Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi crossed all limits when he made highly undiplomatic remarks about External Affairs Minister SM Krishna while briefing Pakistani media on July 16.
He was obviously nothing less than offensive when he compared Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, mastermind of 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, with Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai.
"When you point out to Saeed`s speech, or speeches, let me draw your attention to the Indian Home Secretary`s statement. The dialogue which was reported in all Pakistani papers. On the eve of this dialogue tell me to what extent, tell me, to what extent it has helped?" Qureshi said in a sour tone during his joint press conference with visiting minister, Krishna. The question arises: Why would a minister, in front of the whole international media, try to protect a person accused of masterminding a ghastly terror attack?
Actually, of late, Pillai had told a daily that David Coleman Headley had revealed to interrogators that Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), played a significant role in Mumbai terror attacks. The Pakistan agency was “literally controlling and coordinating it (26/11 attacks) from the beginning to the end”. That was the moment of truth for Pakistan. And sorry Mr Qureshi, truth truly hurts.
Pillai had not made the statement off-the-cuff. He had, in fact, cited the information India received during Headley’s interrogation.
Let me remind Pakistan that not only does India think that ISI shares ties with terrorist groups, but other countries and experts too share the same opinion. A number of reports have pointed out the nexus between Pakistan’s intelligence agency and terror groups.
In 2006, a leaked report by a British Defence Ministry think tank noted, "Indirectly Pakistan (through the ISI) has been supporting terrorism and extremism-whether in London on 7/7 [the July 2005 attacks on London`s transit system], or in Afghanistan, or Iraq."
Afghan officials have time-to-time accused Pakistan`s intelligence service of plotting attacks on Indian embassy and assets. A number of US officials have also accused the ISI of lending support to terrorist groups.
In June, 26/11 accused Headley reportedly told the National Investigation Agency that Lashkar-e-Toiba and ISI are nearly inseparable as far as the pan-Islamic terror agenda is concerned.
Last year, former Pakistan president General Pervez Musharraf also conceded that the ISI maintains link with militant commanders like Sirajuddin Haqqani. Sirajuddin, the son of Mujahideen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, is accused of masterminding the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul on July 07, 2008.
Notably, the US is now considering designating the Haqqani network as Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO).
“The intelligence service is using certain enemies against other enemies,” Musharraf had added, probably certifying experts’ view that the ISI and Pakistan Army back a number of militant groups to foment anti-India passion in Kashmir.
In fact, a United Nations report in April concluded, "The Pakistani military organised and supported the Taliban to take control of Afghanistan in 1996. Similar tactics were used in Kashmir against India after 1989."
A US Congressional report in January had identified the D-company as a "5,000-member criminal syndicate operating mostly in Pakistan, India, and the United Arab Emirates”, which has a "strategic alliance" with ISI and has "forged relationships with Islamists, including Lashkar-e-Toiba and al Qaeda."
On July 20, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that elements in the Pakistan government, especially its intelligence establishment, know where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is hiding inside the country. She said, "I assume somebody in this (Pakistan) government, from top to bottom, does know where bin Laden is. And I`d like to know too." There couldn’t have been a better case of clear talking.
A number of independent groups and experts in their reports have said that ISI does maintain ties with terror groups.
The ISI was founded in 1948 by the British Army to provide assistance to Military Intelligence. In its initial stage, the ISI’s role was confined to gathering intelligence, but in 1958, Lt Gen Ayub Khan brought it into political stream. Step by step, ISI established its control over military intelligence and Intelligence Bureau.
Many in the Pakistani government have called ISI as a state within a state, which has its own foreign policy and which works beyond Islamabad’s control.
Qureshi’s efforts to protect Hafiz Saeed and sidetrack Pillai’s significant statement on ISI by making brainless comments about India’s preparation for talk have not succeeded. All of Qureshi’s attempts to demean Mr Krishna have failed badly too. I want to compliment Mr Krishna and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao for handling this chaos in a dignified and matured way. This whole episode will neither let Qureshi win the tag of ‘an accomplished diplomat’ nor let ISI earn the label of ‘a clean agency’.