Is Pakistan putting its reputation as an Al Qaeda safe-haven at risk?


Haqqani network patriarch Jalaluddin (pointing at map) in Oct. 2001, back when he was a powerful guy in Afghanistan. Just like now.

The killing of Nasiruddin Haqqani, an important fundraiser for an Al Qaeda aligned militant network in Pakistan that bears the name of his father, the notorious warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani, in an Islamabad Pakistan suburb last week makes one wonder if the country's hard-earned reputation as a safe spot for mortal enemies of the US is coming to an end.

The Pakistani military may have received $17 billion in US aid since 2001, largely in the name of fighting terrorism, but that didn't stop the garrison town of Abbottabad near Islamabad from playing home to Osama bin Laden and his entourage.

The US-government funded Radio Free Europe carries a piece today that asserts that Haqqani had a better deal than Bin Laden, who was reported at least to never leave his compound and to avoid contact with outsiders.

Even compared to bin Laden, who hid in a safe house within sight of a prestigious military academy in Abbottabad, Haqqani's case stands out. He appears to have been living luxuriously in Islamabad, with several homes there, and often frequented the capital's markets and restaurants.
 Retired Pakistani Army Brigadier General Mehmood Shah says the circumstances of Nasiruddin Haqqani's death -- he was shot on the street as he bought bread at a bakery -- are deeply troubling for Pakistan.
 "The big question now is what was he doing in Islamabad?" Shah says. "We were assuming that the Haqqani network only operated in [the remote tribal region of] North Waziristan. And even there they were thought to be based close to the border with Afghanistan."

What's going on here? The Killing of Haqqani on Nov. 10 was just a week after a US drone strike killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud - a killing that infuriated the Pakistani government, at least in public. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the US killing of Mehsud would get in the way of peace talks between Pakistan and the Taliban.

But while the government says it wants to end the war with Taliban militants in the country's lawless northwest, it seems that Al Qaeda fellow travelers who operated mostly in Afghanistan find the convenes of Islamabad more congenial.

Haqqani's death is a reminder that Pakistan remains a safe and happy place for finance and resupply for the Afghan militants determined to kill NATO forces in Afghanistan and upend their plans - $17 billion a year or no $17 billion a year.

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