Pakistan has dismissed as absurd claims the Taliban’s fugitive leader Mullah Omar is living in the country under the protection of the Pakistani secret service, the ISI. He is supposed to be living in the city of Quetta, where the former ISI head Hamid Gul is accused of training suicide bombers in a religious school.
The claims are said to have been made by Taliban spokesman Mohammed Hanif, who was captured in a joint British/Afghan army operation on Monday. Pakistan was the Taliban’s main backers in the 1990s. They were seen as allies against Afghanistan’s powerful northern tribes, traditionally pro-Indian, and also helped oppose the Soviet invasion in the 1980s.
Now in theory partners in the US-led war on terrorism, relations between Kabul and Islamabad remain strained. The Afghans accuse Pakistan of doing nothing to crack down on Taliban forces they claim find refuge and training in Pakistan before slipping over the border to attack. Although impossible to verify at the moment, Hanif’s statement appears to be the first time a Taliban member has said Omar is in Pakistan, and not in Afghanistan.