KARACHI: Amidst a fusillade of US allegations, Afghanistan on Saturday ratcheted up pressure on Pakistan, blaming the Afghan Taliban allegedly based in Balochistan for the mid-September assassination of a top Afghan peacemaker.
The Afghan spy agency said that it has handed Pakistan ‘evidence’ of the involvement of Quetta Shura – the Taliban’s leadership council – in the killing of Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former Afghan president and chief of High Peace Council.
“We have submitted to Pakistan’s Embassy in Kabul evidence, including names and addresses, of the people involved in the murder of Burhanuddin Rabbani,” Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesperson for Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) told The Express Tribune by phone from Kabul.
Rabbani was killed by a turban bomber impersonating a Taliban emissary on September 20 at the former’s house in the upscale Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood of Kabul.
“We recovered a mobile phone SIM card from the pocket of the bomber which led us to the mastermind,” Mashal said, without naming the person. However, Afghan Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi, giving testimony in parliament on Saturday, identified him as Hameedullah Akhondzada.
Although Mashal did not say there was any official Pakistani support for the plot, Mohammadi said Pakistan’s top military spy agency, ISI, played a role in the killing.
Mashal said the mastermind has confessed to his involvement in the assassination. “The bomber was brought all the way from Quetta’s Satellite Town to Kabul by the mastermind who is in our custody,” he said of Akhondzada.
A day after Rabbani’s killing, the Afghan police had identified the bomber as Mullah Asmatullah who, they said, carried a letter and video messages from the Quetta-based senior leadership of the Taliban. Mashal was heading an inquiry commission, comprising interior ministry, National Security Council and the NDS, set up by President Hamid Karzai to investigate Rabbani’s killing. Mashal said it transpired during the investigation that the killing was plotted directly Quetta Shura.
The Taliban had claimed responsibility for the assassination the same day but a day after they retracted their claim and accused the media for wrongly attributing the claim to them.
“We have documentary proof of the Taliban’s claim of responsibility,” Mashal said. “They might have retracted their claim on the orders of their ‘foreign masters’ after realising that this incident would have serious consequences,” he added.
When asked, the Taliban spokesperson on Saturday again rejected the claim of responsibility. “Our leadership council has stopped us from commenting on the issue until the investigation is completed,” Zabiullah Mujahid told The Express Tribune by phone.
Despite repeated attempts on his cell phone, Pakistan’s Ambassador in Kabul Muhammad Sadiq was not available to confirm or deny the receipt of the dossier Mashal was referring to.
But Information Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan termed the Afghan allegations as false and baseless.
She told the media in Islamabad that the Foreign Office and other concerned departments were studying the issue and would soon offer a formal response.
(With additional input from Wires)
Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2011.
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