Confessions of a Pakistani spy
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, April 24, 2010
ISLAMABAD - Retired squadron leader Khalid Khawaja, a former Inter-Services Intelligence official and a close friend of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during the resistance in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the 1980s, has explained in videos sent to Asia Times Online how he was on a mission to broker a deal between militants and the army when he was captured by militants, and how he played a double game by deceiving a radical cleric into being arrested.
Khawaja was dismissed from the air force in the late 1980s and subsequently earned a reputation of having close ties to some militant groups. Khawaja has played an important behind-the-scenes role in both regional and national politics. Before the US attack on Afghanistan in late 2001, he was a part of the back-room diplomacy between the US and the Taliban, which failed miserably.
The revelations appear in five video clips sent to Asia Times Online by an al-Qaeda-linked group of militants from the Pakistani North Waziristan tribal area. The clips appear to have been heavily edited, with some of Khawaja's sentences - he is speaking in Urdu - cut off. At times it appears that a frail Khawaja, in his early 60s, is under duress.
On March 25, Khawaja traveled to North Waziristan to interview commanders Sirajuddin Haqqani and Waliur Rahman Mehsud. He was accompanied by a British citizen, Asad Qureshi, a reporter with Channel 4, and Colonel Ameer Sultan Tarrar, also a former long-time ISI official and once Pakistan's consul-general in Herat in Afghanistan.
Tarrar was nicknamed "Colonel Imam" by the mujahideen as he was instrumental in helping raise the Taliban militia and he trained present Taliban leader Mullah Omar and other top Afghan leaders, including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the slain Northern Alliance leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud. "Colonel Imam" is widely referred to as the "Father of the Taliban."
The three men have not been heard from since March 25.
Soon after their disappearance, Punjabi militants calling themselves the "Asian Tigers" sent a video to the media in which they demanded a ransom of US$10 million for the release of Asad Qureshi and the freedom of Taliban leaders Mullah Baradar and Mansoor Dadullah in exchange for Khawaja and Colonel Imam.
The Afghan Taliban have distanced themselves from the kidnappings and their spokesman Zabiullah Muhajahid said they were working for the release of the two.
In the video footage, Khawaja confesses to a scheme to bring down the radical movement that had become centered around Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in the capital, Islamabad. By mid-2007, the movement had become increasingly aggressive. Students from nearby educational faculties had taken to the streets to persuade video shops not to sell "vulgar" movies. The campaign took a turn for the worse when the students seized a suspected brothel owner in the Aapara area, where both the Taliban-supporting Lal Masjid and the ISI were situated.
Khawaja says he hatched a plan with Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the chief of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (the largest Islamic party in the country), the Gand Mufti of Pakistan, Mufti Rafi Usmani, and other scholars to eliminate the Lal Masjid movement from Islamabad.
Khawaja says he trapped Maulana Abdul Aziz, the prayer leader of the mosque and the brother of Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, with whom Aziz ran Lal Masjid.
Khawaja says he telephoned Aziz and lured him into being arrested. Rasheed was killed in the military raid on the mosque in which scores of militants also died.
"I am known among the media and masses as a thoroughbred gentleman, but in fact I was an ISI and CIA [US Central Intelligence Agency] mole ... I am remembering the burnt bodies of the innocent boys and girls of Lal Masjid ... I called Maulana Abdul Aziz and forced him to come out of the mosque wearing a woman's veil and gown, and that's how I got him arrested," Khawaja says in one of the video clips.
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