‘Musharraf prompted Gilani’s ISI flip-flop’

July 28th, 2008 - 2:21 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, July 28 (IANS) Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was forced to rescind his orders bringing the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) under civilian control after President Pervez Musharraf intervened, sources said Monday. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led coalition government had Saturday issued a notification placing the ISI and the IB under the direct charge of the interior ministry but withdrew this less than 10 hours later early Sunday morning, saying the media had “misunderstood” the order.

“The government acted on its own and the concerned authorities were not taken into confidence,” a senior government official said, adding that the “presidency had to jump in, forcing the government to withdraw the notification”.

The confusion about the reporting line of the ISI was created on the day when Gilani left for Washington for a meeting with US President George W. Bush and when the ISI was facing criticism from two of Pakistan’s neighbours - Afghanistan and India - for its alleged involvement in bomb blasts in their countries, as also from the US for its failure to control terrorism.

Musharraf, who still enjoys the confidence of the Bush administration for his efforts to curb extremism and terrorism, is said to have called a “mediator” to convey to PPP co-chair Asif Ali Zardari the possible fallout of the decision to change the ISI’s status.

“It is a myth that Musharraf has lost the confidence of Americans or the Pakistan Army that he headed for about eight years,” the official told IANS, requesting anonymity.

According to the official, the ISI’s role is not limited to the internal security but encompasses international “counter-intelligence” to safeguard national interests.

“The government’s protestations notwithstanding, foreign political circles (Indian, Afghan and the US) have been pointing a finger at the ISI whenever their interests were affected,” an editorial in The Nation newspaper said.

Some Indian leaders have blamed ISI for the blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad while Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also a pointed finger towards Pakistan for the ills in his country.

In turn, former interior minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao has alleged that two attempts on his life had been organised by Indian agencies. He also blamed India for a series of blasts in Karachi last month.

The News, in a front page comment Monday by group editor Shaheen Sehbai, said: “The politically ill-advised developments in Islamabad to take over control of the otherwise notorious ISI are deeply linked to Prime Minister Gilani’s US visit, as the most painful and probably the only sticking point in his talks with the Bush administration would be the role of Pakistani agencies inside Afghanistan, FATA and against the US interests.”

It said the US side was prepared with all kinds of evidence, video and audio, plus transcripts to show Gilani that his agencies were playing double games and not really stopping the terrorists inside Pakistan from operating freely.

“One such example is the press conference addressed by Baitullah Mehsud with dozens of journalists travelling inside FATA to secret locations which, the US side claims, could never have remained secret from the Pakistani agencies. But if a terrorist can call and address a news conference with all TV and media presence in full force, there is no excuse for the agencies not to know where he was located,” Sehbai wrote.

The Dawn newspaper said that the government’s attempt to change internal functions of the ISI had come amid intense pressure from Washington to rein in the so-called rogue elements in the agency.

The paper, quoting unnamed sources, said that while the Americans trust the senior Pakistani leadership, they believe that there are people within the ISI who still back the militants even seven years after Pakistan joined the US-led war on terror.

“The Americans also blame the so-called rogue elements in the agency for facilitating cross-border movement of the Taliban and Al Qaeda militants into Afghanistan,” Dawn added.

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