Reuters, Apr. 28, 2003
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistan on Monday vowed to act against Afghan Taliban leaders who might have been operating from its territory, but denied reports that the elusive chief of the Islamic militia was in the country.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said reports that Taliban Supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar was hiding in Pakistan were misinformation.
“Such claims and such misinformations may come,” Khan told a news conference.
“Anybody who knows it why doesn’t he go and catch that prize (announced by the United States) rather than just making claims that he is in Pakistan,” he said.
The one-eyed Taliban leader and his ally Osama bin Laden, blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, disappeared shortly after a U.S.-led bombing campaign began in Afghanistan in late 2001.
Mullah Omar led the hard-line Islamic movement to power in Afghanistan in 1996 before the U.S.-backed Afghan Northern Alliance drove them out.
Some Afghan officials say remnants of the Taliban were regrouping in Pakistan with the support of some Pakistani intelligence officials.
Islamabad — once the main sponsor of the Taliban — has denied the charge.
Afghan leaders say they have drawn up a list of senior members of the Taliban they believe to be operating from Pakistan. Mullah Omar tops the list, Afghan Foreign Minister Dr Abdullah told Reuters on Saturday.
The list also includes the names of notorious Taliban commander Akhtar Mohammad Usmani, a close confidant of Mullah Omar, and Mullah Turabi, a former justice minister who created the feared Taliban religious police.
But Khan said the Afghan government had not handed over any list to Pakistan during Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit to Islamabad last week.
“There is no list. Some names were mentioned…we have assured him (Karzai) that we will do everything possible to investigate the issue,” he said.
“We will do everything possible not to allow anything detrimental to that (Karzai’s) government being done from Pakistani soil.”
Pakistan withdrew its support to the Taliban following the September 11 attacks and joined hands with the United States in its war against terror.
The Afghan officials also blame the Taliban remnants for a spate of recent attacks on the U.S. and Afghan forces.