Leaks cast more doubts on Pakistan′s army | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 29.02.2012
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Leaks cast more doubts on Pakistan's army

Leaked material published by WikiLeaks claims some officials of the Pakistan Army knew that former al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was hiding out in Abbottabad.

The claim was allegedly made by the US-based security think tank Stratfor in emails that were published by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks on Monday started publishing more than five million confidential emails that the website claims are from Stratfor. A WikiLeaks press release claims that these emails were exchanged between July 2004 and December 2011.

Al Qaeda's former chief was killed in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May last year in a covert US army operation. Since then, relations between Pakistan and the US have been tense.

Stratfor earlier said it would not make any comment about the authenticity of the emails. Despite that, several other reports in the past have also made similar claims. The Pakistani government and the army have repeatedly denied these allegations.

Photo of the WikiLeaks website and its founder Julian Assange

WikiLeaks has begun publishing new leaks

Dr. Riaz Ahmed Shaikh, professor of Sociology at SZABIST, Karachi, told Deutsche Welle that there was no way to authenticate Stratfor's emails but it could be said that "some retired military officials had an indirect connection with him (bin Laden)."

"Pakistan's first reaction after the Mumbai attacks in India was denial. But now it is pretty much confirmed that the people responsible for the attacks had connections in Pakistan," said Shaikh.

ISI under scrutiny again

WikiLeaks also claims to have found evidence that Stratfor gave membership to Pakistan's ex Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief General (retired) Hamid Gul. Gul is controversial for his support of the Taliban and his demands for international forces in Afghanistan to unilaterally withdraw from Afghanistan.

Presently, Hamid Gul is part of an Islamist alliance in Pakistan known as Difa-e-Pakistan Ittehad (Defense of Pakistan Alliance), which demands the Pakistani government withdraw its US and NATO support in Afghanistan.

In the past too, many Western and Afghan officials have blamed the ISI for giving covert backing to Taliban militants in Afghanistan. The ISI, however, says it is committed to the US-led 'War against Terror.'

Domestic critics of the Pakistan Army

ISI director Lt. General Shuja Pasha (R) with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani

In 2008, the civilian government tried to bring the ISI under the control of the defense ministry

However, the Pakistan Army and the ISI have domestic critics, too, who claim the spy agency is operating against Baluch separatists in Pakistan's recalcitrant western province of Baluchistan. The ISI is also criticized for its political role in Pakistan - for allegedly supporting many Islamist and political parties.

Shaikh said the ISI's political wing needed to be closed in order to reduce its influence on Pakistani politics. He, however, also said that the regional situation with relation to Afghanistan made it difficult for the civilian government to tame the ubiquitous ISI.

"In 2008, the civilian government made several attempts to bring the ISI under its jurisdiction, but they eventually failed. Even at the time of bin Laden's killing, a lot of questions (about the role of the ISI) were raised, but nothing could be done against the army and its agencies," said Shaikh.

Could the ISI be tamed?

Pro-democracy forces in Pakistan hope the newly-independent Supreme Court will take the military intelligence organizations to task. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, military agencies are being questioned by the apex court, as it hears two important cases dealing with the agencies.

On Wednesday, the Pakistani apex court resumed the hearing of the petition filed by Air Marshall (retired) Asghar Khan many years ago that accuses former army chief Mirza Aslam Baig and former ISI head Asad Durrani of distributing money to politicians.

The Supreme Court is also hearing a case about missing people, reportedly Taliban militants, who have been illegally picked up and detained by the ISI.

Author: Shamil Shams
Editor: Sarah Berning

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