Arresting top jihadis is only the first step

But Pakistan has a history of setting them free

Fazal-ur-Rehman Khalil, a leader of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Qari Saifullah Akhtar, leader of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami have been caught. These gentlemen were hardly hard to trace, and their whereabouts in Pakistan or the Arabian peninsula were well known to Pakistani intelligence, but the recent arrests of al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan must have made them too hot for their handlers prompting their arrests.

Khalil and Akhtar are among the top rungs of the jihadi establishment in Pakistan and formed the core group of the ISI’s efforts to take the jihad to far-flung corners of the world – from Kashmir and Afghanistan, to Uzbekistan, Tajikstan, Chechnya and South East Asia. Their arrest is good news indeed.

The bad news is that they are in Pakistani custody. Musharraf’s men have played an extremely duplicitous game of rounding up the baddies when the going gets hot, and setting them free when it suits them. These men were the creation of the ISI, and Musharraf would be loath to hear any songs they might sing if properly interrogated. But the prospects of them being handed over to the American authorities are dim, for it does appear that under the deal the Americans have struck with Musharraf they get to keep the non-Pakistani terrorists while the Pakistani authorities get to retain their own creations.

Related Link: Inside Pakistan’s jihadi alphabet soup – a who’s who from the South Asian Terrorism Portal.

Pakistan’s new game: First you breed them, then you nurture them and then you hand some of them over periodically as an unavoidable ransom to the Americans. This is the Great Game Pakistan is playing with the Bush Administration as umpire. [Seema Sirohi | Outlook]