February 2002 News

Forced to quit Afghanistan, ISI desperate to stay in Kashmir

20 February 2002
The Pioneer

New York: Pakistan has shut down entirely its powerful intelligence units that have links with the Islamic militia in Afghanistan but is finding it difficult to do the same with regard to Kashmir. ''The Afghanistan cell has been completely closed down and the Kashmir cell has been reduced to an intelligence-gathering detachment,'' a Pakistani military intelligence official was today quoted as saying by The New York Times. ''Senior officers of the two cells have already been repatriated to their parent units while others are under transfer or are being ordered to return to other military units. None have been disciplined, but the us has requested permission to interview several dozen of them to learn more about their ties to the militants,'' it said. That request is still being weighed by Pakistani authorities, several officials told the paper. But, they said, shutting down the Kashmir unit would be much more difficult than the one dealing with Afghanistan as it is proving more difficult to cut off what has been a steady flow of covert intelligence and other support for militants in Kashmir, it said. According to an intelligence official, ''The reluctance to shut down Kashmir-related operations has two reasons... one, Pakistan cannot trust India and cannot close down intelligence gathering or even special operations against its traditional enemy. Second, the military and intelligence officers are disturbed by the loss of Afghanistan already. It is not prudent to disturb them further with the loss of the Kashmir front altogether.'' The change, The New York Times said, has not been publicly announced but the officials described it as one of the most significant shifts emerging from Pakistan''s decision to align itself with the west during the crisis in Afghanistan and to reduce ties with Islamic militants there and in Kashmir. In the changes under way, the paper reported, Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf is thought to be carrying out only limited reforms, in that they would still leave the agency as the leading force for intelligence operations. He is depending on Lt Gen Ehsan ul-Haq, a loyal friend whom he installed last fall as the agency''s chief, to carry out the changes. General Ehsan had previously served as the head of Pakistan''s military intelligence branch, and had worked closely with American intelligence officials. The officials said that the move would result in the transfer of perhaps forty per cent of forces assigned to isi agency, which draws its manpower from the military. It said the agency''s size is an official secret, but some officials told it that the cut could amount to at least 4,000 people, from a force of perhaps 10,000. The changes, the officials said are highly sensitive, pointing out that the plans to eliminate the two units represented a major about- face. ''This has been a major change for Pakistan,'' they said. A senior intelligence official told the paper that the 40 per cent reduction would primarily be in military personnel who had been temporarily assigned to the intelligence service, mainly to its Afghan unit, and who would be reassigned to their parent units in the army''s infantry, armour, artillery and other forces.


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