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Pakistan Turns Over Terror Suspect to US

  • Michael Kitchen

Pakistan continues to hand suspected terrorists from al-Qaida and other groups to the United States.

Reports say Pakistan had transferred suspected al-Qaida member Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani to U.S. custody.

Mr. Ghailani, a Tanzanian suspected of helping bomb U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998, was arrested last year in Pakistan. The Pakistani Interior Ministry said at the time that it planned to claim the U.S. government's $5 million reward for him, indicating that it planned to turn him over to U.S. authorities.

Relations between Pakistan and the United States have grown closer in recent years, due largely to their cooperation in tracking down terrorist suspects.

While Pakistan's government insists the war on terror is in its own national interest, some Pakistanis believe their military and law enforcement are being used by the United States as proxy terrorist hunters.

Former foreign secretary Tanvir Ahmed Khan says that in order to keep close ties with Washington, Pakistan has constantly had to prove itself with high-profile arrests of terror suspects.

"This is how it has worked out in the last couple of years, that every so often, Pakistan has to demonstrate its active cooperation by an actual event," he explained.

Pakistan has captured more than 500 alleged members of al-Qaida during the past three years, including the arrest in 2002 of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, accused of masterminding the catastrophic attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

But Mr. Khan says many Pakistanis believe Washington has a habit of befriending Pakistan when it needs a favor, and then abandoning the country when that favor has been delivered.

"[In] Pakistani historical memory, right or wrong, the United States has forged expedient relations with Pakistan while there was a situation of crisis … and when that crisis ends, the United States goes away," added Mr. Khan.

He notes that the countries were close during the Soviet Union's occupation of neighboring Afghanistan in the 1980s, but that Washington hit Islamabad with sanctions in the late 1990s after Pakistan developed nuclear weapons.

But Mr. Khan adds that things may be different this time, given repeated assurances that Washington's good will is here to stay.

Besides promising a generous multi-year aid package, the United States has declared Pakistan a "non-NATO ally," indicating a long-term partnership between the two countries.

The U.S. Congress' 9-11 commission has also noted Pakistan's feeling of past betrayals, and has urged the administration to make a strong commitment to stand by the country.

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