guys were going back and forth, bad guys. We know Erdogan’s deeply involved. He’s changing his tune slightly but he’s been deeply involved in this.

Let me talk to you about the sarin story [the sarin gas attack in Ghouta, a suburb near Damascus, which the U.S. government attributed to the Assad regime] because it really is in my craw.  In this article that was this long series of interviews [of Obama] by Jeff Goldberg…he says, without citing the source (you have to presume it was the president because he’s talking to him all the time) that the head of National Intelligence, General [James] Clapper, said to him very early after the [sarin] incident took place, “Hey, it’s not a slam dunk.”

You have to understand in the intelligence community—Tenet [Bush-era CIA director who infamously said Iraqi WMD was a “slam dunk”] is the one who said that about the war in Baghdad—that’s a serious comment. That means you’ve got a problem with the intelligence. As you know I wrote a story that said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs told the president that information the same day. I now know more about it.

The president’s explanation for [not bombing Syria] was that the Syrians agreed that night, rather than be bombed, they’d give up their chemical weapons arsenal, which in this article in the Atlantic, Goldberg said they [the Syrians] had never disclosed before. This is ludicrous. Lavrov [Russia’s Foreign Minister] and Kerry had talked about it for a year—getting rid of the arsenal—because it was under threat from the rebels.

The issue was not that they [the Syrians] suddenly caved in. [Before the Ghouta attack] there was a G-20 summit and Putin and Bashar met for an hour. There was an official briefing from Ben Rhodes and he said they talked about the chemical weapons issue and what to do. The issue was that Bashar couldn’t pay for it—it cost more than a billion bucks. The Russians said, ‘Hey, we can’t pay it all. Oil prices are going down and we’re hurt for money.’ And so, all that happened was we agreed to handle it. We took care of a lot of the costs of it.

Guess what? We had a ship, it was called the Cape Maid, it was parked out in the Med. The Syrians would let us destroy this stuff [the chemical weapons]… there was 1,308 tons that was shipped to the port…and we had, guess what, a forensic unit out there. Wouldn’t we like to really prove—here we have all his sarin and we had sarin from what happened in Ghouta, the UN had a team there and got samples—guess what?

It didn’t match. But we didn’t hear that. I now know it, I’m going to write a lot about it.

Guess what else we know from the forensic analysis we have (we had all the missiles in their arsenal). Nothing in their arsenal had anything close to what was on the ground in Ghouta. A lot of people I know, nobody’s going to go on the record, but the people I know said we couldn’t make a connection, there was no connection between what was given to us by Bashar and what was used in Ghouta. That to me is interesting. That doesn’t prove anything, but it opens up a door to further investigation and further questioning.

(This interview was lightly edited for readability)

(Ken Klippenstein is an American journalist who can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

Pakistan being killed by its military


The Pakistan military has abundantly demonstrated that it cannot abandon the jihadi outfits till it amalgamates India’s Jammu & Kashmir and till it imposes its own regime in Kabul in perpetuity. Hence the Pakistan government may have no status or influence in country’s foreign policy but for the Pakistan military the jihadi tanzims are an important strategic component.

We have provided the proof on Pathankot attack. It is clinching. The US and the NATO countries seem to be more than convinced. Call records, DNA samples, voice samples have been given to the Pakistan team. But how does DNA sample matter to a country without any DNA. Pakistan probably believes that there is no proof unless you catch a Pakistani jihadi alive and it is no proof even if you catch someone alive like Ajmal Kasab.

We know the wont of Pakistan. The world knows the wont of Pakistan. We delude ourselves not with any hope but because we live in a damn international system, which boasts of functioning under rules and parameters, but certainly not on merit and justice. The prevailing world order thrives on hypocrisy. India has no choice but to navigate through it.

The powers that be are worried about nuclear weapons in the hands of jihadis, primarily because that endangers them too. In this regard, Pakistan is their biggest rather their only suspect and concern. As long as Pakistan exists in its present mould, the danger would fester. Hence, there is a need to defang Pakistan off its nuclear weapons.

