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Global terrorism The Pakistan-Saudi Arabia nexus

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There is no dearth of evidence that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are partners in global terrorism. Mosques and jehadi-oriented madrassas in both countries spout anti-Western venom. Terrorist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba have links in Saudi Arabia. There are reports of extensive nuclear cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia since 1994. Hopefully, says G. Parthasarathy, the new Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, will avoid the path of sponsoring terror abroad.

A 2003 picture of the Pakistani President, Gen Pervez Musharraf, and the then Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah in Islamabad... Long-time cosy relationship.
A 2003 picture of the Pakistani President, Gen Pervez Musharraf, and the then Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah in Islamabad... Long-time cosy relationship.

G. Parthasarathy

WHEN SAUDI ARABIA'S ailing ruler King Fahd died after a prolonged illness on August 1, his last rites were performed according to strict Wahhabi traditions, with people going about their normal lives. But the one person who reacted as though his beloved uncle had died and proceeded to mourn publicly, was Pakistan's President, Gen Pervez Musharraf, who promptly declared a week-long state mourning and became the first non-Arab ruler of a Muslim country to announce that he would be present in Saudi Arabia at the last rites of the Saudi monarch.

What is it that prompted this show of grief and solidarity by Gen Musharraf? He had, after all, paid an official visit to the Wahhabi Kingdom barely six weeks ago? Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are now finding themselves in the same boat on issues of global terrorism. Pakistan's ISI continues to provide support to the Taliban and such Jehadi groups as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, whose cadres are being arrested worldwide for inciting and promoting terrorism. There are strong suspicions that government-backed Saudi charities such as the Al Harmain Islamic Foundation, the International Institute for Islamic Thought, and the International Islamic Relief Organisation continue to fund extremist and terrorist activities worldwide and disturb peace and harmony in pluralistic societies.

King Abdullah, who has just ascended the throne in Riyadh, is respected as a moderate who realises the dangers of funding and supporting terrorism abroad.

The same, however, cannot be said of others in the Royal Family, including members of the powerful Sudairi clan, who have controlled the levers of power and defied Abdullah even when he was the kingdom's de facto ruler, after King Fahd became incapacitated. It is no secret the influential Royals of the Sudairi clan such as the Governor of Riyadh Prince Salman have funded extremist Islamist causes worldwide.

Prince Salman, for example, channelled huge funds to Islamic extremist groups in Bosnia, He is also known to have assisted in the provision of arms and training to Chechen rebels. King Fahd's "favourite" son Prince Abdul Aziz (popularly known as Azouzi) is reported to have sent millions of dollars through a known associate of Osama bin Laden to "slaughter Russian soldiers and civilians alike" in Chechnya.

Azouzi is also known to have transferred huge sums of money to countries Germany, Spain and the US to fund Wahhabi Islamic causes that preach hatred of the west.

His love for opulence is such that he was permitted by an indulgent father to spend $4.6 billion for constructing a palace outside Riyadh. Not surprisingly, one of America's leading experts Robert Baer, who was formerly in the CIA, says that Saudi Arabia is ruled by "an increasingly bankrupt, criminal, dysfunctional royal family that is hated by the people it rules'.

One would have expected that after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 the Americans would come down heavily on Saudi Arabia's rulers. Washington has instead chosen to tread cautiously.

It is well-known that humanitarian causes dear to influential people such as Mrs Barbara Bush and Mrs Nancy Reagan have been funded by the Saudi Royals. Influential Americans including the Vice-President, Mr Dick Cheney, and Messrs George Schultz, James Baker, Colin Powell and Henry Kissinger have all been associated with companies such as the Carlyle Group, Haliburton and Chevron-Texaco that deal extensively with Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis are estimated to have invested over $500 billion in the US. They remain a major buyer of American arms and are the largest supplier of oil to the US. They have also played ball with the Americans in keeping global oil prices at levels that the Americans find acceptable. But while the Bush Administration has avoided public criticism of the links of Saudi Royals with international terrorism, American writers such as Robert Baer, Gerald Posner and Craig Unger have been given access to information about their terrorist links.

Gerald Posner recently revealed that when the FBI captured a top Al Qaeda man Abu Zubaydah in Faisalabad, the terrorist revealed that his main contacts in Saudi Arabia were Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, a wealthy royal with a passion for racehorses, Prince Sultan bin Turki al Saud, a nephew of King Fahd, and Prince Fahd bin Turki, another relative of the monarch.

Zubaydah told his American interrogators that the Royal Family struck a deal with the Al Qaeda for the latter not to target it. He also revealed that Prince Ahmed was informed beforehand that the Al Qaeda was planning to strike American targets on September 11, 2001.

Zubaydah further revealed that the Al Qaeda had also struck a deal with the Pakistani military and informed Pakistan's Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir of the impending 9/11 attacks.

Not surprisingly, the Bush Administration has remained silent on these allegations. More ominously, the 43-year-old Prince Ahmed died mysteriously in his sleep a few weeks after Zubyadah's revelations. His cousin Prince Sultan bin Turki died the next day in a "car accident" while proceeding to attend Prince Ahmed's funeral. Prince Fahd bin Turki died mysteriously a week later of "thirst" while he was said to be driving in the desert. Finally, the last person whose identity was revealed by Abu Zubaydah as having known of the impending terrorist attacks of 9/11, Air Chief Marshal Mir, died in a mysterious air crash in Pakistan.

According to Posner, the air crash in which Air Chief Marshal Mir died is widely believed to have been an act of sabotage. There is no dearth of evidence now that if Pakistan and China are partners in nuclear and missile proliferation, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are similarly partners in global terrorism. Mosques and jehadi-oriented madrassas in both countries spout anti-Western venom. Terrorist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba have links in Saudi Arabia.

This is evident from the phone calls made by Lashkar militants operating in India to contacts in Saudi Arabia. But the Pakistani-Saudi Arabian nexus goes beyond terrorism. In July 2000, the Petroleum Intelligence Weekly reported that Saudi Arabia was sending 150,000 barrels of oil per day virtually free of cost to Pakistan. These supplies, currently valued at $ 3.2 billion annually, still continue.

Robert Baer has reported that the US has known of extensive nuclear cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia since 1994. The Saudi Defence Minister, Prince Sultan, was given unprecedented access to Pakistan's nuclear facilities in Kahuta in May 1999.

Dr A. Q. Khan visited Saudi Arabia shortly thereafter. According the Pakistani writer Amir Mir, Gen Musharraf's visit to Saudi Arabia on June 25-26 was primarily to discuss how to deny the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to information about the Pakistan-Saudi Arabia nuclear nexus. Saudi Arabia is said to be resisting pressures to adhere to the IAEA's Additional Protocol, which Iran has been compelled to accept.

Saudi Arabia has been a consistent supporter in the Organisation of Islamic Conference of Pakistan's protégés in the Hurriyat Conference in Jammu and Kashmir. It is going to take a long time for members of the Saudi Royal Family to stop funding extremist Islamic causes that destabilise pluralistic societies across the world. One sincerely hopes King Abdullah will avoid going down the path chosen by Gen Musharraf. No country can insulate itself from the inevitable consequences of sponsoring jehad and extremism abroad, while piously proclaiming its abhorrence of such causes. Words necessarily have to be matched by deeds.

(The author is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan.)

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 10, 2005)
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