ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Pakistan on Thursday rejected Afghan claims that its main spy service masterminded an attempt to kill President Hamid Karzai, heightening tensions between the two allies in the "war on terror."
The angry reaction came a day after Afghanistan's intelligence agency said Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was the "real schemer and organiser" behind the failed April 27 attack on Karzai at a military parade.
It was the first time Kabul had openly accused fellow US ally Islamabad of links to the attack, marking an escalation in a war of words that began earlier this month when Karzai threatened to strike Taliban rebels on Pakistani soil.
"This is all baseless, this is not true. ISI is a professional organisation which is not interfering in the affairs of any country," Pakistani Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar told AFP.
"President Hamid Karzai is making excuses to prolong his rule. He is facing problems with NATO countries (with troops in Afghanistan) for not delivering on the promises that he made," Mukhtar added.
The minister said the Pakistani government "wants peace and stability in Afghanistan and seeks to promote friendly and meaningful cooperation with Kabul," he added.
Pakistan's foreign office also slammed the Afghan claims.
"Pakistan rejects these baseless and irresponsible allegations and the attitude and proclivity behind them," foreign office spokesman Muhammad Sadiq told a weekly briefing.
Tempers flared between the two countries nearly two weeks ago, when Karzai said Kabul would be justified in attacking Taliban militants using bases in Pakistan to launch cross-border raids on Afghan and Western security forces.
On Wednesday, Afghan national intelligence agency spokesman Sayed Ansari said that investigations, documents and confessions by suspects showed Pakistan was behind the brazen attack on Karzai.
Karzai survived but three Afghans, including a parliamentarian, were killed.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack at the time.
Kabul has repeatedly in the past accused the shadowy ISI, run by Pakistan's military, of covertly backing the rebels.
The ISI heavily backed the Taliban during its rise to power and in its period in government from 1996-2001, but Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf cut the militia loose under US pressure in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Sadiq, the Pakistani foreign office spokesman, said Afghanistan had not made any official complaint to Pakistan and that as a "brotherly country" it was glad Karzai was not hurt in the attack.
Reports suggested the attack "had something to do with a massive intelligence and security failure, or some kind of problem between the Afghan intelligence apparatus and the government," he said.
He also noted that most of the Afghans arrested after the attack were Afghan government employees.
Sadiq also condemned Afghan authorities for publicly parading earlier this week two Pakistanis who were captured in southern Kandahar province for allegedly planning suicide attacks.
"Parading captives in chains, and in public ... is a medieval practice, not different from what Taliban occasionally indulged in, in the past," he said.
The spokesman called on Kabul to maintain good relations in order to fight extremism.
The spat comes a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met with army and intelligence chiefs and agreed to continue controversial talks with militants, but pledged to curb cross-border attacks.
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