ISI back in defence ministry’s control - for the moment

August 6th, 2008 - 3:34 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf

Islamabad, Aug 6 (IANS) Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has, for the moment, been returned to the defence ministry’s control but this may not be the last word on the subject as a turf war seems to be brewing on the issue between President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. The Cabinet Division Tuesday night held in abeyance the July 26 notification putting the intelligence agency under the control of the interior ministry - but with a rider, The News reported Wednesday.

“The prime minister is pleased to direct that the federal government will carry out further deliberations on coordinating the intelligence efforts. Till the completion of these deliberations, the Cabinet Division’s memorandum dated July 26, 2008 is held in abeyance,” Tuesday’s notification said.

The July 26 notification had said that the ISI, as also the Intelligence Bureau (IB) had been administratively, financially and operationally placed under the interior ministry.

Hours later, the Press Information Department (PID) issued a clarification saying the two agencies would continue to report to the defence ministry.

However, there was considerable confusion on the issue since the July 26 order had not been formally reversed till Tuesday.

The PID clarification had come after two telephone calls, reportedly at the behest of Musharraf and Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani to the prime minister, who was then in Washington on his maiden visit to the US.

On Sunday, Musharraf had charged unnamed forces with hatching plots against the ISI and warned that weakening the spy agency was tantamount to weakening the country and the armed forces.

The ISI was “the first defence line of Pakistan”, and the people “should defend Pakistan against such conspiracies. Weakening the ISI would also weaken the war on terror”, Musharraf said at a dinner in Karachi hosted by traders and industrialists.

According to Musharraf, “conspiracies against the ISI were aimed at defaming Pakistan. ISI is a patriotic institution, which is working for the stability of the country”.

The ISI, which has been at the centre of numerous controversies, finds itself facing one of its toughest tests yet with the CIA releasing transcripts of what it claims are messages between one of its operatives and the attackers of the Indian embassy in Kabul last month.

Fifty people, including two Indian diplomats, had died in that attack.

US President George Bush, during his meeting with Gilani, is reported to have pointedly asked who the ISI’s real boss was.

The ISI and the IB are both headed by serving Pakistani Army officers. These two agencies apart, there is also a third that is responsible for military intelligence.

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