Pakistan's intelligence agencies are no longer backing outlawed groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, which will not be allowed to use the country's soil for any acts of aggression, President Asif Ali Zardari has said.
"There is no supportive interaction with our intelligence (agencies) and the LeT. Lashkar-e-Tayiba happens to be a banned organisation in Pakistan," Zardari said, referring to the terror group India has blamed for planning and carrying out the Mumbai terror attacks.
'The Lashkar-e-Tayiba has gone rogue'
The links between the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency and the LeT were developed "in the old days when dictators used to run the country". After the 9/11 terror attacks in the US, "things have changed to a great extent", Zardari said in an interview to Newsweek magazine.
Speaking before the Pakistan government ordered a crackdown on the LeT last Sunday, Zardari said the government would not allow anybody "to use Pakistan soil for any form of aggression toward any friend or foe".
Asked if he was going to take concrete steps to crackdown on the LeT, he replied: "Things have been done. One step is we have started combing the whole region for all non-state actors and we have made certain arrests... We will not allow anybody to have the capability to perform such acts."
Groups like the LeT will not be allowed to train on Pakistani soil and it was the government's responsibility to act against non-state actors, he said. "I do not shrug away from that position. Anybody from my soil is my responsibility."
When it was pointed out that Pakistani leaders had said in the past that they would do something about LeT but failed to act, Zardari said: "That is not us."
Asked about US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's demand for the government to act against Pakistan-based
elements involved in the Mumbai attacks, Zardari replied: "She is a friend and she knows Pakistan is a responsible state, and the Americans and the British know how much my government has done for this operation against the terrorists since we've been in government."
Describing the Mumbai attacks as a "horrific" incident, he said he did not have "any specific information" about the attackers being trained in Pakistan. He said "the Indians have given us very little information. I have offered to the Indians that we will do a joint investigation into this Mumbai incident and if it leads anywhere, we will take action."
If the terrorists had trained in the country, Pakistan would take action for its own sake, he said. "Not for them, it's for myself. The Indians must understand that the government (of Pakistan) and the people of Pakistan are net losers of the situation. We had put in a lot of effort to make good relations with India," he added.
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However, he said Pakistan would not hand over anyone arrested in connection with the Mumbai attacks to India. "(We) don't have that kind of relationship yet. America and Pakistan have hardly gotten to the position where we can interact and exchange information," he remarked. A decision on handing over any suspected to India could only be made by the parliament and not by the President, he said.
Zardari also denied the ISI's involvement in a suicide car bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in July. Asked if the US intelligence had evidence of ISI' s involvement in the bombing of the Indian mission, he replied: "No, we have not had that intimation from the Americans. I totally deny that. We had nothing to do with the Kabul bombing. Again, these are non-state actors."
Zardari also made it clear that the civilian government intended to exert its supremacy over intelligence agencies and the powerful army.He said the government led by his Pakistan People's party had always "maintained a certain position that the intelligence agencies (should) have nothing to do with politics. Since I have been in government, we've had a stated position that ISI has no political role anymore."
Asked if the army would listen to him when he advocated a no-first-use policy for Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, Zardari
replied: "Of course. It goes without saying."
Replying to a query on whether he or the army controlled Pakistan, Zardari said: "Democracy controls Pakistan. All the players today understand that democracy is the only way."