[Deathpenalty]death penalty news --- worldwide
j_sommer at gmx.net
Wed Dec 22 13:32:45 CST 2004
death penalty news
December 22, 2004
Pakistani al-Qaida suspect gets death penalty
The Pakistan army recently meted out its first death sentence by firing
squad to a soldier for supporting al-Qaida, a move bound to further strain
President Pervez Musharraf relations with powerful religious groups within
the armed forces.
Political analysts in Pakistan say that such tough action against one of
the army's own shows Musharraf's desire to purge religious elements from
the army, but they warn the move could also backfire and hurt the Pakistani
Court documents seen by the United Press International identify the soldier
as Mohammed Islam Siddiqui of the Defense Services Guard Company attached
to the Punjab regiment.
Charges against him include "abetting mutiny" against Musharraf and
attempting to persuade "a person in the military" to rebel against the
Siddiqui is also accused of entering Afghanistan without a passport and
having links to a group in the Pakistan air force which was plotting to
Siddiqui was arrested in South Waziristan, a tribal belt along the
Pakistan-Afghanistan border, after he refused to fight against local tribes
suspected of having links to the Taliban and al-Qaida.
Pakistan is conducting a major military operation in Waziristan to catch
Taliban and al-Qaida suspects believed to be hiding there. U.S. and
Pakistani officials believe that some senior al-Qaida leaders, such Osama
bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawaheri, may also be hiding in this region.
Pakistani intelligence sources told UPI that more than 35 non-commissioned
officers and soldiers are being tried secretly for plotting against the
"It's not a one-off thing. It's part of a well-thought out plan to purge
the armed forces of all religious-minded people," says Syed Saleem Shahzad,
a Pakistani journalist who first reported that the sentencing.
"But it may not be as easy as it seems to rid the Pakistani armed forces of
religious elements," said Rashid Khalid, a professor at the Department of
Strategic Studies at Islamabad's Quaid-e-Azam University. "They have deep
The Pakistani army, which was part of the British Indian army before
independence in 1947, was raised on liberal values. But this changed in the
early 1980s when the Soviet forces occupied neighboring Afghanistan, and
Pakistan became the hub of resistance to the Soviet occupation.
Both U.S. and Pakistani authorities recruited hundreds of Muslim activists
from around the world to fight in Afghanistan. Many of them worked closely
with the Pakistan army along with Pakistani and Afghan jihadi groups.
Pakistan continued the army's association with the jihadis after the
withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They also used
them to stir an uprising against India in Kashmir, a Himalayan valley
disputed between Islamabad and New Delhi since 1947.
"In the process, the jihadis learned some of the army's fighting skills but
the Pakistani troops also acquired some of the religious zeal of these
jihadis," said Khalid.
But after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, Pakistan broke
its ties with these religious groups and joined the U.S.-led "war against
While most of the armed forces supported the move initiated by Musharraf,
who is also chief of the army staff, religiously inclined soldiers and
officers were not happy. The first time the army's high command learned
about their grievances was in December 2003 when Musharraf escaped two
close attempts on his life.
Investigators later said they learned that there were groups within the
Pakistan army and the air force who conspired with al-Qaida in arranging
these attacks that killed more than a dozen security guards.
Alarmed, Musharraf ordered a major overhaul of the armed forces. Musharraf
loyalists were tasked with drawing a list of religiously inclined officers
and many were quietly retired.
But the military kept the process secret until March this year when
Musharraf revealed in a television interview that about a dozen
non-commissioned officers and soldiers had been detained for helping
al-Qaida arrange the attempts on his life.
When the army launched the operation against al-Qaida in Waziristan earlier
this year, senior officers were stunned at confronting rampant
insubordination and defiance among their soldiers. Many said they did not
want to fight their Muslim brothers for America's sake.
"This was when the Musharraf government decided to deal with the situation
with an iron fist and authorized military courts to give death sentences to
those found guilty of treason," said Shahzad.
Under this new strategy, those who had worked with religious militants in
Afghanistan, and later, in Pakistani Kashmir were declared suspect and
watched carefully, he added.
During this surveillance, Pakistani intelligence agencies discovered
Siddiqui who, according to the indictment, "received training in the acts
of terrorism at a training camp run by the Jasih-e-Mohammed group of
religious militants operating in Kashmir. In February 2003, he tried to
encourage two other soldiers, Hafiz Mohammed Ashafq and Hafiz Salahuddin,
to rebel against the Musharraf government.
The government claims that he told interrogators he was a regular visitor
to militant bases and camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan from January 2003
to January 2004. He also acknowledged his affiliation with the
In June 1999, he allegedly went to Afghanistan without a passport and for
training at camps run by the Taliban and al-Qaida.
The prosecution also claims that "he improperly remained associated with an
organization of Pakistan air force personnel, which (wanted to) eliminate
According to the charge sheet, Siddiqui knew those who wanted to kill
Musharraf but never reported them to the government.
In October 2003, he allegedly refused six capsules containing poison from a
non-commissioned officer of the Air Defense Regiment, Mohammed Younis,
"with ulterior motives."
According to Pakistani intelligence sources, Siddiqui was tried at a secret
location and sentenced to death.
(source: UPI / Washington Times)
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