China's premier Wen Jiabao concluded a high profile visit to Pakistan on Sunday, promising to lay the foundation for a "deeper" relationship to a country which is central to U.S. efforts for stabilizing Afghanistan.
Wen sought to broaden a relationship which has traditionally been driven by Beijing's role as a key supplier of military hardware to Islamabad. Pakistan's government officials said that during Wen's visit, China signed business deals between the governments and private businesses of the two countries worth at least $29 billion, with a possibility of another $6 billion worth of contracts. These contracts were the largest ever signed during a visit by a foreign leader to Pakistan, underlining the growing importance of the country to China.
The Chinese premier also used a speech to a joint session of Pakistan's upper and lower houses of parliament to commend the country for its efforts against terrorism. It was an apparent effort to negate criticism from the western world, including the U.S., which has urged Islamabad to take further steps against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
"Pakistan has given great sacrifices and made great efforts in the fight against terrorism. It is a reality and the international community should respect Pakistan's efforts," Wen said.
While the U.S. has poured billions of dollars into Pakistan to assist in combating terrorist groups, Pakistan's military and civilian leaders remain committed to retaining a close alliance with China. "Let's stand together, with a new confidence, and begin a new era of progress and prosperity, by jointly confronting all challenges," Wen said in his speech on Sunday. To the applause of Pakistan's ruling and opposition politicians, the Chinese continued that "China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic partners and share the sorrows and joys of each other as close brothers."
Pieced together, the leaked documents for the first time show evidence of underlying tensions between Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's regime and the ruling Saudi establishment of King Abdullah.
One of the documents released by WikiLeaks to the media quotes the King saying that Pakistan can never progress as long as Zardari remains the country's president an especially disparaging remark by the Saudi monarch towards Pakistan's head of state.
The friction, according to one U.S. official who spoke to CBS News on background, "has revealed the many challenges in seeking" closer Saudi-Pakistan cooperation, notably in areas such as the flow of finances from Saudi Arabia to recipients in Pakistan who work as fronts for Islamic zealots linked to the Taliban.
"The tension in the Saudi-Pakistan relationship must be cause for concern to the U.S. Much time and effort has been spent in making this (Saudi-Pakistan) relationship work better, but the results are not very encouraging," said a Western ambassador in Islamabad who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity.
"When the head is rotten, it affects the whole body," Abdullah said of Zardari in one of the documents.
While Pakistani officials publicly condemned the claim as an attempt to undermine the traditionally close ties between the two countries, western and Arab diplomats warned that the revelations may have finally exposed genuine underlying tensions.
Both are prominent Islamic states: Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil producer and the birthplace of Islam while Pakistan has the distinction of being the world's only Muslim country armed with nuclear weapons.
Pakistan's relations with Saudi Arabia predate its birth in 1947, when the country was carved out as an independent state from British colonial India. And many Pakistanis - like Muslims in all countries - feel tied to Saudi Arabia because of the traditional Islamic pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.
But the frictions between King Abdullah and president Zardari appear to be driven by political trends. Though Saudi Arabia itself is battling an al Qaeda-backed terrorist challenge the Saudi authorities have for years been uncomfortable with Pakistan's practice of handing over militants arrested on its soil to the U.S., a senior western diplomat told CBS News.Continue »
A New York Times report published on Tuesday of a man posing as a Taliban leader in secret peace talks with the Afghan government in fact turning out to be an impostor, immediately sparked warnings from Pakistan's security officials claiming that the case bore evidence of Washington's lack of understanding of the central Asian country.
As reports filtered out during the past few months citing the initiation of talks between Afghan president Hamid Karzai and the Taliban with U.S. blessings, western and Pakistani officials confirmed in background interviews that the south Asian country, known for its links with Islamic militant groups, was being kept out of the process.
The talks appeared to be aimed at seeking a negotiated settlement between Karzai's regime and the Taliban, to end the decade old conflict in Afghanistan since a U.S.-led campaign after the 9/11 attacks forced the downfall of the Taliban regime.
According to the New York Times, the impostor identified as Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, held three meetings with NATO and Afghan officials. "The fake Taliban leader even met with President Hamid Karzai, having been flown to Kabul on a NATO aircraft and ushered into the presidential palace," said the newspaper, citing unidentified officials.
