Monday, February 21, 2011

Personal whims testing Pak-U.S. relations

Has it not become a personal clash between the U.S. and top spy of Pakistan, Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha, chief of the notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency?  Ever since a US court issued a summons against Gen. Pasha for his alleged involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2009, killing scores of innocent people including some Americans, the relations between the two countries are moving from bad to worse.
The court summons was a slap in the face of Pakistan’s powerful ISI and military. The reaction was strong and quick. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was the first civilian leader, telling the parliament that a U.S. court can’t summons Mr. Pasha. While the statement in the parliament was for public consumption, one can’t rule out Pakistan’s closed-door diplomacy on the summons issue.  Islamabad must have expressed its ‘serious’ concerns over the summons with the top US officials during in-camera sessions to get away with the embarrassment via diplomatic channels.
The possible failure on that front, however, led to dirty intelligence encounters. A man from the mountainous tribal region accused Islamabad-based CIA operation manager Jonathan Banks for the killing of his relatives in a drone attack in North Waziristan in a petition filed in a court. Mr Banks ran away from Pakistan, fearing legal complications in Pakistani courts. Pakistani media reported it an ISI trick to revenge the court summons against Gen. Pasha.
In Raymond Davis, the lucky general got a God-gifted situation well under his nose.  Though it is not clear whether Islamabad has used the case as a bargain chip for the court summons against the ISI chief, but media reports are suggesting ISI has strong reservations over granting immunity to the detained US official. The political proxies of Pakistan military and ISI have already launched an anti-PPP campaign telling the masses the PPP-run central government will give immunity to Mr. Davis.
There are reports that the military, Punjab’s ruling party PML(N) led by the Sharifs, religious groups and the jingoistic media are not in favor of giving immunity to Mr. Davis. They might be right saying the guy doesn't enjoy blanket immunity, but have failed so far in convincing the masses that what legal option the government can use against the detained US official. The absence of a clear position puts in doubt the stands of the U.S. and Pakistan on the on-going diplomatic embarrassment, giving enough fodder to the rumor mills in Pakistan.
Rumors and conspiracy theories are, no doubt, damaging both sides. However, its worse effects are more visible on the Pakistani side. It rolls down at a time when just recently WikiLeaks revealed that General Pasha is an emotional general, in other words, an angry and egoist person.  A professor of psychology will describe him a man ready to pick a fight when it hurts his personal ego.
Gen. Pasha got extension as chief of the country’s top secret services when already the spy agency is considered a manipulating force in Afghanistan, Indian-administered Kashmir, Pakistan’s tribal regions and domestic politics. The ISI and its parent institution, the military, are known to be ‘anti-West’, ‘anti-U.S.’, and ‘anti-democracy’. The world rather knows it for protecting the Quetta Shura, providing safe havens to al-Qaeda, sending militants to Afghanistan and Kashmir, resisting military campaign in North Waziristan, arresting Taliban leaders ready for peace talks with Karzai-led Afghan government, derailing democracy in Pakistan and its alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks.
The question is whether Pakistan can afford an emotional general as chief of one of the country’s top sensitive agencies at a time when stakes are high and the situation is grave?

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