ISI Chief may quit over US raid: Report

Pasha may quit as Pak govt is "looking for a fall guy for the bin Laden debacle",report said.

Last Updated: May 06, 2011, 23:06 PM IST

Islamabad: Inter-Services Intelligence
chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha may step down in the wake of
widespread criticism of the Pakistani establishment over US
special forces killing Osama bin Laden near a key military
facility in the garrison city of Abbottabad, according to a
media report Friday.

Pasha may quit as the Pakistan government "looks for a
fall guy for the bin Laden debacle", unnamed senior officials
were quoted as saying by `The Daily Beast`, a news website
affiliated to Newsweek magazine.

The senior officials said "they recognise that an
important head has to roll and soon" to allay domestic and
international anger over bin Laden`s presence in Abbottabad,
located close to the federal capital of Islamabad.

The officials said the "most likely candidate to be
the fall guy is Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha".

They said it was "nearly a done deal". Pakistani
analysts with close connections to the military agreed.

"It would make a lot of sense...It`s in his (Pasha`s)
personal and the national interest to take the heat off," said
Lt Gen (retired) Talat Masood, one of Pakistan`s leading
defence analysts.

An official statement issued yesterday after a
meeting of Corps Commanders chaired by army chief Gen Ashfaq
Parvez Kayani said the military admitted its "own shortcomings
in developing intelligence on the presence of Osama bin Laden
in Pakistan".

It added that "an investigation has been ordered into
the circumstances that led to this situation".

The Daily Beast reported that Pakistanis were
furious that the ISI and the powerful military, which control
national security policy, "could have been so incompetent not
to know that the al Qaeda leader was comfortably holed up in
Abbottabadd", only 80 km north of Islamabad.

"Never before have the military and the ISI come under
such criticism," said Masood.

People are angry that the military, which gets the
lion`s share of the budget, could be totally unaware that US
helicopters had violated Pakistani airspace during the raid
that killed bin Laden on Monday.

Pakistani officials, both from the civilian government
and the military, have said the US did not inform them about
the raid.

"People are outraged...They see this as the fault of
the military in which they have invested so much trust,"
Masood was quoted as saying.

However, a senior ISI officer told The Daily Beast he
could not confirm the report and he had no knowledge of Pasha
being "pressured into resigning".

Some members of Pasha`s family are said to be urging
him to step down, the report said.

His two daughters had opposed him taking the ISI job
and are pressing him to retire and take an honourable exit
from the military.

However, Pasha is reluctant and feels his resignation
would widely be seen as an admission of responsibility, if not
guilt, sources told The Daily Beast.

Senior Pakistani officials who know Pasha and have
spoken to him since the raid said they are convinced that the
ISI chief did not know of bin Laden`s whereabouts.
The report said Pasha "may have no choice but to
fall on his sword" even if this were true.

"It`s likely that Pakistani generals will decide that
someone will have to become the scapegoat in an effort to
limit the damage to the armed forces and that Pasha will
most likely be the man," the report said.

Pasha`s resignation will not affect the US
investigation of how bin Laden was able to hide "right under
the noses of the Pakistani military for so long", the report
said.

Washington suspects there must have been "some
official collusion at the highest level of the Pakistani
security forces".

The trove of documents, computer hard drives and
memory sticks that the Navy SEALs removed from bin Laden`s
residence during the raid could provide some clues to US
investigators.

According to a US official, Washington is now
reassessing its view of Kayani.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen
was Kayani`s main American interlocutor and became "something
of his pal during the long hours they spent together", the
report said.

Mullen is said to believe that Kayani could
eventually be brought around to the US viewpoint that the
Pakistani military has to move forcefully and rapidly against
Taliban and al-Qaeda havens in North Waziristan tribal region
and around Quetta in southwest Pakistan.

The US official also said that the American
commander in Afghanistan, Gen David Petraeus, sees Kayani in a
"less favourable light".

Many senior US officials see Kayani as being "too
wedded to the traditional Pakistani line as laid down by the
late dictator Ziaul Haq: that India is a clear existential
threat to Pakistan and that Islamabad must do all it can to
ensure its influence in Afghanistan and to limit New Delhi’s
growing presence there".

Such a stand "means turning a blind eye to the
Taliban" by the Pakistani military, the report said.

PTI