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Qari Saifullah Akhtar, ISI’s most valued asset, resurfaces in Punjab

Qari Saifullah Akhtar is a senior al Qaeda military leader who operates in Paksitan. Akhtar is the influential leader of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and commands Brigade 313, a unit in al Qaeda’s Shadow Army. Akhtar has direct links with Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden, and Ayman al Zawahiri. Source. He is a graduate of the Deobandi Banuri madrassah in Karachi and is also a close affiliate of Fazlur-Rehman Khalil, Azam Tariq (slain leader of Sipah-e-Sahaba), Masood Azhar and Mufti Taqi Usmani.

Karsaz attack suspect resurfaces in Punjab – By Amir Mir

Source: The News, December 28, 2010

In a surprising development, Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the alleged mastermind of the October 18, 2007 twin suicide attacks on the welcome procession of Benazir Bhutto in Karachi, who had shifted his militant base to Waziristan in 2008, has resurfaced in Punjab as a free man.

However, the most astonishing aspect of his return is the fact that the fugitive ameer of the al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked militant group Harkatul Jehadul Islami (HUJI) has actually been freed by the Punjab home department.

According to well-informed sources in the Pakistani security agencies, the Qari was being kept under house arrest at an undisclosed place in the Chishtian tehsil of Punjab since August 2010 and has just been freed — almost three weeks ago — in the first week of December.

The sources say Qari Saifullah had to abandon Waziristan, his birth place, after he was wounded in a US drone attack in the area. He subsequently travelled to Peshawar and then to Rawalpindi for treatment before being arrested and taken to Lahore.

He was eventually put under house arrest in Chishtian, only to be released recently. Interestingly, his release orders coincide with the third death anniversary of Benazir who had named the Qari in her posthumous book, Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West, as a principal suspect in the attempt to kill her in Karachi, a few hours after her homecoming.

In her book, which was published in February 2008, Bhutto had narrated in detail the suicide attacks targeting her welcome procession as well as the involvement of Qari Saifullah Akhtar in the assassination bid.

She wrote: “I was informed of a meeting that had taken place in Lahore where the bomb blasts were planned… Three men belonging to a rival political faction were hired for half a million dollars…. However, a bomb maker was needed for the bombs. Enter Qari Saifullah Akhtar, a wanted terrorist who had tried to overthrow my second government. He had been extradited by the United Arab Emirates and was languishing in the Karachi central jail…. The officials in Lahore had turned to Akhtar for help. His liaison with elements in the government was a radical who was asked to make the bombs and he himself asked for a fatwa making it legitimate to oblige. He got one. The bomb blasts took place in the army cantonment area in Karachi.”

Subsequently, on February 26, 2008, the Qari was arrested by the Musharraf regime for the purpose of interrogation in the Bhutto murder, although there were many in establishment circles who believed that Qari Saifullah had actually been taken into protective custody by his spy masters.

The HUJI chief is generally considered a handy tool of the intelligence establishment. Whenever required, he is used and then dumped by his spy masters. Qari Saifullah was seized by the security agencies along with his three sons in Ferozwala, near Lahore. He was then grilled by a joint interrogation team comprising operatives from the Punjab Police, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Special Investigation Group of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Although, Qari Saifullah denied having played any role in the Bhutto murder, he did tell his interrogators that since his 2007 release, he had been in contact with former ISI chief Lt Gen Hamid Gul and two other army officers who had attempted to stage a coup to topple her government in 1995.

“I was in touch with Lt Gen Hamid Gul, Maj Gen Zaheerul Islam Abbasi and Brigadier Mustansar Billa,” Qari Saifullah said in a 35-page statement submitted to the Joint Investigation Team. Hamid Gul was one of the three persons Bhutto had named as her possible assassins in a letter to Musharraf, written in October 2007. Though Gul was retired prematurely, Bhutto believed that he still maintained his former close ties with the militant groups.

