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Arrest of CIA 'bin Laden informants', ISI chief's retaliation against US' humiliation

June 16, 2011 - Islamabad

Pakistan's move against Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) informants appears to be an attempt to stand up to what the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) sees as American unilateralism, and in particular, an unauthorized expansion of the CIA's footprint in Pakistan.

The ISI is "trying to lay down the rule that the CIA does not operate independently in Pakistan," Time magazine quoted a senior Pakistani official, as saying.

In the days following the US May 2 raid that discovered and killed Osama bin Laden, Pakistan's top spymaster recalled that he had long made his feelings plain to his American allies.

Where the two countries' interests meet, there would be co-operation, but where the US' interests were deemed to be acting against Pakistan's own, it would be a very different matter, Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha told a select group of journalists.

"We'll not help you," the head of Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) quoted himself as telling his American counterparts. "We'll resist you."

Now, Pasha seems to be making good on that promise, the report said. Stung by the embarrassment of bin Laden's discovery in a garrison town just two hours away from the Pakistani capital, and the humiliation of the US carrying out a unilateral raid, the ISI has apparently gone after the Pakistanis who helped them pull it off.

Five Pakistani informants, including an Army major, who furnished the CIA with crucial leads about bin Laden's compound have been taken into custody by the ISI, The New York Times reported.

The Pakistani military angrily denied in a statement that a major- reported to have tracked the license plates of cars visiting bin Laden's compound- has been taken into custody.

But a Pakistan army officer says that some 30-to-40 civilians in total were being interrogated, some of whom were released on Tuesday, the report said.

By striking a defiant nationalist pose, Pasha, who had offered to resign on three occasions, may be hoping to stanch the wave of pressure that has been piling on his institution, and his own position, over the past month.

The Pakistani military as a whole has been made the focus of unprecedented criticism from civil society campaigners, journalists and opposition politicians. There is also tremendous pressure from below, with the military's lower ranks registering anger at the US in the wake of the bin Laden raid.

And yet, for others, there was always an element of inevitability about the ISI's relations with the CIA.

"They have been deteriorating for a long time," says former ISI chief Lieutenant General (retired) Asad Durrani. "With every such event, they take a nosedive. It's not surprising. We did not have the same objectives, and we didn't have the same strategies."


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