Musharraf stages second coup
Pervez taps Imran sister
Downing to Buckingham under blanket
Britain signals long campaign
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Washington, Oct. 8: 
As the entire world�s attention was riveted on television screens which were putting out dramatic pictures of America�s new war on Sunday, General Pervez Musharraf was recasting Pakistan in his new image, quietly.

It was Musharraf�s second coup d�etat in two years, almost to the day of the first one which brought him to power.

Having been told on Friday by British Prime Minister Tony Blair about the date and time of the attack, later reconfirmed by the Americans, Musharraf called a meeting of his corps commanders precisely at the time US and British missiles began raining on Afghanistan.

A day earlier his term as chief of army staff was to end, but he had perpetuated himself in the post, the most powerful in Pakistan even when civilian prime ministers or presidents pretended that they were ruling the country.

The wily general, who had taken the Indians for a ride in Agra earlier this year and who has been taking the Americans for an ever bigger ride since September 11, was now preparing to give a taste of the same medicine to some of his closest associates. He was all ready to kick the ladder on which he had ascended to absolute power and switch to a new ladder, �made in USA�, which he hopes will take him to the same heights as General Zia-ul Haq.

According to information pieced together by Pakistani sources in the Gulf, Musharraf�s night of long knives began with a casual announcement that he had made some personnel changes. The corps commanders assumed that it was a prelude to the war in Afghanistan, which, they were told, would be the subject of the meeting. What the assembled generals got from Musharraf was, however, a bolt from the blue.

Musharraf said he had promoted lieutenant-general Mohammad Aziz as a four-star general. The joy of Aziz, who became infamous in India for having placed the phone call criticising Nawaz Sharif to his boss in Beijing during Kargil, was shortlived.

He was told that he was being moved out his job as corps commander in Lahore and made chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee. The post is no more than ceremonial.

Next came the announcement that Musharraf�s chief of general staff, lieutenant-general Mohammed Yusuf, was being made a full general and promoted as vice-chief of army staff.

The vice-chief is next in seniority to Musharraf. When General Zia died in a plane crash in 1988, his vice-chief, General Mirza Aslam Baig, succeeded him. The post has remained vacant for 10 years.

When Musharraf announced that General Yusuf was being made vice-chief, General Muzaffar Usmani, the deputy chief of army staff and number two to Musharraf, promptly resigned.

Lieutenant-general Mahmood Ahmad, the powerful head of the notorious Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), also quit in protest over being superseded by Yusuf and Aziz, both his juniors.

Both the outgoing officers have asked Musharraf for permission to retire prematurely in the tradition of the Pakistan army, whenever they are superseded.

Aziz, Mahmood and Usmani were the trio who plotted the overthrow of Nawaz Sharif and installed Musharraf in power while he was away in Colombo. However, they were also the midwives to the birth of the Taliban and played key roles in installing the Islamic militia in power in Kabul in 1996.

The three men were said to have been bitterly opposed to Musharraf�s trip to Agra, although the Pakistani President got the better of them when he outmanoeuvred the Indian leadership.

In recent weeks, the Americans are understood to have complained to Musharraf that Mahmood and Usmani were not parting with intelligence inputs crucial to track Osama bin Laden.

The FBI is also said to have traced to Mahmood $100,000 transferred into the account of Mohammed Atta, one of the hijackers on September 11. The money was sent through one of the militants released by India from jail to free hijacked passengers on the Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar in 1999.

The departure of the pro-Taliban generals removes a potential ideological threat to Musharraf from within his ranks.

It will also allow Musharraf to go along with the US in working for a broad-based government in Afghanistan after the fall of the regime led by Mullah Omar.

The new head of ISI will be General Ehsanul Haq, the corps commander in Peshawar, himself an ethnic Pashtun.


