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Ex-Spy Chief: Pakistan Sees Afghanistan As 'Sub-Nation'

Amrullah Saleh also accused Islamabad of taking money in exchange for its recent release of dozens of Taliban prisoners in its custody.
Amrullah Saleh also accused Islamabad of taking money in exchange for its recent release of dozens of Taliban prisoners in its custody.
Afghanistan's ex-spy chief has risked sparking another war of words by making a series of allegations against Pakistan.

Amrullah Saleh, former director of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), on March 12 accused Pakistan of treating Afghanistan as a "sub-nation."

"Pakistan has monopolized the right to have all sorts of foreign relations itself and when it comes to Afghanistan, they want to create limitations for us; treating us not as a nation, but as a sub-nation, as to whom we should talk to or who should be our allies," Saleh said.

Speaking on the television program "Sarhad Ke Us Paar," co-hosted by Pakistan's Express News TV and Afghanistan's Tolo News TV, Saleh also accused Islamabad of taking money in exchange for its recent release of dozens of Taliban prisoners in its custody. He said Pakistan had even offered to mediate between the Afghan government and the Taliban leadership "for the right price."

"Pakistan is no longer denying to having harbored the Taliban leadership, and its government is now putting a high price tag on the Taliban and saying if you pay the price we are going to push these guys for reconciliation and we know what the price tag is," he said.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry has vehemently rejected Saleh's allegations, insisting that it did not take money from Kabul or offer to be a mediator.

"Pakistan encourages an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue and is committed to it," a Foreign Ministry spokesperson told Express News.

Saleh, who was head of the NDS between 2004 and 2010, resigned after an attack on a high-profile peace conference. He was a close associate of former anti-Taliban Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Masud and served as his liaison with the CIA in the late 1990s.

On the program, he also accused Pakistan of trying to dominate Afghanistan through proxies, a reference to the Taliban and other militant groups fighting against Kabul. He said that despite Islamabad's pledges to support the peace process with the Taliban, Pakistan did not want a functioning state in Afghanistan.

"The best way for us to make progress is for [Pakistan] to respect Afghanistan as a dignified nation, not as your backyard," Saleh said. "For as long as you're trying to dominate us through proxies it will backfire because we have gained massive soft power and Afghans are ready to stand up and rise as a nation."

Saleh also suggested that if Pakistan continued its policies toward Afghanistan there could be a possibility of war between the two neighbors.

"When Pakistan gives itself the right to fragment my nation along ethnic lines and harbor antistate elements on the soil of Pakistan to hurt us as a nation, there may come a time when we won't be possessing the policy of coming to you softly and begging you to have mercy on us. As a sovereign country, Afghanistan also has the right to reciprocate," Saleh warned.

His comments come after another Afghan ex-spy chief, Rahmatullah Nabil, on March 3 accused Pakistan's notorious intelligence service, Inter-Service Intelligence agency (ISI), of covertly supporting the Taliban and other extremist groups working against the government in Afghanistan.

In an unprecedented step, Nabil called for the United Nations to place the ISI on its global list of terrorist groups. "A terrorist is blacklisted, but the person who provides them with safe havens is not blacklisted," Nabil said.

Nabil, who is deputy chairman of Afghanistan's National Security Council, also said Pakistan should not be allowed to participate in negotiations to reach a peace agreement with the Taliban.

Afghanistan's current spy chief, Asadullah Khalid, is still recovering in a U.S. hospital after he survived a suicide attack on December 6, 2012. The assailant reportedly pretended to be a "messenger of peace from the Taliban" before detonating explosives at a government guesthouse used by the NDS.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the time said the assassination plot "came from Pakistan." Karzai said that although the Taliban had claimed responsibility for the attack, he believed it originated in the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Taliban's leadership is believed to be based.

Although Karzai never implicated Islamabad, Pakistan did issue a strong rejection that it was involved.

Recent accusations of Pakistani meddling in Afghanistan have struck a chord with ordinary Afghans, many of whom harbor resentment towards their eastern neighbor and accuse it of orchestrating the violence in the country.

-- Frud Bezhan