Murder in Pakistan

March 10, 1995

Islamic extremists burned down the U.S. embassy in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, in 1979, killing two Americans. Nonetheless, in the 1980s the CIA helped Pakistan's directorate general of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) train and arm such people to fight Russians and Communists in Afghanistan. President Zia ul-Haq was assassinated along with U.S. Ambassador Arnold Raphel and leading Pakistani generals in 1988 when a military airplane carrying them exploded.

In January 1993, an assassin killed two CIA employees going to work at headquarters in Langley, Va., and got away. The suspected gunman, Mir Aimal Kansi, vanished in Pakistan. The accused bomb-builder of the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, was seized in Pakistan last month, possibly betrayed for the $2 million U.S. reward. He was turned over to the FBI and flown to New York, where he awaits trial.

Pakistan contains major heroin cartels whose leaders are sought for trial in the U.S. Sunni-Shiite feuds have caused many deaths. Much of the political and religious establishment repudiates the democratically elected prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, who is due to visit Washington next month following a trip to Pakistan shortly before by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. The aim is to improve U.S.-Pakistani relations, which have been badly strained by the nuclear proliferation issue.

All the above is the context in which assassins ambushed a van taking American workers to the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Wednesday, killing two and wounding a third. At least one of the victims was conceded in Washington to have been a U.S. intelligence officer. Karachi police on anti-terrorism duty with a mounted machine gun witnessed the slaying but did not give chase.

Generally, political murder does not work unless the victim's side knows the assassin's group identity and motive. In this case, there are too many potential suspects for the motive to be evident. Revenge for the seizure of Ramzi Ahmed Yousef is the leading theory in Washington. A $2 million reward and the dispatch of an FBI anti-terrorist team to assist Pakistani police may bring the assassins to justice.

But violence will continue to bedevil the Pakistani-U.S. relationship and attempts to bridge differences. Courageous American civil servants who work to strengthen this vital relationship in Pakistan know they go in harm's way.

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