Creative Associates Inc. and Blackwater

 

By Omar R Quraishi

Over the past few weeks one has come across several letters and reports — both from professional journalists as well as from concerned citizens — about the presence of mysterious foreign-looking security men in Peshawar. In fact, initially it was Peshawar but a recent letter said that these men were also seen in one of Islamabad’s central markets. In fact, a regular writer for this newspaper’s editorial pages, Shireen Mazari, in her piece of Aug 26 said that a company by the name of Creative Associates International Inc. (henceforth CAII) was operating inside Pakistan and that the foreign men seen by citizens were quite possibly working for it.

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Also, in the third week of August, a German news magazine as well as a major American newspaper reported that the CIA had been using Xe Services LLC (formerly Blackwater) to provide security for the "secret" bases that it was maintaining "inside Pakistan and Afghanistan" to launch drone attacks against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Xe LLC is the same company that, it now turns out, was hired by the CIA to "collect information" on al-Qaeda leaders as well as in its secret rendition programme. Some commentators in the alternative press in the US have more or less accused the company of being the CIA’s death squad claiming that the role its personnel played is well beyond gathering information on al-Qaeda leaders and assets.

In a detailed report, the New York Times said that the owner of the company, the very controversial Erik Prince, was part of the original 20-man contingent that flew out to Afghanistan to work with the CIA at its station in Kabul. It also said that Blackwater was working with the CIA in Shkin — which happens to be situated in Paktika province. Interestingly enough, Shkin is just across the Pakistan border from Angoor Adda in South Waziristan, the very place where US Special Forces carried out a deadly raid on Sept 3, 2008 and in which several women and children were killed. Three helicopters were used in the raid and F-16 jets provided air cover, according to reports in this newspaper and the NYT.

The paper claimed that despite the controversy surrounding Blackwater the US government would be paying the company around $150 million for contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. As if this were not enough, the nature of the payments was such that they were being made not to the company but to individuals — the US government had apparently entered into contracts with individuals who were then paid for their ‘services’. The reason that this was done was — in line with the tactic of ‘plausible deniability’ often used by governments and their intelligence agencies — that in case something went wrong the US government could easily distance itself and deny that it had any such programme in place with what is essentially a private mercenary company.

 

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A former agent who worked in undercover operations for the CIA was quoted in The Nation (a leading alternative US publication with a robust presence on the web) as saying: "What the agency [CIA] was doing with Blackwater scares the hell out of me. When the agency actually cedes all oversight and power to a private organization, an organization like Blackwater, most importantly they lose control and don’t understand what’s going on. What makes it even worse is that you then can turn around and have deniability. They can say, ‘It wasn’t us, we weren’t the ones making the decisions.’ That’s the best of both worlds. It’s analogous to what we hear about torture that was being done in the name of Americans, when we simply handed somebody over to the Syrians or the Egyptians or others and then we turn around and say, ‘We’re not torturing people.’"

The publication also spoke to a ranking member of Congress on the House Intelligence Committee who said that Blackwater was "part of the innermost circle strategising and exercising strategy within the Bush administration" and that "Erik Prince operated at the highest and most secret level of the government". The legislator further added: "Clearly Prince was more trusted than the US Congress because Vice-President Cheney made the decision not to brief Congress."

So if Blackwater (or Xe LLC or whatever it’s called now) is in Pakistan (something that Anne Patterson or her bosses in Washington will never confirm in any case) then it should be reasonable cause for some concern for Pakistanis — simply because of the horrific record of its personnel in Iraq and because of its shady/secretive/clandestine relationship with the CIA and the US Department of Defence.

 

As for CAII, it has been given several major contracts by USAID and it is likely that the same may have happened with USAID now working actively in Pakistan. According to details from the website of the Center for Public Integrity, a private US-based watchdog, around 90 percent of the company’s contracts come from USAID and that it has annual revenues of over $50 million. It seems to prefer working in conflict or potential-conflict areas since the roster includes the likes of (in addition to Afghanistan) Serbia, Mozambique, Angola, El Salvador, Haiti, Benin, Guatemala, Lebanon and Liberia. According to the company’s website, clients include the US Marine Corps, the Jordanian government and the World Bank.

