IF Imran Khan is to be believed, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have been compromised. It is a stunning admission coming from a former prime minister — even more so because he does not appear to realise that is what the statement amounts to.
On Monday, during an interview with an American news channel, the PTI chairman claimed he had obtained advance warning from “within the intelligence agencies” about an assassination attempt against him. He added that the information was given to him “because most people are appalled by what is going on in this country”, implying it was malcontents within the intelligence that had warned him about the ‘plot’.
Through this remark, Mr Khan gave further clarity to the claim he had made from his hospital bed on Friday that he had prior warning of a planned attempt on his life for which he held three individuals — the incumbent prime minister, the interior minister and a serving major general — responsible.
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There are two aspects to this very significant statement broadcast to an international audience on Monday. Firstly, if Mr Khan had prior intimation of such a plot, then by embarking on the ‘long march’ regardless and, especially, without taking necessary commonsense precautions, he placed himself and all those present at grave risk of harm. That was irresponsible in the extreme.
Secondly, Mr Khan has in effect let slip there is a mole (perhaps more than one) inside the intelligence apparatus circumventing the command structure to reveal his organisation’s operational details to someone outside the system, which the PTI chairman, as an opposition leader, obviously is. Of course, that is not to say there is indeed a leak; perhaps when he uttered these words the ousted prime minister was carried away by emotion on account of his brush with death.
Nevertheless, his contention must be investigated. Even if there is any truth to it, his bringing into the public domain such a rupture within the intelligence apparatus is a grave misstep and may even attract the provisions of the Official Secrets Act; the culpable officers would certainly be liable to prosecution.
As PM, Mr Khan appeared to have little issue with the intelligence services’ modus operandi, even going so far as to say they had a right to know every step he was taking; he was also seen as being particularly close to one ISI chief whose posting out, in fact, ultimately led to the PTI government’s fallout with the military.
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Now that he is out of power, Mr Khan has been arguing, rightly, that the job of the intelligence is to secure the country rather than do political engineering. He was also not off the mark in criticising the ISI chief for holding a press conference. However, a country’s former chief executive should know that not everything can be placed in the court of public opinion to serve one’s political agenda.
Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2022