Not an MI6 agent

Published February 7, 2021

THIS is with reference to the report ‘PHC upholds trial of political activist under Army Act’ (Feb 2). My husband, Michael Semple, has, with no proof, been called an “MI6 agent” in a judgment allowing the case against Idrees Khattak to be tried in a military court instead of a civil court.

My husband is Irish, from the Republic of Ireland. When we married, we did not go to live in his country, because I wished to live nowhere except Pakistan.

Michael embraced Pakistan, learnt to speak, read and write Urdu, participated fully in social, cultural and political life here, and did much good work. He lived in Pakistan for 21 years.

He was Deputy Representative of the European Union to Afghanistan when, in 2007, President Karzai’s government declared him persona-non-grata, accusing him of “talking peace to the Taliban”.

This expulsion of a senior European diplomat made worldwide headlines. In Afghanistan he was rumoured to be an ISI agent, “married into the Pakistani army”, in Pakistan, in British and Irish tabloids, an MI6 or CIA agent.

It defies logic that any ‘agent’ whose cover was so massively blown in 2007, could be working as a ‘secret’ agent in 2009 and onwards, as alleged in the charges against Idrees Khattak.

And in the age of satellite technology, there is no need for ‘gathering’ information on army movement.

Moreover, who was the ‘enemy’ this information of secret movement in Khyber pakhtunkhwa (KP) would benefit? Was Pakistan at war with the British? Would the British give such information to the Taliban? To the Afghan government? To India?

My father, General Abubaker Osman Mitha, is a legend in Pakistan. At the end of his life, he had no house and a Suzuki FX car. My parents lived with us, my father died in our home. This name is our richest inheritance, which we would never dishonour. My husband was more than a son to my father. My mother is a legend in her own right. We built our home in Islamabad. I ran Mazmoon-i-Shauq school, known for Urdu and Pakistani culture, instead of putting my children in English medium schools. My father was also called an Indian agent, my mother, a Hindu dancing girl, pejorative in some people’s eyes. My husband, son of Irish peace activists, is called an ISI agent and Taliban-lover because he has worked for peace. Currently, Michael holds the Practitioners Chair for Conflict Resolution at Queens University, Belfast, and is one of Europe’s leading scholars on the Afghan conflict.

Stories about my husband being a British agent are as fictitious as the stories about my parents. To charge Idrees Khattak on this basis is a tragedy. To deny Idrees’s daughters their father, to deny my children their home, and my husband the country he so joyously adopted, is an injustice which does no one any good.

Yameema Mitha

Islamabad

Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2021

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