Examples of its ‘projects’ suggest that it works closely with the US government and its various agencies, particularly the departments of state and defence. For example, in the late 1980s, it received USAID and Pentagon funding to "help demobilize and provide civilian training" for the Contras in Nicaragua. The Washington Times (a paper known for its rightwing views) recently reported that Creative Associates had contracts with two "well-known" oil companies, and that when the Center for Public Integrity asked the company to name them, Creative refused to answer and obliquely said: "Our work for USAID helps advance United States global interests in peace and security, and is carried out in accordance with the governing rules and regulations of the United States government."

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The centre also said that as long ago as Oct 2003, the company refused to answer nine of its questions that it had asked Creative regarding certain contracts. It pointed out that only six months prior to this round of refusals, the head of the company, Maria Kruvant, had told The Washington Post that "the issue of transparency is part of our life" and "I usually say quite comfortably that people know my shoe size". The centre gives several examples from Iraq, in particular a project called "RISE, or Revitalization of Iraqi Schools and Stabilization of Education" dating back to 2003 where it implies that the company was favoured in a big way by USAID and that the contract in question was worth as much as $157.1 million over its three-year implementation period. Also in 2003, USAID awarded CAII a three-year contract worth over 60 million dollars for "educational reform" in Afghanistan for "rebuilding 1,000 schools, training 30,000 teachers and providing $15 million worth of textbooks". In 2004 CAII was given another contract in Iraq, worth over 55 million dollars, to provide "technical assistance" to the Iraqi ministry of education.

The writer is Editorial Pages

Editor of The News.

Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk

Jinnah revisited, thank you Jaswant Singh

By Beena Sarwar

 

Yesterday at 18:30

Scan from PIA’s ‘Hamsafar’, Aug 2009 issue, with Azad’s lyrics and a picture of the postage stamp featuring Hafeez Jullandari whose lyrics later became Pakistan’s national anthem

I first learnt about Pakistan’s original national anthem, especially commissioned by Mr Jinnah from the poet Jaganath Azad of Lahore, in ‘Hamsafar‘, Pakistan International Airlines’ monthly magazine in its August issue when flying back from Lahore on Aug 9. This national anthem lasted only until Mr Jinnah’s death – after which his successors commissioned a more Persianised one that Hafeez Jullandari wrote. Please note, you would never have read this in any official literature a couple of years ago, ‘enlightened moderation’ notwithstanding
A subsequent article in The Kashmir Times, confirmed this startling (for me) information, Jinnah’s Secularism: A Hindu wrote Pak’s first national anthem. And then I learn that Zaheer A. Kidvai talked about this in his blogpost of May 03, 2009, Windmills of my mind – ‘A Tale of Two Anthems’, thanks Zak)
Also see: ‘Censoring the Quaid’ by Dr M. Sarwar, Aug 7, 1991 The Frontier Post)
Here’s my article on the Jaswant Singh-Jinnah controversy, published in Hardnews, New Delhi (Sept issue), and The News on Sunday,Pakistan.
Jinnah revisited, thank you Jaswant Singh
How did Mohammad Ali Jinnah — the ‘architect of Hindu-Muslim unity’ — end up founding a ‘Muslim country’?
By Beena Sarwar
Generations have grown up in India and in Pakistan fed on distorted versions of history. Attempts to counter these versions don’t go down too well at home, as Jaswant Singh found when he challenged the Indian version that lays the entire blame for the Partition on the shoulders of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, ignoring the parts played by Nehru, the Congress and the British.
Ironically, while eulogising the country’s founder as the Quaid-e-Azam or Great Leader, Pakistan has also censored him, sweeping aside his guiding principles, secularism and insistence on justice and constitutionalism. Similarly, in India Mahatma Gandhi is eulogised while his guiding principles and insistence on non-violence are made increasingly irrelevant.
Each side conveniently forgets the extremisms of its dominant faith. Hindu extremism existed well before 1947 (remember who killed Gandhi) as did Muslim extremism, particularly since 1857, when the British drove a wedge between the two religious communities. Both continue to feed off each other.

