News reports in the US initially suggested a possible Colorado connection between Shahzad’s wife, Huma Mian, and Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan national who pleaded guilty to a foiled New York subway attack. But attention in Pakistan has turned to a small, peaceful village on the outskirts of Peshawar where Mr. Shahzad grew up.
Residents in Mohib Banda, population 10,000, described Shahzad’s family as well respected and middle class in interviews given to Pakistani media, while some suggest he has been framed.
“The entire family is highly educated and enlightened. The villagers don’t believe that Shahzad could act in such a manner,” Kifayatullah Khan, a lawyer, told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper.
Part of this disbelief may stem from Shahzad’s privileged background as the son of a retired Pakistan Air Force air vice marshal.
A senior Air Force officer told the Monitor that Shahzad’s father, Baharul Haq, is “worried and depressed” and has left his home in a posh area of Peshawar to avoid the media. “If his son has done something wrong, it is nothing to do with the PAF [Pakistan Air Force]. We have no concerns with that boy – he is a civilian and a US citizen.”
Meanwhile, Shahzad’s wife, Huma Mian, and their two young children are believed to be currently in Pakistan. Fox News reported Tuesday that Mian has relatives listed at several addresses in Aurora, Colo. – the same town Afghan national Najibullah Zazi and relatives lived in between January 2009 and July 31, 2009. Attorney General Eric Holder told a press conference: “I don't have any basis to believe at least at this point that there's any connection between the two.”
Huma Mian's father detained
The Dawn newspaper reports that Shahzad's father-in-law, Iftikhar Mian, was picked up by Pakistan intelligence agents in Karachi Wednesday. US and Pakistani media report that Shahzad moved his family to Karachi in 2009.
On Oct. 20, 2008, he reported to US authorities his marriage to a woman he identified as Huma Asif Mian, an American citizen.
Colorado University officials confirm that Huma Asif Mian attended the university in Boulder from 2000 to 2004 and graduated with a degree in accounting. But she appears to have left Colorado in 2005.
Her profile on orkut.com shows photos of her husband and one child (reports say they have a son and daughter) in a pink bunny outfit. Under the picture of her husband, she writes "what can I say ... he's my everything."
Mian wrote that her passions are "fashion, shoes, bags, SHOPPING!! AND of course Faisal."
Pakistani media report that Shahzad got his US citizenship by marrying Mian, and that, while her father got his master's degree at the Colorado School of Mines in 1980, the family has roots in Mardan, a city in northwest Pakistan.
In 1998, Shahzad got a student visa in the US and later attended the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, where he received a B.A. in computer science and engineering. In April 2002, he was granted an H1-B visa for skilled workers and three years later earned an MBA at the University of Bridgeport.
It's not clear when or where Shahzad met his wife, but US authorities don't consider her a suspect.
Backlash for Pakistanis?
Shahzad’s leap from a quiet suburban existence in Connecticut, where he held a good job with a financial marketing company, to high-profile terror suspect, has worried many ordinary Pakistanis, who now fear a US backlash.
“They are going to come down on us with a ton of bricks now,” says Gul Bukhari, a freelance writer in Lahore who occasionally travels to the United States to visit family. Pakistanis are often subjected to greater scrutiny while traveling to the United States and many face problems obtaining visas. Many feel that US scrutiny is set to increase.
Others suggest the Mr. Shahzad may have been “framed” by the United States so that it can exert more power over Pakistan. “It all seems too easy. Why would Shahzad leave without completing the job?” asked Shazaib Hassan, a small-business owner in Lahore.
But Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Wednesday that no links have yet been established between Shahzad and any terror groups, adding he will investigate whether the plot is in fact a “conspiracy” against Pakistan.
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