Monday, May 16, 2011

Pakistan:Parliament Backs Pak Army and ISI amid U.S Outcry (Inter Press Service, 16 May 2011)

Courtesy: "Inter Press Service (IOS)", 16 May 2011
Parliament Backs Army and Intel Service
By Ashfaq Yusufzai
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, May 16, 2011 (IPS) - Pakistan’s Senate and National Assembly closed ranks behind the country’s prime spy agency, the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), which the U.S. government suspects of having harboured Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
The Parliament also condemned the U.S. forces for entering Pakistan’s territory without the knowledge of the army or the government, when it raided bin Laden’s home in Abbottabad and then killed him on May 1.
The show of parliamentary support came after Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and ISI’s head Ahmed Shuja Pasha appeared in a historic joint session of Parliament on May 13, the first time in 63 years that an army chief and the head of ISI presented themselves before the legislature.
The ISI has been under fire for the U.S. operation in the garrison city of Abbottabad, 60 km north of the federal capital Islamabad, where bin Laden had been living for five years.

The lawmakers threw their support behind the country’s intelligence and military forces, even as lawmakers took the ISI to task for its many faults and failures.
"We should show the world that we are united in these hard times. The ISI has its own weaknesses. They had been blackmailing politicians for a long time, but it is a matter of national prestige, and we cannot allow the U.S. to ridicule our spy agency," Javed Hashmi, a lawmaker and member of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML).
The politicians’ support for the ISI came in the form of a resolution unanimously adopted by the joint session of the Senate and National Assembly, which also condemned the U.S. for what it called the unauthorised raid on Abbottabad.
"We want the government to take a strict stance against the U.S. raid in Abbottabad because it was an encroachment on the country’s sovereignty," cricket-turned politician Imran Khan told IPS by phone.
PML lawmaker Khawaja Saad Rafiq quoted the ISI chief as saying, "The army admits its fault for not detecting the U.S. helicopters (on May 1) and I am ready to resign from my post."
The PML is headed by former prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif who, despite being a staunch critic of the army on the issue of the Abbottabad operation, agreed on a joint resolution strongly condemning the United States for entering Pakistan’s territory without the knowledge of the army or the government.
The resolution adopted by the House also called for a review of Pakistan’s relations with the U.S. after the Abbottabad raid, besides demanding an end to U.S. drone strikes on Pakistan. In addition, it called for an independent probe into the raid by U.S. troops, to ensure that such a thing will not happen again.
Parliament’s show of support for the ISI comes just as U.S. Senator John Kerry arrived in Pakistan to meet with the country’s top leaders Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday.
Kerry told reporters in Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan on Saturday that the U.S. could carry out operations similar to the one that killed bin Laden, if they found information about Taliban’s reclusive leader Mullah Muhammad Omar.
It was smooth sailing for the army at parliament, except for one tough question from Maulana Attaur Rehman of the Jamiat Ulema Islam party. "Tell us who are supporting the Taliban and who are funding them," Rehman asked the ISI chief Pasha.
The question embarrassed Pasha, who requested the lawmaker to refrain from asking such questions because it was a matter of national interests, reports said. The Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) of President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of the late former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, has also put its weight behind the army despite being known as anti-ISI.
"The PPP has always blamed the army for dismissals of its governments in the past and derailment of democracy in the country," said Akmal Khan, lecturer at the Department of Political Science University of Peshawar. "A military dictator, Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, also sent to the gallows PPP’s founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979."
Khan said that the army’s only option is to take parliament into its confidence so that it could plead its case with the U.S.
"I think the ISI’s efforts to use the parliament for its face-saving will work as the politicians are still afraid of the decisive role of the army in forming the governments in Pakistan," Wakeel Shah, a student in his final year of International Relations at the University of Peshawar told IPS.
Supporters of Imran Khan’s Justice Party held a demonstration in Islamabad while the army chief was at parliament on Saturday. Imran, a strong opponent of the U.S, influence in Pakistan, also organised a two-day rally in Peshawar that stopped NATO supplies from going to Afghanistan for two days.
"We are just concerned about the country’s sovereignty and integrity. Nobody has the right to kill innocent people," Imran Khan told IPS.
"Such drone attacks must be stopped forthwith, failing which the government will be constrained to consider taking necessary steps including withdrawal of (the) transit facility allowed to NATO," the joint resolution said.
The lawmakers also called on the government "to appoint an independent commission on the Abbottabad operation, fix responsibility, and recommend necessary measures to ensure that such an incident does not recur.


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