3:15 p.m. August 9, 2013

Gilgit Update: The Triggermen Panicked

On June 28 2013, I wrote about the very odd massacre of 10 foreign climbers and three local guides in Gilgit, a mountain resort area in northern Pakistan. (Article unlocked, if you want to catch up.)

Well, something very interesting just happened up there: On August 7, three senior Pakistani investigators looking into the massacre were ambushed in their car and killed.

And the day after they died, something even more surprising happened: 14 suspects in the original massacre were arrested.

That might not seem surprising. After all, in most countries, a massacre that killed 10 highly lucrative climbing tourists and their guides would be big news, and you'd expect the authorities to go all-out to find the killers, if only to try to save the summer climbing season, when local people make a year's worth of profit off a few rich, super-fit foreigners who want to tackle the local peaks.

But this is Pakistan, where nothing makes that sort of sense. In Pakistan, the cops stuck with investigating jihadist massacres like this have no reason to try to find out whodunit, because everyone knows that the real shot-callers (using the term very literally) are the top brass of the Mordor-bred intelligence service, the ISI.

The ISI created the jihadist death squads and loves them like its own goblin babies. They allow the Pakistani intel/army elite to take revenge on India, China, and the West without making conventional war, which is a good idea because the Pakistani Army has lost every war it's ever fought against another country. The jihadist militias like Lashkar e Jhangvi are so tight with the ISI that Malik Ishaq, one of the vilest humans alive, a world-class killer of ethnic and religious minorities "and proud of it," lives right across the street from a major army base.

So nobody expected any real investigation up in Gilgit, especially since the local community, the people whose livelihoods were actually ruined by the massacre of tourists, are Shia, which makes them sub-human kafirs by current Pakistani rules. If anything, a massacre that not only kills foreigners but destroys a Shia region's economy is a double win, the way the ISI sees things.

But then somebody shot up that car carrying three investigators--people who count. One was a Police Superintendent, one a colonel, and the third a captain. Now killing a mere captain might not offend any of the swaggering, swagger-stick slapping lunatics who run Pakistan, but a colonel is a whole different thing. You don't go killing colonels. They may not be full-patch gang members, entitled to slap that swagger-stick and terrorize civilians, but they're what the Angels would call "prospects," way above mere citizens. Kill one, and the whole gang comes down on your neighborhood like a Mongol horde in surplus British uniforms.

Which raises the question, Who were the idiots who shot up that car, and why would they do such a stupid thing when they had every reason to assume the ISI/Army would let them get away with the June massacre?

Nobody knows yet, but one way or another, the answer will come down to the fact that this kind of mess is part of the cost of doing business with dozens of murdering, ignorant death squads. The whole reason the ISI/Army first decided to out-source massacres to trash is that it makes it harder to trace them up the chain of command, so that atrocities like the attack on Mumbai in 2008 are harder to bring home to the high-ranking officers who ordered them.

And that kind of intentional muddying-up flows both ways. It means that the ISI/Army can deny a direct connection to each new horror their little monsters carry out, but it also mean that the little monsters on the scene--the local thugs who actually killed the tourists last June--may not always be sure they'll be protected. They see a car full of fancy looking big-city investigators driving around the valley talking to everybody, and they know that the people being interviewed know damn well who killed those tourists. They get nervous. If you're one of the expendable triggermen for a strategy as creepy and Byzantine as the one the ISI/Army is using now, it's just common sense to get nervous. After all, the brass may decide that, to placate the very, very elite demographic that goes on climbing tours in Gilgit, it's worth giving up the local thugs who actually pulled the trigger. They've done that before, when international pressure got serious. Why not? There are always another few thousand Madrassa zombies eager to volunteer, making the current crop totally disposable.

So you can understand why some of the Islamic Oswalds in the valley got nervous and mad enough to kill those city slickers going around asking questions. How could a simple backwoods murderer know that their "investigation" was likely a total sham?

The sad thing--for the locals who killed those three investigators--is that, even though they made a logical move killing those three, it backfired. Bad. You don't kill made men in a mafia state like Pakistan, no matter what the reason. That's crossing a line. You can kill all the Hazara women and girls you want, and the ISI will thank you (in private). But kill one of their prospects and you're a "terrorist suspect now in custody," and so are 13 of your relatives.

That's the plot of this episode of Columbo, Pakistan Style: 14 locals rounded up. Another victory in the war against terror. Cocktails for all (colonels and up, of course) at the Officers' Lounge. Swaggersticks required.