November 6, 2001
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Beware of the ISI, Bhutto warns US

Paritosh Parasher in Sydney

Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto has cautioned the West against relying on Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence in the war on terrorism, calling it a "treacherous" organisation.

"When I was prime minister of Pakistan, I found ISI to be a state within a state," Bhutto told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV's Foreign Correspondent programme.

"During my tenure as prime minister, we had instances of ISI officials approaching parliamentarians and asking them to defect from my party and also asking them to vote against me," said the chief of the Pakistan People's Party.

Bhutto, who lives in self-imposed exile in London and Dubai, is stated to be in Washington to warn the US about the "real intentions" of Pakistan's premier state intelligence organisation.

Pakistan has emerged as a leading ally in the US-led war on terrorism in Afghanistan to flush out suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Bhutto's assertion was supported by the findings of the programme that quoted Pakistani Army sources as saying that when President Pervez Musharraf asked ISI bosses to persuade the Taleban to surrender Laden, they acted to the contrary.

The ISI officials are believed to have rushed to advise the Taleban on ways to strengthen their defences against the inevitable American attacks and "tough out".

This particular "treacherous" behaviour is said to have led to the removal in October of ISI Director General Mahmud Ahmed along with a number of other reportedly pro-Taleban ISI and army officials whose loyalties and designs were in doubt.

The former prime minister, talking to Foreign Correspondent's Mark Corcoran, also blamed the ISI for helping oust her elected government. "In my second term I heard about ISI officials approaching the chief justice of Pakistan and offering him the interim prime ministership in case he helped topple my government," she said.

The programme was intended to expose the true face of Pakistan's "shadowy" intelligence agency, which, it alleged, is responsible for drug trafficking, political assassinations and state-sponsored terrorism.

The episode also blamed the "hydra-headed monster with extremist views" for waging a proxy war in neighbouring India. Laden's Al Qaeda group is training various terrorists who later cross the border into India and indulge in subversive activities, it said. They get their recruits from hundreds of madrassas [Islamic seminaries] being run in Pakistan and Afghanistan by the ISI. The Pakistani agency is supposed to be funding these schools with money generated by heroin smuggling.

The 10,000 strong work force of the agency is, according to Foreign Correspondent, openly defiant of the government of the day. Pakistan may have signed up as a "pivotal ally" of the US-led alliance against the Taleban, but the ISI ranks are not happy and there may be another coup, the programme warned.

Indo-Asian News Service

America's War on Terror: The Complete Coverage
The Attack on US Cities: The Complete Coverage

The Terrorism Weblog: Latest Stories from Around the World

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