Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency gets new spy chief


AP

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan named a new chief for its main intelligence service, a change sure to be closely scrutinized by American officials who have questioned the powerful spy agency’s loyalties in the war on terror.

The appointment of Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shujaa Pasha as head of Inter-Services Intelligence was the most eye-catching of several changes in a major leadership shake-up by army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

In his most-recent job as director general of military operations, Pasha oversaw military offensives against insurgents in the nuclear-armed nation’s restive northwest.

The northwest is plagued by Taliban and al-Qaida militants, who are involved in attacks on American and NATO forces in Afghanistan as well as increasingly common strikes within Pakistan.

Pasha has also commanded troops for the U.N. mission to Sierra Leone in 2001-2002 and was appointed last year by the world body as an adviser on peacekeeping operations.

An army statement announcing the changes late Monday gave no biography of Pasha, but he gave some insight into his thinking at a media briefing last November.

Urbane and apparently at ease with foreign reporters, Pasha 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,” Pasha said.

Pakistani intelligence helped create the Taliban militia, many of whose leaders and recruits studied at religious schools in Pakistan.

Pakistan also was one of the few countries that gave diplomatic recognition to the Taliban’s fundamentalist rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

Officially, Pakistan allied itself with the U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but observers say elements in the ISI may still be aiding Taliban fighters, in part to retain them as assets against longtime rival India.

U.S. intelligence agencies suspect rogue elements in the ISI may be giving Taliban militants sensitive information to aid them in their growing insurgency in Afghanistan.

India and Afghanistan – and reportedly the U.S. – also suspect the agency of involvement in the July 7 bombing outside India’s Embassy in Kabul that killed more than 60 people. Pakistan denies the allegations.