Musharraf takes aim at India over aid for rebels

SHAFAQNA – One of the architects of the war on terrorism has accused India of arming and training terrorist groups to attack Pakistan and has warned of an emerging “proxy war” between the two countries in Afghanistan after the departure of western forces.

Pervez Musharraf, who served as Pakistan’s ruler for nine years until 2008, said that it was Nato’s responsibility to stop India from using Afghanistan as a base from which to “stab Pakistan in the back” by supporting separatist rebels in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan.

“They are doing it now,” he said, speaking at his heavily guarded home in a military compound in Karachi. “There are training camps of terrorists of Baluchistan in Afghanistan being trained by India … This must stop. Otherwise we will end up in a proxy war there, which will not be good for the region.”

Mr Musharraf, who faces charges of murder and treason linked to his seizure of power in 1999, said that Baluch separatists were being “infiltrated, trained, financed and armed” by India’s foreign intelligence service, the Research and Analysis Wing.

“Absolutely they are there and these are being managed by the [Indian] consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar because … these consulates are not diplomatic missions. These are intelligence missions.”

Baluchistan, a vast, rugged province bordering Iran and Afghanistan, has been plagued for decades by a separatist insurgency, but the conflict has deteriorated sharply since 2004.

Mr Musharraf spoke as Pakistan reeled from the worst terrorist attack in the country’s history, with 132 children killed in a gun and bomb attack on a school in Peshawar. The Pakistani Taliban said that it attacked the school. Several people have been arrested for planning the attack.

Mr Musharraf’s accusations will be greeted with scorn by India. Officials at the defence ministry in Delhi declined to comment on his claims.

They were lent credence, however, by a WikiLeaks cable dated 2009 from Stratfor, a private US intelligence company, which read: “India has increasingly been backing the Baluch rebels as a counter to Pakistan’s support for Kashmiri militants. There has been a rise in the Indian involvement since the overthrow of the Taliban government in Afghanistan.”

India routinely accuses Pakistan of smuggling militants and weapons into Indian-administered Kashmir, a disputed territory claimed by both countries since they won independence from Britain in 1947. Most recently, 11 Indian troops were killed in an attack by militants who apparently had crossed into Indian Kashmir from Pakistan on December 5. Indian media reported that the militants, six of whom were killed, were carrying food and medical packets with Pakistani labels.

Mr Musharraf is regarded by many in his home country as a disgraced figure who was a lapdog of the United States when in power and made Pakistan a more dangerous place as a result.

He said that he had returned to Pakistan from exile last year to contest elections because he felt that he could play a positive role in the country’s future. Instead, within weeks he found himself under house arrest.

His treatment at the hands of Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister, whom he removed from power in 1999, is a key bone of contention in the power struggle between the nation’s civilian and military leaders. The latter still view Mr Musharraf as a patriot.

Mr Musharraf was also sharply critical of Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, whom he accused of having a “virulent anti-Pakistan stance”.

Afghan mission ‘colossal waste’

Western efforts to combat terrorism in Afghanistan have been a “colossal waste of money”, Mr Musharraf said.

As president of Pakistan at the time of the September 11 attacks, he was a pivotal ally in the campaign of war and reconstruction led by George W Bush and Tony Blair.

Mr Musharraf said it was too early to say whether the war had been a failure but claimed that it could have been waged at a fraction of the cost. “Trillions of dollars were spent but it could have been done for a much, much lesser amount,” he said.

The amount spent by western powers on reconstruction was “most exorbitant because they have advisers and consultants and all kinds of activity, NGOs who spend 50 per cent of the money on themselves”.

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