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Pakistani president downplays role of executed anti-Taliban leader

Anti-Taliban leader Abdul Haq was executed Friday in Afghanistan on charges of spying, sources say.
Anti-Taliban leader Abdul Haq was executed Friday in Afghanistan on charges of spying, sources say.  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, downplayed the execution of anti-Taliban leader Abdul Haq, saying his death would not have any effect on the political future of Afghanistan.

"I do not think at all that his not being on the scene will have any effect whatsoever on the political dispensation that one would like to have futuristically in Afghanistan," Musharraf said at a news conference Saturday, "because whatever is going on, whatever the ethnic groupings and power struggle, power equation in Afghanistan, he did not feature enough in any one of them."

After a brief trial, the Taliban executed the former mujahedeen leader and two others Friday in Kabul on charges of spying, independent sources told CNN.

However, other Pakistani officials contradicted Musharraf's position, saying Haq's death would be a big setback to the U.S.-led diplomatic effort for a post-Taliban government.

The United States backed Haq as the primary candidate among a group of four or five to head a future transitional government in Afghanistan, the officials said. The Taliban are primarily Pashtun, and Haq was seen as possibly heading a coalition of Pashtuns opposed to the Taliban.

The Pakistani officials said Haq walked into a trap that led to his execution.

A former U.S. government official who helped Haq arrange and finance his return to Afghanistan said his trip was coordinated with U.S. intelligence as part of an effort to improve fighting capabilities and coordination of opposition forces and to try to persuade some Taliban forces to lay down their arms or defect to the opposition.

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Before he was taken into Taliban custody Friday, Haq used a satellite phone to call a friend in Pakistan, who contacted a friend in Washington asking for U.S. military help, another U.S. official told CNN.

According to this U.S. official, the only military aid available was a Predator drone armed with missiles, which fired at the Taliban forces but apparently not enough to save Haq.

Taliban opponents condemn death

Meanwhile, other Taliban opponents voiced their outrage at the news of Haq's death at the hands of the Taliban regime.

"This [Haq's death] is a very tragic event, and it is very telling of the cruelty of the Taliban and how unforgiving they are," said Afghanistan's internationally recognized president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, in an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live."

Speaking in Islamabad, Haq's younger brother, Daud Abdullah, indicated that Haq's peace mission would continue.

"There are a lot of people still working. One of those in this mission is Abdul Haq. So we have more, more [than a] thousand other Abdul Haqs," he said.

The exiled Afghan king in Rome, Italy, also condemned Haq's death and demanded a political solution.

"The martyrdom of this prominent mullah is not the first criminal act nor will it be the last," said former King Mohammad Zahir Shah in a statement issued Friday. "Under no circumstances will it cease political activities geared toward the resolution of the Afghan crisis nor will it hamper national unity."

Haq recently met with the exiled king to discuss a post-Taliban government in the event the U.S.-led war unseated the regime.

After the news of Haq's capture, an adviser to the king said that the anti-Taliban leader was trying "to implement the peace and the steps we created here in Rome for a peace mission in Afghanistan."

The former monarch said the execution placed "greater responsibility" on the international community to bring the culprits responsible for Haq's death to trial.


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