Omar Arrested As Musharraf Begins US Visit
12 February 2002
Islamabad/Washington: Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Omar Sheikh, the prime suspect in the Daniel Pearl abduction case, was arrested by Pakistani police in Lahore on Tuesday. Sheikh told them the US journalist is alive. The arrest comes on the day President Pervez Musharraf begins a state visit in Washington. Despite the arrest, the visit is likely to be overshadowed by the Pearl abduction. Karachi police chief Tariq Jamil said Sheikh was being brought to Karachi for questioning. 'During the initial investigation, he said Pearl is alive and in Karachi.' Jamil said the arrest was carried out by a police team from Sindh which had gone to Lahore. Pakistan's interior secretary Tasneem Noorani said, 'He was picked up at 3 pm…It wasn't a car chase or anything. He was arrested quite peacefully.' The arrest was made as Musharraf arrived in Washington to face a hostile US press and a grateful Bush administration. The Washington Post greeted him with an editorial saying the Bush administration 'should make clear to the Pakistani leader that he must decisively break with the terrorists on (the Kashmiri) front as on others.' It criticised the general's recent reference to violence in Kashmir as a 'freedom struggle'. It added that Pakistan has for years used such a “formulation as a cover to foment and supply the Kashmir insurrection”. President George W. Bush, who wants to thank Musharraf for his cooperation in the war against terror, is nonetheless expected to turn down any demands for weapons. The Pakistani leader, say analysts, is more likely to receive lavish praise and moderate amounts of aid. For example, the US House of Representatives is considering a resolution praising the Pakistani leader for 'confronting' terrorism. Sheikh's arrest was preceded by the capture of three other abduction suspects — Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib. In addition, reported the New York Times, two ex-ISI officers, Khalid Khawaja and Aslam Khan Sherani, were detained by Pakistani police in connection with the Pearl case. Khawaja, a former pilot of Osama bin Laden, was close to Sheikh Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani, the Islamist Pearl went to meet the day he was abducted. In New Delhi, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said Sheikh's arrest vindicated the charge that Pakistan is a terrorist safe haven. Pakistan had no 'excuses', she said, for not acting on India's terrorist list of 20. That the arrests and Musharraf's visit happened the same day, says India's ex-high commissioner to Pakistan, G. Parthasarathy, 'is not entirely coincidental…I will not be surprised if Pearl is released an hour before Musharraf reaches the White House'. Indian sources say they expect Musharraf to leverage Pearl's release for arms and aid.