Pak used terrorists as a tool in Kashmir: UN

Pakistan's powerful spy agency ISI continues to have close links with Lashkar-e-Taiba and has used the terror group's services to foment anti-India passion in Kashmir and elsewhere, a UN report said today.

"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," said the much-awaited report by UN-appointed independent panel to probe the killing of former Pakistan premier Benazir Bhutto.

The three-member panel concluded that such a policy of the Pakistan military to use terrorists as a tool to achieve its strategic objectives against its neighbours resulted in active linkages between elements of the military and the Establishment with radical Islamists at the expense of national secular forces.

Noting that the jihadi organisations are Sunni groups based largely in Pakistan's Punjab, the 65-page report said that members of these groups aided the Taliban effort in Afghanistan at the behest of the ISI and later cultivated ties with Al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban groups.

"The Pakistani military and ISI also used and supported some of these groups in the Kashmir insurgency after 1989. The bulk of the anti-Indian activity was and still remains the work of groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has close ties with the ISI," said the panel headed by Chile's UN ambassador Heraldo Munoz.

"A common characteristic of these jihadi groups was their adherence to the Deobandi Sunni sect of Islam, their strong anti-Shia bias, and their use by the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies in Afghanistan and Kashmir," the report said.

It said that while several Pakistani current and former intelligence officials told the Commission that their agencies no longer had such ties in 2007, but virtually all independent analysts provided information to the contrary and affirmed the ongoing nature of many such links.

The report said Qari Saifullah Akhtar, one of the founders of the extremist Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami (HuJI), was reportedly one of the ISI's main links to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and is believed to had cultivated ties to Osama bin Laden, who lived in Afghanistan during that period.

"Akhtar's one-time deputy Ilyas Kashmiri, who had ties with the Pakistani military during the Afghan and Kashmir campaigns, had been a senior aide to bin Laden's deputy Ayman al Zawahiri," it said.

"It was such links and connections between elements in the intelligence agencies and militants, which most concerned Bhutto and many others who believed that the authorities could activate these connections to harm her. Given their clandestine nature, any such connection in an attack on her is very difficult to detect or prove," the report said.

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