It was a forgone conclusion that the Nuclear Security Summit at Washington held in the first week of April was to be overwhelmingly focused on Pakistan. Accordingly, the Pakistan military, the custodian of nuclear weapons, suffering from prosecution complex, made it impossible for Nawaz Sharif to go for the Summit. Nawaz is the Prime Minister of Pakistan and like all other prime ministers he has little control over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme. The attack on Pathankot airbase therefore was with the objective of sabotaging his participation in the Summit. The military’s facade of sharing Pathankot intelligence was to win the goodwill of US and its allies before the Summit. It was a ploy to buy temporary reprieve. Its aim was to take the sting out of the global concern about the insecurity and proliferation aspects of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Having lulled Nawaz Sharif and the US in run-up to the Summit, the Pakistan military then pulled the rug under the feet of Nawaz Sharif by conjuring Kulbhushan Jadhav and back tracking on the investigation after the visit of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to Pathankot.

It cost nothing to the military-intelligence establishment in unleashing the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) cadres on Pathankot. All jihadi tanzims including the JeM are part of the ‘Jihadi-Narco-Terror Network’. They sustain on drug money and have cross border operatives and beneficiaries including in the security establishment.

As per the script, when the moment arrived of proscribing the JeM, the Chinese used their Veto power to salvage Pakistan and redeem Maulana Masood Azhar.

The preferential treatment to JeM or say mollycoddling of Masood Azhar, a Punjabi, incited the Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) comprising mainly Pashtuns to subject Iqbal Park in Lahore to suicide attack in which more than 70 people were killed including women and children. The TTP has mainly been bearing the onslaught of the Pakistan Army all over the country including in FATA where operation Zarb-e-Azb has rendered thousands homeless and has orphaned countless children. The blow back in Punjab was thus expected. The JIT drama thus cost Pakistan heavily.

Pakistan, particularly the military is a prisoner of its own jihadi agenda. Jihadi organizations have ensured that India-Pakistan enmity is effectively translated into ‘Hindu versus Muslim’ narrative. Jihad inherently has global designs; it cannot be confined against one country. It is for this reason that many jihadi outfits have rebelled against the narrow narrative of Pakistan military and turned hostile to the Pakistan State. They have refused to be slaves of ‘Pakistan versus India’ or ‘Pakistan versus Afghan government’ agenda. The ISIS therefore has great future in Pakistan or may be even the Indian Subcontinent.

Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed are basically global jihadis. The latest reports based on the archival research of the BBC reveal that Azhar had extensively toured UK in 1993. He delivered some 40 speeches in different mosques, predominantly Deobandi. It may be mentioned that more than 40 percent of mosques in Britain are under the control of Deobandis. The report suggests that Azhar was the first to fan the ideology of modern jihadist militancy in Britain.

A serious question emerges why did China, tormented by Uighur jihadists in Xinjiang and has recently banned burqas in the capital city of Urmuqi come to the aid of JeM and Pakistan by using its Veto (1:14). Plausibly there are two reasons, i.e. first, the Chinese would like to keep India unsettled through Pak jihadi outfits, as it makes strategic thrust through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and all the way to Gwadar port through Pakistan’s longer axis by way of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Secondly, both Pakistan and China need the goodwill and indulgence of Punjab based militant groups for security of the CPEC. Amongst the highway networks envisaged for the CPEC, the stretch between Lahore and Karachi has been designated as a ‘priority project’, while the Eastern highway Abbottabad – Quetta (linking finally to Gwadar port) has been designated a ‘short term project’. The Lahore-Karachi segment passes close to Bahawalpur area, which is under the influence of JeM. No one should underestimate the influence of these jihadi groups in Punjab. It has recently been in evidenced after the massive outpour of support after the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, killer of former Punjab Governor Salmaan Tasir, and the popularity of parallel Shariat courts run by Hafiz Saeed’s JuD.