Official textbooks, policies or public discourse ignore the findings of scholars like Mubarik Ali, Ayesha Jalal and K.K. Aziz in Pakistan, and Romila Thapar, K.N. Panikkar and Sumit Sarkar in India whose work is based on solid research and facts rather than emotive myths. There is no official support for a joint history project.

Jaswant Singh’s latest work on Jinnah had not hit the Pakistani bookstalls at the time of writing. But from reported and televised statements and published extracts his thesis appears to be similar to Ayesha Jalal’s seminal work The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan (Cambridge University Press, 1985).
The controversy arises not from what Singh has written but from who he is: a founding member of the BJP, a party that has long attempted to communalise or saffronise India’s history. Given this agenda, what is surprising that not that the BJP sacked him or that the Gujarat government banned his book, but that Singh did not expect this. After all, he is not the first BJP leader to acknowledge Jinnah as secular — L.K. Advani did that during his groundbreaking June 2005 visit to his birthplace Karachi. The BJP didn’t go as far as expelling him, but he did have to resign as party head.

In Pakistan, this pettiness triggers off a puerile satisfaction that ‘their’ communal-mindedness has been exposed, for all ‘their’ posturing on democracy. But then, as some Pakistani newspaper columnists and editorials have commented, no one here (let alone from among ‘our’ right-wing nationalists, the BJP’s counterparts), is likely to embark on similar research on an Indian leader.

We know that Jinnah was an unlikely contender for a ‘Muslim leader’. But in Pakistan, there will be no public mention of his non-fasting during Ramzan or ignorance about the Muslim prayer. Jinnah’s marriage to the Zoroastrian Rati Petit is similarly glossed over. Jinnah joined Congress in 1906, remained a member after joining the All India Muslim League (AIML) in 1913, and brokered the Congress-League Lucknow Pact of 1916. Ever the constitutionalist, he played a key role in the formation of the All India Home Rule League pushing for India’s recognition as a British dominion, like Ireland or New Zealand. How did this ‘architect of Hindu-Muslim unity’, as Sarojini Naidu termed him, end up founding a ‘Muslim country’?

Jinnah’s differences with the Congress developed after the arrival on the scene of the populist M.K. Gandhi, coincidentally also a Guajarati lawyer. Jinnah, believing that independence could be achieved through constitutional means alone, opposed Congress adopting Gandhi’s non-violent civil disobedience movement to gain swaraj (self-rule) and the use of religious symbols to achieve this end — the Hindu symbols used by Gandhi or the Muslim slogans raised by Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali Jauhar. He was aghast when Congress, prompted by Gandhi, decided to join the Indian Khilafat Movement as a means to boost the anti-imperial, nationalist movement in India. Many saw this as a defining point of Hindu-Muslim unity. Jinnah disagreed. He termed the Khilafat as communal and religiously divisive, resigned from the Congress and turned his attention to the Muslim League and the political enfranchisement of Indian Muslims whom he increasingly saw as his constituency.

In The Sole Spokesman, Ayesha Jalal explains that Jinnah was not thinking of a ‘separate Muslim state’ when he argued for ‘weightage’ — giving Muslims representation on the basis of political significance rather than population. He demanded a disproportionate 33 percent representation for Muslims in each state or province where they formed a minority (averaging 15 per cent of the population) except where they formed over half and up to two thirds of the population — Kashmir, Hyderabad (Deccan), Bengal, NWFP, Balochistan, Sindh and the Punjab.
When the Nehru Report of 1928 (authored by Motilal Nehru) rejected this and other demands, Jinnah responded with his Fourteen Points of 1929, enunciating his conviction that Hindus and Muslims would eventually have to part ways politically if Indian Muslims were to obtain political representation. He turned to the idea of a separate state or states for Indian Muslims “within the Indian federation” — his vision right up to the months leading to Partition, according to Jalal. His demand for ‘Pakistan’ was basically a “bargaining counter” to gain leverage: he wanted to keep his options “open for a constitutional arrangement which would cover the whole of India” and steer a path between majority and minority while giving himself a role at the centre. The Muslim League’s famous resolution of Lahore, March 23, 1940, calling for the formation of Hindu and Muslim states in India as a condition of independence, makes no mention of ‘partition’ or ‘Pakistan’.

