The head of Pakistan’s top spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has postponed his maiden trip to the United States due to a delay in the finalisation of an agreement that seeks to reset ties between the two countries.
Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam was scheduled to travel to Washington this week at the invitation of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief David Patreaus.
However, the army confirmed on Monday that the ISI director general’s (DG) planned visit to Washington has been delayed. It denied the postponement had anything to do with the strained relations between the two allies.
“The visit of the DG ISI to the US has been postponed due to his pressing engagements here,” a spokesman for the military’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said. “There is no other reason for the postponement of the visit,” he added.
Sources privy to the development revealed that the visit was planned a few days ago and the two sides were expecting to conclude their negotiations on key issues, including resumption of Nato supply lines.
However, the expected agreement was put on hold after the US voiced serious reservations over the conviction of Dr Shakil Afridi, who is accused of helping the CIA locate slain al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
A Pakistani diplomat in Washington told The Express Tribune that the deal was almost certain between the two sides but the ‘guilty’ verdict against Dr Afridi threw the progress into uncertainty.
US had agreed to apologise
The diplomat, who asked not to be named, revealed that Washington had also agreed to offer an apology over the Salala incident.
According to the plan, former presidential hopeful and influential Senator John Kerry was to travel to Islamabad to meet families of the soldiers killed during the cross border Nato raid that killed two dozen soldiers in November last year.
However, it is still not clear if the plan is on the table after Washington’s public outcry over the conviction of Dr Afridi.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to Washington Sherry Rehman plans to meet a number of key officials from the Obama Administration this week in an effort to put the process back on track.
Sources said that the ISI chief would tour the US once the deal is sealed between Islamabad and Washington.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2012.