Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf got it wrong about a U.S. official threatening to bomb Pakistan if it did not help the United States go after al Qaeda, top Pakistani officials tell ABC News. Musharraf set off a firestorm with his allegation in a new book that, shortly after 9/11, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had warned that the U.S. would "bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age" if it did not cooperate with Washington. Pakistani officials have conceded to ABC News that Mr. Armitage made no such threat. The controversy over Armitage’s statements was ignited by the publication of President Musharraf’s autobiography In the Line of Fire and an accompanying interview on the CBS broadcast "60 Minutes." The book asserts that Mr. Armitage issued his ultimatum in a meeting with Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, then director-general of Pakistan’s spy organization, known as the ISI, and other Pakistani officials on Sept. 12, 2001, in Washington. THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS Karzai Showdown with Musharraf? Pakistan Denies Bin Laden Gets a Free Pass Check Out the Brian Ross Home Page President Musharraf stated that his knowledge of Armitage’ s threat was based on a conversation with Ahmed, the former spy chief. For his part, Armitage immediately issued strong denials, saying that he had firm words for Pakistan in the days after 9/11 but never threatened military force.
Now several Pakistani officials, who either attended the Armitage meeting, or who saw cables based on notes taken there, are quietly backing up Armitage. "He did not say that," one of them told ABC News. "Those were not his words."
The incident has put a spotlight on the complex, though ultra-secret, contact between Pakistan’s military dictator and his spy chief at a time when Musharraf was making profound decisions about Pakistan’s future.
Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed was fired by President Musharraf in 2002 and is now tied to a hardline Islamist organization, sources say. Currently serving ISI officials said he could not be located to comment on this story.