Ironically, Qari Saifullah’s February 26, 2008 arrest established the fact that despite all the charges levelled against him, he had been released much before Benazir returned home. Born in January 1959 in South Waziristan, the HUJI chief is a graduate of the famous Jamia Binoria in Karachi, who was arrested and extradited from the United Arab Emirates on August 7, 2004 on charges of plotting the twin suicide attacks on General Musharraf in Rawalpindi in December 2003. But instead of trying to prosecute him, the agencies chose to keep him under detention for the next two years and nine months, without even filing any criminal charges against him, giving credence to reports that he was a handy tool of the Pakistani establishment.

The Qari’s “unprovoked” arrest was challenged in the Supreme Court in the first week of January 2005. On January 18, 2005, the apex court dismissed the petition against his arrest and directed him to first move the high court by filing a habeas corpus writ petition.

But after Benazir’s murder, it transpired that the Qari had already been released by the apex court after being told by the agencies that he was one of the “missing persons” being sought by a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. His name was in the list of persons being held by the agencies without any formal charges having been filed against them. But the Musharraf government had told the Supreme Court on May 5, 2007 that Qari Saifullah was not in the custody of the state agencies.

The concise report presented by the National Crisis Management Cell to the court revealed that he was engaged in militant activities somewhere in Punjab and not under detention. On May 21, 2007, the Qari suddenly reached his hometown in Mandi Bahauddin of Punjab. The release was subsequently brought to the notice of the apex court by the Ministry of Interior. Hashmat Habib, the counsel for Qari Saifullah, told the court that while setting him free, the intelligence officials had informed his client that had they not picked him up, there was a strong possibility of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation taking him away for interrogation because of his alleged al-Qaeda and Taliban links.

At the time of his arrest in August 2004 and his subsequent extradition from the UAE, the Pakistani authorities had described the development as a major blow to the al-Qaeda sponsored terrorist network and its local affiliates in Pakistan. On March 20, 2008, Qari Saifullah was produced before an anti-terrorism court in Karachi for his alleged role in the twin suicide attacks on Bhutto’s welcome procession in Karachi.

But few days later, Justice Khawaja Naveed Ahmed of the Sindh High Court released him on bail, after the investigation officer said that no evidence had been found to link him with any terrorist activity. But he was rearrested the same day under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) and shifted to a Karachi safe house. Two months later, on June 8, 2008, Qari Saifullah was released by Sindh Home Department as the two-month term of detention set under the MPO had expired.

Though Qari Saifullah’s role in the Karachi suicide attack could not be explored further due to an apparent lack of interest by the agencies, his previous involvement in a failed coup plot in 1995 had projected him as one of the deadliest militants who, from the establishment’s viewpoint, had gone astray.

The group of potential plotters busted by the Military Intelligence at that time included four serving army officers, headed by Major General Zaheerul Islam Abbasi. Brigadier Mustansar Billa, who had also been arrested, was described as the ideologue of the religiously motivated army men.

The arrested army officers were accused of plotting to first take over the GHQ of the Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi during the Corps Commanders Conference, and later overthrow the Benazir government to eventually enforce their own brand of Islamic Shariah and Khilafat in Pakistan.

Those who had plotted the coup were convicted by the Field General Court Martial (FGCM) and awarded different sentences ranging from two to 14 years on October 30, 1996. Qari Saifullah decided to become the approver for the prosecution.

After the dismissal of the second Bhutto government in 1996, he was released by the agencies; he went to Afghanistan and was inducted into the cabinet of the Taliban ameer, Mulla Omar, as his adviser on political affairs. Qari Saifullah was one of the few militant leaders from Pakistan who had escaped with Mulla Omar after the US-led Allied Forces invaded Afghanistan in October 2001.

