A whistleblower who defected from the Pakistani Taliban has been assassinated just days after he claimed that the group was working with US intelligence to destabilize the country.
Qari Zainuddin, a tribal leader of the South Waziristan region in Pakistan was shot dead on Tuesday by a gunman said to be loyal to Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.
Analysts said that Mr Zainuddin’s murder was a serious blow to the military campaign against the militants, as support of his faction was considered crucial, reports the London Times. “[It] is a warning to other pro government tribal commanders,” said Mahmood Shah, a retired brigadier who had served as top official in the tribal region.
Zainuddin had rejected Mehsud’s Taliban tribe, and shifted his allegiance to the Pakistani government, following a string of suicide bombings targeting mosques and civilians.
The Pakistani government also claims that Mehsud was responsible for the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto.
One of Qari Zainuddin’s aides, who was also injured in the attack that killed the tribal leader, told the media that a lone gunman was able to enter Zainuddin’s office and open fire, before escaping uninjured.
“It was definitely Baitullah’s man who infiltrated our ranks, and he has done his job,” Baz Mohammad told the Associated Press news agency.
Zainuddin had recently hit out at Mehsud in an interview with the AP.
“Whatever Baitullah Mehsud and his associates are doing in the name of Islam is not a jihad, and in fact it is rioting and terrorism,” Zainuddin said.
Though the BBC and other mainstream sources highlighted this interview with Zainuddin, they neglected to cover the fact that Zainuddin also reportedly denounced Mehsud as “an American agent”.
Both Iranian and Pakistani media independently covered his remarks, adding that Zainuddin also described Baitullah Mehsud as having strong links with both Indian and Israeli intelligence.
In an interview with local media the defector said that Mehsud had established strong links with Israeli intelligence services, which were destabilizing the nuclear armed country, reports the Iranian news service Press TV.
“These people (Mehsud and his men) are working against Islam.” the report quotes Zainuddin as having said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s largest daily newspaper, The News, carried a report last Sunday that highlighted the remarks:
“In interviews to various media organisations on Thursday, Qari Zainuddin and his deputy Haji Turkistan had alleged that Baitullah was an American and Indian agent, he had killed Benazir Bhutto and that the real Jihad was going on in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan.” the report stated.
“Many diplomats contacted Foreign Office and Interior Ministry officials as well as media persons, seeking answers to their questions. Some Western diplomats were particularly confused over the claim that Baitullah was an American agent and that he had killed Benazir Bhutto. These diplomats were asking a question that if Baitullah was involved in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, does that mean that the American authorities were also involved in the conspiracy.” the report continued.
Of course, whether you put faith in the Iranian and Pakistani media on these reports, is another question, however, there have been suspicions for some time amongst some Pakistanis that Baitullah Mehsud is on the CIA payroll and is being protected by the intelligence apparatus.
According to retired brigadier and former vice president and founder of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute, Shaukat Qadir, the Pakistani military has requested US help to kill Baitullah Mehsud on several occasions and provided the US with accurate information of his location. Despite this, he claims, Mehsud was never targeted.
Other analysts hold suspicions that Indian and US intelligence are funneling weapons, financial aid and even fighters to the Pakistani Taliban.
The history of the Taliban in Afghanistan, as we have previously reported, is replete with connections to western controlled intelligence agencies.
These facts were also recently highlighted by Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, who admitted that the CIA and his country’s ISI together created the Taliban.
The Taliban’s spread into Pakistan has also been connected to intelligence driven plots to Balkanize the middle East.