Taliban leader 'under Pakistani protection'*
By Tom Coghlan in Kabul
Last Updated: 1:38pm GMT 18/01/2007
A Taliban spokesman captured by Afghan security forces has alleged that
the organisation’s spiritual leader, Mullah Omar, is living in Pakistan
under Pakistani government protection. The Pakistani government
immediately issued vociferous denials of the claim.
Dr Mohammad Hanif, 26, whose real name is Abdul Haq Haji Gulroz, was
reported captured on Tuesday by Afghan security forces while crossing
the border from Pakistan.
In an interrogation taped by Afghan security agents and shown on Afghan
television he made a series of allegations of Pakistani government
complicity in the Taliban insurgency.
These included the charge that Mullah Omar lives in the city of Quetta
in the south-western Pakistani state of Baluchistan; that he lives under
the protection of the Pakistani intelligence service, the Inter-Services
Intelligence (ISI); that the ISI funds and equips Taliban suicide
bombings; and that a former head of the ISI, Hamid Gul, supports and
funds the insurgency.
A Pakistani government spokesman, General Shaukut Sultan, today
described the claims as “an absurd and sheer lie”.
“The (Taliban) statement appears to have been given under pressure,” he
added, before accusing the Afghan government of attempting to blame
Pakistan for its own failure to defeat the growing Taliban insurgency.
The claim and counter-claim are the latest chapter in an ongoing war of
words between the Afghan government and its neighbour over Pakistan’s
role in the fight against the Taliban.
Last year Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, made an identical claim
that Mullah Omar lives under ISI protection in Quetta.
Though more measured in their tone Western countries have also been
critical of Pakistan’s record on clamping down on Taliban command
structures and training camps in the country’s tribal border areas.
American military commanders reported a threefold increase in Taliban
activity along Afghanistan’s eastern border following a treaty between
the Pakistan government and Taliban-aligned tribesmen in the border
territory of North Waziristan last June.
However, Pakistan remains a key Western ally in the war on terror and
the place where most of the senior al-Qa'eda operatives captured to date
have been picked up.
Britain in particular, with a growing domestic Islamic terror problem,
has been loath to risk the flow of intelligence it receives from
Pakistan’s intelligence service on British Islamic terror cells with
their roots in Pakistan.
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have steadily deteriorated
since the overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001.
As well as the issue of Taliban infiltration, Afghanistan has never
accepted the 1,500 mile border between the two countries, which was
drawn by the British official Sir Mortimer Durrand in 1893, and which
bisects the tribal belt from which Afghanistan’s dominant Pashtun ethnic
group is drawn.