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  • یہ کچھ مدرسے والے جو دشتگردوں کو تیار کرتے ہیں جب ان سے پوچھا جاتا ہے تو کہتے ہیں کہ ” کوئی ایک مدرسہ بتا دیں جہاں کا طالب علم دشتگردی میں ملوث ہو اور کوئی ایک مدرسہ بتا دیں جہاں دہشتگردی کی تربیت ہو !!
    واہ !
    لال مجید سے لے کر بنوری ٹاؤن تک اور اظہر مسعود سے لے کر فضل الله تک سب کے سب مدرسوں سے اے ہیں ،ایک ہزار ثبوت ہیں پر کوئی تی وی انکر یا صحافی ان سے کبھی سوال نہیں پوچھتا

    ایک برا آپریشن چا ہئے اگلے پچاس سال تک خاموشی ہو جائے گی ،منصورہ ،بنوری ٹاؤن ، مرکز اہل حدیث مریدکے اور دوسرے اڈوں کو بند کر دیا جائے اور ان کے چلانے والوں پر دہشتگردی کے مقدمے قائم کے جائیں

  • this is how much contempt the establishment has for PPP and the grief of its supporters. This should be considered as a gift from the establishment to its cronies on the anniversary of BB’s death.

  • Freed militant wanted to target Pak nukes

    Wednesday, December 29, 2010

    By Amir Mir

    LAHORE: Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the al-Qaeda-linked ameer of the Harkatul Jehadul Islami (HUJI), has been freed by the Punjab government under mysterious circumstances despite the fact that he is still wanted in several high-profile cases of terrorism.

    His most significant target was to blow up the Chashma Nuclear Power Plant at Kundian, Punjab, by using a group of five Americans who had already been convicted by an anti-terrorism court in June 2010 on terrorism charges.

    According to the charge sheet filed by Sargodha Police against the five Americans, who had been detained in Sargodha on December 9, 2009 in a police raid on a house with links to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), they were in contact with Qari Saifullah Akhtar who had encouraged them to travel to Pakistan all the way from the United States “to wage jehad against those siding with the forces of infidel”. The evidence presented by the prosecution against the American nationals included phone calls, emails, and other documents that linked them to Qari Saifullah Akhtar.

    The charge sheet had described the HUJI ameer as a fugitive, adding that he had recruited the five Americans after watching their videos posted on YouTube. Having obtained their email addresses through YouTube postings, Qari Saifullah subsequently encouraged them to travel to Pakistan for the purpose of “waging jehad”. A few weeks later, the group of Americans departed US from the Dulles International Airport and travelled to Karachi, and then Hyderabad, to Lahore, and finally to Sargodha.

    Once arrested, their trial was closed to journalists and was heard by a single judge in a special anti-terrorism court. According to the prosecution, one of the men had left an 11-minutes-long video expressing his view that Muslim lands must be defended against the western invaders. According to investigations carried out by the Pakistani authorities, the five Americans from Washington DC had planned to meet a contact close to the Pak-Afghan border between Punjab and the Frontier provinces, and then to proceed to the stronghold of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. During the course of investigations, that contact turned out to be Qari Saifullah Akhtar, whom Ahmed Minni, one of the five Americans, had met on the internet after he had posted remarks praising a video footage on YouTube, showing Taliban-led attacks on the US-led Allied Forces in Afghanistan.

    All the five US nationals — Waqar Hussain Khan, Ahmed Minni, Ramy Zamzam, Aman Yemer and Umar Farooq were subsequently charged with five counts of conspiracy to target Pakistani nuclear installations in Chashma, attacking Pakistan Air Force bases in Sargodha and Mianwali, raising funds to carry out terrorist activities, waging war against Pakistan and planning to wage war against a friendly country. On June 24, 2010, Judge Mian Anwar Nazir found them guilty and sentenced them to 10 years imprisonment and fines of $823 each for conspiring against the state and an additional five years for financing a militant organisation.

    Interestingly, the day the five Americans were convicted, their militant handler, Qari Saifullah, was declared an absconder despite the fact that he had already been arrested from Rawalpindi by that time and was in the custody of the Pakistani security agencies. Qari Saifullah had to abandon Waziristan after he was wounded in a US drone attack. He subsequently travelled to Peshawar and then to Rawalpindi for treatment before being arrested and taken to Lahore, only to be placed under house arrest in Chishtian tehsil of Punjab in August 2010, before being released in the first week of December.

