New ISI chief Islam to visit Europe with predecessor Pasha

Written by: Pti
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Islamabad, Apr 12: As the government struggles to evolve a consensus on terms of engagement with the United States, the new chief of Inter-Services Intelligence, Lt Gen Zahirul Islam, is planning to visit some European countries, along with his predecessor Lt Gen (retd) Shuja Pasha, for exchanging views with intelligence and military officials of those countries on matters relating to ties with the US and supplies to Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Officials aware of the visit say that Gen (retd) Pasha will be accompanying Gen Islam to help him with the transition at the ISI as the latter familiarises himself with global and regional issues.

Experts are of the opinion that despite the fact that parliament has to take a final decision, Gen Islam is likely to discuss, besides US-Pak relations, the issue of reopening Nato supply routes which may come up again and again.

Some opposition politicians have alleged that the government is keen to reopen the Nato supply routes because of considerable American pressure.

It has been reported that the issue was being discussed behind the scenes by Pakistan and the US, especially their militaries.

A federal government official says that it is more or less certain that this time around the Nato supply will be managed by the National Logistics Cell and Pakistan Railways.

“The army will ensure that the incidents such as Nato containers going missing will not happen again.” He suggested that the reason for the army’s interest in the reopening of Nato supply routes was economic wellbeing of Pakistan and Afghanistan in the long run.

When asked to comment on the ISI chief’s planned trip to European countries, 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 (retd) Talat Masood does not see anything unusual in Gen (retd) Shuja Pasha accompanying Gen Islam.

“Former spy chiefs can assist the new ones; CIA 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.”

When asked about the possibility of Islamabad and Washington coming to an agreement on drone attacks, he said: “It is clear that the US government will not stop using drones because they have found the policy beneficial.”

Any move to share intelligence (on drone attacks) would be seen as a confidence-building measure and an understanding on the issue would be of help to both the countries, he said. NLC’s control over transportation of Nato supplies will prove beneficial.

When approached, 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.”

He refused to comment on the drone attacks because of their policy of “not commenting on the affairs of the intelligence”.

About economic activities between Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said: “The US always appreciates transit trade between the regional countries.”

When asked about the planned trip of the ISI chief, ISPR director general Maj Gen Athar Abbas said he did not comment on intelligence affairs.


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