Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has admitted in an interview that Islamabad supported and trained groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the 1990s to carry out militancy in Kashmir. The former army chief has also said that Lashkar leaders like Hafiz Saeed and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi enjoyed the status of heroes at that time.
Speaking to Pakistani news channel Dunya News on Sunday, Musharraf said, “In the 1990s, the freedom struggle began in Kashmir…At that time, Lashkar-e- Taiba and 11 or 12 other organisations were formed. We supported them and trained them as they were fighting in Kashmir at the cost of their lives.”
He was responding to a question about action against 2008 Mumbai attack masterminds Saeed and Lakhvi. Saeed is among India’s most wanted men and roams free in Pakistan, often making provocative anti-India speeches.
Lakhvi and six other accused are facing trial for planning and executing the attack on November 26, 2008 that left 166 people dead. But he was granted bail by a Pakistani court earlier this year, triggering a strong protest from India.
“The Kashmiri freedom fighters including Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi were our heroes at that time. Later on, the religious militancy turned into terrorism. Now they (referring to terrorists in Pakistan) are killing their own people here and this should be controlled and stopped,” he said.
When asked whether Saeed and Lakhvi should also be “controlled and stopped”, Musharraf said: “No comments.”
Musharraf also said that “religious militancy” was started by Pakistan which brought militants from all over the world to fight against Soviet forces.
“We trained Taliban and sent them to fight against Russia. Taliban, Haqqani, Osama Bin Laden and Zawahiri were our heroes then. Later they became villains,” he said, adding that people need to understand the whole environment at that time.
‘For a change, he spoke the truth’
Political parties and security experts in India reacted sharply to Musharraf’s candid remarks on his country’s support and training to terror groups adding that the truth has finally come out.
Both the BJP and Congress demanded Pakistan should hand over all terrorists to India.
Union minister Venkaiah Naidu said: “For a change, he spoke the truth … If they (Pakistan) are so genuine about fighting terror, they should … make these people available to India because they have committed heinous crimes here.”
He said Musharraf’s admission makes clear that Islamabad must be sheltering Dawood Ibrahim.
“Pakistan should realize their responsibility and hand over Dawood and others who are required in India,” he said.
National Security Adviser Ajit Doval took a dig at Musharraf’s statement saying, “Jaise hero honge, waise hi log honge” (people will always be like their heroes).
When asked about it, Pakistan high commissioner to India Abdul Basit said, “I will talk about these issues later.”
Former Army chief V P Malik said the truth has come out on how Musharraf was trying to deceive people within and outside his country.
Army’s retired Maj Gen G D Bakshi said there is official sanction to whatever the former Pakistan President has said and termed his statement as “bland admission that Pakistan raised and trained the Taliban”.
BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma said Pakistan stands exposed after Musharraf’s revelations about the existence of terror factories in Pakistan.
Congress leader Pramod Tiwari said after Musharraf’s statement on Osama bin Laden and terror outfits, it is clear Pakistan is the home of terrorism.
Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, “Musharraf’s statement admitting support to terrorist groups is a ‘confession of protectors and promoters of terrorism’,” adding,” it has once again exposed the real face of Pakistan.”
Bakshi termed Musharraf’s remarks as “not rantings of some private individual but those of a former head of state and former head of Pakistan army.”