Though it was a lingering concern, it still seemed unexpected. The chief of the country’s premier intelligence agency was greeted with taunts right from the moment he rose to brief an incredibly tense special joint sitting of Parliament.
Aside from a barrage of questions, many, including the spymaster himself, must have known it wasn’t going to be easy.
And it wasn’t.
However, the proceedings proved to be more charged than even the most adventurous of estimates – even resulting in verbal clashes between the politicians themselves.
Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Ahmad Shuja Pasha was at the rostrum, just about to begin his briefing, according to sources present, when MNA Tehmina Doultana rose from her seat and unleashed a tirade against the armed forces.
In her fiery, and strong-worded, remarks, Doultana, a legislator from the Pakistan Mulsim League-Nawaz (PML-N), shouted that the Pakistan Army had been conquering only its own country and people, and in that process had, itself, played havoc with the country’s sovereignty. Those present, including the DG ISI, seemed shell-shocked.
Doultana thundered that the unilateral US operation to find and kill Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil, in a major urban centre without the knowledge of Pakistan’s armed forces, had established the “inefficiency and in competency of the establishment.”
However, said sources inside, after the initial shock wore down, another legislator, Senator Gulshan Saeed, from the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q), launched a counter tirade – threatening to cut the tongues of those who uttered “blasphemous” remarks against the military establishment.
It was left to Deputy Speaker Faisal Kundi, who was presiding over the joint sitting of the parliament, to bring the situation under control so that the ISI chief could start his briefing.
But the hiccups at the start were not to be the only turbulence during the session.
Later, another heated exchange took place between Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and the chief of PML-Q Senator Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.
As the question and answer session began, Nisar got up from his seat and launched into a hard-hitting speech – typical of the fiery leader of the opposition in recent sessions.
But a bitter rival, Chaudhry Shujaat, got up to complain to the deputy speaker that speeches were not on the agenda, as agreed to by all parties attending the session. He taunted Nisar, saying that, instead of questioning the military leadership, the PML-N leader wanted to deliver a speech.
Nisar shot back by telling the speaker that he was not surprised by the intervention of Shujaat, who, he said, had just entered into a marriage of political expedience with the ruling PPP to get his share of the ‘plunder’.
The military top brass, meanwhile, continued to await questions as the exchange continued. But when the questions came, they were tough.
Osama was already ‘dead’
Also causing a stir in the session was Lt Gen Pasha’s comment that Bin Laden was already a “dead man” when the US got to him. The ISI chief said that the world’s most wanted man had been in isolation for the last five years and was not in a position to launch an attack against any country. He said that it was due to the ISI’s efforts that Bin Laden’s network had been crippled, and hence he was rendered useless. However, he lamented, despite all this, just one intelligence lapse had brought the spy agency under fire at both home and abroad.
The sense in the house after these remarks, said a source, was that the ISI chief was suggesting that they knew where the global terror icon was since they were so sure about his situation. However, Pasha hastened to add that he meant that Bin Laden was living the life of a dead man, as evidenced by his living conditions.
The questions and the resignation offer
The questions put forward to the ISI chief by the political leadership were unrelenting furious – and Pasha was found short on a number of occasions.
Cornered and unable to provide answers, the spy chief is then said to have finally offered to resign.
However, in one of the ISI chief’s statements, he tacitly put forward a question of his own. Though Pasha was careful not to blame the civilian leadership of anything, his question was, in essence, directed to the entire leadership of the country: If the top leadership was informed of the operation after it was over at just past 2 am on May 2, as the ISI chief said in his briefing – why wasn’t any sort of emergency meeting called?
The parliament was informed by Lt Gen Pasha that he had informed Army Chief General Kayani at 2.05am about the American operation – who, in turn, made a telephone call to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and then to the President Zardari. Gilani was said to have then called up the foreign secretary.
But there was nothing other than that.
Why didn’t the Troika – the President, Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff – meet urgently, and discuss a possible response? Why did the leadership wait for a call from US President Barack Obama at 7 am – five hours after the operation was brought into their knowledge?
Some questions, as Lt Gen Pasha will testify, have no answers.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2011.