May 14, 2011


[The spy chief did the talking. General Kayani attended the session, along with the heads of the air force and the navy, but did not speak, apparently to be spared the humiliation. Senior military officials, considered to be above civilian law and a power unto themselves, rarely appear before Parliament, or even its defense committees.]

By J

AFP/Pakistan Press Information Department – A Pakistan Press Information Department photo released May 14, 2011 shows army chief general Ashfaq Kayani  > yahoo
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — In an unusual, and apparently heated, closed-door session of Parliament, Pakistan’s spy chief issued a rousing denunciation of the United States on Friday for its raid that killed Osama bin Laden and denied that Pakistan maintained any links with militant groups, according to lawmakers.
Rather, the spy chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, blamed an intelligence failure for the presence of Bin Laden in the city of Abbottabad, where a top military academy is located and where the leader of Al Qaeda was killed in an American raid on May 2.
General Pasha said he had offered his resignation twice to the leader of the army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. As his presence before Parliament made clear, it was not accepted.
The two generals were called before the extraordinary 11-hour session to answer to the failures of the military and the intelligence agency that allowed a team of American commandos to enter and leave Pakistan in a stealth helicopter operation undetected.
Unusually vibrant criticism by some politicians and the Pakistani press after the raid compelled them to try to repair the reputation of the military and the intelligence agency, which the army controls.
But after recognizing the lapse, General Pasha rallied Parliament behind him, several legislators said, with strong criticisms of the United States that elicited thumps of approval from the chamber, including leading members of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the major partner in the coalition that the Obama administration supports.
At the end of the session, the leader of the opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League-N, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who has been one of the most severe critics of the military since the raid, closed ranks behind the military. The session was organized so that “a positive message should go out to the masses,” Mr. Khan said.
A resolution that was passed at the session said Pakistan would revisit its relationship with the United States “with the view to ensuring Pakistan’s national interests were fully respected.”
In that vein, Pakistan’s chief spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, will not allow the Central Intelligence Agency to conduct operations in Pakistan without the full knowledge of the ISI, General Pasha said.
The spy chief did the talking. General Kayani attended the session, along with the heads of the air force and the navy, but did not speak, apparently to be spared the humiliation. Senior military officials, considered to be above civilian law and a power unto themselves, rarely appear before Parliament, or even its defense committees.
General Pasha told Parliament he had a “shouting match” with the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, over C.I.A. activities in Pakistan when they met recently in Washington, several lawmakers who attended the session said.
Reviewing the history of American relations with Pakistan, General Pasha declared that the United States, which has provided Pakistan with about $20 billion in aid over the last decade, had let Pakistan down at every turn since the 1960s, including imposing sanctions on the country in the 1990s.
“And now they have conducted a sting operation on us,” General Pasha said, according to one lawmaker. The intelligence chief was referring to the fact that the Obama administration had decided not to inform Pakistan in advance of the raid because of fears that the Pakistanis could not be trusted.
Before answering questions from the more than 400 members of Parliament from both chambers, the military gave a PowerPoint presentation that included photographs of Qaeda militants captured or killed by the ISI since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
General Pasha then explained that Pakistan should be given credit for dismantling Al Qaeda even before the United States killed Bin Laden, according to the accounts from lawmakers after the session.
In a direct assault on statements by American officials that the ISI supports jihadist militant groups, including the Haqqani network in North Waziristan, General Pasha said there was no such policy. “We have nothing to do with the Haqqani network,” he was quoted as saying.
American officials have long maintained suspicion that the Haqqani group, along with the Taliban, has been sheltered and sponsored by Pakistan, which uses them to push Pakistani interests in Afghanistan, where the insurgents attack NATO forces.
Some of the legislators asked for explanations of why the Pakistani Air Force did not detect the American helicopters that ferried the team of Navy Seal commandos into Abbottabad and out again.
The deputy chief of Air Staff Operations, Air Marshal Muhammad Hassan, said the American helicopters were equipped with stealth technology that enabled them to evade radar.
By the time the air force learned about the raid from ground reports at Abbottabad and launched fighter jets, the helicopters had completed their mission and flown out of Pakistan, he said.
But the air marshal, in answer to a question, said that the F-16 jet fighters provided by the United States to Pakistan were capable of shooting down the drones that the C.I.A. flies over the tribal areas to attack militants. The drone campaign has become increasingly unpopular among Pakistan’s politicians even as the Obama administration insists that it has no intention of halting the flights.
For the first time, according to one lawmaker, Air Marshal Hassan acknowledged that Pakistan allowed the United States to fly the drones out of Shamsi Air Base in Baluchistan.
The Pakistani government has always maintained in public that it does not condone the drone campaign, while in private it has given permission for the flights.
Salman Masood contributed reporting.

