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Angry Pakistan rejects Afghan charges on Rabbani

Oct 3, 2011, 2:58 a.m.
An Afghan man holds a picture of slain former Afghan president and head of the government's peace council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, during a protest in Kabul September 27, 2011. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

By Augustine Anthony

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan has angrily rejected allegations from Afghan officials that its intelligence agency masterminded the assassination of Kabul's chief peace negotiator with the Taliban.

An investigative delegation established by President Hamid Karzai said evidence and a confession provided by a man involved in Burhanuddin Rabbani's killing on September 20 had revealed that the bomber was Pakistani and the assassination had been plotted in Pakistan.

"Instead of making such irresponsible statements, those in positions of authority in Kabul should seriously deliberate as to why all those Afghans who are favorably disposed toward peace and toward Pakistan are systematically being removed from the scene and killed," Pakistan's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"There is a need to take stock of the direction taken by Afghan Intelligence and security agencies."

Rabbani's killing derailed efforts to forge dialogue with the Taliban to end the 10-year war and raised fears of a dangerous widening of Afghanistan's ethnic rifts.

Hundreds of Afghans took to the streets of Kabul on Sunday to condemn recent shelling of border areas by Pakistan's army and accused the country's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency of involvement in Rabbani's killing. [nL3E7L2039]

In another sign of rising Afghan frustration with Islamabad, the peace council which Rabbani headed reiterated earlier comments by Karzai that negotiations should continue, but with Pakistan, rather than the Taliban, suggesting Islamabad was directing some militants from behind the scenes.

Afghan leaders have long questioned Islamabad's promises to help bring peace to their country. Pakistani intelligence is suspected of ties to militant groups in Afghanistan, especially the Haqqani network, one of the deadliest.

Pakistan sees the group as a strategic asset, a counterweight to the growing influence of rival India in Afghanistan, analysts say.

ISI chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha told Reuters last week that Pakistan never provided a single penny or bullet to the Haqqani network.

The network's leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, told the BBC in an interview broadcast on Monday his group was not linked to the ISI.

U.S. CRITICISM

Pakistan has also came under sharp criticism from its ally the United States -- the source of billions of dollars in aid -- over its performance against militancy.

The top U.S. military officer has accused Pakistani intelligence of supporting an attack allegedly carried out by the Haqqani group, which is close to al Qaeda, on the U.S. embassy in Kabul on Sept 13.

In the face of Pakistani indignation, the White House and State Department appeared to quietly distance themselves from the remarks by Admiral Mike Mullen, who stepped down this week as chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The United States wants Pakistan to crack down on the Haqqani network, which it believes is based in North Waziristan in the Afghan border, and other anti-American militants.

Pakistan says it has sacrificed more than any other country that joined the U.S.-led global campaign against militancy after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, losing thousands of soldiers and security forces.

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