ISLAMABAD: General (R) Pervez Musharraf asked the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) to meet Mullah Omar in Kandahar after the 2001 terror attacks in the United States, according to JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
He said that the former president had urged the MMA leaders to persuade Mullah Omar to agree to Musharraf’s demands, which were identical to the ones made by former President Bush. Rehman claimed that the six-party alliance had decided against going to Kandahar because they suspected that Musharraf was using them to do America’s bidding.
According to media reports, the US had demanded that Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden. But this was not the first time the US had tried to approach Taliban leadership via Pakistan. After the terror attack outside US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1988, the Clinton administration had pressurised Nawaz Sharif and then DG ISI Lieutenant-General Ziauddin to help in a US organised commando raid to capture Bin Laden and bring him to the US for a trial.
Nawaz Sharif was reluctant to do so because he feared that Musharraf, the then chief of army staff, would not support him. However, after the Kargil war the US persuaded Sharif to send Ziauddin to meet Mullah Omar in Kandahar.
Reportedly, Mullah Omar refused to hand over Bin Laden to the US but agreed to expel him to another Muslim country. When Musharraf learned of this, he was livid with Sharif for not keeping him in the loop.
It is reported that Musharraf then sent his Chief of General Staff, Mohammad Aziz, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman to Kandahar to tell Mullah Omar that he should not carry out any instructions received from Ziauddin. Musharraf only sent his fellow coup maker General Mehmood to convince Mullah Omar to hand over Bin Laden when he succumbed to all of Richard Armitage’s demands after 9/11.
However, it is widely reported that General Mehmood asked Mullah Omar not to hand over bin Laden and advised the Americans to negotiate with Taliban leadership. General Mehmood was sacked by Musharraf on October 7, 2001.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman remained tight lipped about the negotiations, but confirmed that Musharraf did attempt to use the MMA to negotiate with Taliban at the behest of the United States.
The full interview was aired on Friday and will be repeated today on FACE OFF, Express 24x7.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2010.