In the international fora, ignominy is not new to Pakistan. Nevertheless, the latitude to Pakistan by the US and its allies, notwithstanding the exigencies in Afghanistan, is inexplicable. China on the other hand is known for pursuing its strategic agenda and foreign policy objectives though rouge states like North Korea. Pakistan in China’s reckoning belongs to the same category. As long as jihadi outfits thrive, Pakistan will continue to be the rouge and the client state that China desires.

The Pakistan military has abundantly demonstrated that it cannot abandon the jihadi outfits till it amalgamates India’s J&K and till it imposes its own regime in Kabul in perpetuity. Hence the Pakistan government may have no status or influence in country’s foreign policy but for the Pakistan military the jihadi tanzims are an important strategic component.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s so called ‘impromptu’ visit to Pakistan was one way by Nawaz Sharif to make a serious bid to claim his legitimate role in determining the foreign policy of the country. The battle is on.

The disconnect between the government and the Pakistan military has cast dark shadows over Pakistan’s nation-state status. The Army is controlling Karachi, it is bombing FATA, it is facing insurgency in Baluchistan, it is deployed in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and now after JIT affair in Punjab, which with 50 percent of the population and 70 percent of the Army is the heart of Pakistan. Never in the history of Pakistan has the Army been so bedeviled internally. Never before has it been so stretched. It is unable to cope up the blowback of jihad against India and Afghanistan. 61 hangings by the military courts in Pakistan have not given any respite from the blowback.

It is not in India’s interest in containing the blowback jihad or makes things easy for Pakistan’s military. The JIT affair had in consequence triggered the most devastating blowback in Iqbal Park in Lahore.

Khaled Ahmed, a respected Pakistan columnist, earlier in Pakistan’s Foreign Service had a decade earlier observed: “Pakistan is falling, because it is a warrior state and is not supposed to last. It is wedded to the ideal of war in which ideological rulers accept the possibility of annihilation (Shahddat), as a consequence of righteous war.”

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

All that you wanted to know about Panama Papers

On April 7, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted: “The next 24 hours could change Britain”. He also posted a link to an article from The Guardian which carried a news report “David Cameron admits he profited from father’s offshore fund”. A host of world leaders are in the dock since the release of Panama Papers. A political crisis has erupted in Iceland too, where protesters are demanding the ouster of PM Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson after his name appeared in the leaked papers.

In what is being termed as one of the biggest leak of confidential documents globally, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on April 3 started the release of documents which exposed how rich and powerful people around the world exploit secret offshore tax havens.

According to the information on its website, ICIJ is a global network of more than 190 investigative journalists in more than 65 countries who collaborate on in-depth investigative stories.

The documents released by ICIJ belong to one of the biggest offshore law firm based out of Panama, Mossack Fonseca. According to available information, the data was leaked to a German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung by an anonymous source, which they later shared with ICIJ. The size of the data obtained by ICIJ is 2.6 terabyte (600 DVDs) and has 11.5 million files concerning around 214,488 offshore companies run by about 14000 people.

Out of the total 11.5 million files, so far (till April 8) only 186 files have been released. The documents released so far have revealed names of political leaders who have used offshore tax havens to hide their money. Close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistan’s PM Nawaz Sharif, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, Son of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and former interim PM of Iraq Ayad Allawi are some of the people whose names have cropped up in the Panama Papers.

A controversy, however, has erupted post the expose as there have been allegations from some quarters that the release of Panama Papers does not include any American names. The Russian government has said that the Panama Papers were released to target President Vladimir Putin. During a TV discussion on Russia Today involving WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson it was also pointed out that ICIJ, interestingly, “was funded by Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment think tank, the Rockefellers and George Soros”. A news report on the same media outlet, quoting former whistleblowers from CIA and MI5, questioned the motive of the ‘Western Media’ in portraying President Putin as the face of Panama Papers leak.

