EXCLUSIVE: This Is How US Agents Sneak Into PakistanMarch 14, 2010
BY SYED FAWAD ALI SHAH
TORKHAM, Pakistan—Rampant corruption and a weak Pakistani state are helping the entry into Pakistan of spies and terrorists from multiple foreign intelligence agencies operating in Afghanistan. Almost all terror in Pakistan is coming from Afghanistan.
This American woman tried to sneak into Pakistan through Torkham on Afghan border today, Saturday, Mar. 13, 2010, around early afternoon. She was wearing an Afghan woman’s burqa and apparently spoke local dialects. She would have successfully crossed into Pakistan safely hidden among a group of Afghan women but something about her demeanor raised the suspicion of a Pakistani border guard.
However, the border guards, known as Khasadars, made sure that Pakistani intelligence officers posted in the area are not told about this arrest. Torkham is considered a hot station within Kasadar tribal force circles. With salaries that go less than PKR 10,000 per month [less than US$ 130], major checkpoints such as Torkham provide an extra source of income for the Khasadars through bribes from travelers.
The guards kept the woman in a room for about thirty minutes and then let her enter Pakistan in her burqa. She paid the Khasadar guards a handsome amount of money as bribe. According a source in the Khasadar Force who witnessed the whole thing, the woman didn’t panic. She appeared composed and familiar with the ways of the border guards. She knew what to do in such a situation.
Thanks to my contacts in the border force, I was able to make a cell phone video of her passport while the Khasadar chief at the checkpoint talked to her. Her name on the passport was Zohra Rehmati, which makes her an American from either Iranian or Tajik-Afghan extract.
Over the past four years, a large number of US agents have entered Pakistan through Afghanistan. Several have been arrested in different parts of the country disguised as Afghan men, complete with beards and Turbans and fluent in Pashto, Dari and Urdu. Unfortunately, much of this covert American activity was sanctioned first by the Musharraf government and now by the pro-US Zardari-Haqqani combine in the incumbent government.
Ms. Rehmati, if that is her real name, may or may not be a CIA operative, or one of its private contractors associated with either DynCorp or Xe International. But such lax security in a country that is a target of terrorism, DynCorp managed to create quite a covert network in Pakistan before being busted by Pakistani security last year. DynCorp remains in Pakistan, thanks to backing from both the US Embassy in Islamabad and the pro-US government, despite repeated attempts by the country’s security officials to force the US defense contractor to wrap up its operations here. Xe International, formerly known as Blackwater, also operated in Pakistan until 2005 before being moved to Afghanistan, according to an earlier report in the New York Times. But going by the number of incidents in Pakistan over the past couple of years where US private agents were seen operating in major Pakistani cities, it is safe to say that both contractors continue to quietly operate in Pakistan in one
Private contractors help give CIA the benefit of deniability if an agent is arrested on foreign territory.
CIA has been known to send US citizens of foreign descent to their home countries for espionage.
The most recent example is Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American who was busted in Tehran carrying sensitive documents handed to her by an informant. Ms. Saberi was sent to Iran posing as a journalist. CIA even managed to get her newspaper accreditation from a major American newspaper. The US government was embarrassed at the arrest because Ms. Saberi was arrested red handed receiving official documents from a contact.
In Pakistan, a State that is falling apart at the seams, with no central figure or department to control the rot, is providing the perfect environment for meddling in the country not only by the United States, UK, India and other established powers based in Afghanistan, but also by a puppet regime like that of Mr. Hamid Karzai and his spymasters, who in eight years are in a good position today to wreak mayhem inside Pakistan while the politicians in Islamabad and the military in Rawaplpindi have little recourse beyond words of appeasement or caution during closed-door meetings with foreign powers in Afghanistan that are never translated into action to reestablish Pakistan’s writ domestically and in the region.
Mr. Shah is an independent journalist based in Peshawar.
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