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February 11, 2011

Was Raymond Davis Spying on Pakistan's Babur Missile?

As the diplomatic tussle between the United States and Pakistan over US demands for the release of Raymond Davis continues, it is interesting to note that their are varying reports of what Davis had in his possession (photos here) at the time he was arrested after shooting dead two Pakistanis on the streets of Lahore on January 27. Varying reports mention a GPS tracker, a GPS navigation system or a phone tracker, along with a telescope and digital cameras said to have photos of “sensitive” locations. In a very interesting development, we learn from multiple sources that on Thursday Pakistan successfully test-fired its Hatf VII cruise missile, which it also calls “Babur”. When the Express Tribune first reported that Davis’ victims were from the intelligence community (which ISI has since denied and threatened the paper with legal action), the Washington Post followed up by mentioning that Davis was trailed and confronted because he had “crossed a red line“. Was gathering information on the impending test firing of the Babur missile that red line?
Pakistan has a history of developing missiles intended to be used with their nuclear weapons. This report (caution, it is old and dates from 1999 and quotes material from the Rumsfeld Commision) is interesting for where it states that M-11 missiles from China were seen:
"The Rumsfeld Commission confirmed that complete M-11 missiles were sent to Pakistan from China. Pakistan has reportedly received more than 30 M-11s, which have been observed in boxes at Pakistan’s Sargodha Air Force Base west of Lahore. Intelligence officials believe Chinese M11s have probably been in Pakistan since November 1992, when China was “reconsidering” its stance on missile exports after the sale of U.S. F-16 aircraft to Taiwan. Since then, Pakistan has been constructing maintenance facilities, launchers and storage sheds for the missiles, all with Chinese help. China and Pakistan deny these reports.
Pakistan calls the M-11 the Hatf-III. The missile has a range of more than 300 km and a payload of 500 kg. It is a two-stage, solid-propelled missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The missile was reportedly test-fired in July 1997."
Of importance is the fact that the missiles were said to be at an air base west of Lahore. Now for the description of the sensitive photos Davis took:
“During the course of investigation, police retrieved photographs of some sensitive areas and defence installations from Davis’ camera,” a source told The Express Tribune requesting anonymity. “Photos of the strategic Balahisar Fort, the headquarters of the paramilitary Frontier Corps in Peshawar and of Pakistan Army’s bunkers on the Eastern border with India were found in the camera,” the source added.
So, just a few weeks after Davis may have provoked Pakistan intelligence into a confrontation with him, perhaps over sensitive photos he may have been observed taking in the Lahore area, Pakistan test-fires a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead:
Pakistan Thursday successfully tested a nuclear-capable cruise missile with a range of up to 600 km, a military official said.
The Hatf-VII missile, also called Babur after the 16th-century Muslim ruler who founded the Mughal Empire, was fired from an undisclosed location, said Major General Athar Abbas, a military spokesman.
This story goes on to mention that the nuclear-capable Hatf V, with a range of 1300 km was tested in December. And the story points out that most of Pakistan’s missiles “are deployed toward India”, which means that the Lahore area, on the Indian border, is a likely site.

It will be very interesting to see if the US comments on the test-firing.

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