Wikileaks has also called for the simultaneous release of all 11.5 million files and have raised doubts about the selective release of documents. According to the whistleblowing group, the Panama Papers should be available to general public on a platform so that everybody can search the data and not just a group of journalists.

There is also debate on the real impact of this release. We have had Offshore leaks, Luxemburg Leaks, Swiss Leaks in the past but those are forgotten now. Everybody got away. Moreover, Panama is not the only tax haven, there are others like Cayman Island, Cyprus, British Virgin Islands among others. More than anything, the United States of America is the new emerging tax haven for people wanting to hide their money.

A January 27, 2016 news report in the Bloomberg stated:

“After years of lambasting other countries for helping rich Americans hide their money offshore, the U.S. is emerging as a leading tax and secrecy haven for rich foreigners. By resisting new global disclosure standards, the U.S. is creating a hot new market, becoming the go-to place to stash foreign wealth. Everyone from London lawyers to Swiss trust companies is getting in on the act, helping the world’s rich move accounts from places like the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands to Nevada, Wyoming, and South Dakota.”

An article is US digital platform Salon states:

“What we have not yet seen is any U.S. individual implicated in the leak, which seems unlikely given our stable of international wealth. The editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung, the German newspaper which first received the documents, promises there will be more to come. But one reason why Americans haven’t yet been implicated is that they already have a perfectly good place for their tax avoidance schemes: right here in the United States.”

So will the latest release have any impact on the ground? As of now, it seems that it will impact countries that are politically fragile (Ukraine, Pakistan), will result in loss of face for ruling dispensation (Iceland, United Kingdom), and will have negligible or little impact in counties like Russia and China. Also, the move to regulate and monitor offshore tax havens have been going on since a long time and the latest leak will no doubt give more fillip to these international efforts.

There are many more files that will be released in the coming days but to give more credibility to the entire process and address the allegations of Western conspiracy, it makes sense for an organization like Wikileaks to obtain the entire cache of 11.5 million files and publish it on their platform.

Who else can destabilise Pakistan?


Since the abduction of the Indian Navy Commander (Retd) Kulbhushan Jadhav, the officialdom and the media of Pakistan has been on an overdrive in peddling narratives like: “Indian spy admits R&AW destabilising Pakistan”, “Jadhav’s confession is a solid proof of Indian state sponsored terror”. Pakistan’s script does not even spare Iran, in that it accuses Jadhav of carrying an Iranian visa and use its territory to destabilise Pakistan in the garb of business activities.

Significantly, the unfolding of this poorly written Pakistani script coincides with the visit of the Pakistani members as part of the Joint Investigation Team to probe the attack on Pathankot airbase by jihadis owing allegiance to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). The sinister opportunity of the release of Jadhav’s so-called confessional video coinciding the ongoing joint investigation was not lost out on New York Times which called it ‘notable’. It also coincided with the visit of the Iranian President Rouhani to Pakistan. The Pakistani media and the officialdom touted that use of Iranian soil by India for destabilising Pakistan was vigorously discussed during the interlocution with the visiting Iranian President. Pakistan had to eat crow when President Rouhani flatly denied having any such issue being brought up by Pakistan.

With regard to Pathankot probe, Pakistan’s duplicity stands naked before the world, after its master and puppeteer China at the UN vetoed India’s proposal to ban JeM chief Masood Azhar, the mastermind of Pathankot attack. It is now becoming increasingly clear that Pakistan acquiesced to joint investigation under American pressure. It is also now evident that Pakistan tried to target both India and Iran with one salvo.

A very respectable paper, Asia News International, has portrayed the Pakistani script in larger regional perspective. It quotes Senge Hasnan, the Director of Gilgit-Baltisan National Congress: “It is not an issue of India but an issue of Pakistan adjusting itself between Saudi Arabia and Iran’s developing strategic conflict.” Senge further added that the Jadhav affair was a way to ‘embarrass’ Iran and build pressure at a time when Pakistan ‘has to choose a side between Saudi Arabia and Iran.’

