Musharraf to protest to Blair over ISI charges
Musharraf said he would protest to the British Prime Minister over charges that ISI supports Islamist extremism.Updated: Sep 28, 2006 21:42 IST
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said he would protest to British Prime Minister Tony Blair Thursday over charges that his country's intelligence service supports Islamist extremism.
In an interview hours before his talks with Blair outside London, Musharraf denied allegations that Islamabad's ISI indirectly supports extremism in Afghanistan, Iraq and Britain by backing Pakistan's Islamist parties.
"Absolutely, 200 percent, I reject it," Musharraf told the British Broadcasting Corp. "I take exception seriously, and I would like to talk about it (with) Prime Minister Tony Blair when I meet him."
The two leaders were to meet Thursday afternoon outside London at Blair's countryside retreat of Chequers, after Musharraf's arrival from the United States, a spokesman in Blair's office said.
The BBC cited a leaked paper written by a senior military official linked to Britain's foreign intelligence service MI6 who served on a fact-finding mission to Pakistan in June which interviewed army officers and academics.
The paper written for the Defence Academy, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) think tank, alleges that the ISI is fanning extremism by secretly backing the coalition of religious parties in Pakistan known as the MNA.
"The army's dual role in combating terrorism and at the same time promoting the MNA, and so indirectly supporting the Taliban through the ISI, is coming under closer and closer international scrutiny," the paper said.
The MoD distanced itself from the document.
An MoD spokeswoman said it "in no way represents the views of either the MoD or the government," adding its author suspects it was leaked in the hope it damages ties with Pakistan.
With Pakistan's support, the United States and its allies toppled Afghanistan's Taliban rulers in 2001 for harboring the Al-Qaeda group that staged the September 11 attacks.
However, the Taliban is making a comeback in Afghanistan five years later.
And the report by the Defence Academy said Britain's support for Musharraf is flawed because Pakistan is "on the edge of chaos" rather than being a pillar of stability.
"Indirectly Pakistan, through the ISI, has been supporting terrorism and extremism whether in London on 7/7 or in Afghanistan or Iraq," it said.
At least two of the four suicide bombers who blew themselves up in London last year, killing themseles and 52 other people, had visited Pakistan where they are suspected to have contacted extremist groups.
The report proposed using the military links between the British and Pakistan armies at a senior level to persuade Musharraf to step down, accept free elections and persuade the army to dismantle the ISI.
Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 military coup, responded angrily to the suggestions, saying: "I would like to tell this Ministry of Defence spokesman to say the Ministry of Defence maybe should be dismantled before the ISI is dismantled."
He said the ISI was a "disciplined force" which "won the Cold War for the world."
The paper also said that the Iraq war had "acted as a recruiting sergeant for extremists across the Muslim world".
Musharraf was in Washington along with Afghanistan's President Ahmed Karzai for talks with US President George W. Bush.
Samina Ahmed, the Islamabad-based South Asia project director for the International Crisis Group, spoke of growing irritation among Pakistan's main Western allies.
"Public statements still express strong support, but at the same time, there is much more concern than there was for some time about President Musharraf's ability or willingness to deliver" in the war on terrorism, she said.
First Published: Sep 28, 2006 21:15 IST