Washington, Oct. 8: 
Having sewn up Pakistan�s prominent diplomatic and military role in the US-led coalition against terrorism, Pervez Musharraf has turned to Imran Khan�s sister, Aleema, to shore up the business part of Islamabad�s revived alliance with Washington.

Aleema Khan, a Lahore-based businesswoman with extensive American interests who represents US chains such as Macy�s and K-Mart in Pakistan, has just completed a flurry of top-level meetings here with Bush administration officials and entrepreneurs along with Pakistan�s commerce minister Razak Dawood.

As Aleema and Dawood head back home, Pakistan�s finance minister Shaukat Aziz will arrive here to discuss an assistance bonanza with IMF officials. He is hoping to get a three-year, concessional Poverty Reduction Growth Facility from the IMF in addition to budgetary support from the Bush administration.

Aleema is part of an eight-member businessperson�s delegation, which Dawood brought to the US last week to ask for preferential commercial treatment from the US for Pakistan as a �frontline state� in the war against terrorism and to assert confidence in Pakistan�s economy.

The mission was prompted by the mass cancellation of orders by American conglomerates for goods from Pakistan fearing an imminent military assault in the region and disruption of supplies.

Briefing Pakistani correspondents here along with Dawood, Aleema said her own enterprise was hit by eight cancellations in a week, leaving one-lakh workers without jobs.

According to sources here, US ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlain, stepped in and facilitated the highest possible access on the commercial side of the administration for Musharraf�s initiative to send a delegation.

At the Washington end, the under-secretary of state for economic affairs, Allen Larson was quick to assemble a top group of American businessmen and assured them of official support for anything they may do for Pakistan in this �hour of need�.

The first thing that the businessmen�s delegation did here was to appoint a lobbying firm to help transform the image of Pakistan�s economy. The brief for the lobbyist is to project the message that Pakistan is a vibrant economy, but it came to be on the fringes of a basket case only because it was lacking a little American lubrication. Given the current mood in America, it is a message that will have many takers.

At meetings with administration officials, as the businessmen sat by to reinforce any arguments, Dawood made a strong plea to remove all tariffs on Pakistani products and an end to quotas on Pakistani textiles to help his country�s economy.

Although Dawood was restrained in predicting the outcome of his mission during a briefing for Pakistani correspondents at the conclusion of his visit, American sources believe president George W. Bush is authorised under emergency powers to order these concessions.

Dawood also asked the US to enter into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Pakistan. He cited the case of Jordan: President Bush signed a FTA with King Abdullah of Jordan last week in the wake of the terrorist crisis.

He rationalised that tariff removal would cost the US merely $400 million. �What is this amount compared to a successful war of terror?� Dawood is said to have asked US officials.

Dawood estimated that Pakistan�s role, as a frontline state against terrorism would cost his country at least $1.4 billion in business.

The US is Pakistan�s biggest market, taking a quarter of its exports with textiles accounting for more than two fifths. Hence the demand for an end to textile quotas.


London, Oct. 8: 
Security in London has been stepped up in the wake of last night�s military action against the Taliban and the al Qaida network.

Both Downing Street and Buckingham Palace are particular targets and an elaborate security procedure has been set up here. The House of Commons, which meets today in a special emergency session, will also be protected by specialist police surveillance vehicles with hidden video equipment. The specialist video equipment has been placed at 10 key locations in London.

The Queen returns to Buckingham Palace today from her summer resort at Balmoral in Scotland, where she was on holiday. Security around the Royal family has been tightened as part of counter-terrorism measures ordered by the police.

Scotland Yard has put an extra 1,500 officers on the streets of London. Extra police foot patrols are also being organised to reassure the public. And more staff are on duty at London Underground stations.

A 24-hour specialist control unit has been opened at Scotland Yard to provide round-the-clock monitoring of security in the capital. The strength of the anti-terrorist squad has been increased by 150 officers.

Whitehall offices will be open for business as usual today and are on amber alert, the second highest security classification requiring baggage searches and identity checks of anyone entering the buildings.