It may be recalled that very recently in the second week of March 2016 a massive war game Exercise North Thunder was held in which 20 Sunni majority countries participated. The show of force included 150,000 soldiers, 20000 tanks, 2450 aircraft and 460 helicopters. Most heads of state converged to witness the grand finale of the war game. Both Nawaz Sharif and Raheel Sharif were present. Pakistan’s alacrity and preponderance in the exercise was evident. Amongst others it fielded JF-17 fighters, Karakoram aircraft and SSG Commandos. In December 2015, Riyadh announced a coalition of 34 countries to fight terrorism. Reportedly, Saudi Arabia has mooted a NATO like alliance of Islamic countries which by all indications excludes Iran. There are also reports to suggest that Pakistan has been entrusted to develop the proposed alliance. Also, the nuclear weapons umbilical between Riyadh and Islamabad is well known.

Interestingly even as military Exercise North Thunder was underway, Riyadh signed economic agreements worth $122 million of which $76 million are grants rather than loans. This constitutes the largest official assistance provided by Saudi Arabia to Pakistan in last five years. As per some reports the non-official gift could be as much as $1.5 billion in March 2014. Apart from energy imperatives Islamabad’s other economic vulnerability vis-à-vis Riyadh is the 1.5 million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia and their remittances.

Hence, the spy in Commander Jadhav has been created to enable Pakistan military-intelligence establishment to leverage Iran and India with the duplicity it has honed over the years.

The world community has dismissed Pakistan’s latest spy script with the disdain it deserves. The civilized world now knows the wont and make of Pakistan. Pakistan it knows has nurtured three types of Taliban i.e. Tehrik Taliban Afghan, Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and euphemistically speaking Tehrik Taliban Pakistan Military (TTPM). The last one in fact is the progenitor of the other two. Realist countries, in pursuance of critical strategic or security interests ignore the Pakistani PM and whenever they have to deliver a stern message or warning to Pakistan, they do it through the rouge TTPM. The Pakistan Army, given its beholden status to the US has no option but to follow the diktat, but not without duplicity, as in the case of Osama bin Laden.

Analysts and incorrigible optimists saw a glimmer of hope in Pakistan’s unprecedented gesture of admitting the use of its soil in the Pathankot attack. This hope stemmed from the fact that Pakistan has in recent years been buffeted by pernicious blow back of its jihadi narrative. Centripetal jihadi forces killed Pakistani children in an Army school (APS) in Peshawar, and students in Bacha Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan, as per Global Terrorism Database prepared by University of Maryland in US, covering period between 1970 and 2014, has the highest killed in any country (450) in school attacks. There were some 850 attacks on places of learning. The rate of attacks increased alarmingly in the run up to APS massacre. Fortunately, most of these attacks were not lethal.

Jihadi Terror in Pakistan Map

The kidnapping industry in Pakistan, an off-shoot of Jihad, has not spared the powerful and the mightiest. Its victims include son of former Prime Minister Yosuf Raza Geelani who continues to be in custody; the son of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer who has recently been released after four years of captivity; son-in-law of Chairman of Joints Chief of Staff Committee; and Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan. The release of the latter three cost substantial ransom money, and so is the case with all jihadi abductions which are endemic and not even reported by the families of the victims. It is rather surprising that some very high profile kidnappings have been done in Punjab and the victims have been sold and resold in FATA as well as Afghanistan.

The internal threat levels in Pakistan have become so pernicious that the dispensation had to embark on a National Action Plan (NAP) to fight terror. Under the plan, military courts have been set up by a constitutional amendment. The military courts have so far awarded 61 death sentences and four life imprisonments.

The security map of Pakistan presents a grim picture. Karachi is under the control of Pak Rangers, there is the ongoing Zarb-e-Ajb operation in FATA and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and now the military had to intervene to control the situation in Punjab following the judicial hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Governor Salman Taseer. Entire Pakistan seems to be combusting. It seemed that for sheer survival Pakistan had begun to introspect.

