Monday, February 25, 2008




Eight persons, including Lt Gen Mushtaq Baig, the Surgeon-General of the Pakisan Army, his driver and body guard, were killed onFebruary 25,2008, at Rawalpindi when a youngish-looking suicide bomber, who pretended to be a beggar, approached Lt.Gen.Baig's carwhile it had stopped at a traffic signal under the pretext of begging and blew himself up.

2. This is the first time unidentified terrorists have killed an officer of the rank of Lt.Gen. In the past, they had tried to kill a Lt.Gen., who wasthe Corps Commander of Karachi at Karachi and Pervez Musharraf himself, when he was the Chief of the Army Staff, but all those attemptsfailed.

3. This was the second jihadi attack on personnel of the Army Medical Corps since the commando action in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad inJuly last year. In the earlier suicide attack, which also took place at Rawalpindi on February 4,2008, a suicide bomber on a motor-cycledashed his motor-cycle against a bus carrying some staff of the Army Medical Corps to work. Six members of the staff of the Army MedicalCorps and five bystanders were killed.

4. Since the commando action in the Lal Masjid, jihadi suicide bombers have carried out 49 suicide attacks against military targets.Forty-seven of these attacks were against targets associated with the Army, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Special ServicesGroup (SSG) and the Air Force, all of which played a role either in the Lal Masjid operation or in the operations against the jihadis in Southand North Waziristan and in the Swat Valley of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). Two attacks were against the personnel of theArmy Medical Corps, who had no role to play either in Lal Masjid or in the operations in the Pashtun belt. The Pashtuns supporting theTehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan headed by Baitullah Mehsud and the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), headed by Maulana Fazlullah,have had no reasons for anger against the Army Medical Corps.

5. The Army Medical Corps has a large number of Shia doctors. While it is not yet known whether Lt.Gen.Baig was a Shia himself, it is knownthat Shia doctors constitute the largest single group in the Army Medical Corps. Since 2000, the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) has killednearly 30 Shia civilian doctors --- the majority of them in Karachi. Keeping this in view, the needle of suspicion in the case relating to theassassination of Lt.Gen.Baig points to the LEJ and not to any other organisation. This attack also underlines the continued vulnerability ofRawalpindi, where the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army are located, to jihadi strikes by different organisations. There were fivesuicide attacks in Rawalpindi last year---two against the personnel of the Inter-Services Intelligence, which were successful, two againstthe GHQ or Army officers, which were unsuccessful, and one against Benazir Bhutto, which succeeded. This year, there have already beentwo suicide attacks in Rawalpindi----both directed against the Medical Corps and both successful.

6. After the elections of February 18,2008, the LEJ and the TNSM have already resumed their activities. The Tehrik-e-Taliban-e-Pakistancontinues to observe the ceasefire, under an agreement which it had entered into with the Army through the intermediary of pro-Army triballeaders.

7. There is a high level of threat from the jihadis to Mr.Asif Zardari, the co-Chairperson of the PPP, whom they look upon as close to the USlike Benazir, his wife, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the chief of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI), whom they look upon as a turncoat, and the leaders of the Awami National Party, whom they look upon as apostate because of their secular and leftist policies.

8. In the meanwhile, the Pakistani Intelligence Bureau (IB) has mounted an insidious exercise to drive a wedge between Mr.Nawaz Sharif onthe one side and Mr. Asif Zardari and Mr.Altaf Hussain, the head of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), on the other and to plant seeds ofsuspicion in the minds of the jihadis about Nawaz. Through a mole in the entourage of Nawaz Sharif, it has managed to clandestinelyvideo-record a meeting of Nawaz with Ms.Anne Patterson, the US Ambassador, during which Nawaz claimed that his party would have alarger following than the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) with the support of independents and drifters ftrom the Pakistan Muslim League(Qaide Azzam) and expressed his opposition to any deal with the MQM. Nawaz Sharif is strongly opposed to any deal with the MQM becausePervez Musharraf is a Mohajir and enjoys the support of the MQM. While the IB has reportedly managed to have video-recorded the entirediscussions between the US Ambassador and Nawaz, it has leaked to sections of the media through compliant journalists only the portionsrelating to Nawaz's remarks on the PPP and the MQM. Through this exercise, the IB is also trying to convey a message to the jihadis that,like Fazlur Rahman, Nawaz too is allegedly playing a double game. While openly projecting himself as opposed to the way the US is carryingon the so-called war against terrorism, he is actually colluding with the US.

9.Suspecting the hand of Brig. (retd) Ejaz Shah, the Director of the IB, in the recording and dissemination of a small portion of this tape, thePakistani media has exercised caution. It may be recalled that before her return to Pakistan from exile on October 18,2007, Benazir Bhuttohad expressed her fears that there could be a threat to her life from him.(25-2-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topicalstudies, Chennai. E-mail: )