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Pakistan protests at Cameron terror comments

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 31 July 2010

The Pakistani High Commissioner to Britain confirms to Channel 4 News that Pakistan's Foreign Ministry has written an official letter of complaint to the UK following David Cameron's comments linking Pakistan to terrorism during a visit to India.

Pakistan security official. Pakistan's security agency has pulled out of a visit to the UK in protest at comments made by David Cameron (Credit:Reuters)

During a visit to India this week, Mr Cameron said that Pakistan should not be allowed "to promote the export of terror" in the world.

The Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, told Channel 4 News: "The government has protested against the remarks made by Prime Minister Cameron in Delhi and in Bangalore, in which he has singled out the Pakistani intelligence network as being responsible for exporting terrorism.

"We have said there is not any evidence provided in the (Wikileaks) report or any other reports that have been coming out recently. We have seen all of them and they have not substantiated any of that evidence."

He criticised the reports for being based on raw Indian intelligence reports, saying this was "very annoying for us".

"The fact is that Pakistan ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and the Pakistani army is at the forefront of the war against terrorism, not only on Pakistani soil but it has been helping others also to fight it," he told Samira Ahmed.

Senior officers from Pakistan's ISI had been due to come to London for talks on counter-terrorism co-operation with British security services.

The High Commissioner told Channel 4 News that the ISI had "every reason" to cancel the visit, saying it was not very high level. "The visit was cancelled in conveying to the authorities here that they did not appreciate that remark, the remarks made in India, especially when these agencies are involved in fighting the war against terrorism."

The withdrawal comes just before a three-day visit to the UK by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, during which he was expected to stay at the prime minister's country retreat Chequers.

Officials said that Mr Zardari's visit to the UK was still expected to go ahead as planned. "Our understanding is that the visit is on," said a Foreign Office spokeswoman.

Pakistan's ISI (or Inter-Services Intelligence agency) has throughout its 62 years of existence played a unique and rarely uncontroversial role, wedged tightly between its handling of the country's relations with the West and of those Pakistanis who support violent jihad.
Founded shortly after Pakistan gained its independence in 1947, the ISI reached its highest profile when Soviet forces invaded neighbouring Afghanistan just over 30 years later. Through much of the 1980s the agency trained and equipped tens of thousands of the mujahideen fighters who streamed to wage jihad against the Russians.
Crucially the ISI also helped distribute the CIA-supplied Stinger missiles that all but ended hitherto lethal offensives by Soviet planes & helicopters. (This unusual alliance of hardline Islamists and Capitalist ideologues against a shared Communist enemy leads some commentators to blame the West for itself setting in train the forces that would strike it on September 11 2001.)
With Moscow defeated, the ISI began the 1990s by supporting the creation of the Afghan Taliban to preserve Pakistan's strategic influence in the region. But, long after the US-led coalition claimed victory in 2001 in routing the Taliban from Kabul, many analysts have accused elements within the ISI of continuing to train and support the jihadists against the West.

Shadow Foreign Secretary David Miliband told Channel 4 News the withdrawal was "bad news".

"It's very important that we have good relations with Pakistan - we need them and they need us," he told Samira Ahmed. "They are the tinderbox of South Asia and it's essential that we are working closely with them.

"We shouldn't exaggerate this and we should work very briskly to repair any damage that might have been done by David Cameron's comments - President Zardari's visit this week provides an opportunity to do that.

"Pakistan has been used as a launching pad for terrorism, that's why we should put pressure on the civilian and military authorities to take action, but we will only be effective in demanding action if we also recognise that Pakistan has suffered grievously - thousands of its own civilians being lost to terrorism.

"It's a simple point that I am making, and that many people have made to David Cameron, which is that if he wants to be a straight talker he can't afford to be seen as a loudmouth. He needs to be someone who commands all the facts of the situation, not just some of them."

In an interview with Economics Editor Faisal Islam at the end of his visit to India, Mr Cameron appeared to row back on his comments at first, saying: "The point is this, that to be fair to Pakistan, they have made progress in terms of trying to drive out of their country terrorist groups that are both damaging to Pakistan itself, but also damaging to others including Britain in Afghanistan and British people back at home."

But he then said that support for terrorist groups in Pakistan is "not acceptable".

David Cameron interview in India
Channel 4 News Economics Editor Faisal Islam interviews David Cameron on the final day of his visit to India. Top of the agenda was the prime minister's comments about Pakistan's alleged links to terrorism.
Read the full interview here  

He told Channel 4 News: "They (Pakistan) have made progress, but obviously we want to keep that progress going and it's important for everyone to understand that it's not acceptable for there to be within Pakistan, support for terrorist groups that can do so much damage, in Pakistan itself, but also in other parts of the world."

Faisal Islam asked the prime minister if he felt the comments had overshadowed his visit to India.

He replied: "I don't think it's overshadowed anything. I mean I just think it's important to speak frankly and clearly about these issues. I've always done that in the past and I'll always want to do that as Prime Minister, but this trip is about building the relationship between Britain and India.

"A relationship which is about the economy, business, finance, but also a relationship that is about security and about common issues like climate change. And on all those issues I think it's been a great success and very, very positive."

Cameron's Kama Sutra moment in India?
"After interviewing the Prime Minister in Delhi this morning it seems to me that David Cameron is not just attempting a love-in with India, but the full on Kama Sutra.

"India is being bathed in adulation from the old colonial master turned persistent successful suitor.

"And judging by the Delhi front pages the charm offensive appears to have worked."

Read more on Faisal Islam's blog

ISI Pakistan links to al-Qaida
The controversy comes after 91,000 secret US Military documents were released by Wikileaks at the beginning of the week. Within some of the field reports it appeared to show that, according to intelligence received by the US military, the Inter-services intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan are involved in many different ways in Afghanistan.

One incident Wikileaks tells Channel 4 News is a warning that ISI agents and five al-Qaida operatives are working together on a mission, crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan to carry out an attack.

One of the most interesting incidents, Wikileaks says is an attempt by an ISI officer to assassinate Afghan President Hamid Karzai, through a Taliban contact.

ISI Karzai assassination plot
In the field report 52171, filed on 22 August 2008, it says that a Pakistani intelligence officer has targeted Afghan president Karzai for assassination.

It then states that a colonel from the ISI had directed a Taliban official to "see that Karzai was assassinated".

The report then says that the Taliban official assigned an individual from the Sarowbi district to assassinate Karzai in a suicide mission at the presidential palace. According to the report there is no information as to how or when this assassination was to be carried out.

Channel 4 News has seen these classified documents, but has been unable to independently verify their authenticity.

Wikileaks Editor Julian Assange told Channel 4 News: "Well there are allegations in there from human intelligence reports - informers talking to the US military about the ISI including attempts to assassinate President Karzai.

Read more from our exclusive interview with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange

"There is a lot of material in there about Pakistan, about the ISI, crossing over the border, firing over border, firing by US troops from Afghanistan into Pakistan, drones over flights and even a plot by the ISI to assassinate Karzai."

Julian Assange said: "Now a number of these reports, including the assassinate plot, could be erroneous. These are informers coming and saying 'I heard this guy is involved in an assassinate plot', a lot of these are probably burns and designed to take out a competitor or enemy, it doesn't mean the allegations are true.

"That's what is true about the material - it reveals how difficult the intelligence environment is when there are incentives to say information for money.

"As a result, military command can say anything they want about what is happening. There is always a man in Afghanistan or Pakistan who is willing to say the right thing." 

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