The recent discovery of a planned al-Qaeda-backed coup against Musharraf’s regime, which included men in uniform associated with sensitive strategic institutions, underlines Musharraf’s difficulties.
According to information obtained by Asia Times Online, the coup plot was hatched in the Waziristan tribal area headquarters of al-Qaeda. The conspiracy was uncovered after a mobile phone used to activate a rocket aimed at the president’s residence was traced to an air force officer. More than 40 people, both inside and outside the military, were subsequently arrested.
The most alarming issue for the Pakistani establishment was not only the involvement of air force officers, but the apparent deep penetration of al-Qaeda into highly sensitive areas.
Those arrested in the conspiracy plot include air force engineers associated with the Air Weapon Complex (AWC) of Pakistan, a leading organization in the field of air-delivered weapons and systems. Its personnel are subjected to vigorous and intrusive background checks.
The personnel arrested were employed in the high-profile research and development section of the AWC. The linkage of such security-cleared people with al-Qaeda, who, according to Asia Times Online’s information, were to carry out the attacks on signals received from Waziristan, sheds light on the vulnerable security situation in Pakistan. At the same time, it shows the depth of feeling in segments of society who reject Pakistan’s role in the “war on terror”.
Pakistani security officials have confirmed that the rocket plot to assassinate Musharraf was an al-Qaeda-linked conspiracy. At a press conference, Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao announced that eight al-Qaeda militants had been arrested.