CIA, not Pakistan, should be asked about Osama’s whereabouts: Ghani

By Khalid Hasan

Owais Ahmed Ghani, governor of Balochistan, said here on Thursday that it is the CIA and not Pakistan that should be asked where Osama Bin Laden is, since it was the CIA that recruited, trained and shepherded the future chief of Al Qaeda during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the ensuing conflict.

Pakistan, he said in answer to a question at a speaking engagement arranged by a local think tank, had never had anything to do with Bin Laden. “In fact, Bin Laden always hated Pakistan,” he added.

Ghani described the province of Balochistan as peaceful and secure, barring the tiny Bugti area where there is “some resistance”. “Ours is a society in transition and we have a rising middle class. We face stiff political challenges and there is class tension,” he explained. There were three kinds of terrorism, he said – ethnic, sectarian and the pure kind. Global terrorism should be differentiated from the local variety, he suggested. He also proposed renaming the global war on terrorism to the war on global terrorism. With the exception of three tribal chiefs, he claimed, the rest are now part of the political mainstream. He said the source of weapons that the dissident elements have in the province come from Afghanistan. Only one percent of the population is involved in the insurgency. He said as a young officer in the 1970s, General Musharraf fought against Baloch insurgents and on assuming power, the economic development and modernisation on Balochistan became his first priority. He said out of the 65 members of the Balochistan Assembly, only three now belong to sub-national parties..

Ghani spoke at length about Afghanistan, insisting that it is unfair to hold Pakistan responsible for the neighbouring country’s troubles. He cited several reasons for the situation in Afghanistan, among them: lack of coordination in NATO/Coalition forces, government corruption, lack of law and order, opium and narcotics trade and a disillusioned population. Ninety percent of the world’s heroin originates from Afghanistan, the governor charged, pointing out that the Afghan poppy cultivation area has jumped from 40,000 acres to 400,000 acres. The narcotics mafia has a global outreach, he warned. He denied that there are any Taliban in Balochistan or any training camps. The narcotic mafia, he said, does not want the Pak-Afghan border to be controlled and regulated. Al Qaeda, he said, is regrouping in Afghanistan, not Pakistan, because “we can take care of Al Qaeda”.

Ghani bristled at accusations and threats being made against Pakistan that it is harbouring Al Qaeda and Taliban elements in its tribal areas that could or should be militarily struck by the Unite States, if Pakistan fails to deal with them. “We don’t need such statements because they damage our efforts and they cause public resentment. People want to know if this is the appreciation we are getting after all that we have done and are doing in fighting terrorism.” Afghanistan, he said, needs what the Afghans call “Meesaq-e-Milli” or a national compact. He said when Pakistan suggests that political space should be provided to elements outside the ruling circles, it is accused of wanting the return of the Taliban. He added, “There are elements in the Afghan government that want the conflict to continue.” He denied that the Baloch people are being turned into “Red Indians”. While for the first 50 years of Pakistan, they did not receive their due share, since 1999 the situation has changed. For instance, 35 percent of the federal budget for road construction is being spent on Balochistan. Six new universities have been opened. Schools are being established in remote areas and the Baloch people are partners and shareholders in the development and progress of their province.