US visit of ISI DG
Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
General Zaheerul Islam, Director General Inter Services Intelligence Agency has successfully concluded his week-long US visit. It was the first US visit of Gen Zaheer as DG of ISI, since he assumed charge in March this year.
According to the confidential US sources, “all concerning issues were discussed,” in the meeting between ISI chief General Zaheerul Islam and US officials, especially the Director of CIA, General (retd) David Petraeus during the recently concluded visit of the former. Indeed, this was a significant visit by ISI chief as there remained a wide gulf in the Pak-US relationship, following the incidents like; Raymond Davis, OBL killing and Salala Military post attacks. Through this high-level visit of General Zaheerul Islam, Pakistani side clearly conveyed its concerns on various issues bothering either side.
Besides meeting CIA head, General Petraeus and special envoy of President Obama on Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mark Grossman, during this visit, the DG ISI had meetings with Deputy Director CIA Mike Morell, Senate Intelligence Committee chairperson Senator Dianne Feinstein, House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers. Senator John Kerry also had a short meeting with Gen Zaheer. Lt Gen (R) Douglas Lute, President Obama’s special adviser for Afghanistan and Pakistan also met Gen Zaheer. While discussing a renewed counterterrorism strategy, CIA head General David Petraeus, emphasized Gen Zaheer for more cooperation against Al-Qaeda fugitives. Pakistan, however is already providing all out assistance and support to coalition in Afghanistan.
Indeed, any success of US in Afghanistan so far has been because of Pakistan. Had Pakistan not been cooperative, this all would not have been possible. Since the visit was after a deep distrust and tense relationship, therefore, there were many speculations made as to the outcome of the visit. However, according to US officials, “The discussions between General Zaheer and Director Petraeus were substantive, professional, and productive. Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to work together to counter the terrorist presence in the region that threatens both US and Pakistani national security.”
It was a focus visit of DG ISI and in his meeting with the US officials, especially CIA Director, he clearly conveyed the Pakistani concerns on two special aspects. One; ISAF and Afghan forces are not taking any action against the safe heavens of Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and other militant groups, fled to Afghanistan, sequel to military operations in Malakand, Swat and other agencies of FATA. Defence analysts even anticipate that, these militants have the backing of host forces deployed along the Pak-Afghan border once they attack Pakistani military positions or on the villagers on Pakistani side. Two; CIA was clearly conveyed by Zaheer that drone attacks on any part of Pakistan are unacceptable. As confirmed by US officials, it was clearly told to US that drone attacks have caused more damage to Pakistan, rather killing the foreign militants residing along Pak-Afghan border or in NWA.
Pakistan considers that over the years drone attacks have enhanced the number of militants, who then attack Pakistani security forces and installation, considering them as US ally after finding US forces inaccessible to take revenge. Moreover, in the so far over 350 drone attacks, over 3000 innocent Pakistani have been killed with a diminutive number of militants or Al-Qaeda operatives. Pakistan demanded US to give this technology to Pakistan and share intelligence about the hard-core terrorists in the area, against whom Pakistan will act itself. However, US is loath over the technology transfer to Pakistan, which Pakistan sees as a notion of distrust. In any case, Pakistan has logically convinced US for the negative aspects of the drone attacks, which US officials acknowledged even. As per the Reuters, on drone attacks, “Pakistan remained firm on its stance” that, there will be “no compromise,” on the sovereignty of Pakistan.
Some of the misleading media reports, both in Pakistani media and abroad have wrongly projected that, perhaps, Pakistan and US have agreed to undertake a Joint Operation codenamed “Tight Screw” on either side of Pak-Afghan border, in which US boots on ground were envisaged. In this regard, Pakistan security establishment has categorically denied any deal with US. Rather, during his meeting with Director CIA, Gen Zaheer clearly told US that, “Pakistan will not allow American boots on its soil for any operation and whenever an offensive is launched, it will be done by us.” Nevertheless, Pakistan has also clarified to US that, currently, it is simplly impossible for Pakistan to launch a fresh offensive in North Waziristan Agency. Pakistan is not in love affair with Haqqanis. However, for the peace and stability in Afghanistan and for greater regional stability, it would still emphasize US to engage Haqqanis and Taliban politically, rather pushing them to the wall. US must seal Afghan side of Pak-Afghan border in order to stop the Haqqanis or other militants from getting into Afghanistan or else entering Pakistani side.
Owing to its own domestic compulsions and resource constraint, Pakistan cannot launch military operation in NWA. In fact, the Pakistani military establishment has long been resisting the US demand of a military operation in NWA. How can Pakistan strike a deal with US on this military operation at this critical time of its relationship with US? Such an act will have serious repercussions and public rebuke, which military establishment cannot afford.
While spreading such misleading information, media could have acted more maturely. It indeed is bad on the part of media to project such unfounded information for the cheap popularity of ‘New Breaking Campaign’ to take lead from other channels or new papers.
Such un-investigated and un-analyzed reports amount to creating a hate among the masses for ISI and the armed forces of Pakistan, which traditionally some elements have been doing. Question arises, after all, why Pakistani media always negatively propagate events of such strategic significance. Cannot they find and project positive side of the story, unless paid heavily. Or else, they write and speak on behalf of anti-Pakistan forces. Media itself should find such blacksheep among its rank and file to have its own credibility established both at domestically among the masses as well as internationally.
From the perspective of realist school of thought, the visit of Gen Zaheerul Islam was a complete success. Clearly and cleverly, he conveyed to US authorities, a message which addresses the core of Pakistan’s national interests. After keeping the NATO and US supplies suspended for almost over seven months, Pakistan resumed it with a clear understanding as to what would be the future line of action; does and don’ts. This visit of DG ISI has further clarified the US, as what is Pakistani position on some of the key issues, which US views differently, indeed, contradictory to Pakistani stance. Regarding the personality of Gen Zaheerul Islam, he hails from a traditional military family and is known for his professionalism, bravery and being a straightforward soldier with a clear perception of Pakistani national interest and his responsibilities towards those.
Academia, media and analysts should assess the incidents and events in their true perspective before putting across to general public and international community. Otherwise we will be regarded a confused nation. According to AFP reports, Gen Zaheer delivered US authorities “two loud and clear messages.” One; no American boots on Pakistani soil and two; drone attacks will be taken as violation of its sovereignty, hence must be stopped.
Analysts feel that, these were the real and long-standing demands of people of Pakistan rightly put across by DG of ISI.
The message conveyed to US by Gen Zaheer was clear and concise; therefore, let us hope that, there is a positive Pak-US engagement in the days to come.
However, as a nation, we need to correct our perception about our armed forces, who are giving their blood for the comfort of the nation and masses.
Besides, we should not repeat the words of our enemies, against the first line of defense of our country (ISI). Let us be realist and loyal to ourselves at least.