Former Inter-Services Intelligence official Khalid Khawaja, considered to be a close friend of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, has exposed the murky deals between the spy agency, the Pakistan army, the militants operating in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan and the United States administration.
In a series of videos sent to Asia Times Online, Khawaja, a former air force squadron leader, claims that he was captured by militants while trying to finalise a deal between them and the army. According to him, the ISI had sent him to North Waziristan to broker a deal between the militants and the Pakistan army, which had failed to curb extremism along the country's borders.
Though Khawaja was dismissed from the Pakistan air force in the late 1980s, he continued to play a silent role in national politics. He was one of the key figures in the back-room talks between the United States and the Taliban before the attack on Afghanistan, says a report by Asia Times Online.
Khawaja was kidnapped by militants on March 25 in North Waziristan, where he had gone to interview Taliban commanders Sirajuddin Haqqani and Waliur Rahman Mehsud, along with Pakistani documentary maker Asad Qureshi and former ISI official Colonel Ameer Sultan Tarrar, says the report.
Incidentally, Tarrar is often referred to as the 'Father of Taliban', as he actively helped the Taliban leadership and trained leaders like Mullah Omar and Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Though the Afghanistan Taliban stated that they had no role in the kidnappings, a group of Punjabi militants called the 'Asian Tigers' claimed responsibility, says the report. They demanded $10 million and the release of two Taliban leaders Mullah Baradar and Mansoor Dadullah to free the trio, says the Asia Times Online.
In the videos, Khawaja talks about how he and other senior ISI officials chalked out a plan to end the radical Lal Masjid movement in Pakistan, with the help of some senior politicians and scholars.
Khawaja claims that he laid the trap for the arrest of Maulana Abdul Aziz, who ran the mosque, before the army raided it to flush out the militants inside. He himself was arrested after the operation, after the government accused him of collaborating with the militants.
The former ISI official says that the Central Intelligence Agency used him as a mole during the Lal Masjid operation. The incident provoked wide-spread outrage against the Pervez Musharraf-led government and led to a rise in militancy across the country.
Khawaja admits that the ISI helped a number of top Taliban commanders, including Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil, Maulana Masood Azhar and Abdullah Shah Mazhar, collect funds within Pakistan.
He openly criticised Pakistani intelligence agencies when they helped the US administration in the war on terror, says the report.
Khawaja was forced to retire from the air force after he called then president General Zia ul-Haq a hypocrite for not enforcing Islam, says Asia Times Online. He later joined forced with bin Laden and fought against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.
He was also accused of being involved in the kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl, says the report
In one of the videos, Khawaja also claims that he had arranged a meeting between Pakistan Muslim League chief Nawaz Sharif and bin Laden in the late 1980s, to formulate a plan to oust the then Benazir Bhutto-led Pakistan government.