Pakistani officials in public have remained quiet on the reported talks but in private have criticized the U.S. for its support to the reported discussions. "The Americans believe they can support a process without Pakistan's involvement. This is all wrong", one senior Pakistani government official told CBS News in a background interview in August this year.
On Tuesday, a Pakistani intelligence official speaking to CBS News on condition of anonymity said the New York Times report confirms "what we have believed for long. You can't exclude Pakistan and have a workable plan to bring about a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan. Pakistan's long history of dealing with Afghan groups makes us the best equipped to know exactly which group to talk to and with what effect."
Pakistan's main counter-espionage intelligence agency known as the ISI or Inter-Services Intelligence has kept contacts with the main Afghan warlords, since the 1979 invasion of the central Asian country by the former Soviet Union was followed by Pakistan's emergence as the main U.S.-backed conduit to build up an armed resistance against Moscow.
Since the 9/11 attacks however, Pakistan's government says that it has abandoned all support to the Taliban after establishing close ties with the clerical regime during its rule over Afghanistan. But on Tuesday, a Western official in Islamabad who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity said: "There is still concern among Western countries over Pakistan's past contacts with Islamic zealots continuing to remain intact. I believe, Pakistan has enormous clout in Afghanistan to help in a political process. But 'can we trust Pakistan fully?' is a major unresolved question."
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Militants attacked a police compound in the heart of Pakistan's largest city on Thursday with a hail of gunfire and a massive car bomb, leveling the building and killing at least 15 people, authorities and witnesses said.
The gang of around six gunmen managed to penetrate a high-security area of Karachi that is home to the U.S Consulate, two luxury hotels and the offices of regional leaders. While no stranger to extremist violence, Karachi has not witnessed this kind of organized assault in recent years.
It was the first major attack against a government target outside the northwestern tribal regions for several months, showing the reach of Islamist militants seeking to overthrow the U.S.-allied government despite efforts to crack down on them over the last three years.
The gunmen first opened fire on the offices of the Crime Investigation Department before detonating a huge car bomb, said Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza. The building has a detention facility that was believed to be holding criminals, and possibly militants.
The CID takes the lead in hunting down terrorists in Karachi. Earlier this week, the agency arrested six members of the militant Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group. The suspects were presented before a court earlier Thursday.
The attack, which targeted a compound housing the offices and some residential quarters of police investigators, renewed fears of the Taliban continuing their campaign to destabilize Pakistan - a nuclear-armed country and a key U.S. ally in the war against terror.
"This is definitely the work of TTP [Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan]," said a Karachi based intelligence official who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity. "We had reports for some time that the TTP were positioning themselves to strike at a major target."
"The attack bears the handprints of the Taliban," said the official, who declined to give further details.
Imran Ahmed, a rescue worker said, several people were still trapped in a two to three story apartment building in the area, whose front entrance collapsed.
"We are trying to make sure that we are able to rescue these people. I can't tell how many people are stranded but there could be more than a few," Ahmed told CBS News.
Shireen Khan, a middle aged woman slightly injured limped along a sidewalk as she cursed the Taliban. "I wish, these Taliban have their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters similarly injured. Only then, they (Taliban) will know what it is like to injure other people" Khan said.
In Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, a senior western diplomat said, the choice of the target near two five-star hotels once again underlined the difficulty of ensuring security in a congested neighborhood. Karachi, a city with a population of more than 17 million has seen previous terrorist bomb attacks including those targeting locations close to the site bombed on Thursday night.
"Pakistan has a very major challenge. This country has an active presence of militants. You can't screen each and every one person going through congested cities with explosives to blow a location" the diplomat told CBS News.
Suspected militants detonated a car bomb in the heart of Pakistan's largest city on Thursday,
The blast was heard several kilometers away in this city of 14 million people. It destroyed much of the several-story police building, damaged nearby houses and left a 10-feet (three meter) wide crater in the road. The U.S. Consulate was around a mile (1.5 kilometers) from the blast and was undamaged.
"We heard different kinds of firing for several minutes and then a deafening explosion," said Ali Hussain, who was covered in dust. "The roof of our house collapsed."
TV footage showed bloodied victims leaving the scene and security officers searching through the debris of the police building.
