ED NATIONS - An unnamed former militant commander has claimed in an interview with The New York Times that the Pakistani military hasnt given up its strategy of using members of militant groups as proxies against its neighbours and American forces in Afghanistan. The militarys strategy of helping to provide training, planning and protection to groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen and Hizbul Mujahedeen still continues, the former militant commander, described as being prominent, said in the course of interview published on Monday.
However, the former commander said some of those trained by the military are questioning the strategy. The former commander said the Pakistani military and intelligence agency continue to support the militant groups as part of its strategy against India in the Kashmir dispute and across the border in Afghanistan against US and coalition forces. He named several former military officials and former intelligence chiefs as being involved in the programme.
He said the Pakistani intelligence agency supports militant groups even if some of them have now gone against the government since they want to use them in the fight against India, he said.
The military has also lost control of some of the top militants, but is not ready to move against them, the former commander said. Pakistan could easily kill the notoriously vicious militant leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, but chose not to, he said. If someone gave me 20,000 rupees, I would do it, he said.
The report said the former commander and others no longer wanted to fight the war against al-Qaeda or be used to promote the objectives of some of the Pakistani generals.
There are two bodies running these affairs: mullahs and retired generals, the former commander was quoted as saying. He named a number of former military officials involved in the program, including former chiefs of the intelligence service and other former generals.
These people have a very big role still, he said. Major General Zaheer ul-Islam Abbasi, a former intelligence officer who was convicted of attempting a coup against the government of Benazir Bhutto in 1995 and who is now dead, was one of the most active supporters of the militant groups in the years after Sept 11, the former commander said.
The Pakistani military still supports the Afghan Taliban in their fight to force out American and NATO forces from Afghanistan, he said. Pakistan has 12,000 to 14,000 fully trained Kashmiri fighters, he said.
Most Kashmiris now want independence and not to be part of Pakistan or India, he said. Since Sept. 11, Pakistan has redirected much of its attention away from Kashmir to Afghanistan.
Many of the thousands of trained Pakistani fighters turned against the military because it treated them so carelessly, he said. Pakistan used them and then, like a paper tissue, threw them away, he said. Look at me, I am a very well-trained fighter and I have no other option in life, except to fight and take revenge.
But now, he said, Pakistan and the United States would be much better able to counter terrorism if they could redirect the legions of militants toward the correct path of Islam to rebuild and educate communities, he said.
Pakistan, and especially America, needs to understand the true spirit of Islam, and they need to project the true spirit of Islam, he said. That would be a good strategy to stop them.