The Spider Group: Musharraf Behind Spread of CIA/FBI Network in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: Though the Abbottabad Commission has subtly held President Asif Ali Zardari responsible for the creation of the CIA network in Pakistan, in actual fact it was the former dictator General Musharraf who in the post-9/11 situation had permitted the American intelligence agencies to recruit their agents in the tribal belt of Pakistan.
Former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani and his “principals”, as termed by the Abbottabad Commission, have been held responsible for the CIA network in Pakistan but it was General Musharraf’s own Chief of General Staff (CGS) Lieutenant General (retd) Shahid Aziz who had told The News in 2009 that Musharraf, during his rule, had also not only allowed US drones to use Pakistani airspace for intelligence sharing but had permitted the American intelligence agencies, the CIA and the FBI, to recruit their agents in the tribal belt of Pakistan.
The commission found “Haqqani’s Principals” responsible for aiding and abetting the establishment of a nationwide CIA network in Pakistan. The report unambiguously declares that Haqqani’s “principals” were working for the interests of the American CIA in Pakistan and not for Pakistan’s national interests. In a clear hint about what the commission meant by Husain Haqqani’s “principals”, the report said Haqqani was directly reporting and was relying on the direct instructions of these “principals” working for the CIA interests in Pakistan and mostly by-passed the proper reporting channel of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A member of the commission confided to The News that the term of Husain Haqqani’s “principals” in the report was mainly hinted towards President Asif Ali Zardari.
Almost three months before the May 2, 2011 shame, The News had published a detailed report of how Pakistan had become home to one of the biggest networks of CIA and FBI outside the US following some unbelievable concessions offered to the Americans by General Musharraf after 9/11.
Not only General Musharraf had allowed the CIA and FBI to hire local agents in Pakistan in the garb of so-called war on terror but the Americans were also free to move in and move out without any check. “At times we did not know who is coming and who is going, and what is brought in and what it taken out,” a source was quoted to have said in the Feb 2011 report of The News.
One unbelievable concession that the American “officials” and “diplomats” have been enjoying after 9/11 but withdrawn only in October 2009 on the direct intervention of the then DG ISI Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, was the facility of unchecked arrivals and departures with no scrutiny of their luggage at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) in Islamabad.
Gammon Gate of the BBIA, which was basically meant for food catering services and had a direct outside airport link without passing through immigration and customs checks, was specified for the US officials and for the UN officials too. This special facility allowed the Americans to have unchecked arrivals and departures to and from the Islamabad Airport.
The facility was massively misused and there were reports of even unauthorised and undeclared import of sensitive material and equipment, including weapons. This fact had raised serious alarm bells ringing among the Pakistani authorities and forced them to withdraw the facility but after a lot of damage was already done.
A CAA order, issued on the subject in 2009, did concede that the customs and immigration authorities had no arrangements/staff to check the movement and crew and other foreigners, etc. “The equipment related to aeroplane, the crew and their personal luggage also passes through this gate. During checking, US vehicles and the luggage they carry to and from apron area are not properly searched\checked by the ASF staff deputed to control the entry\exit at the Gammon Gate,” a document said, adding that in view of this, use of the Gammon Gate by foreigners should be stopped forthwith as it was a serious security hazard.
The objectionable visas issued by Husain Haqqani are though focused by the commission but the defence authorities in Pakistan were also in the knowledge of this phenomenal spread in the American spy agencies’ network after 9/11.
Even an American newspaper, The Washington Times, had reported a few years back that the FBI had organised some former Pakistani army officers and others into a band known as the “Spider Group” to local Taliban and al-Qaeda fugitives hiding in tribal areas along the Afghanistan border.
Quoting a federal law-enforcement official in Washington, the report had said the move marked an attempt by the FBI to develop a “free flow of information” to US agents who previously had worked under some restriction with the ISI.
The Spider Group, the report said, was also asked to recruit locals in Pakistan’s tribal areas, where hundreds of wanted “terrorists” are allegedly holed up under the patronage of tribal chiefs. Members of the Spider Group include a mix of Muslim and Christian retired army and intelligence officers and have been trained and equipped by the FBI.
It has also been reported in the media that a spymaster of one of the country’s intelligence agency had informed the Interior Ministry that a provincial head of a private security agency besides others were spying for the CIA. The security agency was contacted and the said official was removed. It was also reported that a large number of private security agencies personnel are doing espionage for the American intelligence agencies.