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Should Pakistanis Celebrate U.S. Killing of Pakistan's Most Wanted Man?

New America Media, News Analysis, Hamid Mir Posted: Aug 09, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- U.S. drone attacks have not been popular in Pakistan, but Pakistanis were jubilant over the Aug. 5 drone attack that is believed to have killed Pakistans most wanted and ruthless man, Baitullah Mehsud.

Mehsud, the head of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Pakistans most powerful militant outfit based in South Wazirastan, was responsible for dozens of suicide bombings across the country.

News of his death first came through American media sources Friday. Although the Pakistani government hasnt officially confirmed his death, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, quoting intelligence sources, said Mehsud had indeed been killed.

Many Pakistanis say that Mehsuds death, coming just a few days before their countrys 62nd Independence Day, August 14, is a gift from the United States.

Since 2007, Pakistans intelligence service, the ISI, concerned about the rising suicide bombings in Pakistan, had been asking the CIA to kill Mehsud, but the CIA turned a deaf ear. The CIA probably felt they had no reason to oblige, given that the ISI was not doing anything to hunt down militant leaders like Maulvi Nazir, Hafiz Gul Bahadar and Sirajuddin Haqqani. These men were accused of instigating attacks against US troops in Afghanistan.

Once President Pervez Musharraf was removed from power, however, things changed.

The new administration, in coordination with the United States, launched efforts to defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

But then, things became confusing. A few weeks ago, a rebel militant from South Waziristan, Qari Zainuddin Mehsud, gave interviews to Pakistani media and claimed that Baitullah Mehsud was working for the United States and India. Pakistani security forces backed this claim, creating a great deal of concern among Pakistanis.

Within a few days of these interviews, Baitullah Mehsud killed Qari Zinuddin, on June 23, and announced that he knew how to get his enemies any time and anywhere in Pakistan.

The question now is: Was Mehsud killed accidentally in a U.S. drone attack?

U.S. drones could never have been able to get their target without shared intelligence from Pakistan. If Pakistan had helped, then the Pakistani government should stop publicly condemning U.S. drone attacks on Pakistani soil, else they will lose credibility with their citizens. Interior Minister Rehman Malik told me, "Even if Baitullah Mehsud is killed, I condemn U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan." A government without credibility cannot ever succeed in putting down terrorism.

The Pakistani government earlier helped Mehsud rise to power and head a powerful militia. It used the Mehsud-led militia to put down other militant groups. A great deal of wheeling and dealing took place behind closed doors with him. That was in clear violation of article 256 of our Constitution that says "no private organization capable of functioning as a military organization shall be formed, and any such organization shall be illegal.

Unfortunately we are again forming private militias in Swat, Buner and Dir. These militias may produce some more Baitullah Mehsuds. We havent learned from our past mistakes.

Pakistan today needs a transparent and bold policy for fighting terrorism. We dont need secret deals with militants anymore. If we need to make deals, lets discuss them first in parliament.

I still believe that we must not celebrate the reported death of Baitullah Mehsud. His network is still intact. If he has been killed, then his network will organize brutal attacks in our cities soon.

I think that the real victory for us Pakistanis will be when the national flag of Pakistan is hoisted on public buildings in South Wazirastan. (The region was never clearly a part of either Pakistan or Afghanistan when the British ruled. But since Pakistans independence from India in 1947, it became a part of Pakistans FATA or federally administered tribal areas.) Unfortunately, the Pakistani government doeasnt have control in that area. The tribes control it.

In the meantime, if Pakistani intelligence sources are right about Mehsuds death, does the Pakistani government now have to pay the CIA the Rs. 50 million bounty Pakistan had placed on Mehsuds head? And will our president and prime minister say, "Thank You America?"

Hamid Mir is executive editor of Geo TV in Islamabad. Contact him at: hamid.mir@geo.tv

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