December 8, 2001
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ISI continued to arm Taliban even after Sept 11: Report

In what could be an embarrassment to the Pakistan government, its intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence is reported to have continued supply of weapons and ammunition to the Taliban a month after Islamabad agreed to end its support to the Islamic militia.

Quoting western and Pakistani officials, a western media report said Pakistani border guards at a checkpoint in the Khyber Pass on October 8 and 12 allowed passage to convoys of trucks loaded with rifles, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenade launchers hidden under their tarpaulins headed into Afghanistan.

A senior Pakistani intelligence official, said New York Times, acknowledged that the October 8 shipment did contain arms for the Taliban.

But the official also said it was the last officially sanctioned delivery and that Pakistan had since been living up to its commitment to the anti-terror war.

The ISI had long provided safe passage to armadas of truckers and smugglers supplying to the Taliban war machine.

But the policy was supposed to have changed in September after a Washington ultimatum to Pakistan.

The agency and Musharraf had specifically agreed to end support for the Taliban in a series of meetings and telephone conversations after September 11.

But Pakistani intelligence officers and military advisors continued helping the Taliban at least into October providing tactical advice and helping fortify Kandahar, diplomats and officials were quoted as saying.

ISI, the Times report said, remains what many describe as a 'state within a state, with independent, and worrying, political tendencies'.

Former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto said that in the ISI, 'power remains in the hands of a powerful group of jihadi generals who are outside the government apparatus, but have tentacles in government'.

While pointing out that Bhutto is not an impartial observer, the paper says her view is shared by many in Pakistan's intelligence and diplomatic ranks who feel that President Prevez Musharraf must begin a broader purge if he hopes to loosen the grip of pro-Taliban elements in the ISI.

Lt Gen Hamid Gul, who headed the agency in the late 80s and is known to be staunchly Islamist, told the daily it will not be easy for officers to set aside their beliefs and change sides.

Gen Gul, who remains a Taliban supporter, denounced the US for condemning the Taliban and Osama bin Laden 'without providing any proof of guilt'.

"Osama bin Laden is a sensitive man and he had nothing to do with the attacks on America," Gul told the paper.

"You Americans will have to support the Taliban one day. They are not going to go away. They are integral, organic, historic," he said.

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