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Pak admits non-state actors its responsibility

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has accepted that non-state actors were his responsibility and said nobody will be allowed to use Pakistani soil for any form of aggression.

world Updated: Dec 16, 2008 11:32 IST

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has accepted that non-state actors were his responsibility and said nobody will be allowed to use Pakistani soil for any form of aggression toward any friend or foe.

"Yes, definitely. I do not shrug away from that position," he told Newsweek magazine in an interview when reminded that US Secretary of Condoleezza Rice had said that non-state actors on Pakistani soil were still its responsibility. "Anybody from my soil is my responsibility."

When told that many times earlier Pakistani leaders had said they would do something about Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that India has blamed for the Mumbai terror attacks, but never actually took action, Zardari said: "That is not us."

Asked if Pakistan was going to take any concrete steps to crack down on LeT, Zardari said: "Things have been done. One step is we have started combing the whole region for all nonstate actors and we have made certain arrests."

"We will not allow anybody to have the capability to perform such acts," he said when asked if Pakistan can shut the LeT down and prevent training on Pakistani soil. "Nobody will be allowed to use Pakistan soil for any form of aggression toward any friend or foe."

Asked about Rice's demand that Pakistan do something about the Mumbai attacks, Zardari said: "She is a friend and she knows Pakistan is a responsible state, and the Americans and the British know how much my government has done for this operation... against the terrorists since we've been in government."

"I don't have any specific information to that effect because the Indians have given us very little information," he said when asked about reports that all of the terrorists were trained in Pakistan.

"I have offered to the Indians that we will do a joint investigation into this Mumbai incident and if it leads anywhere, we will take action."

Asked if the terrorists were trained in Pakistan, does it not have to do something, Zardari said: "Definitely. Not for them, it's for myself... The Indians must understand that the government and the people of Pakistan are net losers of the situation. We had put in a lot of effort... to make good relations with India."

On India's demand to send it accused people to bring to justice, he said: "We don't have that kind of relationship yet. America and Pakistan have hardly gotten to the position where we can interact and exchange information."

Zardari said Pakistan would not send anyone to India. "No, that is a decision to be made by the parliament and not by the president."

Zardari admitted that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency had links with LeT in the past but claimed "things have changed to a great extent".

"We are talking about an age-old situation. This is something (that happened) in the old days when dictators used to run the country. Maybe before 9/11, that may have been a position. Since then, things have changed to a great extent," he said.

"There is no supportive interaction with our intelligence (agencies) and the LeT. Lashkar-e-Taiba happens to be a banned organization in Pakistan," Zardari said when asked about charges that Lashkar is operating with the help of ISI now, not in the past.

Zardari also admitted that LeT may have been used in Kashmir by the Pakistani Army to fight India before he came to office but claimed things have changed.

"That may have been the situation then, but things have changed. Lashkar-e-Taiba has been banned," he said. "Of course, these nonstate actors keep re-emerging in different forms. Whenever there is actionable intelligence, we move in before anyone else does."

On reports that Rice had asked Pakistan to arrest a former ISI chief, Gen. Hamid Gul, who is allegedly tied up with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, he said: "Hamid Gul is an actor who is definitely not in our good books. Hamid Gul is somebody who was never appreciated by our government."

But Rice "did not go into specifics, if I may share that with you", Zardari added. "He (Gul) has not been accused in the Mumbai incident... I think he is more of a political ideologue of terror rather than a physical supporter."

On reports that US intelligence has evidence of ISI's involvement in the July bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, he said: "No, we have not had that intimation from the Americans. I totally deny that. We had nothing to do with the Kabul bombing. Again, these are non-state actors."

First Published: Dec 16, 2008 11:30 IST