November 30, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/Former ISI agent Mir Khursheed

Former Inter Services Intelligence operative in Kashmir Mir Khursheed claims he can organise the surrender of Kashmiri militants if the Government of India promises them amnesty.

Chairman of the Jammu & Kashmir Muttahida Mahaz and the Kashmir International Foundation, Khursheed says there was a time he slept over US $1.5 million tucked under his bed because he did not have a place to keep the money safely.

An advocate by profession, he also points out that the ISI is unshaken by United States President George Bush's threats of punishing countries that finance and train terrorists. "Believe me, the ISI has not given up its diabolical plan to destabilise India. It wants to break India," Khursheed told Onkar Singh in a rare interview. Excerpts:

Recently Sardar Abdul Qayyum [former prime minister of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir] said in a press statement that Pakistan is encouraging convicts to join the so-called jihad against India in Kashmir. Is it true?

What he said is true. I am aware of the designs of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. Pakistani jails are full of convicts [murderers, rapists and drug traffickers] and there is no place to keep more. Since the administration has to spend money on them, the ISI hit upon a new idea of roping in convicts, training them and sending them to Kashmir as jihadis. A large number of them were also sent to Afghanistan.

What is the deal?

According to the deal with the ISI, the families of the convicts-turned-jihadis are given Rs 2,500-4,000 per month. The jail term is written off. The convict is happy because he becomes a free man and if he dies he is treated as a martyr. He is sent to India to kill innocent Kashmiris.

Do you think General Pervez Musharraf can control the ISI?

Nobody can control the ISI. Not even the president of Pakistan. When Benazir Bhutto was serving her second term as prime minister of Pakistan, she ordered the arrest of Saudi businessman-turned-terrorist Osama bin Laden. The ISI got to know about it, smuggled Laden out of Pakistan and lodged him in a safe house in Afghanistan.

Pakistan's role in Afghanistan has been totally exposed and now George W Bush says he will treat any country which shelters, trains or finances terrorists as a terrorist state. Do you think the ISI will now give up its dubious activities?

Since I worked for the ISI, I know they will not change. The ISI gives a damn about the American threat.

What is the ISI's agenda?

To destabilise and break India. They know it is not easy. They have virtually imposed a proxy war on India without spending money or getting their own men killed. Kashmiri youth are being used as sacrificial goats. They are trained to kill innocent people in Kashmir and then get killed themselves.

The Kashmiri youth have now realised the futility of fighting a war against India. They want to give up violence and come back home.

What prevents them from coming back to the mainstream?

They want general amnesty.

If the government announces general amnesty, can you promise large-scale surrenders?

I can organise large-scale surrenders if the Government of India announces general amnesty for the Kashmiri youth who have taken up arms.

How many foreign militants are fighting in Kashmir in various outfits?

There can be no precise answer. But it [the number] is substantial. Militants from West Asia, Sudan, Egypt, Chechnya are also in Kashmiri militant outfits. Like Al Qaeda, a majority of the outfits operating in Kashmir are full of foreigners. Kashmiri youth are sick and tired of them because they laugh at them [Kashmiri militants] for not being strict on religious matters.

When did you join the ISI as an operative? Who recruited you?

I joined the ISI in 1991 when militancy in Kashmir was on the rise. General Javed Ashraf, then director general of the ISI, was dealing with me directly.

What kind of money was given to you? What was your precise role?

They were looking for a man who was well read and could communicate with the world. I realised that though the Jammu & Kashmir militants were fighting the battle, their case was not properly represented in the international press. I took up this assignment and joined the ISI. General Ashraf and his successors were in touch with me on a daily basis. The ISI has a base in Pokhra in Nepal. I used to travel to Pokhra from Kathmandu before getting in touch with the ISI chief.

But you still have not specified your role and what kind of money you were offered.

As far as the money is concerned, it used to come in gunny bags. I probably never had the time to know how much it was. It was in crores and crores of Pakistani and Indian rupees. I remember a night when I slept over one-and-a-half million dollars. I had no place to keep the money. So I put this money in my bed and slept on it. My main job was to distribute money to the militant groups in Kashmir.

Did you travel abroad during your tenure as an ISI operative?

In the last 10 years I have travelled to 163 countries. I have been in touch with top people in all the countries.

What brought you back to the mainstream?

Realisation that Pakistan was using the Kashmiris as sacrificial goats. It was waging a war against India without actually fighting a war. We have lost thousands of innocent Kashmiris during our so-called struggle for freedom.

How free is Pakistan-occupied Kashmir?

It is worse than Indian Kashmir. This realisation dawned upon whoever became the so-called prime minister of PoK. Even Sardar Qayyum realised this. The moment he assumed office, he realised that he was not a free man and had to do what the ISI told him to do.

There is nothing called Azad Kashmir. It is all bogus. If at all any struggle for independence should have started, it should have started in PoK. I am sure it will start there soon.

You also handled money for Sardar Qayyum?

Yes, I handled money on his behalf as well. He is one sane person who has a solution to the Kashmir problem.

The Hizbul Mujahideen first announced a cease-fire in August 1999 and it was withdrawn by Syed Salahuddin [the Pakistan-based Hizb chief]. Why?

Given a chance Salahuddin will come back to India. But he is under threat from the ISI. They keep a gun on his head and make him speak what they want him to do.

Do you think the Hurriyat Conference has been totally exposed in the Afghanistan conflict?

The Hurriyat is a body of nobodies. They were totally exposed when they asked the people in Jammu & Kashmir not to go on a one-day strike against the American bombing of Afghanistan.

Will you contest an election?

I would, provided I get a chance to do so.

There are two factions in the Hizbul Mujahideen. One wants to fight elections, the other does not.

I think even the other faction wants to fight elections in Jammu & Kashmir, but is under threat from the ISI. Syed Salahuddin too wants to contest elections.

Pakistan wants to wrest Kashmir from India by force. Is that true?

This is a Pakistani dream, which will never become a reality. They know it very well. They also know that they cannot take Kashmir through the use of force. That is why they are engaging India in a proxy war. The Kashmiris also know that they cannot merge with Pakistan. India will not let an inch of Kashmir go to Pakistan, that is the reality and we all know this.

So what do you suggest to the Kashmiri people?

To realise the harsh realities of life and start living a peaceful life. They should find peaceful means for a solution to their problems.

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