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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Karzai admits sheltering Baloch nationalists

NEW YORK: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has admitted the presence of fugitive Baloch leader Brahmdagh Bugti in his country, according to WikiLeaks cables.

Karzai revealed this during a meeting with a UN official in February 2009, days after UNHCR’s Balochistan chief John Solecki was allegedly abducted by a Baloch militant outfit, the Balochistan United Liberation Front (BULF).

Karzai admitted Brahmdagh’s presence in Afghanistan after UN and US officials increased pressure on him following Solecki’s abduction, which Pakistan had blamed on Brahmdagh.

He had also agreed to press Brahmdagh for Solecki’s release.

The Afghan government has been reluctant to publicly admit the Baloch rebel’s presence in the country despite Islamabad’s repeated requests for his extradition to Pakistan.

According to WikiLeaks, during a meeting in 2007 with the then US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, Karzai had expressed his unawareness about Brahmdagh’s presence in Afghanistan.

When Boucher asked him if he knew anything about the Baloch leader, he said he was aware that around 200 Bugtis, “with their sons and money”, had entered his country to seek shelter.

According to Karzai, he had advised them to go to the United Nations for asylum but they were frightened. Besides, Karzai added that the UN had declined to deal with the issue considering it “too sensitive.”

Although Karzai told Boucher that he was not interested to allow Baloch rebels in Afghanistan, he argued that Bugtis would blame the United States if Afghanistan turned them in.

He declined to call Brahmdagh a terrorist.

“Fomenting uprising doesn’t make one terrorist,” he said when Boucher told him that Pakistan had been blaming Brahmdagh for stirring unrest in Balochistan. For Karzai, the matter was so “sensitive” that he asked US officials to stop taking notes during the meeting.

The Afghan president went on to add that the elder Bugti was highly respected in the United States.

“Karzai explained that Bugti had once tried to call Karzai but he had refused for the sake of good relations with Pakistan. Now he cannot forgive himself for refusing,” says a cable released by WikiLeaks.

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