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Under fire from defence forces, Pak reverses ISI decision
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July 28, 2008 13:24 IST

Coming under 'immense pressure' from the defence establishments, the Pakistan government has withdrawn its decision to place the Inter Services Intelligence under civilian control, leading newspapers reported on Monday.

Less than 24 hours after moving to clip the wings of the Inter-Services Intelligence, the government issued a clarification stating that its earlier notification that the body had been placed under direct control of the Interior Ministry had been 'misunderstood'.

The move, which fell short of withdrawing the earlier notification, followed reports of extreme tension between various sections of the government and establishment, and was a result of intense back-channel efforts, the Dawn said.

The newspaper quoted sources as saying that the first notification, which was issued without consultation with defence authorities, had caused "great concern among army and other defence organs".

They said the back-channel discussions had continued throughout Saturday night, compelling the civilian set-up to reverse the decision.

A second statement issued on Sunday, following reports of 'immense pressure from defence circles', denied that the ISI had been put under the Interior Ministry, saying the agency would 'continue to function under the prime minister'.

"The said notification (issued on Saturday) only re-emphasises more coordination between ministry of interior and the ISI in relation to the war on terror and internal security," it clarified. It also said a detailed notification would be issued later to clarify the situation.

Meanwhile, the News daily said the government stopped short of withdrawing the controversial first notification as it would have placed it in an embarrassing situation.

"The government will take some time to settle down on this issue as this single move, taken just a day before the prime minister lands in Washington on his official trip, has undermined the writ of the four-month-old Pakistan People's Party-led government," it quoted a senior official as saying.

Director-General of the Inter Services Pubic Relation Major General Athar Abbas said the army chief and other defence authorities had not been taken into confidence on the issue.

He said the ISI was a huge organisation and the interior ministry could not have handled its financial, administrative and operational affairs.

According to the original notification the two spying networks -- Intelligence Bureau and the Inter-Services Intelligence were "administratively, financially and operationally" placed under Pakistan's Interior Ministry.

The new statement, however, reverses the decision on the ISI, while remaining silent on the IB, creating confusion about whether it would continue to work under the prime minister or under the intelligence division, the Dawn said.

Meanwhile, General (retired) Hamid Gul, a former chief of the ISI, praised the government's move to keep the ISI under the prime minister's control, saying the earlier decision was merely a bid to please the superpowers without realising that it would only serve the interests of the enemies.

PML-Q Secretary-General Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, on the other hand, termed the flip-flop as a "failed attempt to capture the ISI and convert it into a partisan political instrument".

Hussain told reporters that it was "a fundamentally flawed decision of the PPP regime on all counts -- political, administrative and national security".

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