February 2002 News

Pak denies J&K ISI unit shut

20 February 2002
The Hindustan Times

New Delhi: Pakistan has begun to disband two units of the ISI with close links to Islamic militants in Afghanistan and Kashmir, reported The New York Times on Wednesday, quoting senior Pakistani military and intelligence officials. Islamabad officially denied the story the same day. Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Aziz Khan said in Islamabad: ''This is totally rubbish. That''s all I can say. This is absolutely baseless.'' However, spokesmen for the Pakistani military referred all responses to the information secretary. The article says the change has not been publicly announced. The Pakistani officials it cites called it one of the most significant shifts emerging from Pakistan''s post-September 11 policy change. The move would result in the transfer of perhaps 40 per cent of the ISI''s forces - at least 4,000 people from a force of perhaps 10,000. Attempts by the US and groups within Pakistan to reform the ISI have until now been rebuffed. The article said senior officers of the Afghan and Kashmiri units have already been transferred. The US has also asked to be allowed to question these officers about their ties to militants, a request still being considered by Islamabad. The article claims the ISI''s Afghan department has been shut down. But the flow of covert support to Kashmir militants is proving harder to stem. Former US State Department South Asia desk officer Dennis Kux said, ''If true, the move is significant as the officers are the key to such ISI units.'' India is sceptical. Sources say New Delhi has not been able to confirm if the officers mentioned in the article have been transferred. Also India believes changes in the ISI are irrelevant: Indian policy regarding Pakistan will be determined by ground realities. ''Staff can move to another ISI branch,'' says the ex-Indian high commissioner of Pakistan, G. Parthasarathy. New Delhi suspects Islamabad is peddling such claims to the West because Pervez Musharraf''s crackdown on jehadis has ground to a halt. ''After a few weeks of activity, no action has been taken for a month,'' said a source. They poinnted out that a similar claim about the ISI''s Kashmir unit was printed in The New York Times in early January as well, without any tangible impact on terrorist activity on the ground.

 

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