New Pakistan Spy Chief Seen As Tough on Militants
By The Associated Press
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) – Pakistan’s army chief named a general considered a hawk in the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban to head the country’s powerful spy agency, asserting his control at a time of U.S. concern that rogue operatives are aiding Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shujaa Pasha oversaw military offensives against militants in the lawless border regions with Afghanistan in his most recent job as director general of military operations.
His appointment as head of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, the country’s main spy agency, was part of a broader shake-up of army top brass announced late Monday by military chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
The moves were seen as a bid by the reform-minded general to revive the prestige of Pakistan’s armed forces and assert control over the spy agency following the downfall of ex-President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in August.
A month earlier, the Pakistani government reportedly tried to bring the ISI under the control of the civilian Interior Ministry but quickly reversed the decision after military dissent.
Pasha, who commanded U.N. troops in Sierra Leone in 2001-2002 and was appointed by the world body as an adviser on peacekeeping operations last year, replaces Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj, a close aide to Musharraf.
Analysts agreed the appointment should unify Pakistan’s anti- terrorism fight.
“Now you have a team in place that includes the new ISI chief … who shares Kayani’s view of how to deal with the insurgency in the tribal area and that is to adopt a tough line,” said defense analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi.
The spy agency has helped kill or capture several top al-Qaida leaders since 2001, but there are lingering doubts about its loyalty, not least because its agents helped build up the Taliban in the 1990s.
U.S. intelligence agencies suspect rogue elements might still be giving Taliban militants sensitive information to aid in their growing insurgency in Afghanistan, even though officially Pakistan is a U.S. ally in fighting terrorism.
India and Afghanistan – and reportedly the U.S. – suspect the ISI of involvement in the July 7 bombing outside India’s Embassy in Kabul, which killed more than 60 people. Pakistan denies the allegations.
Urbane and at ease with foreign reporters, Pasha has acknowledged the price Pakistan was paying for its past sponsorship of radical Islam. “We pumped in millions of dollars for establishing it, and now we are up against it,” he told a media briefing in November.
Rizvi said Pasha might be able to sway the lower echelons of the intelligence agency away from any sympathy they might feel toward the Taliban and “convince them that this war is Pakistan’s war.”
(c) 2008 Telegraph – Herald (Dubuque). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.