Dr. Seemi Jamai said 10 bodies had been brought to a nearby hospital, along with 90 injured.
Pakistan is battling Islamist militants with links to al Qaeda that are trying to overthrow the U.S.-allied government. The insurgents have repeatedly bombed government, police and Western targets over the last three years, including in Karachi.
This story was filed by CBS News' Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad.
Saudi Arabia's unexpected withdrawal from is role in peace talks between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban has jeopardized prospects for an early end to the bloody fighting in Afghanistan, senior Western and Arab diplomats in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region tell CBS News.
The withdrawal from the talks, announced in a Nov. 7 statement by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, surprised long-time observers of the desert Kingdom, where such policy moves are rarely made public, let along broadcast on state television.
The Taliban has consistently denied they are involved in any peace negotiations with the Afghan government, but the talks, including discussions involving high-level militant commanders, have been widely reported.
As al Qaeda's faction in Yemen, which borders Saudi Arabia, becomes a more viable threat, diplomats say the Saudi's have grown weary of Taliban commanders supporting al Qaeda militants along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
"You have the Saudis getting increasingly impatient because of the growing threat of al Qaeda from Yemen," a senior European diplomat in Islamabad told CBS on condition of anonymity.
"The Saudis have drawn a red line for the Taliban and told them enough is enough. This (statement) is evidence of the Saudis running out of patience," added an Arab diplomat based in Islamabad, who also asked not to be identified.
The net effect, according to both of these sources, could be a major blow the negotiation efforts, and thus Washington's attempt to bring the security situation on the ground under control, paving the way to a political settlement in Afghanistan.
"There has been much talk of a Saudi intermediation, but we outlined conditions after the Taliban gave refuge to terrorists," said Prince Saud Al-Faisal in the statement carried by Saudi media. "We got a request then from President Karzai to mediate and we said there will be no mediation unless the Taliban have good intentions and stop giving refuge to terrorists, but unfortunately, communications stopped."
A recent poll conducted by the Asia Foundation shows that a vast majority of adult Afghans -- some 83 percent -- are in favor of a negotiated solution with the Taliban and other militant groups to end the endless violence in their country.
Saudi Arabia's role in Afghan affairs dates back to the 1980s, when the oil rich Kingdom stepped in to support a group of U.S.-backed insurgents known as the "mujahideen".
Armed and trained by the CIA and Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) counter-espionage agency, the Mujahideen were built up to block the advance of troops from the former Soviet Union. Osama bin Laden first entered Afghanistan with the knowledge of Saudi Arabia's intelligence officials, according to experts.
Since the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia has sought to unite factions of disparate Afghan warlords, seeking to build a common front of Islamic groups to preside over the country.
During the Taliban rule of Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia emerged as just one of three countries to recognize the clerical regime led by religious zealots, though its relations with the Taliban were adversely affected when the movement's leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, refused to expel bin Laden from the country.
The European diplomat who spoke to CBS News in Islamabad said the Saudi decision to abandon the talks was prompted, in part, by the rise of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemen-based faction which poses a direct threat to the Kingdom.
"Before the (AQAP) buildup in Yemen, the Saudis saw the Taliban backing for al Qaeda as a somewhat distant threat. Now, it is a threat knocking on their door," the European official told CBS.
A second Arab diplomat, based in the Middle East, told CBS the Saudi decision would undermine U.S.-backed efforts to secure peace in Afghanistan.
"Saudi Arabia may not be the main arbitrator in this situation, but the Kingdom has a great deal of clout directly with the Taliban, and also with Pakistan, which is a powerful player. Now, without the Saudis, there will be an additional challenge for the U.S." said the diplomat.
The European diplomat agreed with the assessment, adding that the U.S. and other players would likely urge the Saudis to return to the peace process.
"In diplomacy, doors are never shut for ever," concluded the official.
The government on September 30 ordered the crossing to be shut after Pakistan accused NATO's Afghanistan-based troops of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) of killing three of its paramilitary soldiers in a helicopter attack.
Though the exact circumstances surrounding the attack remain unclear, some Pakistani and Western defense officials believe, the attack may have followed a hot pursuit of Islamic militants whom NATO and U.S. officials claim routinely cross the Afghan-Pakistan frontier.
