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New ISI chief to visit Europe along with Pasha

By Rezaul H Laskar
Last updated on: April 12, 2012 14:06 IST
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The Inter-Services Intelligence's new chief Lt Gen Zahirul Islam plans to visit some European countries with his predecessor Ahmed Shuja Pasha for exchanging views with intelligence and military officials on Pakistan's ties with the US and reopening of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation supply routes.

Pasha will accompany Islam to help him with the transition at the ISI, as the new chief familiarises himself with global and regional issues, the Dawn newspaper quoted unnamed officials as saying.

Islam took over as chief of the powerful spy agency last month.

Though parliament is to make a final decision on ties with the United States and the NATO supply routes, Islam is likely to discuss both issues during his planned visit to Europe, the report said.

Some opposition politicians have alleged the government is keen to reopen the NATO routes because of "considerable American pressure," it said. Pakistan closed the supply routes in November after a cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The government subsequently ordered a Parliamentary review of Pakistan-US ties but the exercise has been hampered due to concerns expressed by opposition parties.

Reports have suggested that Pakistan and the US were holding talks behind the scenes to put their ties on an even keel. The Dawn quoted an unnamed federal government official as saying that it was more or less certain that NATO supplies would in future be managed by the army-run National Logistics Cell and Pakistan Railways.

"The army will ensure that the incidents such as NATO containers going missing will not happen again," he said. The official suggested that the reason for army's interest in the reopening of NATO supply routes was economic wellbeing of Pakistan and Afghanistan in the long run.

Asked to comment on the ISI chiefs planned trip to Europe, the official said, "It is part of discussions that regularly take place on strategic issues. These dialogues are routinely held between defence and intelligence departments of different countries."

Defence analyst Lt Gen (retired) Talat Masood did not see anything unusual in Pasha accompanying Islam.

"Former spy chiefs can assist the new ones; the Central Intelligence Agency chiefs tend to follow a similar practice. This is not something unusual. They (spy chiefs) keep a low profile and travel whenever they need to. This trip to Europe is a case in point," he said.

Asked about the possibility of Pakistan and the US coming to an agreement on drone attacks, Masood said, "It is clear that the US government will not stop using drones because they have found the policy beneficial."

US Embassy spokesman Mark Stroh said, "At the moment, every engagement we have with Pakistan is mainly attached with the Parliamentary review committee. Once they are  done with their recommendations, the US will move forward."

Chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas refused to comment on intelligence affairs.
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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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