Is Osama Bin Laden in Karachi?

With arrests of high profile Al Qaeda and Taliban members from the Southern port city of Pakistan, Karachi, the possibility that the worlds most wanted man could be hiding right under the noses of Pakistani security services, or is he being kept there?

By Gibran Ashraf

The arrests of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, no. 2 in the Afghan Taliban link after Mullah Omar, and Adam Yahiye Gadahn, who were both recently apprehended in Pakistan’s southern port city and financial hub, Karachi. It is a positive sign given that the Pakistani security forces, especially the Army’s links with terrorist groups are well documented.

The ISI, the Army’s intelligence services have long fostered the Taliban, considering them as an asset rather than a set of rogue militants. The latest episode of arrests points to a possibility that the Army has decided to give them up. The nature of these arrests, all without much resistance, just points out the conniving link between the Army and the Taliban. 18 months ago, the arrest of a Jundullah leader in the posh areas of Karachi was possible after a six hour long gun battle.
Interesting then that the arrests, with the count up to four with Mullah Baradar, Moatasim Agha Jan and now Adam Yahiye Gadahn, Mullah Tayyab Popalzai,have all been made in the southern port city of Karachi, rather than Swat or Waziristan where the army has dug deep to drive the Taliban out. The headquarters of the military’s intelligence wing, the ISI is also situated in Karachi. Hence the arrests are more confusing. The questions gain credence that whether the ISI has deliberately allowed the city to act as a safe house for Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives? After all, this is the same city where Wall Street journalist Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and executed.

In January, Hakeemullah Mehsud, the successor to Baitullah Mehsud of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan died while enroute to Karachi, apparently to get medical attentions for wounds suffered during a drone attack (official statement of the TTP). While his death was celebrated, the fact that he headed to Karachi, making as far as Multan without an interception and mortality permitting would have managed to complete his journey without incident. This goes some way in listing the importance of the port city in the overall theatre of War on Terror for the terror side.

Karachi’s ethnic buildup is that of any megalopolis. People from all nationalities and races from around the world can be found here. With the plurality of views on the terror war, it would not be too hard to find a soft corner. The areas where the arrests were made, are mostly ghettos. Much of these ghetto districts, are places where the support for these groups in sections of the resident Pathan community can be widely found.

It is worth mentioning here that Karachi is a supply route for imports and exports of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is the city where NATO gets is fuel and equipment supplies, and this is the same city where the Taliban are able to generate funds by exporting heroin.

The lack of suicide attacks in Karachi throws caution to the wind that whether the security groups were working efficiently or that the Taliban and the Al Qaeda are using this space to regroup and recuperate from their battle strains? The silence, compared to other parts of the country where suicide blasts are threatening to become a daily feature, indicates that the terror groups wanted to avoid drawing attention to their last refuge.

This latest series in crackdowns is difficult to explain. The pressure from the American coalition partners has been consistent for the past 3 years. However a recent development which may be the cause of the joint operations which landed Baradar in jail, might be the increase activity of the CIA at new US Consulate building in Karachi. The operation to arrest Baradar was a combined operation between Police, Army and American agencies as admitted by the Army.

Located next to the downtown business district of Karachi, the consulate is undergoing final touches and is due to be inaugurated by the end of July. However, this large complex has been operational for the CIA over the past 12 months. The result of a fully equipped and fully functional CIA office working in Karachi has pressured the ISI into action. Security Experts though say that the Army might have indeed struck a deal with the Americans.
While the ISI can always find its way out of the situation and stop assisting the American forces, or even misleading, it can be safely said that the accessibility for American based security agencies including Blackwater, the security-for-hire-agency(now known as Xe) and the CIA into Karachi has largely contributed to these arrests.

While all of these steps are crucial and bring forward the date to end the eight year old conflict, the reluctance of the Pakistani agencies working with CIA and Blackwater is plain. Having shielded these elements for so long against CIA and the ilk, it is a little hard for the indigenous security services to digest the thought that the US wants control.

On the other hand, this could also be General Ashfaq Kiyani’s attempt to lessen the tension with both Kabul and New Delhi and avoid opening up a second war front on the eastern border of Pakistan. The political contradictions, with the Federal Interior Minister of Pakistan originally denying the arrest of the operatives.

The money question remains that whether the next operative to be arrested from Karachi could be, Osama Bin Laden himself?