Pakistani officials said their decision to orders the border closure was meant to highlight the anger shared by the country's civil and military officials over the attack.
The 10-day standoff saw Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO's Secretary General, and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, formally apologize for the incident.
On Saturday Pakistan's foreign ministry said in a statement: "After assessing the security situation in all its aspects, the Government has decided to reopen the NATO/ISAF supply from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border at Torkham with immediate effect. Our relevant authorities are now in the process of coordinating with authorities on the other side of the border to ensure smooth resumption of the supply traffic."
A senior Pakistani government official who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity said, "We hope our friends in the West, especially the U.S., will realize there are certain steps which can never be kosher. Any incursion which brings foreign troops on our soil or manned aircrafts will always be resisted."
A second senior Pakistani government official, who also spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity, said, "We have forcefully conveyed the fundamental message to our Western allies. A repeat of anything even remotely similar to the September 30 attack will see a similar response."
The September 30 attack once again highlighted prevailing anti-U.S. and anti-Western sentiment across Pakistan, Washington's key ally for the past decade in confronting hardline militants belonging to al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Ahead of Saturday's announcement, Naeem Siddiqui, an Islamabad college student, echoed a popular view by telling CBS News, "I am so glad Pakistan has taken this stand and blocked supplies for NATO. The Americans are basically anti-Islam and they have killed Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. They (U.S.) also back Israel which kills Palestinians. How can these people, particularly the Americans as well as other Westerners, be our friends?"
Earlier on Saturday, at least 29 fuel tankers heading for NATO troops in Afghanistan were set on fire by unknown militants in the town of Sibbi in the south-western Baluchistan province. This was the latest of a number of similar attacks that have targeted NATO's supply trucks stranded in Pakistan since the closure of the border crossing on September 30.
Western diplomats say NATO has sought to establish other supply lines to landlocked Afghanistan, through the central Asian former Soviet republics.
But the route through Pakistan from the country's southern coastline along the northern Arabian Sea to Afghanistan offers the shortest distance.
By CBS News' Farhan Bokhari reporting from Islamabad
Reports of the killing of Fateh in the north Waziristan region along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, were described as a "major victory" in the campaign against al Qaeda by one of the two officials who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity.
The second official who also spoke on condition of anonymity described the killing as "a significant event which tells us that al Qaeda's leaders must be feeling badly penetrated." The details of the events leading up to the killing were sketchy, though both officials Fateh was killed while he was in a vehicle being driven by someone else.
Senior western diplomats in Islamabad said they were still awaiting an independent confirmation of the news.
But they also said that if the report was true it would mark a significant victory for the U.S., which has sharply raised the number of drone attacks in Pakistan's region along the Afghan border - a territory known for hosting hideouts belonging to members of al Qaeda and the Taliban.
"We are still waiting for absolute confirmation. But if that confirmation comes, this event will be very significant" said one western diplomat who spoke to CBS News on the condition of anonymity.
According to reports in Pakistan's media, Fateh took over as al Qaeda's operational commander in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region in May, succeeding Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid, the former operational commander, who was killed in a U.S. drone attack that month.
Unlike top al Qaeda leaders such as Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Fateh had not established a visible public profile for himself through periodic statements but preferred to remain in the shadows.
The western official who spoke to CBS said his lack of public exposure did not necessarily reduce his importance in the outfit.
"The most frequent public statements have come from bin Laden and Zawahiri. They are the best known public faces of Al-Qaeda" he said, but "other important people have preferred to walk a few steps behind the top two leaders."
Confirmation of Fateh's killing will likely increase the growing pressure from the U.S.-led western coalition whose troops are deployed to Afghanistan, and which seeks an intensification of Pakistan's military pressure on al Qaeda and Taliban militants.
The area, which straddles alongside Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, has become the center of attention for the U.S. and other western countries which suspect the region contains safe havens for militants.
A second western diplomat in Islamabad who spoke to CBS News on condition that he will not be named warned, "Every time there is a high profile killing in this region, the inevitable question which comes up is, why are there so many of these bad guys who are hiding in this particular area."
Volunteers from the Al-Khidmat foundation handed out food packets stuffed with flour, sugar and tea leaves, while promising to swiftly bring in doctors and medicines for victims of Pakistan's worst-ever disaster.
