US mounts pressure on Pakistan Army
Obama administration officials believe that Pakistan’s spy agency – Inter Services Intelligence – ordered the killing of a journalist who had written about ties between the country’s military and militants, according to a New York Times report.
The New York Times on July 4, 2011 quoted two unnamed senior US administration officials as saying that new classified intelligence obtained before the May 29 disappearance of the journalist, Saleem Shahzad, 40, from Islamabad, and after the discovery of his mortally wounded body, showed that senior officials of the Directorate for ISI, directed the attack on him in an effort to silence criticism.
The intelligence, which several administration officials said they believed was reliable and conclusive, showed that the actions of the ISI, as it is known, were “barbaric and unacceptable,” one of the officials was quoted as saying. A third senior American official was quoted as saying that there was enough other intelligence and indicators immediately after Shahzad’s death for the Americans to conclude that the ISI had ordered him killed. “Every indication is that this was a deliberate, targeted killing that was most likely meant to send shock waves through Pakistan’s journalist community and civil society,” said the official.
Meanwhile, on July 5, Washington Post published a letter (dated July 15, 1998) purportedly written by Jon Byong Ho, a longtime confidante of the father and son who have ruled North Korea since 1948, to Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. The purported letter claimed that three million dollars were transferred to the then Pakistan Army Chief, General Jehangir Karamat and half a million dollars to General Zulfiqar Khan for approving sharing of technical know-how and equipment with North Korean scientists.
The Associated Press said if the letter is true, it could deepen the distrust between the United States and Pakistan, which are struggling to set aside their differences and cooperate in the battle against militant extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. General Jehangir Karamat and Lt Gen Zulfiqar Khan have called it “a fabrication.” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua said of the report, “It is totally baseless.”
Pakistan has also rejected fresh US allegations against the ISI and called it an international conspiracy. Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan told reporters in Islamabad: “There is an international conspiracy to malign the law enforcement agencies and security forces. (These allegations) are part of that conspiracy.”
Washington’s accusation against the ISI and the purported North Korean letter came amid reports that the United States has been pressing the Pakistan Army to allow the posting of a Security Liaison Officer (SLO) at every corps headquarters of the military but the army has rejected the demand considering it a security threat.
Meanwhile, the New York Times on July 3, 2011 also reported that Pakistani military still cultivates militant groups. Quoting an un-named prominent former militant commander, the paper said the Pakistani military continues to nurture a broad range of militant groups as part of a three-decade strategy of using proxies against its neighbours and American forces in Afghanistan.
Interestingly, the ‘prominent former commander’ gave the interview to The New York Times on the condition that his name, location and other personal details not be revealed. The former commander was quoted as saying that he was supported by the Pakistani military for 15 years as a fighter, leader and trainer of insurgents until he quit a few years ago. Well known in militant circles but accustomed to a covert existence.
The New York Times also attributed the unidentified commander as saying that militant groups, like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen and Hizbul Mujahedeen, are run by religious leaders, with the Pakistani military providing training, strategic planning and protection. That system was still functioning.
Commenting on the interview, The New York Times said that the ‘former commander’s’ account belies years of assurances by Pakistan to American officials since the Sept 11, 2001, attacks that it has ceased supporting militant groups in its territory. “The United States has given Pakistan more than $20 billion in aid over the past decade for its help with counterterrorism operations. Still, the former commander said, Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment has not abandoned its policy of supporting the militant groups as tools in Pakistan’s dispute with India over the border territory of Kashmir and in Afghanistan to drive out American and NATO forces.”