This is because Jinnah’s vision for ‘Pakistan’ did not entail the partition of India, writes Jalal, but “its regeneration into an union where Pakistan and Hindustan would join to stand together proudly against the hostile world without. This was no clarion call of pan-Islam; this was not pitting Muslim India against Hindustan; rather it was a secular vision of a polity where there was real political choice and safeguards, the India of Jinnah’s dreams.”

This strategy backfired firstly because the British, eager to cut their losses and leave, rushed ahead with Partition. Secondly, rather than agree to Jinnah proposal (an undivided Indian federation with a weak centre), the Congress saw the advantages of an India divided but with a strong centre and separation of the provinces outside its ken (keep those wild western tribes at bay) — even at the cost of dividing Punjab and Bengal. Jinnah found this division abhorrent, resulting in what he called a ‘truncated and moth-eaten’ nation.
Jinnah’s attempts to give Pakistan direction are reflected in the decision to commission a Hindu poet, Jaganath Azad of Lahore, to write Pakistan’s national anthem, in the provisional Assembly’s first constitution-making act — the appointment on August 10 of a Committee on Fundamental Rights and Matters relating to Minorities, headed by Jinnah himself — and in his first speech to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, outlining his vision for the new nation.

This speech, meant to be his political will and testament according to his official biographer Hector Bolitho (Jinnah: Creator of Pakistan, John Murray, London, 1954), talks first about the inherited problems of the new country — the maintenance of law and order, with the State fully protecting “the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects”, the “curse” of bribery and corruption, the “monster” of black-marketing, and the “great evil” of nepotism. He then discusses the issue of Partition (”the only solution of India’s constitutional problem”) — history would judge its merits or demerits but since it had happened, “we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor.”
He urges the assembly members to “work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet…If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.

“I cannot emphasize it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community, because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalis, Madrasis and so on, will vanish. Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence…
“Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State… We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State…. Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

The issues he outlined still haunt India and Pakistan today. His successors were quick to reject his vision. After Jinnah’s death on September 11, 1948, the assembly commissioned a new national anthem, consigning Jaganath Azad’s lyrics to history. Jinnah’s speech of Aug 11 was literally censored “by hidden hands”, as Zamir Niazi, the late chronicler of media freedoms details in his book ‘Press in Chains’ (Karachi Press Club, 1986). And a month after his death, his successors passed the Safety Act Ordinance of 1948, providing for detention without trial — that Jinnah had in March angrily dismissed as a “black law”. It is inconceivable that Jinnah would have agreed to the ‘Objectives Resolution’ that the Constituent Assembly passed in March 1949, laying the basis for formally recognising Pakistan as a state based on an ideology.
We are still paying the price for these follies. Thank you Jaswant Singh, for reminding us.

American NGO Covers For Blackwater In Pakistan?

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Reports suggest Pakistan has expelled a US Blackwater mercenary, but Pakistanis ask, Who rules our streets, the Pakistani government or the Americans?’ And who let them in?

In May, a US diplomat was caught arranging a meeting between a suspected Indian spy and senior Pakistani officials in the privacy of her house.  In June when Pakistani officials confronted Washington with evidence that terrorists in Pakistan were using sophisticated American weapons, US media quickly leaked stories about American weapons missing from the US-trained Afghan army.  And now reports confirm that the dirty secret arm of the US government – the mercenaries of Blackwater – have infiltrated sensitive regions of Pakistan.  Blackwater works as an extension of the US military and CIA, taking care of dirty jobs that the US government cannot associate itself with in faraway strategic places.  The question: Who let them in? And who deported one of them, if at all?