At this distribution point (at left) outside the northern city of Nowshera, in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, members of the group forcefully reject concerns from outside the country that hardline Islamic groups are taking up relief work in an effort to spread their particular ideology along with aid.
"That is rubbish. We are here to save lives and nothing else," Saeed Jamal Khan, a senior Al-Khidmat volunteer told CBS News as he turned to some of his colleagues and handed over a list of supplies to be trucked to another distribution point.
Al-Khidmat, which means "dedicated to serving humanity," is, however, among the groups suspected by Western governments of being an offshoot of Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, known to have carried out the 2008 terrorist attacks in India's commercial capital of Mumbai which killed 166 people.
The U.S. and its partners in both the flood relief effort and the war against Islamic militants are unlikely to be convinced by Al-Khidmat's claim of innocent intentions.
At left: Members of a family wait for flood waters to recede so they can access their home along the banks of the Kabul River, which flows through Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, Aug. 10, 2010.
In spite of the Pakistani Taliban's call Tuesday for the government to boycott all American aid, U.S. helicopters have rescued hundreds of people stranded by the floods and $55 million dollars in aid has been pledged to the country.
The United Nations hundreds of millions of dollars will eventually be needed to help the flood victims.
But the role hardline Islamic groups are playing on the ground -- mingling with other private providers of humanitarian services -- has caused some concern for Western governments.
"What concerns us is any evidence of their motive being different from what they profess," one Western diplomat in Islamabad told CBS News. "We accept the need to save lives, but we must also be certain that that is the ultimate objective, nothing else."
The future of the flood victims may become central to the U.S. interest in stabilizing the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. The floods offer an opportunity for the U.S. to win over Pakistani hearts and minds in the region, but Washington is fighting a horrible image and a counter-effort by Islamic groups that have local knowledge and well-established networks in the area.
The U.S. was already deeply unpopular in the northwest region for carrying out frequent missile strikes with pilotless drones. The strikes target militant leaders, but often bring civilian casualties and can traumatize local populations.
Despite the infusion of cash aid, humanitarian supplies and six American helicopters flying vital rescue missions, it has become extremely difficult to find anyone among the flood victims willing to voice support for the U.S.
"All I have heard of the U.S. commitment to our plight is to send these drones which have killed our people," said Saeed Khan, a farmer and father of eight children whose mud shack was washed away on Sunday. "Look around and there is no sign of any U.S. effort to help overcome poverty in this region."
Sitting inside a tent by the road near the sprawling city of Peshawar, Khan laments the criticism against Islamic groups carrying out relief work. "They at least have a heart. The U.S. doesn't have a heart, the Americans have simply killed our people."
Lali Jan, a taxi driver in Nowshera who found his cab washed away in the flood, agreed without hesitation.
"The Americans and the Pakistani government are to blame. They spend more on their wars but give very little to our people. The Americans may not have caused the floods, but their agenda will always be against us, while our own brothers from Islamic groups are helping us very generously."
As the flood spread to the country's southern parts after emanating from its north and gushing through its populous Punjab province before heading to the southern Sindh province, a government official cited preliminary estimates which put the likely cost of the damage to more than the material loss from a massive earthquake in 2005.
"The material cost now is looking like exceeding the cost of damage from the earthquake which some people thought could be $4 billion or more" said the official who spoke on condition that he not be named. "This entire situation, the damage from the floods, has put us back many years. There is so much destruction to roads, bridges and vital facilities."
On Friday too, officials from the Water and Power Development Authority, the state electricity provider, watched helplessly as flood water entered the Kot Addu power plant - one of Pakistan's largest electricity generating facilities, in southern Punjab, threatening to damage the facility.
"It is tragic to see this situation. We simply can't do anything," said the official who spoke to CBS News in Islamabad.
The two western ambassadors, who spoke to CBS News also on background as they were not authorized to speak publicly, warned that a failure in stepping up international and local relief effort, followed by a rapid move to begin reconstruction will risk prompting angry public protests on the streets.
"Historically in different parts of the world, we have seen angry protests trigger when people felt so neglected and came out on the streets to share their anger," said one western ambassador. "It is vital for everyone-in and outside Pakistan, to closely consider the political fallout from this very nasty situation and move swiftly to deal with it".
