Tags: Pakistan | Cracks | Down | Terrorists | After | Pearl's | Murder

Pakistan Cracks Down on Terrorists After Pearl's Murder

Friday, 22 February 2002 12:00 AM

The death of the Wall Street Journal reporter, who was kidnapped Jan. 23, was confirmed Thursday when U.S. and Pakistani investigators received a videotape showing the kidnappers slashing Pearl's neck.

"Police have been alerted from Peshawar to Karachi. We will not spare anyone," said a spokesman for the interior ministry in Islamabad.

In the southern port city of Karachi, where Pearl was kidnapped, reports spoke of dozens of people being arrested since Thursday night, when Pakistani and U.S. officials confirmed the reporter's death.

The city's deputy police chief, Tariq Jamil, refused to give a number but said, "Nobody will escape."

Other police officers involved in the investigation said so far they had been cautious, fearing that if they increased their pressure on militants, they might hurt Pearl. "After this tragic death, the fear of reprisal is no more. We are free to act. We will catch them all," said an investigator.

Meanwhile, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf called President Bush on Friday to offer condolences for Pearl's death.

During the conversation they expressed "a strong resolve to continue their fight against terrorism," said an official statement issued in Islamabad.

"The two presidents also agreed that the perpetrators of this barbaric act cannot be friends of Islam or Pakistan."

Commenting on the conversation, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Musharraf has taken the murder "pretty badly because he was doing everything to stop the kidnappers from killing Pearl."

Talking to reporters aboard Air Force One as Bush returned home from a five-day trip to Asia, Powell confirmed that Musharraf spoke with Bush after the killing was confirmed but the secretary did not disclose the details of their conversation.

Hours after Pearl's death was confirmed, Musharraf issued a directive to all "national security agencies to apprehend each and every member of the gang of terrorists linked to this gruesome murder."

"The order shows how he and other Pakistanis have been hurt by this heinous act. It is particularly painful because it happened in the middle of the Eid celebrations," said Jamil Yusuf, chairman of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee, a law enforcement agency that was deeply involved in the search for Pearl.

Pakistanis and Muslim around the world are celebrating Eid al Adha, commemorating God's gift of a ram to Abraham as a substitute sacrifice for his son – a central story in Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

Pakistani police also have arrested militants in other cities amid indications that Musharraf did not want to confine the crackdown only to those involved in the kidnapping and murder of Pearl.

"The murder has further increased his determination to fight militancy and terrorism and has given him another reason for going after them," said Rasheed Khalid, who teaches defense and strategic studies at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

He said Powell's comment that Musharraf was "doing everything to stop the kidnappers from killing Pearl" would put to rest doubts being expressed in some circles that the murder could jeopardize the newfound U.S.-Pakistan alliance against terrorism.

"Encouraged by the assurance that Washington will continue to support him, Musharraf will further tighten the screws on the militants," said Khalid.

Musharraf, who dumped Pakistan's Taliban allies after the Sept. 11 attacks and provided military bases to the United States for operations into Afghanistan, has already banned several militant organizations.

Reports in the Pakistani media suggest that he also is disbanding two wings of his military intelligence, ISI, that dealt with jihadi groups, militants who say they are waging a "holy" war. The move may lead to the sacking of at lest 4,000 people from this 10,000-strong spy agency.

Officials in Islamabad say that Pakistan will not only catch and punish the culprits but will also look sympathetically into any request from Washington to extradite them to the United States.

The two countries already have an extradition treaty, and Pakistan has sent suspects to the United States in the past.

But legal experts are not yet clear whether Washington can seek the extradition of non-American suspects in a crime committed outside the United States.

Such a request, if made, may also involve Britain, as the chief suspect in the Pearl case, Ahmed Omar Saeed Shaikh, is a British national. Britain has abolished the death sentence and does not allow the extradition of its citizens to a country where it is practiced, such as the United States. The U.S., however, does not refuse to extradite criminals to nations that fail to impose capital punishment.

Observers in Pakistan say that such moves may further strengthen Musharraf's ties with Washington, but they will also isolate him at home, making him more dependent on U.S. support for his survival. Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The death of the Wall Street Journal reporter, who was kidnapped Jan. 23, was confirmed Thursday when U.S. and Pakistani investigators received a videotape showing the kidnappers slashing Pearl's neck. Police have been alerted from Peshawar to Karachi. We will not spare...
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Friday, 22 February 2002 12:00 AM
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