ISLAMABAD: Leaked Saudi diplomatic cables reveal that the country’s embassy in Islamabad remained in touch with the Haqqani network and also helped arrange a visit for the militant group’s leader for medical treatment.
The cables, published by WikiLeaks, have provided a rare insight into the contacts between Saudi officials and the Haqqani network in the recent past, even though the two are said to have had a long-standing relationship, going back to the days of CIA-funded jihad in Afghanistan.
The Saudi foreign ministry had — in a statement released after WikiLeaks started publishing the cables — expressed concern over their public release, but said the information contained in the leaked documents did not contradict Saudi Arabia’s known position on foreign policy matters.
The Saudi government has, meanwhile, not acknowledged these cables as authentic and asked its citizens to ignore them.
Leaks suggest Jalaluddin Haqqani carried a Saudi passport
One of the cables, signed by former Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Aziz Ibrahim Saleh Al Ghadeer, which is marked ‘confidential’, narrates his meeting with Nasiruddin Haqqani, one of the sons of Haqqani network chief Jalaluddin Haqqani. The meeting between the ambassador and Nasiruddin, who was the emissary and chief financier of the Taliban-linked militant group at the time, took place on Feb 15, 2012.
The venue of the meeting has not been mentioned, but the ambassador usually held meetings either at the embassy or his residence, both of which are located in the heavily guarded Diplomatic Enclave and remains under the watchful eyes of Pakistani intelligence agencies.
During the meeting, Nasiruddin conveyed his father’s request for treatment at a Saudi hospital, in view of his medical condition, to King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.
Another cable, dated February 25, 2012, says that the nature of ailment had been explained to Ambassador Ghadeer. The communication, however, did not precisely mention the disease from which he was suffering.
Media accounts claimed that Jalaluddin, who would have been 62 years old in 2012, was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, while another news report said he was a patient of Lupus.
Ambassador Ghadeer’s cable noted that Jalaluddin was based in Waziristan at the time and that doctors had recommended his hospitalisation.
The meeting between Nasiruddin and the Saudi envoy took place a fortnight after Afghan President Hamid Karzai met then-President Asif Zardari and then-Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to ask for their help in arranging a meeting with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Gen Kayani, according to one of the Saudi cables, had suggested that Karzai meet the Haqqani leadership. Karzai had told Gen Kayani that he did not have any qualms meeting with the Haqqani leaders, but feared that they would not be willing to see him.
Jalaluddin had set up a base in North Waziristan following the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, under which he was the minister for border affairs. He used his North Waziristan base to direct the Haqqani Network’s operations. The group is accused of being behind some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan.
Due to his ailment, the militant ‘commander’ had handed over operational command of the Haqqani network to his son, Sirajuddin.
Jalaluddin has been on the UN Sanctions list since January 31, 2001. The provisions of the UNSC resolutions 1267 (1999), and 1333 (2000) apply to him, which, among other things, bar the international travel of listed individuals and prevent any assistance to them.
The Saudi cables show that Jalaluddin carried a Saudi passport since the days of the Afghan jihad.
His son Nasiruddin had handed over that passport to Ambassador Ghadeer during their meeting. Though the cable did not state why the passport was given to the ambassador, it is possible that it was sent for renewal.
There are, however, no cables among those released so far detailing when Jalaluddin travelled to Saudi Arabia or if he ever undertook the journey.
Pakistan has often been criticised for its links with the Haqqani network. The latest US State Department report titled ‘Country Reports on Terrorism 2014’ also notes that Haqqani network leadership “continued to find safe haven in Pakistan”, but there has been little talk of their other patrons, including Saudi Arabia.
Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2015