REPORTS in the New York Times criticising the Pakistan army and the powerful intelligence agency is a “direct attack” on Pakistan’s security, a spokesman of Pakistan army said on Saturday. (Reuters report carried by The Daily Star).
Major General Athar Abbas, the Pakistan army’s chief spokesman, repeatedly criticised the Times’ reporting and said it was part of a calculated plan by “unnamed officials” to “weaken the state”.
“This is a direct attack on our security organisation and intelligence agencies,” he told Reuters in a rare on-the-record in-person interview. “We consider ISI as a strategic intelligence organisation, the first line of our defence.”
The US-Pakistan relationship has been on a downward spiral since last year, but the decline accelerated after the killing of two Pakistanis by a CIA contractor in Lahore in January and the US raid to kill Osama bin Laden, which Pakistan complains it was not told about and says was a breach of its sovereignty.
Abbas was responding specifically to a July 8 editorial that said there was evidence of complicity by the ISI intelligence agency in sheltering bin Laden, of ties to the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people and of involvement in the abduction and murder of Asia Times Online journalist Saleem Shahzad.
The ISI, or Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, is Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence service.
Long suspected of maintaining militant ties it nurtured in the 1980s and 1990s, the US raid that killed bin Laden in a Pakistan garrison town raised concerns that Pakistan was playing a “double-game” with the Taliban and al Qaeda.
“This whole reporting through media, quoting unnamed officials, anonymous sources, is part of a design to undermine the authority and the power of the organisation in order to weaken the state,” Abbas said.
He declined to specify exactly who the unnamed officials were, although the New York Times specified they were American officials.