In February this year, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs cautioned the government against giving support to armed struggle in Kashmir and confine itself to moral and diplomatic support. But the Chinese refusal to impose sanctions against Jaish-e-Mohammad and its chief Maulana Masood Azhar has belied all such hopes. That China, which is a victim of unrelenting jihadi terror from Uighur Muslims, went against the other 14 members of the Security Council is a reflection of the emerging China-Pakistan axis that the world, and particularly India, in the two-front context, will have to deal with.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is generating new dynamics. Baluchistan and Kashmir are critical to this corridor. They envisaged Chinese strategic ingress in Baluchistan is bound to upset Iran given that Baluchis straddle the Pak-Iran border, approximately 900 km. The Baluch–Brahui culture is common to Baluchistan of Pakistan and Baluchistan of Iran just as the Afghan–Pushto culture transcends the Durand Line separating Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is indeed vulnerability for Pakistan. The Pakistan part of Baluchistan has been smouldering at least since 70s. It was because of the precarious situation in Baluchistan in 1974 that the Pak Army bounced back to the super power status within the country because the then Prime Minister Zulfikar Bhutto had run out of all options. After the 1971 war, Bhutto to a large extent had circumscribed the military. When asked to deploy in Baluchistan, the Pak military blackmailed to get its numero uno position.

The 989 km long Persian Gulf is critical for Iran as it covers most of the northern coast and serves as the economic life line for the country. Extra regional powers like the US too have heavy presence in the region. Any kind of Chinese presence, direct or indirect, in Gwadar is certainly not a welcome proposition for Iran and other players in the Gulf region. The Kulbhushan Jadhav episode and the Chinese veto on Masood should thus be appraised in the larger geopolitical context. The desperation to somehow nab an Indian from the Chabahar port or waters to browbeat both India and Iran is now evident.

These deceitful tactics or measures only accelerate Pakistan’s implosion. Pakistan’s inability to alter the jihadi narrative is pushing the country towards disintegration. A situation may arise when the ongoing China-Pakistan economic corridor project splinters because of vivisection of Pakistan. Nations and civilizations have perished not because of external pressures, but because of implosions.

Ironically, Pakistan which mutilated Saurabh Kalia and beheaded Hemraj has now released a doctored video, in which questions are being posed to Jadhav in benign and humorous manners, and the replies are also in the same tenor. No such video was released when Osama bin Laden was enjoying Pakistan’s hospitality. The Raymond Davis affair exposes the duplicity of Pakistan. In 2011, Davis, a CIA operative posted at Lahore Consulate, killed two Pakistanis. The authorities refused to grant him diplomatic immunity and put him in jail. No such video was made then. The Americans threw a sum of $2.4 million as compensation money and Davis was honourably released. Pakistan, which refused to own-up Ajmal Kasab and even its soldiers in Kargil, is now drumming the Indian ownership of Jadhav. Following Jadhav’s so-called confession, the ‘India destabilizing Pakistan’ theory is being peddled with great fervour.

Who is destabilizing Pakistan? It is the jihadis and their suicide bombers. The same suicide bombers, who killed Benazir Bhutto, who killed children in APS, who killed students in Bacha Khan University, who attacked Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, who killed Ismaili Shias, who attacked the ISI headquarters, nuclear establishments, airbase and naval base and more recently who killed innocent people in Iqbal Park in Lahore even as the Joint Investigation Team was investigating the Pathankot attack. Most attacks in Pakistan and India have been by suicide jihadi teams. Is India and Iran producing these suicide bombers? They are incubating in various madrasas of Pakistan.

Over the years, Pakistan has been reduced to such a hell that young men are prepared to be suicide bombers to seek refuge on an imaginary other world, where amongst other bounties they would be provided with 72 virgins.

Destruction is staring at Pakistan.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)