    However, it is not for the first time that Qari Saifullah, believed to be a tool of the intelligence establishment, has eluded prosecution. Though his role in the Karachi suicide attack targeting the welcome procession of Benazir Bhutto could not be explored further due to an apparent lack of interest by the agencies, his previous involvement in a failed coup plot in 1995 had projected him as one of the deadliest militants who, from the establishment’s viewpoint, had gone astray. A total of 40 army officers were arrested by the Military Intelligence (MI), including four serving army officers, headed by Major General Zaheerul Islam Abbasi and Brigadier Mustansar Billa. However, Qari Saifullah was described as the ideologue of the religiously motivated khakis. The arrested army officers were accused of plotting to first take over the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi during the Corps Commanders Conference and overthrow the Benazir government to enforce Khilafat system in Pakistan.

    Qari Saifullah was arrested on September 23, 1995 when the Pakistani Customs Intelligence personnel stopped a Brigadier’s staff car, which was leading a cavalcade of several vehicles, including a truck carrying arms and ammunition. Video and audio cassettes of their statements that were to be broadcast on the state run TV and radio after the coup were also discovered. The arrested comprised two groups, the inner group of plotters who attempted to topple the government and the larger group of sympathisers who extended their moral/verbal support and were more or less motivated by their plan to extend complete support to the cause of mujahedeen in Jammu Kashmir. It was further revealed that the plan included plotting to kill Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and some cabinet members including the incumbent President Asif Ali Zardari, who was a federal minister at that time.

    The Field General Court Martial (FGCM) was constituted at Attock and was presided by Major General Zahid Hasan amongst four other officers (two Brigadiers and two Colonels including then Brigadier — later Lieutenant General — Javed Alam Khan. The suspects were charged under the Pakistan Army Act, 1952 and Pakistan Penal Code for “conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline”, “conspiring to wage war against Pakistan” and “attempting to seduce any person from his allegiance to the government”.

    However, the trial proved quite easy as Qari Saifullah Akhtar decided to become approver against his fellow plotters and acted as a star prosecution witness. There was documentary evidence in the form of the tapes, arms and ammunition and none of the accused really denied the charges either. After investigations were completed, the FGCM started its proceedings on December 31, 1995 and the sentences were announced on October 30, 1996.

    The coup plotters were convicted by the FGCM and awarded different sentences ranging from two to 14 years. Qari Saifullah was kept under protective custody for a few months and as soon as the second Bhutto government was dismissed in 1996, he was set free by the agencies; he went to Afghanistan and was inducted into the cabinet of the Taliban ameer, Mulla Omar, as his adviser on political affairs.

  • koie b dayshit gurd pakistan may teyaar nai hota ok
    or na hi islam es kaam ki ejazath daita hay ok
    aur na hi mansoorah , banoori town, ya aur kisee jaga per daishit gurd teyaar hotay hain ,

  • the picture is that of ‘Naeem Noor Khan” the alleged master mind & computer expert of AL Qaeeda, mother professor of Botony at St.Joseph’s & father A Steward in PIA, both retired, studied from BVS parsi High School, Adamjee COllege & securing a degree in engineering from NED University.
    THe only connecting link of him & their followup into islamists is their KHALA(maternal aunt) who was a preacher of JAMAT E ISLAMI, very liberal family from start, but when they joined JAMAT E ISLAMI post 9/11 to find ISLAM then came the down fall!!!

  • Bhit Shah address: Altaf warns govt against sending ISI chief to US court December 26, 2010


    26 February 2002

    Mr Kofi Annan
    Secretary General
    The United Nations
    U N Plaza, New York 10017

    Dear Secretary-General


    I hope that you are in good health and spirit. I know that you are one of the busiest person in the world and, therefore, I will try and keep this letter short, as much as possible which is about the subject mentioned above.

    After the horrific terrorist acts against the United States of America on 11th September 2001, the United Nations, United States of America and the entire sovereign nations, peace loving political leaders including Mr Altaf Hussain, Founder and Leader of Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), the third largest political party in Pakistan and the second largest in the province of Sindh, strongly condemned the cowardly acts of terrorism in the United States of America. MQM held the biggest rally on 26th. September 2001 in Karachi (port city of Pakistan) to demonstrate its solidarity that it stands shoulder to shoulder with the international community against all sorts of terrorists’ acts and terrorism throughout the world. MQM also offered its unconditional support to the international community against all sorts of terrorism.

