The United States is likely to withdraw the current CIA station chief in Islamabad after his cover was blown when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) named him in a first information report registered against the recent drone strike in Hangu district.
As part of its understanding with Pakistan, the CIA station chief works undercover.
Although it was not possible to verify PTI’s claim, sources told The Express Tribune that the US is increasingly worried about the new development and is considering recalling its top spy from the country.
This is the second time a CIA station chief’s identity has been given away. Back in 2010, a human rights lawyer, who was spearheading a movement against drone strikes, had also filed a lawsuit against the then CIA station chief.
Washington, which never discloses the identity of the spy chief, had then pulled the spymaster out.
At that time, it was believed that the US move came as a result of a ‘cold war’ between the CIA and ISI.
However, a Pakistani security official insisted that the agency had nothing to do with the latest move by PTI.
“The ISI and CIA have been cooperating with each other under well-defined standard operating procedures,” added the official, who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
In Lahore, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said it was possible that the (ISI) had played a part. “The ISI may be behind the unmasking of the CIA station chief,” Sanaullah told reporters in the Punjab Assembly’s cafeteria. When asked as to how the CIA official was disclosed earlier in a petition in 2010, he replied that in both the instances it was possible that the ISI had a hand.
When contacted, the US Embassy spokesperson refused to comment on the development. The spokesperson did, however, say that the situation would become clear in a few days.
The station chief in Islamabad has a key role in the drone campaign CIA is carrying out in the tribal areas. He deals with classified information and closely collaborates with the ISI.
In a related development, a US diplomat on Thursday met with senior PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the Parliament House, apparently to discuss the party’s ongoing protest against drone strikes.
None of the two sides made any public statements about the meeting, but sources said the latest controversy over naming the CIA station chief was discussed.
The party of cricketer-turned politician, Imran Khan, has been a staunch opponent of the CIA-piloted drone campaign in the tribal areas.
The government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa (K-P), ruled by the PTI, directed police authorities to register an FIR against the CIA for its latest drone strike in the Hangu district situated in K-P.
Sanaullah said PTI information secretary Shireen Mazari could tell the media who had given her the name of the CIA station incharge in Islamabad. “Keeping in view Mazari’s ideology everyone can easily assess her sources,” he added.
Earlier, he said the whole nation mourns over the childish step taken by PTI to implicate CIA director who sits in Washington DC.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2013.