Are these ISI guys a law unto themselves? The thought crossed my mind as I watched a post-Mumbai interview on CNN with former ISI chief Lt.Gen.Hamid Gul(1987-89). He brushed aside, as ‘a frame-up’, the US charge that he had links with Taliban and al-Qaeda.
I don’t suppose any ISI official , serving or retired, would admit to having had dealings with terrorist groups. The TV interview gave me a sense of the mindset of those in the Pak intelligence agency which is reported to have a staff of 10,400 and tens of thousands of informers.
Ex-ISI chief Gen. Gul wouldn’t label as terrorist Osama bin-laden, with whom he reportedly had a meeting in 1993. The retired general was speaking to CNN on satellite video link from Islamabad. He expressed the belief that Taliban was an Afghan national resistance movement. He reckoned the US could not find a solution to Afghanistan without involving Taliban.
But then the US wouldn’t talk to terrorists, to which Gen.Gul suggested a way out – ‘remove the terrorist label from Taliban’. Former ISI chief certified Taliban, saying ‘it was not found to be involved in any act of terrorism, anywhere in the world’.
Those who found this a bit much, were convinced, on hearing what he had to say on 9/11, that they and the general did not watch the same TV channels or read the same newspapers. According to the formet ISI chief, the 9/11 attack on New York’s World Trade Center was part of a Zionist conspiracy. When interviewer Fareed Zakaria cut in to ask if they were Jews from within the US, or from Israel, the general said they were Israelis of the extremist kind.
If TV viewers wondered how come CNN let this man hold forth in this vein, particularly when there was ’a mountain of evidence’ to refute Gen. Gul’s contention, CNN presenter had the answer. Fareed Zakaria noted that the interview was exclusive to CNN, which got a ‘rare opportunity’ to talk to the man the US wanted, for links with terrorists. Washinton is reported to have drawn up a list of four persons to be submited to the UN security Council, for imposing sanctions (freezing of their assets). When the CNN interviewer mentioned this Gen.Gul dismissed the whole thing as a ‘frame up’.