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Premier makes morale-boosting visit to ISI HQ

Updated July 12, 2013

ISLAMABAD, July 11: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made on Thursday a ‘morale-boosting’ visit to the headquarters of the beleaguered Inter-Services Intelligence that got much of the flak from the Abbottabad Commission for the May 2, 2011 raid by US Special Forces.

There was no official statement on Mr Sharif’s visit either by the Prime Minister’s Office or Inter-Services Public Relations, but officials privately said it was primarily meant for consultations on the national security strategy being prepared by the government.

The prime minister, accompanied by Foreign Affairs and National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, stayed at the ISI offices for about five hours.

Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI director general Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam received Mr Sharif at the ISI offices.

Differences between the government and military over counter-terrorism strategies became public after a recent attack on the Ziarat Residency and the gulf widened with the Abbottabad Commission report leak.

Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif have been leading fence-mending efforts and have previously met the Rawalpindi corps commander. Their presence and more particularly that Mr Shahbaz Sharif, on the trip to the ISI offices was immediately taken by keen eyes as the continuation of that initiative.

A senior official, who had been briefed on the discussions during the meeting, said: “The purpose of the trip was to reinforce the positivities and show that the civil and military sides were coordinating with each other and on the same page on issues of critical importance to the country.”

After the discussions it was reportedly decided that the interior minister would be the focal person for co-ordination between the civilian and military intelligence agencies.

Lack of coordination between civilian and military intelligence outfits was seen as a major reason behind counter-terror failures in the Abbottabad Commission report, which accused ISI of encroaching upon the domain of smaller and poorly resourced civilian counterparts and arrogating roles on to itself that legally belonged to other agencies. ISI was one of the main agencies found to be at fault in the May 2 incident that was described as a security-cum-intelligence failure.

“With all its resources ISI failed because it was more involved with political power and ideological structures of the country. It had become more political and less professional.

“The country suffered on both counts,” the commission observed in its report and accused ISI of turning a blind eye to some militant groups for the sake of “sacred causes”.

The meeting, another official said, helped soothe some of the bruises caused by the leak.

The government and military have launched separate investigations into how the report was leaked to the media.

Earlier in the day, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal told newsmen at the Foreign Office that the government was investigating the matter.