Islamabad: Media reports alleging that a Pakistan Army major was among five informants arrested for gathering intelligence on Osama bin Laden`s compound for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) could further harm the military’s image, which is facing a rising backlash at home.
“If a serving officer was reporting to the CIA instead of his own officers, that would be a great breach of discipline,” The Christian Science Monitor quoted security analyst and retired General Talat Masood, as saying.
According to The New York Times, an Army major provided information such as license plate numbers of vehicles entering the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad prior to the raid.
The Army tersely refuted the report on Wednesday, stating: “There is no army officer detained and the story is false and totally baseless” in a press release.
But that statement could mean that the officer in question was retired, says Masood.
An Abbottabad resident, who asked to remain unnamed because of the sensitivity of the situation, said that four civilians and one retired Army major were arrested, the report said.
A Pakistani newspaper editor who also asked to remain unnamed told the Monitor that a senior civil administrator from Abbottabad also confirmed the arrests, and said they took place in a house owned by an Army major.
The Washington Post also quoted unnamed officials, as saying that Major Amir Aziz, a doctor in the Pakistan Army’s medical corps and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s neighbour for years, was among several Pakistanis paid to keep track of and photograph those entering and leaving the compound, without being told whom they were looking for.
“Their families don’t have any idea where they have been taken,” said one neighbour in Abbottabad’s Bilal Town subdivision. “Nobody knows what they had done.”
The reported arrests are the latest in a series of major setbacks to the Army’s public image, which have brought about calls for greater civilian oversight over military and intelligence affairs.
These began in early May following the bin Laden raid, which raised questions over the intelligence failure and the Army’s ability to protect its sovereignty, and is being investigated by a parliamentary commission.
“The Pakistan military is looking inward and trying to deal with this phenomenon of the insider threat. So these arrests [of CIA informers] represent that particular trend,” said Rifaat Hussain, a defence analyst at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, adding that maintaining “external ties” are forbidden for soldiers the world over.