Musharraf flayed for spilling beans on ISI
He has been accused of settling scores with his erstwhile army colleagues by stating that retired ISI officials could be abetting Taliban.Updated: Oct 03, 2006 18:27 IST
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has been accused of "settling scores" with his erstwhile army colleagues and spilling the beans on Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), even while trying to defend it during his just-concluded foreign tour.
He has come under heavy fire from defence analysts, media and former colleagues, who think that by admitting that retired officers and renegades earlier associated with ISI may have had a role to play in Afghanistan has refurbished the "stereotype" that governs the western minds even before 9/11 happened.
The News International places it in the context of Indian criticism of ISI's role, not only in the 7/11 explosions on the Mumbai suburban rail network earlier this year but also in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, the worst terror violence India has faced.
Among the foremost critics has been Musharraf's batch mate in the army, Lt Gen (retd) Ali Kuli Khan Khattak, who has disputed Musharraf's claim in his book In the Line of Fire that he advocated imposition of martial law when then prime minister Nawaz Sharif forced General Jehangir Karamat, army chief at the time, to resign.
Khattak told The News International he never made a case for military rule. "My view was that the army should be firm and fair in dealing with all situations.
I certainly advised General Jehangir Karamat not to resign as army chief but I didn't ask him to stage a coup and impose martial law," he maintained.
Khattak, who was sidelined and removed, and Musharraf were batch mates, having joined the 29th Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) course in Kakul and then becoming involved "in an often bitter competition," the newspaper recalls.
"I can say we were friends until I was made Chief of General Staff (CGS). Musharraf was very unhappy that he couldn't make it," Khattak recalled.
Reached in Karachi for his reaction to the observations made by Musharraf about him in the book, Khattak argued it was a one-sided version of events in which facts have been misrepresented and "half-truths inserted to make General Musharraf look good".
Khattak has promised a rejoinder.
Musharraf's pinpointing ISI chiefs during 1979-89 in his NBC interview has earned a spate of denials and refutations from army generals.
Among them is Lt Gen Hamid Gul, who has been known to be a mentor of jehadis in and outside the army and a known Mushasrraf baiter for forsaking the jehadis under alleged US pressure.
Gul has been quoted as saying that ISI was like Freemasons, the secretive western organisation that was "closed, once you are out of it".
Gul said retired army officers "stood in the queue to pay their bills" and there was little chance of their sustaining any militant movement from their retirement.
What Musharraf said about ISI was "extraordinary, coming from the head of the state", said The Nation in an editorial.
It recalled that some of the former ISI chiefs have asked Musharraf to shed the uniform.
"The fact that some of the officials in various security agencies became radicalised during the Afghan jehad is widely recognised.
But.... this is the first time that a head of state has pointed an accusing finger in a certain direction for being a potential source of encouragement for militancy." the editorial indignantly said.
Taking a somewhat lenient view of Musharraf's admissions while defending ISI, The News International said the role of ISI was well known and it was better to pinpoint the renegades and ex-servicemen than deny point blank and wholly the allegation coming from the western media.
"It cannot be denied that there have been a succession of former ISI chiefs and senior officials - many of them retired and leading a life of religious piety, pan-Islamic zeal or both - who have openly espoused an anti-US course of action and have criticised the government for backing what they think is the wrong side in the war on terror," it said.
The partial admission was necessary to show that the president was "not faking" the support to the global war on terror, the editorial surmised.
First Published: Oct 03, 2006 16:44 IST