Surprises expected in talks with Taliban: ISI

The revelation was made by ISI officials during a briefing for the Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production on Thursday.

Last Updated: Dec 30, 2011, 12:08 PM IST

Islamabad: The leadership of the Inter-
Services Intelligence agency has told a Pakistani
parliamentary panel that some "major surprises" are expected
in Islamabad`s peace talks with the Taliban, according to a
media report on Friday.

The revelation was made by ISI officials during a three-
hour briefing behind closed doors for the Senate Standing
Committee on Defence and Defence Production yesterday.
ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha and his deputies
briefed the lawmakers.

Pasha and his deputies confirmed that talks with the
"Taliban, mainly homegrown militants, were at an advanced
stage and some major breakthrough was expected over the next
few months", The Express Tribune quoted its sources as saying.
The ISI officials were confident that there would be some
"big surprises" on this front; an unnamed lawmaker was quoted
as saying.

According to the ISI officials, the overall dimension of
the situation in Afghanistan is rapidly changing.

"We continue to review our policy with a holistic
approach to correspond with changes in the policy of major
players," another parliamentarian quoted the ISI officials as
saying.

In recent weeks, senior leaders like Prime Minister
Yousuf Raza Gilani and Interior Minister Rehman Malik have
denied that talks are being held with the Pakistani Taliban.
The briefing focussed on the ISI`s role in the war
against terror.

The policy for the campaign is going through a "holistic
review" to correspond with changes in the US plans in
Afghanistan, the ISI officials said.

Around five members of the Senate committee, which is
headed by former ISI chief Lt Gen (retired) Javed Ashraf Qazi,
were briefed on the spy agency`s role.

Two key members of the panel, Raza Rabbani of the
Pakistan People`s Party and Khurshid Ahmad of the
Jamaat-e-Islami, boycotted the briefing, saying the spy
agency`s officials should have come to parliament.

Two members were out of the country while another was
unable to attend because of ill health. Lawmakers who attended
the briefing shared very little information of the in-camera
session that lasted from 10 am to 1 pm, the daily reported.

"After the ISI officials briefed the participants about
the functions of their agency, members posed various questions
before the agency officials to clarify the myths and reality
associated with the ISI," a participant said.

Some participants were curious about the ISI`s modus
operandi in terms of the country’s political affairs. However,
ISI chief Pasha opted to skip such questions, the report said.
One ISI official denied that the spy agency plays any
role in political affairs; an unnamed lawmaker was quoted as
saying.

Another lawmaker claimed that Pasha admitted to the
agency`s involvement but said the ISI simply does what is
asked of it by the government, be it civilian or military.

"They (ISI officials) said, `We have been doing what the
government of the time asks us to do...these days there are no
such directions from this civilian government,” a lawmaker was
quoted as saying.

Asked about Osama bin Laden`s presence in the country,
one senator said ISI feels the episode was not solely the
agency`s failure but was also a failure on the CIA`s part and
that of spy agencies of other allied countries.

There was no discussion on the alleged memo that sought
US help to prevent a military takeover in Pakistan after the
killing of bin Laden in May, the senators claimed.

One lawmaker from a military background said he was not
only satisfied with the briefing but also paid accolades to
the ISI.

"The ISI is the best spy agency in the world. It has been
succeeding in its mission. Bashing of the ISI and the Army by
the people of Pakistan is unfortunate... they do not know the
real functions of this agency," he said.

PTI