Tony Blair last night sought to reassure the public that measures had been taken to provide greater security and protection in the event of a terrorist attack on London.

Extra police have also been deployed at Heathrow. Customs and Excise and the Immigration Service have been told to detain anyone about whom they have the slightest suspicion.

The British intelligence service, MI5, has advised public utilities about security at nuclear plants, gas, electrical and water treatment installations.

Home secretary David Blunkett said yesterday: �We have taken every step over the last month to make sure that we put in place protection of both facilities and people.�


London, Oct. 8: 
Tony Blair tonight told a specially recalled session of the House of Commons that a new wave of military strikes on Afghanistan was under way.

�We are in this for the long haul. Even when al Qaida is dealt with, the job is not over. The network of international terrorism is not confined to it,� he told MPs recalled to Westminster for a third time since the September 11 atrocities.

�We will continue to act, with steadfast resolve, to see this struggle through the end and to the victory that would mark the victory not for revenge, but of justice over the evil of terrorism.�

There were suggestions in London today that Afghanistan may not be the only country which will be targeted.

Jack Straw, the foreign secretary declared: �The agreement at the moment is that the attacks are confined to Afghanistan. That is where the problem is. This military coalition is about action in respect of military and terrorist targets in Afghanistan.�

Chief of defence staff Admiral Sir Michael Boyce said the Western allies were in for the �long haul� with airstrikes expected to continue for several more days to come. He added that the strikes would go on for �as long as it takes�, belying hopes expressed by Pakistan President Musharraf that the attack would be a �short, sharp targeted action�.

�We know that the defeat of international terrorism is not going to be easy and it is not going to be brief,� he told a news conference.

The British provided selected details of the extent of their involvement. In all, 30 Tomahawk Cruise missiles were fired in the initial strikes, including an unspecified number from three British nuclear-powered submarines, HMS Superb, HMS Trafalgar and HMS Triumph.

�The target selection and processes were meticulous,� the admiral said Since 30 targets were picked, it seems each cruise missile had a specific task.

British defence secretary George Hoon, who left tonight for a meeting with his Russian counterpart, told newsmen: �All 30 were military targets, three in Kabul, four close to other urban areas and 23 elsewhere.�

The strikes were designed to �damage, disrupt and destroy� al Qaida terrorist sites in the country. He insisted: �Neither the Afghan civil population nor their homes and property have been targeted.�

The military objective of the strikes was �to have a government in Afghanistan that does not condone terrorism�.There is now less talk of Osama bin Laden.

Anti-aircraft fire and other explosions could have given a false impression that civilian areas were under attack, according to Hoon.

He claimed that none of last night�s targets had included power stations or similar facilities, saying all the attacks to date had been aimed at military installations belonging to al Qaida and �elements of� the Taliban.

He, too, played down Musharraf�s suggestion that the strikes would be over quickly. The first night of bombing marked only the start of a �relentless, deliberate and sustained campaign� to �root out� terrorism.

The British have not made it clear just how much of a say the Northern Alliance will have in the formation of a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan. This is a tricky subject since the British do not wish to alarm the Pakistanis who want to retain elements of the Taliban in the post-war administration.

At this stage, the British are not willing to commit ground troops and may prefer soldiers of the Northern Alliance to do the fighting for the West.

�It is perfectly possible that the impact of these initial strikes and those that follow will have such a seriously disabling impact on the Taliban regime that the use of ground troops may not be possible in a hostile environment,� Hoon argued.

He acknowledged that the action might destabilise the Taliban regime to the extent that the rebel Northern Alliance would be able to seize the capital and take control of Kabul.

�I think that is one of the possible outcomes that may follow from military action and the removal of the Taliban regime.�

�The Taliban regime had every chance to avoid what happened last night,� he said. �We warned them they were running out of time. They were warned that they faced powerful military action. They didn�t believe us, they prevaricated. Enough was enough.�




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