Direct ISI-terrorist link: Straw
11 June 2002
LONDON: In a significant statement with mixed messages for both India and Pakistan, the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has acknowledged that there is a ''direct link'' between Pakistan''s intelligence agency, ISI, and some of the hardcore terrorist groups operating in Kashmir, but he also voiced concern over the ''human rights deficit'' in the State and the ''conduct'' of elections. The ''Kashmir crisis'' and the international campaign against terrorism would be an important item on the agenda of the G-8 Foreign Ministers'' conference in Canada later this week, he said and warned that despite efforts to lower the tension in the region, the situation was still ''precarious''. But in by far the most overt British endorsement of India''s case on cross-border terrorism, Mr. Straw told the Commons that a number of Pakistan-based terrorist organisations, including the Laskhar-e-Taiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, whom he had banned when he was Home Secretary, had been ''at the forefront of violent activity within the region'' with large-scale incursion of armed militants into India from across the Line of Control. ''India has long charged that such terrorism has had the covert support of successive Pakistani governments, and in particular the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) in Pakistan. Her Majesty''s Government accepts that there is a direct link between ISID and these groups,'' he said. Mr. Straw recalled the wave of terrorist attacks on India in recent months, including the assault on Parliament and the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, and noted that despite the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf''s assurance in his January 12 speech that no organisation would be allowed to indulge in terrorism in the name of Kashmir, there was an ''increase'' in terrorist activity from early May.