    As you would know that one of the journalists of the Wall Street Journal, Mr Daniel Pearl was kidnapped on 23rd January 2002 in Karachi. The kidnappers put certain demands for the release of Mr Daniel Pearl. The present Military Government of Pakistan and its high officials were assuring the entire world that the Authorities and police will recover Mr Daniel Pearl alive within two or three days but failed.

    Pakistan’s interior minister on Friday predicted a “major breakthrough” and more arrests within 48 hours in the search for Daniel Pearl. The official rejected a claim from Pearl’s self-confessed kidnapper that the Wall Street Journal reporter is dead.
    Los Angeles Times, Breakthrough Expected in Kidnap Case, Pakistan Says, February 16, 2002

    No one has explained why Sheikh Omar was held in ISI custody for a week before civilian authorities were informed of his arrest. Two former ISI officers have been questioned about Pearl’s murder.
    The Observer, Vicious Web of Intrigue that Trapped Daniel Pearl, February 24, 2002

    Mr Daniel Pearl was decapitated ruthlessly. What plans had been made by the ISI in collusion with Ahmed Omar Sheikh while he was in its custody only God knows! The Interior Minister of Pakistan and even President General Pervez Musharraf were not aware of this plan.

    Not only in Pakistan but also throughout the world, the educated and politically aware people know that the ISI is above all the institutions and even above the law in Pakistan. ISI is a State within a State. ISI is not answerable to the Presidents, Prime Ministers or anyone else.

    ‘They are a state within a state… ‘The ISI is the only institution powerful enough to
    dare to disobey the President.’
    The Guardian, Torture, treachery and spies – cover war in Afghanistan, November 4, 2001

    The ISI is responsible for harbouring the terrorists’ not only in Pakistan but also throughout the world under the pretext of “Jihad”. The ISI is not at all happy with the decisions taken by the present Government for eradicating religious fanatics, as they are its own creation.

    The ISI and only the ISI is behind this barbaric killing of Mr Daniel Pearl because the ISI wanted to give the message to the USA that by supporting the present Government the USA will not be able to achieve its goals and the United States of America must deal with the ISI and not with anybody else; and if the United States of America would continue to support the present Government then they have to face and see many more barbaric acts.

    From early on in the Pearl investigation, ISI involvement was evident.
    The Observer, Vicious Web of Intrigue that Trapped Daniel Pearl, February 24, 2002

    Dear Secretary-General,

    The ISI has become a monster and until and unless the ISI is disbanded or dismantled, my apprehensions are that the ISI will continue to form, fertilise, harbour, train and provide financial support to create more and more religious fanatical groups like Jesh-e-Mohammad and others.

    The intelligence agency’s past actions indicate that its interests – or, at a minimum, those of former agency officials – have often dovetailed with the interests of Mr. Pearl’s kidnappers, as reflected in their original demands. New disclosures of links between Mr. Sheikh and two recently dismissed agency officials only intensify suspicions about its role in this case.
    The New York Times, Death of Reporter Puts Focus on Pakistan’s Intelligence Unit, February 25, 2002

    Dear Secretary-General,

    I request you to convey my apprehensions to the International Community including the United States of America and its allies and to use your good office to ask the Government of Pakistan to dismantle the ISI. I would also request you that for the dismantling of the ISI, full support and active involvement of the United Nations, USA and the International Community would be required otherwise the present Government or any other Government in Pakistan would not be able to dismantle the ISI.

    I also request you that if the United Nations Organisations and international community seriously and sincerely want to see the entire world free from any source of terrorism, they must take serious and practical steps and actions for completely wiping out the ISI otherwise, it would be too late for the world’s sorrow and tears. The killings of innocent people would be the fate of the world.

    Thank you for giving me your precious time.

