Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – Former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Zaheerul Islam claimed today that there is no proof of Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that led to the killings of over 150 people.

Talking to CD Pakistan, the former ISI chief said “when you provide weapon to ideology, it cannot be turned on and off at will.”

Comparing Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Islam called the former a ‘more lethal group’.

“Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is a more lethal outfit than TTP because it has taken the fight into the cities,” said the former ISI chief in his first interview since his retirement.

Replying to a query about end to conflicts in the region, Islam said a third party intervention is needed to bring Pakistan and India to agreeable formula on Kashmir dispute.

While cautioning Pakistan about the geo-strategic implication of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said, “There is no free lunch in this world. We have to be very careful in our minds that they are going to earn far more from us.”

Talking about whether he sees an end to the conflicts in the region, he said “the conflicts we see around us are not going to end for at least 10 more years unless there are leaderships who can sacrifice their personal and political gains.”

“It was 2006, when President Musharraf actually gave an actionable solution to the Kashmir dispute which was agreed upon by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. If the same proposal comes to the table today and both leaderships go towards the ‘solution’, their political careers will be over but they will be remembered for years to come.”

He is of the view that third party intervention is needed to bring Pakistan and India to an agreeable formula on the impending Kashmir dispute. Conflicts in the region could end, if big powers like US and China sit down for realistic solutions.

The former ISI chief stressed balancing of relationship between the two countries.

“CPEC is a small part of China’s strategy of South Asia and Middle East. Traffic will flow all around, from Russia, Afghanistan, Iran and China will connect to all these countries,” said Islam.

“And as far as Kashmir issue is concerned, a third party intervention is needed to bring Pakistan and India on a same page,” he added.

He said Afghanistan cannot survive without Pakistan “and it is a fact.”

“It is our own fault. They realize and accept Pakistan’s importance but we have to be more active. He proposed that there should be Special Ambassadors to resolve issues with Afghanistan and help them with the Taliban issue. The big stakeholders need to sit together and plan something out.”

He pointed out that it is an unmistakable irony that the International Community point fingers towards them but terror outfits like Lashkar e Jhangvi and TTP were never on top of their agenda. They should consider our terrorist as their terrorist as well.

He claimed that Lashkar e Taiba were prepared along with Afghan Jihadi’s to operate against Russians. “When you provide a weapon to an ideology, it cannot be turned on and off at will, to unwind, it requires three times more efforts to redirect the ideology”.

“They have their own reasons, logic in committing these atrocious acts of terrorism, to finish it off, we need to rehabilitate them.”

He put forward example of Jamat ul Dawa (JUD), an outfit dedicated to the Kashmir cause and humanitarian efforts. He was convinced that there were no substantial evidences of their involvement in any terror plots in India; however, to integrate the members of JUD, their activities as a humanitarian organization are a perfect outlet.

“I have mentioned it to many delegations from western powers that it is Jihad that is center piece, by serving humanity they get satisfaction and that is there only Jihad.”

Answering a question on Pakistan’s capability to tackle new-age security issues, the retired ISI boss said they (banned outfits) have a budget of over PKR 2 Billion, and a mercenary gets a better salary than a soldier of Pak Army. People who subscribe to these outlets have an economic aspect as well.

“We have to put effort in economic revival, creating job opportunities and giving them an alternative narrative to choose from.”

Talking about Operation Zarb-e-Azb he said, the big fight was fought in the settled areas by cutting off the life line of terrorists, major sweeping operations of the tribal belts were already carried out during the tenure of General Musharraf and General Kiyani.

Talking about media’s role in nation building, he said “Media must start acting maturely now. Till the time, public does not support media and it stays dependent for earning, it will be the same.” He proceeded, “maturity will be dictated by viewership and it will change with the passage of time.

“Elections are not fought on the basis of issues and same is the case with our media”.