Former spy rejects al-Qaeda theory in Bhutto killing

Although the Pakistan government has blamed al-Qaeda for the assassination of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the former head of the country's national spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has rejected the theory. In a telephone interview with the Straight from Pakistan, retired lieutenant-general Hamid Gul described it as a tactic to hide security lapses and to please the U.S. administration.

Gul, who headed the ISI in the late 1980s while Bhutto was prime minister, recalled that she and her cabinet colleagues had cordial relations with the Taliban, who are al-Qaeda allies. He admits that the ISI was then supporting the Taliban against Soviet occupation, to serve the U.S. interest in Afghanistan.

Bhutto, who was prime minister from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996, did little to harm al-Qaeda as compared with the present president, Pervez Musharraf, Gul observed. Gul added that he believes it is premature to link Bhutto's murder to al-Qaeda.

"It is very easy to blame al-Qaeda for every small thing such as breaking of a glass these days, as it pleases the U.S. administration, whose wish list the Pakistan government is following,'' he said.

In a 2001 interview with United Press International, Gul claimed that Mossad was behind the 9/11 attacks. Gul told the Straight that he suspects anti-American elements within the Pakistan government were possibly behind the Bhutto assassination. He said he thinks that Bhutto returned to Pakistan on the wishes of the U.S. government and may have been warned to beware of anti-American elements within the ISI.

"This may be the reason why she had speculated on the involvement of the ISI and me in the previous attack on her life that killed more than 100 people," Gul said. Gul sent Bhutto a legal notice last October after she identified him as someone who posed a risk to her life.

Highly critical of the present U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, he equates it with the Soviet occupation. "The U.S. administration that earlier described Taliban as freedom fighters has now branded them as terrorists," Gul said. "If the Soviet occupation was wrong, how can the U.S. occupation be justified?''