    Yours truly,

    Dr Imran Farooq

  • Qari Saifullah Akhtar was freed in December: Guardian
    January 10, 2011
    By Editor
    Qari Saifullah Akhtar was freed in December after being injured in a US drone strike in tribal areas and taken into custody

    By Declan Walsh in Islamabad, Monday 10 January 2011

    News of the release of a militant suspect emerged the day after protests in Karachi opposing changes to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

    One of Pakistan‘s most infamous jihadi leaders, accused by Benazir Bhutto of trying to kill her, has been freed from custody due to a lack of evidence, the Punjab home minister, Rana Sanaullah, has confirmed.

    Qari Saifullah Akhtar was freed in December, months after he was reportedly injured in a US drone strike in the tribal areas and taken into protective custody.

    “He is a free man,” said Hashmat Habib, his lawyer in Islamabad. “There are no charges against him.”

    News of the release of Akhtar, comes after at least 20,000 protesters filled a Karachi street yesterday, opposing any changes to Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.

    Their leaders voiced support for Mumtaz Qadri, the rogue policeman who killed Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer last Tuesday, over his support for reforms to the law.

    In his latest court appearance today, Qadri repeated his previous confession but insisted he acted alone. Police are seeking a local preacher said to have spurred him on.

    The 26-year-old appeared in court a day earlier than expected. His lawyer said the government wanted to outwit supporters who showered him with rose petals on previous occasions, embarrassing the government and underscoring the depth of divisions within Pakistani society.

    Pope Benedict also weighed into the debate, calling on Pakistan to scrap blasphemy laws that, he said, were a pretext for “acts of injustice and violence”.

    “The tragic murder of the governor of Punjab shows the urgent need to make progress in this direction,” he said at a meeting with western ambassadors in Rome.

    “The particular influence of a given religion in a nation ought never to mean that citizens of another religion can be subject to discrimination in social life or, even worse, that violence against them can be tolerated.

    “In this regard, it is important for inter-religious dialogue to favour a common commitment to recognising and promoting the religious freedom of each person and community,” the pope said.

    The release of Akhtar, a shadowy figure with deep ties to the Pakistani intelligence establishment, highlights the difficulty courts face in prosecuting senior extremists, and their reluctance to do so.

    Most cases go nowhere because police lack evidence, judges fear being killed, and decisions are thought to be influenced by the wishes of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, which has historical ties with most militant groups.

    Pakistani officials insist they cut ties with their jihadi clients after 2001 but the recent WikiLeaks files revealed US assertions that ISI still supports armed groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Afghan Taliban.

    The Punjab minister Sanaullah, who confirmed Akhtar’s release to the Associated Press, had previously faced sharp criticism for his links to some Punjab-based militant and sectarian groups.

    Akhtar’s lawyer, Habib, denied his client had been in ISI custody. “That’s an incorrect story given by some intelligence agency people. He doesn’t know anything,” he said.

    Akhtar’s jihadist career spans the US-sponsored jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the covert Pakistani campaign against Indian troops in Kashmir and the emergence of the Taliban and al-Qaida in the 90s.

    He was also part of a failed coup attempt against the then Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 1996. After being arrested he was mysteriously released and fled to Afghanistan, where he allied with the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and Osama bin Laden.

    In 2008 Bhutto, through her posthumous book Reconciliation, accused Akhtar of plotting an attack on her supporters that killed over 130 people in October 2007. Akhtar was subsequently detained but no formal charges were brought, and he was released.

    His latest release, which highlights the failure of the state to rein in prominent extremists, does not bode well for the trial of Qadri, who has become a hero figure to Pakistan’s conservatives.

    Posters for Sunday’s rally singled out Sherry Rehman, a female parliamentarian from Karachi declared by one local preacher to be “wajib ul qatil” (deserving of death).

    The declaration was made at the Sultan masjid, one of the city’s largest mosques, in the plush Defence neighbourhood. Local reports said the mosque is part-funded by the Saudi government.

    Supporters said Rehman was locked into her Karachi home and was taking measures to increase her security.