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‘LeT is a monster created by ISI’

The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has definite links with the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) and other militant groups involved in terror attacks on India, The Times reported.

world Updated: Dec 22, 2008 23:03 IST
Vijay Dutt

The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has definite links with the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) and other militant groups involved in terror attacks on India, The Times reported. “ISI created Lashkar-e-Tayyeba which is no more under its control”, claims a senior ISI official.

“These jihadis were there in Jammu and Kashmir and we supported them. I think any intelligence agency worth its name would have done the same,” a senior ISI officers aid.

Commenting on ISI’s links with Lashkar, the official said: “It’s a monster we created and now we can’t get it back in the bottle.”

The ISI had forged ties with jihadist groups throughout the 1980s when the CIA used it to support the mujahidin against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan and it saw an opportunity in 1989 to weaken India by creating trouble in Jammu and Kashmir, the newspaper reported.

General Asad Durrani, ISI chief from 1990-92, denied supporting LeT in his tenure, but admitted that Pakistan had an interest in supporting such groups. “Given Kashmir’s history, we can’t be expected to remain uninterested,” he added.

The ISI officially severed links with LeT in 2002 after the group attacked India’s Parliament, but Indian and US intelligence believe that it maintained covert support, probably through ex-ISI officers.

The Times report complied after a visit to the 75-acre complex in Muridke said that although the administrator Mohammed Abbas denied any connection with the ISI, but it was here (in Muridke), in April 2001, “that Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, LeT’s leader at the time, called a meeting of his supporters in the 75-acre complex of red-brick buildings and neat lawns.

Most of the visitors wore the obligatory long beards, but among them was an elderly man with no beard, only a thin, military-style moustache. He was Hamid Gul, the former head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.”

Generals Hamid Gul, Durrani and the serving officer all admitted that some retired ISI agents may have shared the ideology of the militants.

“Yes, I visited there. Retired army officers used to go, too. They used to hold annual fixtures to raise funds and motivate people,” General Gul said. He also said “Cleansing the ISI is America’s dream, but this is Pakistan’s first line of defence. It keeps the country united.”

All three said that it would be impossible to channel serious support to militants from inside or outside the ISI without the knowledge of the agency’s leadership, The Times reported.

As for the Mumbai attacks, they said that it was not in the ISI’s interests to antagonise Washington and provoke another conflict with India during an economic crisis. Many Indian and Western analysts agree, saying that the ISI probably trained LeT militants but was not directly involved in Mumbai.

“There almost certainly are still ISI links to LeT, but the question is how much operational control does the ISI have?” Lisa Curtis, a former CIA analyst and South Asia expert at the Heritage Foundation, said.

She and other experts have urged President Asif Zardari to appoint a civilian head of the ISI and dismantle all the militant groups it has supported.

The ISI is unlikely to accept either solution until the international community also addresses Pakistan’s concerns in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

“Cleansing the ISI is America’s dream, but this is Pakistan’s first line of defence. It keeps the country united,” said General Gul, who admitted that retired army officers used to visit LeT headquarters.