ISI ignored US warning on Kashmir
8 December 2001
The Indian Express
New York: The United States had warned Pakistan against the activities of its intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence in Kashmir and Afghanistan as early as 1992, a report said on Saturday. In a letter sent by then President George Bush, he said Pakistan ran the risk of being declared a terrorist state and losing access to international financial assistance, The New York Times said quoting a former Pakistani official who has seen the document. The official, who requested anonymity, added that in 1996, when Benzir Bhutto was serving her second term as prime minister, she became concerned about Pakistan''s closeness to the Taliban and about ISI''s control over Afghan policy. Following this, a meeting of senior government officials was called to discuss pulling back from the Taliban, where Gen. Jehangir Karamat, then chief of the armed forces, argued that the agency should stop its activities inside Afghanistan, which would lead to dismantling of the Taliban. However, Lt. Gen. Aziz Khan, who was deputy director of the ISI at that time, pleaded that the Taliban would only make Pakistan stronger. As a consequence, Pakistan did not withdraw its support to the militia and in the following months, the Taliban captured Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul. However, trouble erupted in 1998, with the bombings of two American embassies in east Africa which killed more than 250 people, the official said. Being fully aware of the close relations that the Taliban enjoyed with prime accused Osama bin Laden as well as the ISI, Washington, in 1999, summoned ISI chief Gen. Ziauddin and then prime minister Nawaz Sharif''s brother Shahbaz Sharif, and were told to ask Taliban to moderate their stand and hand over bin Laden. Sharif then sent Ziauddin to Mullah Omar to convey him the American message, which was turned down. The next month, Nawaz was overthrown in a bloodless coup by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, with strong support from Lt. Gen Aziz Khan who had defended Taliban while working for the ISI. Analysts say the coup was partly a result of the growing fear that Sharif might reverse Pakistan''s policy towards Taliban owing to pressure from the US. This, they say, was evident from Musharraf cancelling a top secret mission being planned with the United States to send commandos using ISI intelligence into Afghanistan to capture bin Laden. Musharraf held fast to this stand despite pressures from the United States and UN sanctions against Afghanistan, until the September 11 terror attacks forced the world to change its approach towards the Afghan militia.