by AHMED QURAISHI

Last month a group of concerned Pakistani citizens in Peshawar wrote to the federal interior ministry to complain about the suspicious activities of a group of shadowy Americans in a rented house in their neighborhood, the upscale University Town area of Peshawar.
An NGO calling itself Creative Associates International, Inc. leased the house.  CAII, as it is known by its acronym, is a Washington DC-based private firm.  According to its Web site, the company describes itself as “a privately-owned non-governmental organization that addresses urgent challenges facing societies today …Creative views change as an opportunity to improve, transform and renew …”
The description makes no sense.  It is more or less a perfect cover for the American NGO’s real work: espionage.
The incorporated NGO is more of a humanitarian front that alternates sometimes for undercover US intelligence operations in critical regions, including Angola, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Gaza, and Pakistan. Of the 36 new job openings, the company’s Web site shows that half of them are in Pakistan today.  Pakistan is also at the heart of the now combined desperate effort by the White House-military-CIA to avert a looming American defeat in Afghanistan by shifting the war to its next-door neighbor.
In Peshawar, CAII, opened an office to work on projects in the nearby tribal agencies of Pakistan. All of these projects, interestingly, are linked to the US government.  CAII’s other projects outside Pakistan, are also linked to the US government.  In short, this NGO is not an NGO.  It is closely linked to the US government.
In Peshawar, CAII told Pakistani authorities it needed to hire security guards for protection. The security guards, it turns out, were none other than Blackwater’s military-trained hired guns.  They were used the CAII cover to conduct a range of covert activities in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province. Continue reading…

In the video above, the anchor of a TV channel details the origin and functioning of Blackwater, to its viewers in Urdu. The organization, a contractor of the US military, came into limelight when their inhuman treatment to Iraqi prisoners especially those in Abu Ghuraib Jail were exposed by a committed journalist.
The infamous Blackwater private security firm operates as an extension of the US military and CIA, taking care of dirty jobs that the US government cannot associate itself with in faraway strategic places. Blackwater is anything but a security firm.  It is a mercenary army of several thousand hired soldiers.
Pakistani security officials apparently became alarmed by reports that Blackwater was operating from the office of CAII on Chinar Road, University Town in Peshawar. The man in charge of the office, allegedly an American by the name of Craig Davis according to a report in Jang, Pakistan’s largest Urdu language daily, was arrested and accused of establishing contacts with ‘the enemies of Pakistan’ in areas adjoining Afghanistan.  His visa has been cancelled, the office sealed, and Mr. Davis reportedly expelled back to the United States.
It is not clear when Mr. Davis was deported and whether there are other members of the staff expelled along with him. When I contacted the US Embassy over the weekend, spokesman Richard Snelsire’s first reaction was, “No embassy official has been deported.”  This defensive answer is similar to the guilt-induced reactions of US embassy staffers in Baghdad and Kabul at the presence of mercenaries working for US military and CIA.
I said to Mr. Snelsire that I did not ask about an embassy official being expelled. He said he heard these reports and ‘checked around’ with the embassy officials but no one knew about this. “It’s baseless.”
So I asked him, “Is Blackwater operating in Pakistan, in Peshawar?”
“Not to my knowledge.”  Fair enough.  The US embassies in Baghdad and Kabul never acknowledged Blackwater’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan either. This is part of low-level frictions between the diplomats at the US Department of State and those in Pentagon and CIA.  The people at State have reportedly made it clear they will not acknowledge or accept responsibility for the activities of special operations agents operating in friendly countries without the knowledge of those countries and in violation of their sovereignty.  Reports have suggested that sometimes even the US ambassador is unaware of what his government’s mercenaries do in a target country.
Official Pakistani sources are yet to confirm if one or more US citizens were expelled recently.  The government is also reluctant in making public whatever evidence there might be about Blackwater operations inside Pakistan.  But it is clear that something unusual was happening in the Peshawar office of an American NGO.  There is also strong suspicion that Blackwater was operating from the said office.
There are other things happening in Pakistan that are linked to the Americans and that increase the chances of Blackwater’s presence here.
These include:
1.       One of the largest US embassies – or military and intelligence command outposts – in the world is being built in Islamabad as I write this at a cost of approximately one billion US dollars. This is the biggest sign of an expansion in US meddling in Pakistan and a desire to use this country as a base for regional operations.  Interestingly, US covert meddling inside Pakistan and nearby countries is already taking place, including in Russia’s backyard, in Iran, and in China’s Xinjiang.
2.      A large number of retired Pakistani military officers, academics and even journalists have been quietly recruited at generous compensations by several US government agencies.  These influential Pakistanis are supposed to provide information, analysis, contacts and help in pleading the case for US interests in the Pakistani media, in subtle ways.  Pakistanis would be surprised that some prominent names well known to television audiences are in this list. Continue reading…

