While tensions between the civilian and military leadership are at their peak, a parliamentary panel is to visit premier spy agency Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) headquarters on December 29, to discuss its role in anti-terrorism operations around the country.
Lawmakers will likely pose candid questions to ISI officials specifically on the agency’s role in the ongoing ‘war on terror’ and affairs related to state national security, said members of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production.
The move follows fears of a military coup recently expressed by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani , although Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani categorically rejected the apprehensions. It appears that the meeting with the ISI is an attempt by lawmakers to stabilise the government’s and the powerful military establishment’s uneasy ties, they said.
OBL raid, nine agreements
Awami National Party (ANP) Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel said that he plans to once again interrogate the ISI as to why Osama bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad near the Pakistan Army’s garrison went undetected. “I will have candid questions for the ISI’s chief,” said Adeel, adding: “What is the responsibility of this powerful spy agency when we talk about national security?”
He said that his other colleagues are likely to seek answers from ISI chief Lt Gen Shuja Pasha pertaining to one of the nine agreements with the US inked during former president Musharraf’s tenure – specifically that agreement which refers to intelligence sharing with US and Nato forces, he said. The nine agreements, after a decade of secrecy, came to light on Saturday at a briefing of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security.
“This meeting will be helpful in spelling out the misconceptions between the military establishment and the civilian government,” said Senator Col (retd) Tahir Hussain Mashhadi. Mashhadi, a member of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement added: “It will focus on professional assignments of intelligence agencies in Pakistan. There is no political motive behind it.”
Another issue likely to come up at the meeting is that of increased activities of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) near the Afghan border without taking ISI into confidence, stated Senator Muhammad Khan Sherani.
“There will be a comprehensive discussion on the mission, function and organisation of the ISI and the role of ISI in anti-terrorism operations,” states the one-page agenda of the meeting. According to the agenda, members have the liberty to raise any question. Senator Lt Gen (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi will chair the meeting on Thursday. Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar will also attend the meeting.
Earlier, the panel was to visit the ISI headquarters on December 27. The meeting was rescheduled on the request of some members who have to attend former premier Benazir Bhutto’s death anniversary commemorations in Garhi Khuda Bux on the same day.
In October, a 17-member parliamentary panel on national security snubbed an invitation by the military to attending a briefing at the General Headquarters. Army officials wanted to brief the lawmakers on current security issues as well as Pak-US relations. They said that the military officials should come to the parliament instead.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2011.