Crackdown on extremists to intensify
WASHINGTON- With the killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl widely mourned and condemned in the United States and across the world, the episode seemed likely to prompt new American pressure on Pakistan to intensify crackdown on religious extremists, officials here indicated.
The Bush administration was reported to be considering a request to Pakistan to extradite to the United States the prime suspect, Ahmed Omar Sheikh, for trial.
The British-born militant who had been jailed in India for five years on charges of kidnapping three Britons and an American in 1994, is the subject of both the Pakistani inquiry and an American grand jury investigation that could result in his indictment for the abduction and murder of Pearl.
United States law makes it a crime punishable by death to kill an American anywhere in the world as part of an act of terror.
President Bush, in a statement, said Americans were “sad and angry” about PearlÂ’s killing and warned that such “barbaric acts” would only strengthen their resolve to fight terrorism.
Some 1,200 journalists and public relations professionals at a National Press Foundation awards ceremony in Washington on Thursday paid tribute to Pearl with a moment of silence, then stood and raised a toast followed by sustained applause.
Pearl’s death was announced in Washington by the State Department in a statement late Thursday afternoon. Spokesman Richard Boucher said both the United States and Pakistan are committed to identifying all the perpetrators of this crime and bringing them to justice.
“We will continue to work closely with Pakistani authorities, who had made every effort to locate and free Pearl,” the statement added.
Pearl’s abduction has been a top issue in the United States ever since he was abducted. It considerably shadowed President Musharraf’s trip to Washington last week and was subjects of his discussion with President Bush and at other engagements. He told Bush that he believed Pearl would soon be rescued.
The episode is being projected in US media as further underscoring the volatile political situation in Pakistan and the unabated surge in religious extremism in the country despite Musharraf’s crackdown. The killing appears to have been intended as part of a campaign of retaliation by Pakistani militants against President Pervez Musharraf, who has turned his back on the Taliban and on other extremists who have long had ties with the Pakistani government. It also served as an affront to General Musharraf’s prestige, since his government had expressed optimism that the case would be solved and Pearl returned unharmed, The New York Times said Friday.
The announcement of pearlÂ’s death was made after a grisly video tape footage of Pearl being slain was delivered to authorities in Pakistan, reportedly by a personal claiming to be journalist, who then relayed it to the US consulate in Karachi.
The tape was not made public but Washington Post quoted an official who had seen it that it shows Pearl speaking with someone, almost as if he were conducting an interview, when suddenly an unseen assailant takes a knife to his throat. His body has not been found.
Pearl was the ninth foreign correspondent to die violently since the United States began bombing Afghanistan last fall, but he was the first American and the first known to have been targeted specifically because he was a reporter. The others all were killed by hostile fire during fighting in Afghanistan, or by bandits in lawless areas of that country. A minor suspect in the case reportedly said in a courtroom in Karachi on Thursday that Pearl was targeted in part because he was “anti-Islam and a Jew.”
Besides Sheikh, three other suspects remain in custody. One, Fahad Naseem, suspected having a much smaller role in the case, told a Karachi judge that he had sent the e- mail messages announcing the kidnapping, under orders from Sheikh. Word of the confession came from Naseem’s defence attorney, Khawaja Naveed Ahmed.
Law enforcement officials have held a series of discussions with Pakistani officials in recent weeks about the possibility of one or more of the people implicated in the Pearl kidnapping being brought to the United States for prosecution. The officials said that the Pakistani government had been reluctant to agree to send the suspected kidnappers to the United States.
In his statement President Bush said “ those who would threat Americans, and engage in criminal, barbaric acts, “need to know that these crimes only hurt their cause and only deepen the resolve of the United States of America to rid the world of these agents of terror.
Bush said he and his wife Laura are especially sad for pearl’s unborn child, “ who will now know his father only through the memory of others,”. Pearl’s wife Mariane, a French citizen, is seven months pregnant with the couple’s first child.
A statement issued on behalf of Pearl’s family’s said: “Danny’s senseless murder lies beyond our comprehension. Danny was a beloved son, a brother, an uncle, a husband and a father to a child who will never know him. “A musician, a writer, a story-teller and a bridge-builder, he was a walking sunshine of truth, humour, friendship and compassion. We grieve with the many who have known him in his life and we weep for a world that must reckon with his death. “
His father, a professor of computer science and statistics, his mother, and two sisters – released a statement saying, “we were confident that Danny would return safely, for we believed no human being would be capable of harming such a gentle soul.”
The publisher and managing editor of Pearl’s paper, the Wall Street Journal, described Pearl’s death as “an act of barbarism. Although the contents of the videotape have not been released, one US official said the contents were “very gruesome”.
Shortly after the abduction, which took place on Jan. 23, the kidnappers began communicating through e- mail messages whose tone was stridently anti-American. They accused Pearl of being an agent of first the CIA and then Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. The second verified e-mail transmission also contained a message in Urdu. As translated by The New York Times, it began, “Our intention is not to harm Pakistan but to rid it of the slavery of America and other countries.
The undated videocassette contained graphic images of Pearl’s being killed, government officials said, providing incontrovertible evidence of his death. The delivery of the cassette ended a month of uncertainty punctuated by unfounded reports of Pearl’s condition and the likelihood of his safe return. These lent the investigation an air of confusion and also whipsawed the emotions of his wife, Mariane, who is pregnant, his parents and his colleagues.
Meanwhile, the US-based correspondents of Pakistani newspapers have in a statement here condemned the brutal murder of Daniel Pearl.
In a statement they said that “ Pearl’s murderers have achieved no political objective; they have only defamed Pakistan and Islam and by their savage act brought into sharper relief the insanity that masquerades in the garb of nationalism and religion. But we would like to assure everyone that such elements do not represent Pakistan or the feelings of the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis.
Source: The Nation