LAHORE - Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, accused of sheltering and supporting the Taliban after 2001, has called for an end to the backing of militant “proxies” in Afghanistan.

In an interview with the Guardian, Musharraf admitted that when he was in power, Pakistan sought to undermine the government of Hamid Karzai because the former Afghan president had helped India stab Pakistan in the back. But now the time had come to totally cooperate with Ashraf Ghani who was the last hope for peace in the region, Musharraf believed.

“Karzai was damaging Pakistan, so we were working against his interests. Obviously, we had to protect our own interests. But now President Ashraf Ghani has come and he is trying to restore balance in Afghanistan and we must totally cooperate with him,” Musharraf said.

Musharraf observed the most welcome development was Ghani’s decision this month to send six army cadets for training to Pakistani officers academy in Abbottabad. “Karzai infuriated both me and Pak Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani by spurning offers to train Afghanistan’s embryonic army. Instead, he sent cadets to India where they were “indoctrinated” against Pakistan,” Musharraf said.

Former army chief repeatedly hinted at what is now widely accepted among diplomats and analysts that the nominal western ally assisted both Nato forces in Afghanistan and the Taliban they were fighting against in a bid to counter the perceived influence of arch-rival India. “Pakistan had its own proxies and India had its own, which is unhealthy. I do admit that it is most unhealthy. It is not in favour of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It must stop,” he said.

Musharraf said Pakistani spies in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate cultivated the Taliban after 2001 because Karzai’s government was dominated by non-Pashtuns, the country’s largest ethnic group, and the officials who were favouring India. “Obviously, we were looking for some groups to counter this Indian action against Pakistan. That is where the intelligence work comes in, intelligence being in contact with Taliban groups. Definitely, they were in contact, and they should be,” he held.

Musharraf insists he does not hate India, but bristles at what is Western bias towards Pakistan’s giant neighbour. “India is the greatest democracy, promoter of human rights and democratic culture.” He said, “It is all bullshit, there is no human rights. The religion itself is anti-human rights. In the rural areas, if even the shadow of an untouchable goes on a pandit, that man can be killed.”

“The RAW of India and the ISI of Pakistan have always been fighting against each other since long. That is how it continued, it continues now also,” he observed. “It must stop, but it can only stop when leaderships on both sides show the will to resolve disputes and stop confrontation in favour of compromise and accommodation,” Musharraf averred.

Musharraf has become increasingly vocal in recent months as his position in the country steadily improves after he suffered a series of setbacks in the wake of his disastrous return from self-exile in 2013. A ban on contesting election quashed his hopes of entering the Parliament. He was ensnared by a series of legal cases, including murder charges. Most serious of all, Nawaz Sharif, ousted by Musharraf in the coup in 1999, won a landslide victory and initiated a treason trial for which the former dictator could be hanged if found guilty.

But Sharif’s power has been curbed by a series of bruising conflicts with Pakistan’s powerful military establishment and the treason case now appears tied up in legal wrangling. Musharraf is still banned from leaving the country, which, he said, deprived him not just of the lucrative international lecture circuit, but also of access to his homes in London and Dubai. “He misses his old life in his two favourite cities where he could go to restaurants alone without the vast security required to protect him in Pakistan,” he lamented.

He, however, thanked the army. “I’m very proud of my institution. Whatever they are doing is protection of the honour and dignity of their ex-chief. I am proud of that,” he said.