Speculation surrounding ‘arrested’ Taliban

The Lahore High Court on Friday issued an emergency order blocking the handover of five arrested Taliban to United States or Afghanistan. The court issued the order after a petition filed by Khalid Khwaja of Defence of Human Rights stating that the arrested Afghan Taliban Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar, Mulla Abdus Salam, Mulla Kabir, Mulla Mohammed and Amir Muaaviya were being handed over to the Americans. The judges have invited the government to submit its arguments on March 15.

Only a day before the High court decision, the Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s office had said Mullah Baradar would be repatriated to Afghanistan. Different interpretations of the capture of Baradar, reputed to be Afghan Taliban’s deputy leader, and others are in circulation.  One is that these are honest captures, another that those arrested are Taliban ‘negotiators’ in reality and attempts will now be made to reach a deal with the Taliban while they are in custody.  While the Pakistani government can file an appeal against the High Court ruling in the Supreme Court, there is no sign that it will do so, at least in the immediate future.

The Real News anchor Paul Jay talks to Mohammad Jubaid, a Pakistani researcher, to gain an understanding.

Behind the Friday bloodshed in Kabul

Today’s attacks in Kabul, killing at least 17 and wounding around 40, are significant for a number of reasons. The Taliban have been under pressure in the US-led military operation around Marjah in Helmand province and in Pakistan. The Kabul attacks are intended to draw the attention from the areas of pressure in the south. These attacks also demonstrate that the Afghan capital remains vulnerable, even after the much publicized American military surge in the country. By promptly claiming responsibility, the Taliban have warned President Karzai, who recently staged a political coup by his unilateral action to take full control of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Complaints Commission when parliament was in recess. Until now, the commission had three of its five members appointed by the Western donors and the body had been harsh in its criticism of fraud in the presidential election. President Karzai will now appoint all five members.

The targeting of Indian hostels is significant because India is the leading regional donor to the Afghan government, with over a billion dollar investment and at least 4000 Indians working in Afghanistan. And the attacks came just after a brief round of talks between India and Pakistan in Delhi. America has been urging them both to reduce tensions and Pakistan to concentrate on the fight against its domestic insurgency and in Afghanistan.

Murder in Dubai

Leading Israeli figures are congratulating themselves over the assassination of the Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel. But the affair has been escalating every day. While Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman gleefully said there was ‘no proof’ that the Mossad spy agency carried out the killing, the opposition Kadima leader Tzipi Livni applauded the killing. Her comment: “The fact that a terrorist was killed, and it doesn’t matter if it was in Dubai or Gaza, is good news to those fighting terrorism.”

The Dubai authorities have been releasing information drip by drip that increasingly points the finger at the Israeli secret service Mossad. And the controversy refuses to go sway. Israel has declined to confirm or deny it carried out the assassination. Most statements made in Israel only deepen the mystery, or signal Mossad’s involvement in the assassination in a foreign country in violations of that country’s laws.

The operation may have succeeded in eliminating a leading Palestinian opponent of Israel. However, its political fallout should not be underestimated as Israel is under unprecedented international pressure. The authorities in Dubai have been making new revelations almost every day.

These disclosures reinforce the sense of a botched operation that could have serious consequences for the ability of Israelis to move around the world. And they have put friendly governments on the spot.

No wonder there are loud complaints and verbal expressions of outrage, though little concrete action in terms of uncovering the facts. And the British government has had to strenuously deny suggestions that it might have been told by a serving officer of Mossad in advance of the Hamas official’s assassination.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia is the latest to reprimand Israel over the forging of Australian passports used in the killing. Describing himself as a life-long supporter of Israel, Rudd said he was ‘deeply concerned’ about the affair and pledged that Australia would  ‘not be silent on this matter’. His government did not expressly blame Israel. Rather it summoned Israel’s ambassador Yuval Rotem and demanded an explanation. The Israelis have so far refused to talk about the affair.

With the latest information made available by Dubai, the total number of fake foreign passports used by the assassins is 26, including  –  

United Kingdom – 12

Irish Republic 6  

French 4

Australian 3

German 1

The government of Dubai has demanded the arrest of the Mossad chief – a move an Israeli official has ridiculed. But Interpol has issued ‘wanted notices’ for a number of suspects. It is a serious matter. More serious are political repercussions for Israel and the vestiges of President Obama’s hopes of restarting the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

The likelihood of the British government initiating change in the UK law on universal jurisdiction has suffered a setback. Serving and ex-Israeli officials would have to think hard before visiting Britain and other countries. And the assassination would encourage Israel’s opposition abroad. We have certainly not heard the last of the affair.