Ex-Pakistan president says country’s intelligence used terrorist group to attack India

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says his country’s intelligence agency actively used terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed to carry out attacks in India under his presidency.

However, in an interview with Pakistani news outlet Hum News on Wednesday, Musharraf said he now supports taking action against the Islamist group.

Jaish-e-Mohammed has been at the centre of recent tensions between India and Pakistan, with the group claiming responsibility for a suicide car bombing that killed over 40 Indian paramilitary police in the disputed region of Kashmir on Feb. 14.

In the weeks following the attack, the nuclear-armed rivals carried out aerial bombing missions, engaged in a brief dogfight and exchanged shelling along the heavily militarized Line of Control that divides Indian and Pakistani Kashmir.

India says Pakistan provides safe haven to Jaish-e-Mohammed and other anti-India militant groups, a charge that Islamabad denies.

But Musharraf, a former army general who oversaw a military coup in 1999 before serving as president from 2001 to 2008, said Pakistan’s intelligence agency used Jaish-e-Mohammed to target India during his presidency.

He indicated that this happened even after Jaish-e-Mohammed was declared a terrorist organization by the United Nations and the U.S. in 2001.

Musharraf said the group turned against him after Pakistan became an ally of the U.S. in the war on terror. He said Jaish-e-Mohammed militants twice tried to assassinate him in 2003 after he directed Pakistani forces to move against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Asked why he didn’t take action against Jaish-e-Mohammed early on in his presidency, Musharraf said “those were different times” and claimed that both Pakistan and India orchestrated attacks on each other’s soil in what he termed “tit-for-tat” attacks.

He said that as a result, little action was taken against Jaish-e-Mohammed, adding that he didn’t insist on or push for a crackdown.

However, Musharraf said he is “very happy that the [Pakistani] government is taking a tough stance against [Jaish-e-Mohammed].”

Musharraf, 75, lives in exile in the United Arab Emirates. He faces charges of treason in Pakistan.

His comments came a week after Pakistan’s foreign affairs minister appeared to let slip that his government was in contact with Jaish-e-Mohammed.

In an interview with the BBC, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that “the leadership [of Jaish] were contacted” and that they denied responsibility for the attack on Indian forces.

Asked who the leadership of the terrorist group was contacted by, Qureshi replied: “By, you know, by people over here. They say they deny, they deny, that’s the confusion.”

Pressed on who in Pakistan contacted the terrorist group, the minister said: “The people, the people who are known to them.”

Pakistan’s interior ministry spokesman said this week that the country had launched a new crackdown against militant groups, detaining two close relatives of Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Masood Azhar.

In this Jan. 27, 2000 file photo, Masood Azhar, leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad arrives in Islamabad, Pakistan.

On Thursday, the government announced it had seized 182 religious schools and detained over 100 people with suspected ties to terrorist groups.

Pakistani officials say the crackdown is part of a long-planned drive and not a response to Indian anger over what New Delhi calls Islamabad’s failure to rein in militant groups.

Previous large-scale crackdowns against anti-India militants have broadly been cosmetic, with the proscribed groups able to survive and continue operations.

An Indian official, who requested anonymity, told Reuters that New Delhi was skeptical that the crackdown was real, saying Pakistan had conducted such operations after previous attacks in India only to release detained militants in a “revolving door policy.”

“Whether these actions are cosmetic or credible is something yet to be seen,” said the Indian official, adding that Pakistan must take “credible, verifiable and immediate” action to end what he charged is a policy of using extremists to wage proxy attacks in India and Afghanistan.

— With files from Reuters

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