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In an interview to Pakistan’s AryTV, the former military dictator said he is the biggest supporter of terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba

At a time when India has been left fuming over a Pakistani judicial review board’s decision to set Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) co-founder Hafiz Saeed from house arrest, comments made by former Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf during a television interview about the terror mastermind and his outfits are certain to rankle New Delhi.

In an interview to Pakistani television news channel AryTV, former Pakistan President General (retired) Musharraf – who is living in self-imposed exile in Dubai – not only claimed that he had met Hafiz Saeed “even recently” but also asserted that he supports the acts (read: terrorist intrusions) perpetrated by the LeT in Kashmir.

The comments by the former Pakistan President, who had led his country to war with India in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kargil, come at a time when India’s relations with its neighbour are already at rock-bottom with both New Delhi and Islamabad desisting from engaging in any diplomatic or bilateral dialogue.

Insisting that he is “the biggest supporter of Lashkar-e-Taiba”, Musharraf told AryTV that “I know the LeT and JuD people like me.”

If there was any doubt left on the subtext of his comments and if they meant that he supported terrorist activities of the outfits that are targeted at India in general and Kashmir in particular, Musharraf nonchalantly disposed them off, saying: “I have always been in favour of action in Kashmir”.

Musharraf – an accused in the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and declared an absconder by Pakistan’s courts in connection with this murder case – also claimed that he had met Hafiz Saeed.

“Yes, I have met him, even recently”, Musharraf told the news channel while not giving out when this meeting took place. It is pertinent to note that Saeed has only recently walked out of a nearly 11-month long house arrest while Musharraf hasn’t been to Pakistan since 2014.

On the dubious role played by the LeT and JuD, the two outfits of Hafiz Saeed, in Kashmir, Musharraf said: “I have always been in favour of action in Kashmir, and I’ve always been in their (LeT and JuD) favour, that in Kashmir we must pressure the Indian Army and this (LeT) is the biggest force (sic).”

Musharraf claimed that the LeT “was not involved” in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. New Delhi has, since the attacks, maintained that the terror strikes had been carried out by the LeT and that Hafiz Saeed had plotted them and several dossiers of evidence to this effect have been handed over to Islamabad over the years.

Musharraf explained his warming up to Islamist groups and globally acknowledged terror outfits like LeT and JuD as “the requirement of the day” and added: “you must do everything in light of the reality of Pakistan.”

Ironically, after his vote of confidence for terror outfits and Hafiz Saeed, Musharraf went ahead to claim: “I am liberal and moderate” but added: “that doesn’t mean I’m against all religious people.”

Curiously, it was during Musharraf’s regime as the military ruler of Pakistan – a position he attained after staging a coup and dethroning then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – that terror outfits like the LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) were banned in his country in January 2002 – weeks after Pakistani terrorists targeted the Indian Parliament.

Musharraf claimed that the decision of the United Nations to declare LeT a “global terrorist outfit” was the result of a pact between India and United States. The former Pakistani General confirmed that the LeT “are involved in Kashmir” while qualifying the obvious intrusion saying: “in Kashmir, it is between we (Pakistan) and India.”

Asked why he had banned the LeT in 2002 if he was such a big supporter of the outfit, Musharraf said: “The situation was different at that time. My vision was that we were moving towards peace, they (India) were moving toward my four-point agenda (for resolving the Kashmir issue), let us reduce mujahideen and increase political…”

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