by Azaz Syed
KARACHI: Exactly 10 years after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, according to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency’s information regarding the December 2007 incident, it was revealed that Osama bin Laden, the former chief of al-Qaeda, was supervising the assassination plot of Benazir Bhutto and for this reason, he had shifted to Afghanistan; the explosives to execute this plot were provided by the courier of Osama bin Laden.
This information has come to the forefront years after it was provided to the Ministry of Interior in Dec 2007 by the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in three reports and the letters obtained from the former al-Qaeda chief’s residence.
In these secret intelligence reports, the Ministry of Interior was warned that Osama bin Laden had issued orders to kill then-president Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan People’s Party’s former chairperson Benazir Bhutto and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman.
According to the documents received by our correspondent, the most important letter by the ISI to the Ministry of Interior was written on Dec 19, 2007; the letter was directed to the Interior Ministry’s then-director coordination of the Crisis Management Cell Colonel Muhammad Imran Yaqub.
This letter was sent signed by Lt-Col (retd) Zaigham Islam Butt for DG Intelligence. The letter, titled “President Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto and Fazlur Rehman’s murder plan”, was written on Wednesday. The text of the letter read: “We have received this information that Osama bin Laden has issued the order to kill President Pervez Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto and Fazlur Rehman. He [Osama bin Laden] has planned to send his courier, who is a national of Pakistan and a resident of Multan, named Musa Tariq, through Waziristan with explosives to be used in executing the murder plots. On coming Sunday — which is Dec 22 — this person will be in the area of Dera Ismail Khan.”
This letter’s last three lines contained quite confidential content, which read: “Osama bin Laden is personally supervising this entire plan and for this reason, he has shifted to Afghanistan.”
On the other hand, from the last line of this letter, it became quite clear that the sources of ISI were mailing some secret information to it as well. In the last line of this letter, the ISI had requested the interior ministry to make urgent security arrangements.
At that point, this information was so important that the copies of this letter were also dispatched to the Military Intelligence Directorate, GS Branch and General Headquarters, Rawalpindi.
After receiving the above-mentioned letter from the ISI, the General Staff Branch of the Military Operations Directorate of General Headquarters, on the next day—that is Dec 20, 2007—sent a letter to then-interior secretary Syed Kamal Shah.
Six days before the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, this letter was issued with the signature of then-chief of the general staff Lt-Gen Salahuddin Satti’s Lt-Col Staff Khurram Shahzad. The text of this letter read: “It has been informed that Osama bin Laden has issued the order to kill the President of Pakistan [Pervez Musharraf’s name was not mentioned in the letter, but his designation was mentioned], Ms Benazir Bhutto and Fazlur Rehman. According to the letter, he [Osama bin Laden] has planned to send his courier Musa Tariq, who is a national of Pakistan and a resident of Multan, through Waziristan with explosives to be used in executing the murder plots of the above-mentioned. On coming Sunday, this person will be in Dera Ismail Khan. This has also come to our knowledge that Osama bin Laden is personally supervising this plan and for this reason, he has shifted to Afghanistan.”
Before both of these letters were written, on Dec 11, 2007, ISI’s then-chief Lt-Gen Nadeem Taj’s Colonel for DG Intelligence Fayyaz Hussain Chaudhary had written a letter to then-chief of the Crisis Management Cell of the Ministry of Interior, Brigadier (retd) Javed Iqbal Cheema.
In this letter, it was mentioned that the terrorist and extremist groups related to al-Qaeda had planned to assassinate Benazir Bhutto and her then-security adviser Rehman Malik during the election campaign.
In the letter, the interior ministry was requested to make adequate security arrangements. Following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Dec 27, a short letter was sent to Osama bin Laden after two days. The copy of this letter has been obtained by our correspondent. The correspondent was bound to only publish its content, but he was restricted to share the letter with anyone.
The text of the letter written on Dec 29 read: “Sheikh Abdul Hameed has sent a report regarding some special task. He is also the in charge of work in Pakistan. We have carried out various attacks in Pakistan. The last attack was carried out two days ago in Rawalpindi. We have taken revenge for our brothers and sisters of Jamia Hafsa and Lal Masjid.”
Further, in this letter, some irrelevant content is present. But the most important point mentioned in this letter was regarding consultation of opening a branch in Pakistan. This letter — recovered from Osama’s home — is Pakistan leadership’s main part of investigation. After thorough examination of the Pakistan Army, ISI and Osama bin Laden’s letters, a lot of new questions have surfaced, which may also include al-Qaeda’s former chief’s presence in Pakistan. A lot of reporting on this issue will be done in years to come.