Monday, March 27, 2006

What exactly was Pakistan trying to hide by bribing the 9/11 commissioners?

I was asked by an American friend recently:

What is Pakistan trying hide, everyone knows that they are involved?

This seems to make sense, yes Pakistan is a cesspool, most of the "bad guys" are there, even Bin Laden is most likely there, so what were the Pakistanis so keen to see removed from the report.

B. Raman has recently written about the likely contents of the original 9/11 commission report that were "likely to damage the image of Pakistan"

The 9/11 Commission report has two key omissions

  1. The role of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh in 9/11: Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh told Gen. Ehsan ul Haq and Gen. Mohammed Aziz Khan about the Sept 11 attack a few weeks before it happened. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was also believed to be involved in transfering cash ($100,000) to Mohammed Atta at the instructions of Gen. Mahmood Ahmed (then head of the ISI).
  2. The Daniel Pearl Murder: Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh also played a major role in the murder of Daniel Pearl. Danny Pearl was in Pakistan to interview the head of a secretive sect, the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra headed by on Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The sect was believed to be behind Richard Reid's attempt to blow up an American Airlines flight after 9/11/2001 and Syed Ali Shah Geelani is believed to be very close to high ranking Pakistan Army Generals. Talking to Geelani would have helped answer several important questions about 9/11 and the Pakistan Army's islamist core. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh lured Danny Pearl into a trap and killed him. After the warrant was issued for his arrest, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh sought shelter in the houses of retired Pakistan Army officers, and serving Pakistani Army officers including General Musharraf tried to make it seem as if it was Daniel Pearl who was at fault for "asking too many questions"
So this is what the Pakistanis payed money to wash away - any semblance of information and credible record that would point a finger of guilt at Pakistan's general staff.

Remember, per the grand narrative of the War on Terror, the Generals of Pakistan were not involved in anything untowards. After 9/11 they strongly supported the US in its decision to wipe out the Taliban and secure Pakistan and they promised in perpetuity to secure US interests in the region in exchange for monetary and political incentives.

Any mention of their duplicity pre-9/11 would cause a seed of doubt to be sown and with that the ability to look like "enlightened moderates" in the post 9/11 world would diminish. Where is Mahmood Ahmed today? the once proud commander of the Rawalpindi crops, the master of the ISI legions? shovelling horse manure at the Fauji Fertilizer Company? now compare that with Pervez Musharraf, the toast of town in most capitals of the world.

2 Comments:

At 10:04 PM, Blogger Nitin said...

Maverick,

I would not buy the bribe story without more evidence from the American side.

The bribe angle could be a simple cover story for a scam/corruption game.

Consider: An American lobbyist decides to pull a fast one on the already worried Pakistanis. He tells them that some nasty things will be published unless they fork out some cash to arrange for some convenient deletions. Remember, the Pakistanis don't actually get to see the draft report. They pay. And the lobbyist is found to deliver when the final report omits the bits. Remember there may be more that the Pakistanis feared was in the report but didn't get published.

Consider another angle: The folks at the Pakistani embassy in Washington have been siphoning off funds. They then work out an elaborate story full of lobbyists and secret bribes on something as big as the 9/11 commission; because its a bribe, there's no audit trail. And because its the 9/11 commission, the Pakistanis back home will shut up.

There's a fair chance that this is a Bunty-Bubbli case :-)

 
At 5:46 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Nitin,

One does not make such allegations in jest. These claims are grounds for an investigation. Assuming that some magical "impartial" judge can be found to conduct this enquiry this is how the investigation could proceed.

It is not all that hard for the Pakistani embassy staff to be investigated quite thoroughly. The United States is an extremely lucrative posting for Pakistani FO staff. The only posting that is probably more desirable is the PIA New York office, for obvious reasons. Any offical making such suggestions frivolously would be risking his entire career at the FO.

The lobbyists could have lied to the embassy, but that sort of thing usually leads to loss of credibility in DC and that is precisely what the lobbyists avoid. If the Pakistani embassy followed the normal way of dealing with lobbyists, then they would have asked their friends on congress for the original report. After reading the report the Pakistani embassy staff would have listed the changes they wanted to see made in the report and the lobbyist would have been shown the changes. After that the lobbyist would have named a price and after the thing was over, the Pakistani embassy would have confirmed that the changes they made were actually there.

All this should be relatively easy to trace.

The only place where I feel it is not possible to make a direct connection is at the committee level. As we do not have access to the original report before the lobbyists got to it, we cannot with certainity trace what changes were made to it. With only the final report available, the commissioners could easily claim that they made certain changes purely on based on testimony from White House, State Department, DOD or intelligence community staffers. The only way to test this would be to see if any money changed hands between the lobbyists and the commissioners.

And there is the biggest problem, even if one decides to investigate, there is no way to investigate all the payment channels used by DC based lobbyists. Common channels include, campaign donations, party contributions, joint investment agreements, consulting charges, remuneration for speaches, funds for so-called-non-profit/legacy projects, indirect purchases of assets, and exchanges on the financial blackmarket.

In short there is no way to clear this up even after an investigation that lasts years. This should explain why there been no response from the American side. They are hoping to ride it out with a few cursory dismissals.

If we can understand this sitting at our keyboards thousands of miles away from DC, the congressional staffers understand the implications of this. Without any chance of an investigation, there is no concept of accountability.

While the American people probably don't care about this, we in India have to care because this affects the fate of the Indo-US nuclear deal. It appears that it is a little too easy for someone in Congress to take a few dollars from the Pakistanis and try to make changes in the draft of the bill.

The Bush Administration would then attempt to sell India the bill, because the credibility of their half of the July 16 agreement rests on congressional approval. This will make the entire bill unwelcome in New Delhi. Once the political hotair rises to the top in Delhi and DC simultaneously, the deal will suffer the fate of Dabhol. The amount spent in consulting fees and lobbying will exceed any immediate economic returns from the deal and that will kill the deal.

In short, if the Pakistani ability to make changes to the text of things in the US Congress is not severely curtailed - India and the US will have a deal that neither wants.

 

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