Monday, December 15, 2008

Mystery grows over general's slaying in Pakistan

Mystery grows over general's slaying in Pakistan
Reuters, December 15, 2008

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani newspapers gave prominent coverage on Monday to a British media report that a retired general gunned down in Islamabad last month planned to blow the whistle on fellow generals' dealings with the Taliban.

Jang, Pakistan's biggest selling Urdu-language newspaper, ran a story on its front page headlined: "Gen. Alavi was against pacts with Taliban, Musharraf had sacked him."

The reports in Jang and other Pakistani dailies were based on a story published in Britain's Sunday Times, and written by Carey Schofield. Major-General Amir Faisal Alavi, a brother-in-law of Nobel prize-winning British novelist V.S. Naipaul, was shot dead along with his driver on the outskirts of the capital on November 19.

Suspicion initially fell on Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban, but an investigation by police and intelligence agencies has yet to come up with hard evidence.

"The investigation is going on but so far there has been no progress. We could not identify the murderers or the motive," said Sajid Kiyani, superintendent of police in Islamabad.

Schofield says Alavi, who had commanded the elite Special Services Group, gave her a copy of a letter he had had sent to army chief General Ashfaq Kayani in which he named two generals whose conspiracy resulted in his premature retirement more than two years ago.

Western and Pakistani analysts have long harboredsuspicion that Pakistan has played a double game by supporting Taliban factions in the years since 2001, despite the heavy casualties suffered by its security forces fighting militants in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan.


A copy of the letter, dated July 21, 2008, with the names of the two generals blacked out, was reproduced on the Sunday Times website.

In the letter, Alavi asked Kayani to open an inquiry into the reason for his retirement and disciplinary action against the generals who had plotted against him.

He also asked for a military decoration and a post-retirement job that he believed would help restore his honor.

The British journalist said Alavi gave her a copy of the letter four days before he was killed, and had asked her to publish it in the event of his death.

She said Alavi expected to be killed as he had not received any response to his letter.

Alavi believed he had been forced out of the army because he had become openly critical of deals between Pakistani generals and the Taliban.

There is no mention of support for the Taliban in the letter, just a veiled reference that the purpose of the plot against him "by these General officers was to hide their own involvement in a matter they knew I was privy to."

Alavi wrote that he would "furnish all relevant proof/information" to an inquiry.

Reuters made several attempts to reach a Pakistani military spokesman for comment on the Sunday Times reports.

The Sunday Times report said Alavi mentioned a deal between a general and Baitullah Mehsud, who declared himself leader of the Pakistani Taliban late last year, to stop attacks on the army.

The military did reach a deal with militant tribesmen, including Mehsud, in the South Waziristan region in February, 2005. There were media reports at the time that the army had paid militants to stop attacking them.

Mehsud's group was blamed for many of the suicide attacks on security forces and Pakistani cities in last year, including one that killed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the late wife of President Asif Ali Zardari.

(Reporting by Simon Cameron-Moore and Kamran Haider; Editing by David Fox)

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