[There should be no illusions. We see no sign that Pakistan is ready to stop playing all sides, or will ever figure out that the fight against extremists isn’t a favor to the United States but essential to its own survival.]
The New York Times Editorial
Like most Americans, we have long despaired at the cynicism of Pakistan’s leaders, who accept American “counterterrorist” aid while also sheltering and enabling some of the worst anti-American extremists. But we never imagined that Osama bin Laden would be found hiding in plain sight, a stone’s throw from Pakistan’s leading military academy and an hour’s drive from Islamabad. Pakistan’s behavior since then has only added to the outrage.
Instead of vowing to find out which officials were behind the scheme, Pakistan’s leaders — military and civilian — have tried to deflect all blame and stoke more anti-Americanism. Some members of Congress are asking why the United States should continue to provide billions of dollars in aid to such a faithless ally. For now, at least, an aid cutoff would be self-defeating.
There should be no illusions. We see no sign that Pakistan is ready to stop playing all sides, or will ever figure out that the fight against extremists isn’t a favor to the United States but essential to its own survival.
The equally hard truth is that the United States never would have gotten Bin Laden if it did not have the large military and Central Intelligence Agency presence on the ground that Pakistan has permitted — and American aid has paid for — since 9/11.
There are many more extremists hiding in Pakistan. While Pakistani leaders publicly rail against American drone strikes, they privately tolerate them. Washington needs Islamabad’s cooperation to supply troops in Afghanistan. The best hope for getting out of Afghanistan is some political deal with the Taliban. Pakistan can help facilitate such a deal or undermine it.
There is one other chilling point to consider: the stability of Pakistan’s government — and its nuclear arsenal. Pakistan’s Army might be able to stave off a militant takeover, without American military backing, but we wouldn’t want to bet on it.
President Obama needs to leverage this moment. Many Pakistanis are furious about the raid on their territory. Parliament held an unusual session on Friday, demanding answers from the spy chief who accused Washington of conducting a “sting operation on us.” But many are also outraged by the fact that Bin Laden managed to hide in their country for so long. “Could the self-appointed custodians of the national interest themselves be the greatest threat to national security?” wrote Cyril Almeida of the Dawn newspaper. The television journalist Kamran Khan declared, “We have become the biggest haven of terrorism in the world.”
Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the unilateral attack on Bin Laden as a violation of sovereignty and threatened to close American military supply routes to Afghanistan if drone strikes are not halted. It was not a helpful gesture.
Pakistani leaders are nervous about what more may come out. The trove of computer files seized by the Americans may provide some welcome bargaining power.
The Obama administration also needs to take a harder look at military aid to Pakistan to determine what is vital for counterterrorism and what might be tied to specific benchmarks, like apprehending the Taliban chief, Mullah Muhammad Omar, and members of the Haqqani network.
In its fury, this country should also not lose sight of the fact Pakistan has the potential to be a far greater nightmare than Afghanistan under the Taliban. Economic aid is the best long-term hope of changing the country’s political culture. The five-year, $7.5 billion package for schools, energy and other projects hasn’t gotten off the ground. Congress must approve trade legislation, which is the best way to develop an outward-looking middle class.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton should go ahead with her visit to Pakistan. President Obama should delay setting a date for his trip. Pakistan’s leaders have very tough decisions to make. They need to realize that the days of Washington’s unconditional support are over.
@ The New York Times