Musharraf sees Indian connection in reporter’s kidnapping
WASHINGTON- Noting that US President George Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ remark “evoked a lot of negative response”, President Gen Pervez Musharraf is reported to have said that the US should avoid actions that would create uncertainty in the “present state of turmoil and uncertainty around the world, especially the Muslim world”.
The general is stated to have made the remark in an interview carried by The Washington Post on Saturday on the eve of his departure for the United States to meet Mr Bush at the White House.
Gen Musharraf said he hoped during his US trip to “reinforce cooperation and friendship between our two countries”. He is also reported to have hinted at the possibility that the kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl could have been orchestrated by India, a charge first publicly made by Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar during a visit earlier this month to Germany and denied by New Delhi.
At the same time, the general suggested, “negative fallout” from action against militant organizations might have played a role in the kidnapping, which, he described, as a despicable act.
The Post report says the general believes Mr Pearl may have been a pawn in an intelligence game being played by India. The president appears in the interview to base his suspicions on the fact that Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader of banned Jaish-i-Mohammad, and the main suspect in the kidnapping, Umer Sheikh, had both been in India and were never tried.
According to Gen Musharraf, this (argument) made sense to him “because … the leader of the Jaish-i-Mohammad was in jail for seven long years in India and he wasn’t even tried … How is all this happening in India? And this man (Umer) was also there.”
“We all know,” the general added, “intelligence is a very bad game, and they can come out with any kind of game to justify or to organize or orchestrate such activities. These are common activities orchestrated by the intelligence agencies.” However, the Post report also quotes senior Pakistani investigators as saying they have not turned up any evidence of Indian involvement in the kidnapping, which “seems to be an indigenous plot unless Umer Shaikh appears and confesses to fronting for Indian intelligence”.
It was ridiculous to expect, an official told the paper that the kidnapper would “use the most monitored telephone connection in Karachi to talk to his bosses in New Delhi”.
Gen Musharraf thought that Mr Pearl might have become over-involved with people who “are … maybe dangerous … I wonder whether it was because of this over-involvement that he landed himself into this kind of a problem”. The president regretted the damage done to Pakistan’s image by the incident.