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October 18, 1999
Military intelligence fears increase in ISI's terrorism
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
Cross-border terrorism in India backed by the Inter-Services Intelligence may intensify in the wake of the military coup in Pakistan, according to intelligence and military sources in New Delhi.
The close relationship of 'chief executive' General Pervez Musharraf with mujahideen groups is adding to the concern in government circles.
According to seasoned intelligence hands, the military establishment that has taken over Pakistan will not try to "mount a direct confrontation at the border" and General Musharraf's unilateral declaration to withdraw troops from the border is an indication in that direction.
"He already has enough trouble on his hands, he would not like to worsen his already sullied image internationally. But he is no fool of a soldier," a senior Military Intelligence officer said.
Sources said that with the unilateral withdrawal, Musharraf is trying to create a false impression and "he cannot be trusted". The shrewd Pakistani army chief has "close ties with mujahideen groups, we even suspect he has close links with Osama bin Laden," the sources said.
The close relations of the army and the terrorist outfits and the internal dynamics of Pakistan will ultimately result in the military rulers giving a "fillip to cross-border terrorism", they warned.
The military has concrete evidence of Musharraf's close links with extremist elements, and also about the co-ordination between the mujahideen and the Pakistan Army. In fact, the Kargil crisis is believed to have been the brainchild of the military top brass with the active support of some fundamentalist groups.
Sources said it has now been established that the mujahideen and the army fought side by side in Kargil. During the conflict, several intercepts contained mention of 'Osama', and reports indicated that bin Laden was in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir at the time.
Later, when the political crisis was deepening in Pakistan and rumours of a military coup had started doing rounds, intelligence reports had again noted bin Laden's presence in Pakistan.
To keep the mujahideen happy and carry on with the hidden agenda of the Pakistani armed forces, the Musharraf regime will "definitely step up its activities across the border, though not immediately", a senior army officer told rediff.com
He pointed out that it was during the time of Pakistan's last military ruler Zia-ul-Haq that Islamabad had implemented Operation Topac, which gave a big boost to terrorism in India. "We will have to gear up for the next phase of Operation Topac," he warned.
Topac was a three-phased strategy to "liberate" Kashmir, and several defence strategists believe the Kargil conflict was the "logical final step of Op Topac".
Since General Musharraf took over, there has been no clear indication of his approach to the mujahideen groups, as "he is preoccupied with putting things in order within Pakistan". But sources said that "sooner rather than later he will turn his attention to Kashmir, and a clear picture of his strategy will emerge".
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