The second western ambassador went a step further, saying, "Left to face their miseries on their own, you have more than 3 million Pakistanis affected by the floods who will protest in unpredictable ways".
In the past week, a growing number of western countries including the U.S. have sent emergency supplies. The U.S. assistance includes 6 helicopters, deployed primarily to rescue people trapped in flood affected areas.
But the second western ambassador warned that more needs to be done.
"The amount of rescue supplies must be raised significantly before this situation becomes a catastrophe," he said. "It is already more than half a catastrophe".
The first western ambassador who spoke to CBS News said that growing instability in Pakistan following the flood related destruction creates the risk of weakening the government's resolve to launch new campaigns against militant groups.
"For months, the U.S. and other countries have been urging Pakistan in private to widen the scope of its campaign. We need Pakistan to become more focused and more aggressive. But now with this destruction, where will the focus come from?" he asked.
The destruction has also prompted widespread criticism of President Asif Ali Zardari over his decision to travel to France and the U.K. in the past week while the disaster widened at home. Additionally, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has also been criticized for his failure to provide more robust leadership.
In one widely cited case, Gilani has been criticized following his visit to a makeshift medical relief camp in the Punjab. After his visit, Pakistan's news organizations reported that the camp was a fake - established before Gilani's trip and dismantled after he left.
"Our leaders are only looking for photo-ops. No one cares about the people" Saeed Tariq, an Islamabad school teacher said Friday.
However, the reports released by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.org raised concerns in the Pakistani capital over new strains surrounding the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, almost a decade after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington brought the two countries into a close military alliance.
Relations between the two countries have periodically come under stress, mainly over American concerns that Pakistan's security establishment continues to retain ties with Islamic militant factions in Afghanistan while it supports the U.S. effort in that country.
"The ISI completely follows the government's policy, and therefore to expect it to work on its own does not make any sense," Farahnaz Ispahani, an advisor to President Asif Ali Zardari, told CBS News. "We have an alliance with the U.S. and other partners, and we are working in the best interest of our region. People must appreciate the sacrifices that Pakistan has made and continues to make.
"Do you seriously believe we will be irresponsible enough to have any links with those who have killed our own people?" Ispahani said.
The killing came a day after a video of a leading Taliban warlord promising to strike at the hardline movement's opponents prompted widespread fear of suicide and armed attacks.
Mian Rashid Hussain, the 25-year-old son of Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the provincial information minister of the Taliban-infested province of Khyber-Pashtunkhwa, was killed in the northern city of Nowshera by unknown gunmen while he was out for a walk with a cousin.
A senior intelligence official in Peshawar, the provincial capital, told CBS News on condition of anonymity that the killing could be the first targeted attack since a video of Mullah Fazlullah, the former head of Taliban militants in Pakistan's northern Swat valley, promised revenge against Pakistan's civilian and military rulers.
"The investigation is looking especially at the angle of this killing being the first act of bloodshed under orders from Fazlullah," said the official. "The circumstantial evidence and information based on recent intelligence intercepts is exceptionally strong.
"This is increasingly looking like Fazlullah's fingerprints [are] all over the killing," added the official.
If such a connection between the killing and Fazlullah is established conclusively, that would mark a further deterioration in the already-sliding internal security conditions within Pakistan.
The intelligence official who spoke to CBS News from Peshawar warned that in the future Taliban militants could attack family members of other prominent public figures in a bid to unnerve key members of Pakistan's ruling structure.
Widely known as one of the most forceful critics of Taliban militants, Mian Iftikhar Hussain often disregarded advice from police and intelligence officials to make public appearances in which he condemned Taliban militants.
On Friday CBS News obtained a video showing Fazlullah addressing a group of followers (described as suicide bombers), urging them to target Pakistan's government and security forces.
"I am asking my Fidayeen (suicide bombers) to target two kinds of people: the military and its supporters, and the nationalists and their leadership," Fazlullah was shown telling the militants standing around him.
Fazlullah went on to tell his assembled followers that Islam would even permit the accidental taking of innocent lives in the effort to slay the enemy.
The video, which showed Fazlullah walking with an unexplained limp, came after reports in May which suggested he had been killed.
After Saturday's attack, a senior Western diplomat in Islamabad who also spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity warned that the attack could be followed by more attempts to target close family members of Pakistan's ruling elite.
