Omar Sheikh Made the Hoax Call to Zardari

Omar Sheikh Made the Hoax Call to Zardari
Omar Saeed Sheikh, a detained Pakistani militant, had made hoax calls to President Asif Ali Zardari and the Chief of Army Staff, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in a bid to heighten Pakistan-India tensions after last year’s terrorist attacks on Mumbai, the Dawn reported.

‘Omar Saeed Sheikh was the hoax caller. It was he who threatened the civilian and military leaderships of Pakistan over telephone. And he did so from inside Hyderabad jail,’ investigators told the paper.

The controversy came to light after the paper broke the story that a hoax caller claiming
to be then foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee was making threatening calls to President Zardari.

The Dawn reported that Sheikh was informed about the Mumbai attacks on the night of November 26 last year by his wife Saadia Omar. The information was passed on to Sheikh in jail through a mobile phone that he was secretly using without the knowledge of wardens.

Saadia kept updating Sheikh while the terrorists were on the rampage in Mumbai for three days, the report said. Several foreigners were amongst 166 people killed in the attacks.

Sheikh, using a UK-registered mobile SIM, apparently made the first phone call to Pranab Mukherjee. He told an operator handling Mukherjee’s calls that he was the President of Pakistan.

Indian officials started verification as part of security precautions and, after some time, the operator informed
Sheikh (who was posing to be Pakistan’s president) that the foreign minister would get in touch with him soon.

He also made an attempt to talk to the US secretary of state, but security checks barred his way.

Soon after,
Sheikh purportedly called the President, Zardari spoke to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and informed him about the development. He also alerted Interior Minister Rehman Malik. In Rawalpindi, Kayani spoke to Inter Services Intelligence agency chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

The newspaper quoted its sources as saying that Zardari was taken in by
Sheikh's audacity while Kayani was "baffled by his cheekiness". Kayani, who reportedly shared his thoughts with close associates, said he was "bewildered by the caller’s threatening tone".

However, chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said he found the report of Sheikh's involvement in the matter "unbelievable". He said he thought the reports could not "be true".

At the time when Sheikh reportedly made the hoax calls, Lashker-e-Taiba operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi was in Karachi but the newspaper said it was not known whether Sheikh was acting under Lakhvi's guidance or on his own.

Sheikh who is currently confined in a high security cell of Karachi Jail, has a long record of militancy, from kidnapping foreigners in Mumbai in 1994 to kidnapping Daniel Pearl in Jan 2002.

Sheikh was freed by India in Dec 1999 as part of a deal that saw New Delhi agreeing to release a number of militant leaders in exchange for the freedom of hostages in Kandahar Hijack.

Soon after his release from Indian captivity,
Sheikh developed close relations with the LET leadership, including Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.

He was invited to a training camp in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, where he spent a couple of days delivering lectures to recruits.

In Feb 2002,
Sheikh was arrested for the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl.
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