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[Right: The American NGO that works for US government has almost half of its international vacancies in Pakistan. Three weeks back, its director in Peshawar was found contacting anti-Pakistan elements in the Pak-Afghan border area].
3.      CIA and possibly Blackwater have established a network of informers in the tribal belt and Balochistan; there have also been reports of non-Pakistanis sighted close to sensitive military areas in the country. Considering the intensity and frequency of terrorist acts inside Pakistan in the past four years, there is every possibility that all sorts of saboteurs are having a field day in Pakistan.
4.      Members of separatist and ethnic political parties have been cultivated by various US government agencies and quietly taken for visits to Washington and the CENTCOM offices in Florida.
The possibility of the existence of mercenary activities in Pakistan is strengthened by the following events:
5.      Pakistani officials have in recent months collected piles of evidence that suggests that terrorists wreaking havoc inside Pakistan have been and continue to receive state of the art weapons and a continuous supply of money and trainers from unknown but highly organized sources inside Afghanistan.  A significant number of these weapons is of American and Israeli manufacture.  Indians have also been known to supply third-party weapons to terrorists inside Pakistan.
6.      Some Pakistani intelligence analysts have stumbled on circumstantial evidence that links the CIA to anti-Pakistan terror activities that may not be in the knowledge of all departments of the US government. One thing is for sure, that CIA’s operations in Afghanistan are in the hands of dangerous elements that are prone to rogue-ish behavior.
7.      In May, a US woman diplomat was caught arranging a quiet [read ’secret’] meeting between a low-level Indian diplomat and several senior Pakistani government officials.  An address in Islamabad – 152 Margalla Road – was identified as a venue where the secret meeting took place. The American diplomat in question knew there was no chance the Indian would get to meet the Pakistanis in normal circumstances.  Nor was it possible to do this during a high visibility event.  After the incident, Pakistan Foreign Office issued a terse statement warning all government officials to refrain from such direct contact with foreign diplomats in unofficial settings without prior intimation to their departments.
8.     Pakistani suspicions about American foul play inside Pakistan are not new.  On July 12, 2008 in a secret meeting in Rawalpindi between military and intelligence officials from the two countries these concerns were openly aired. The Americans accused ISI of maintain contacts with the Afghan Taliban. The Pakistani answer was that normal low-level contacts are maintained with all parties in the area. NATO and the Kabul regime were doing the same thing in Afghanistan. In return, the Pakistanis laid out evidence, including photographs, showing known terrorists meeting Indian and pro-US Kabul regime officials. Was the United States supporting these anti-Pakistan activities is the question that was posed to the US military and CIA.
9.      Further back into history, in 1978 the ISI broke a spy ring made up of Pakistani technicians working for the nascent Pakistani nuclear program who were recruited by CIA.  Pakistan chose not to raise the issue publicly but did so privately at the highest level in Washington.
Now there are reports that the Zardari-Gilani government is consulting Pakistan’s Naval headquarters on a proposal to construct a US navy base on the coast of Balochistan.  When things have reached this level of American meddling in Pakistan, Blackwater seems like a small issue.  Some Pakistani analysts are of the view that elements within the Pakistani security establishment need to be very careful about where they intend to draw the red line for CIA operations in and around Pakistan.

The video above, courtesy, The Nation, Jeremy Scahill explains what’s Backwater and how does it operate. Jeremy Scahill (born c. 1974) is an American investigative journalist with expertise on a number of global issues, most notably the recent rise of private military companies.] He is the author of the international best-seller Blackwater:The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. The book won the George Polk Book Award. He serves as a correspondent for the U.S. radio and TV program Democracy Now!.

US Blackwater-Xe mercenaries spreads fear in Pakistani town

 

South Asia Features

By Nadeem Sarwar and Aqeel Yousafzai Jul

   Peshawar – Fear is spreading across University Town, an upmarket residential area in Pakistan’s north-western city of Peshawar, due to the overt presence of the controversial US private security contractor Blackwater.

   Sporting the customary dark glasses and carrying assault rifles, the mercenaries zoom around the neighbourhood in their black-coloured armoured Chevy Suburbans, and shout at motorists when occasionally stranded in a traffic jam.

