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Musharraf admits ISI maintains link with militants

world Updated: Jun 08, 2009 20:10 IST

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Former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf has conceded that his country's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) maintains link with militant commanders like Sirajuddin Haqqani, suspected of having masterminded the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul.

Musharraf said that ISI had "used Haqqani's influence" to get Pakistan's Ambassador to Afghanistan, who was kidnapped by Tehrik-e-Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, released.

Haqqani, "is the man who has influence over Baitullah Mehsud, a dangerous terrorist, the fiercest commander in South Waziristan and the murderer of Benzir Bhutto, as we know today," Musharraf said in an interview to German newspaper Der Spiegel.

"Mehsud kidnapped our Ambassador in Kabul and our intelligence used Haqqani's influence to get him released. Now that does not mean that Haqqani is supported by us. The intelligence service is using certain enemies against other enemies. And it is better to tackle them one by one than making them all enemies," he said.

On US media reports that ISI had systematically supported Taliban, the former Pakistan President said, "Intelligence always has access to other network -- that is what Americans did with KGB, that is what ISI also does."

Sirajuddin Haqqani is the son of renowned Mujaheedin commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is now one of the foremost commanders of Afghan Taliban. Haqqani brothers have been accused of masterminding the attack on Indian embassy in Kabul on July seven, 2008.

Musharraf in the course of his interview accused the Indian intelligence agency, RAW, of interfering in Swat valley and also of arming and financing Baluch rebels.

The former Pakistan President also said that there were "many Indian extremists who have extremists in Pakistan".

So he claimed that if world was serious about combating terrorism then "don't leave India out", since there is "an Indian element" behind the current situation in his country.

Claiming that US President Barack Obama does not understand the reality in Pakistan, Musharraf said that India should not be left out of the mandate of Richard Holbrooke, the US Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"I am totally against the term Af Pak," he said.

Musharraf said he did not support the Af-Pak policy for two reasons: First, the strategy puts Pakistan on the same level as Afghanistan.

"We are not. Afghanistan has no government and the country is completely destabilised. Pakistan is not."

"Second, and this is much more important, is that there is an Indian element in the whole game. We have the Kashmir struggle, without which extremist elements like Lashkar-e-Taiba would not exist," the wily commando-turned-politician said.

The former President saw a conspiracy going on to weaken Army and ISI in Pakistan, saying that the talk of Balkanization of his country was wrong as long as Army and the Intelligence were "intact and strong".

He refused to name who were behind this conspiracy, merely pointing to India saying it had 16 insurgencies going on and nobody was making a big thing out of it. "But the West always focuses on Pakistan as a problem."