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Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the head of the Pakistani Army, appointed Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shujaa Pasha as head of Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, theNew York Times reports. The New ISI chief will be dealing directly with Washington in how Pakistan will be involved in the U.S. “war on terrorism”. The civilian government of Pakistan, elected last February, has tried but failed to take the ISI from the control of the army and put it back in civilian hands.
The replacement of the ISI chief comes at a time when the U.S. has publicly accused the agency of supporting militant groups and involvement in terrorist attacks, such as the bombing earlier this year of India’s embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Pasha is described as a “hawk” when it comes to being tough on militants. In his former post in the military, he oversaw offensives against militants in Pakistan’s tribal regions.
Last month, Pasha accompanied military chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at a meeting between with American military commanders on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier that was interpreted by many analysts to be an effort by the U.S. to exert pressure on Pakistan to do more to crack down on the militants and prevent cross-border attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
At the same time, Pasha has expressed skepticism echoing the overwhelming view in Pakistan that the U.S.’s “brute use of force” in its “war on terrorism” has resulted in too many civilian deaths. He also observed that it has helped to stoke the extremism that now plagues Pakistan’s tribal regions.
A recent poll taken by the BBC in Pakistan shows that the public attributes the increase in terrorist attacks in their country to the U.S. “war on terrorism”. A poll last June showed 71% did not support the U.S. intervention in the region.
Meanwhile, the Times also reports that the recent conflict between the Pakistani government and militants in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal regions has driven 20,000 refugees into Afghanistan.
An estimated five million Afghans fled to Pakistan as refugees as a result of the Soviet-Afghan war. One million were estimated killed during the conflict. U.S. support for the mujahedeen, or Islamic holy warriors, began in 1979 and was designed, according to then president Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, to provoke the Soviets to intervene by challenging the Soviet-backed Afghan government that sought to reform the feudalistic system of land ownership, improve education, seek women’s rights, and other moves viewed as threatening to radical Islamic warlords whose interpretation of the Koran rendered the government’s efforts as heretical.
After provoking the war and supporting the mujahedeen until the Soviet withdrawal, and in the process precipitating the rise of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda and the Taliban movement, the U.S. abandoned war-torn Afghanistan to its fate. The warlords terrorized the countryside and fought amongst each other. When the Taliban rose to power, they were initially greeted as liberators.
Now, the U.S. “war on terrorism” has resulted in the further destabilization of Pakistan and the growing radical militant movement there, forcing many to flee.
The U.S. has also outraged the Pakistani public and the government by staging airstrikes, and at least one acknowledged ground operation, on Pakistani soil, actions which serve to further undermine the government and threaten the stability of the country. The Associated Press reported that another suspected U.S. strike resulted in at least three deaths and six others wounded, then revised that figure to six dead in a subsequent wire report. The victims were not identified.
AP also reports that the leader of Pakistan’s Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, who has been accused by the U.S. and Pakistani governments of being responsible for the assassination of political leader Benazir Bhutto last year, is rumored to have fallen ill and died.