   The residents are mainly concerned about Blackwater’s reputation as a ruthless, unbridled private army whose employees face multiple charges of murder, child prostitution and weapons smuggling in Iraq.

   ‘Sometimes, these guys stand in the streets and behave rudely with the passers-by, sometimes they point guns at people without provocation’ said Imtiaz Gul, an engineer, whose home is a few hundred metres from the US contractor’s base on Chanar Road in University Town.

   ‘Who rules our streets, the Pakistani government or the Americans? They have created a state within the state,’ he added.

   Repeated complaints to the authorities have been to no avail since, according to residents.

Blackwater provides security to the employees of Creative Associates International Inc (CAII), an American company carrying out multi-million-dollar development projects in the country’s Islamic militancy-plagued Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

   Founded in 1997 by Erik Prince, a former US Navy SEAL officer and a major contributor to Republican Party candidates, Blackwater has hired thousands of former military personnel from Western countries as well as other mercenaries from the Third World.

   It emerged as the largest of the US Department of State’s private security companies, winning multi-million-dollar contracts globally, but attracted a lot of media attention in September 2007 when its personnel killed 17 civilians in an unprovoked shooting while escorting a convoy of US State Department vehicles to a meeting in Baghdad.

   The firm is now facing a civil lawsuit filed in the US state of Virginia by those who were injured and who lost family members in the massacre.

   The company faces charges of human rights violations, child prostitution and possible supply of weapons to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, an Iraqi group designated by United Nations, European Union and NATO as a terrorist organization. It has been declared persona non grata in Iraq.

   To conceal its bad reputation, the shadowy company renamed itself Xe Worldwide in February 2009 and Prince resigned as its chief executive officer the following month.

   In Pakistan, the Interior Ministry asked the regional governments of all four provinces to keep an eye on the activities of Blackwater in early 2008, immediately after it was believed to have been hired by CAII, according to a media report.

   CAII works locally under the name of FATA Development Programme Government to Community (FDPGC).

   Lou Fintor, a spokesman for the US embassy in Islamabad, said that Blackwater-Xe was not in any way associated with its missions in Pakistan. But the denial does not include the possibility that the security firm was working for a private US company.

   Blackwater has recruited dozens of retired commandos from Pakistan’s army and elite police force through its local sub-contractors, said an intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

   Some Pakistani security officials suggested that besides providing security to the aid workers, Blackwater was carrying out covert operations.

   Among these were buying the loyalties of influential tribal elders and tracking the money flowing to al-Qaeda and Taliban through the national and international banks, something which perhaps goes far beyond the mandate of a private security firm.

   Taliban and al-Qaeda militants who use the tribal regions to attack civilian and government targets inside Pakistan and NATO-led international forces in Afghanistan are also watching Blackwater’s moves.

   On June 9, suicide bombers drove an explosive-laden vehicle into Peshawar’s sole five-star hotel, the Pearl Continental, after shooting the security guards, and detonated it at the side of the building where some Blackwater guards were staying.

   Sixteen people died including four of the security firm’s personnel – two Westerners and the same number of locals. Four more guards were injured.

   The dead bodies and injured were moved quietly. Neither the Pakistani government nor any foreign official admitted these deaths, apparently at the request of US officials.

   ‘Absolutely no comments,’ Qazi Jamil, the senior superintendent of police in Peshawar said abruptly when German Press Agency dpa asked him about the Blackwater deaths.

   But a minister in the North-West Frontier Province government, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he knew that some US private guards died but did not know how many and which firm they were from.

   ‘The provincial government was not directly dealing with the issue. It’s the federal intelligence agencies that handled it,’ said the minister.

   The possibility that Islamist militants might be plotting more attacks on the contractors is also a source of concern for many residents in University Town.

   ‘In the first week of July we requested the interior minister in a letter that targets like Blackwater should be kept away from the residential areas,’ said Ihsan Toro, a trader and member of council of citizens in University Town.

   ‘Al-Qaeda and the Taliban must be after them,’ added Toro.

Protecting women

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HolBrooke: Gulf Oil Fuelling Taliban

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CHOKEPOINT

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