General Zaheer’s first visit to USA as DG ISI

Gen Zaheer delivered US authorities “two loud and clear messages.” One; no American boots on Pakistani soil and two; drone attacks will be taken as violation of its sovereignty, hence must be stopped.  Analysts feel that, these were the real and long-standing demands of people of Pakistan rightly put across by DG ISI.

By Dr Raja Muhammad Khan

According to the confidential US sources, “all concerning issues were discussed,” in the meeting between ISI chief General Zaheerul Islam and concerned US officials, especially the Director of CIA, General (retd) David Petraeus during the recently concluded visit of the former. It was the first US visit of Gen Zaheer as DG ISI, since he assumed charge in March 2012. Indeed, this was a significant visit by ISI chief as there remained a wide gulf in the Pak-US relationship, following the incidents like; Raymond Davis, OBL killing and Salala Military post attacks. Through this high-level visit of DG ISI, Pakistani side clearly conveyed its concerns on various issues bothering either side.  

Apart from meeting CIA head, General Petraeus and special envoy of President Obama on Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mr Grossman, during this visit, DG ISI had meetings with Deputy Director CIA Mike Morell, Senate Intelligence Committee chairperson Senator Dianne Feinstein, House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers. Senator John Kerry also had a short meeting with Gen Zaheer.  Since the visit was after a deep distrust and tense relationship, therefore, there were many speculations made as to the outcome of the visit. However, according to US officials, “The discussions between General Zaheer and Director Petraeus were substantive, professional, and productive. Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to work together to counter the terrorist presence in the region that threatens both US and Pakistani national security.”

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During his meeting with the US officials, especially CIA Director, DG ISI clearly conveyed the Pakistani concern on two special aspects. One; ISAF and Afghan forces are not taking any action against the safe heavens of Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and other militant groups, fled to Afghanistan, sequel to military operations in Malakand, Swat and other agencies of FATA. Defence analysts even anticipate that, these militants have the backing of host forces deployed along the Pak-Afghan border once they attack Pakistani military positions or on the villagers on Pakistani side.  Two; CIA was clearly conveyed by DG ISI, that, drone attacks on any part of Pakistan are unacceptable. As confirmed by US officials, it was clearly told to US that drone attacks have caused more damage to Pakistan, rather killing the foreign militants residing along Pak-Afghan border or in NWA.  

Indeed, these attacks have intensified the number of militants, who than attack Pakistani forces and installation, considering them as US ally after finding US forces not in their approach to take revenge. Moreover, in the so far over 350 drone attacks, over 3000 innocent Pakistani have been killed with a diminutive number of militants or Al-Qaeda operatives. Pakistan demanded US to give this technology to Pakistan and share intelligence about the hard-core terrorists in the area, against whom, Pakistan will act itself. However, U.S is loath over the technology transfer to Pakistan, which Pakistan sees as a notion of distrust. In any case, Pakistan has logically convinced US for the negative aspects of the drone attacks, which US officials acknowledged even. As per the Reuters, on drone attacks, “Pakistan remained firm on its stance” that, there will be “no compromise,” on the sovereignty of Pakistan.

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Some of the misleading media reports, both in Pakistani media and abroad have wrongly projected that, perhaps, Pakistan and US have agreed to  undertake a Joint Operation codenamed “Tight Screw” on either side of Pak-Afghan border, in which US boots on ground were envisaged. In this regard, Pakistan security establishment has categorically denied any deal with US. Rather, during his meeting with Director CIA, DG ISI, clearly told US that, “Pakistan will not allow American boots on its soil for any operation and whenever an offensive is launched, it will be done by us.” Nevertheless, Pakistan has also clarified to US that, currently, it is simple impossible for Pakistan to launch a fresh offensive in North Waziristan Agency.

In fact, the Pakistani military establishment has long been resisting the US demand of a military operation in NWA. How can Pakistan strike a deal with US on this military operation at this critical time of its relationship with US? Such an act will have serious repercussions and public rebuke, which military establishment cannot afford.  While spreading such misleading information, media could have acted more maturely.  It indeed is bad on the part of media to project such unfounded information for the cheap popularity of ‘New Breaking Campaign’ to take lead from other channels or new papers. Such un-investigated and un-analyzed reports amount to creating a hate among the masses for ISI and the armed forces of Pakistan, which traditionally some elements have been doing.  Media itself should find such black sheeps among its rank and file to have its own credibility established both at domestically among the masses as well as internationally. 

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From the Pakistani perspective, the visit of Gen Zaheerul Islam was a complete success. After keeping the NATO and US supplies suspended for almost over seven months, Pakistan resumed it with a clear understanding as to what would be the future line of action; dos and don’ts. This visit of DG ISI has further clarified the US, as what is Pakistani position on some of the key issues, which US view differently, indeed, contradictory to Pakistani stance. Regarding the personality of Gen Zaheerul Islam, he hails from a traditional military family and is known for his professionalism and a straightforward soldier with a clear perception of Pakistani national interest and his responsibilities towards those.

According to AFP reports, Gen Zaheer delivered US authorities “two loud and clear messages.” One; no American boots on Pakistani soil and two; drone attacks will be taken as violation of its sovereignty, hence must be stopped.  Analysts feel that, these were the real and long-standing demands of people of Pakistan rightly put across by DG ISI.

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