"These people (Taliban) have no scruples. They are fighting for their survival. What could be a better way for these people to settle scores than to further terrorize ruling politicians by targeting people close to them," he said.
By CBS News' Farhan Bokhari reporting from Islamabad.
Taliban militants driven out of Pakistan's northern Swat valley in a 2009 military campaign are threatening a comeback.
A video obtained by CBS News' Sami Yousafzai shows Mullah Fazlullah, the former leader of the Taliban in Swat, addressing a group of followers -- described as suicide bombers -- and urging them to target Pakistan's government and the country's security forces.
The video, which shows Fazlullah (center in photo) walking with an unexplained limp, comes after reports in May which suggested the militant commander had been killed in a strike along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
"I am asking my Fidayeen (suicide bombers) to target two kinds of people; the military and its supporters, and the nationalists and their leadership," Fazlullah tells the militants before him.
"Make them your targets," he says in what appears to be his first-ever video appearance. Fazlullah goes on to tell his assembled followers that Islam would even permit the accidental taking of innocent lives in the effort to slay the enemy.
A senior Western defense official in Islamabad tells CBS News the video is "a serious development."
"We can now expect a major attack," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "This threat should not be seen as an idle one."
A Pakistani intelligence official who saw the video in the northern city of Peshawar said the background scenery appears to be from a valley somewhere in the lawless tribal regions which straddle the Afghan-Pakistan border.
According to the official, the visual clues suggest Fazlullah may already have assembled a group of hardcore militants in a sparsely populated region and is positioning himself to launch a string of fresh attacks, possibly in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Neither in Afghanistan nor in Pakistan can security be taken for granted. We have to be on our toes and remain very vigilant," said the intelligence official, adding that "these militants know that the U.S. is somewhat vulnerable in Afghanistan and is far from a clear victory, so from their point of view, this may be a good time to attack U.S. and other Western soldiers."
Hasan Askari Rizvi, a respected Pakistani commentator on security affairs, tells CBS that Fazlullah's apparent return raises a number of serious questions for the U.S. and Pakistan, ranging from an intelligence failure in tracking him down after last years' campaign, to a very real new challenge to the military's effort to consolidate power in Swat.
"I believe someone should be asked to explain how this could have happened when a man was believed to be dead not too long ago, and he is now openly and daringly threatening us all," said Rizvi.
"Any further attacks could be very disruptive, because they will only demonstrate that the Taliban defeated in Swat have returned to fight for their cause," added Rizvi.
A senior government official in Swat, who also spoke to CBS News on condition that he remain unnamed, said Fazlullah's threat could force a review of cultural events planned by the government to revive the once festive holiday atmosphere in the picturesque Swat valley.
"We simply cannot risk having musical shows or other similar activities. If Fazlullah and his men are around, they will be looking for exactly such targets," said the official.
Before Swat was completely taken over by the Taliban, it was a prime vacation destination for Pakistanis and others from the region.
Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, known for his pro-U.S. views in battling Taliban militants, on Thursday, July 22 had his tenure extended for three years beyond his retirement due in November this year, in a step likely to be seen favorably in Washington.
Kayani's extended tenure may be crucial for the future of U.S. efforts to seize control of Afghanistan by defeating Islamic militants fighting under the banner of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, western defense officials said.
Pakistan's prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in a speech on the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV) said, "We are confident that under the leadership of General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the war against terrorism will be taken to its conclusion."
Kayani is widely credited by western officials for having overseen a stepped up campaign by Pakistan's military in its fight against Taliban militants.
Within the country, he is also credited by many for having overseen a significant lift to the military's image as a credible fighting force, in sharp contrast to its highly political role under former army chief and former president General Pervez Musharraf.Continue »
The attack by three suicide bombers targeted the shrine of Data Gunj Bukhsh, the patron saint of Lahore. "The bombings took place when the shrine was crowded with worshippers who usually visit on Thursday night," said Khusro Pervez, the top civil servant of Lahore, speaking to reporters after the attacks.
Thursday's suicide attacks came a month after the May 28th attacks by armed militants who targeted two centers belonging to members the Ahmediya sect in Lahore, killing up to 100 people.Continue »