ISLAMABAD, May 9: Pakistani media have reported what they say is the name of the CIA station chief in Islamabad — the second such potential outing of a sensitive covert operative in six months.

AP has learned that the name being reported is incorrect. Still, the publication of any alleged identity of the US spy agency's top official in the country could be pushback from the military and intelligence establishment. The Nation

On Friday, the private TV channel ARY broadcast what it said was the current CIA station chief's name. Daily picked up the story on Saturday.

ARY's news director, Mazhar Abbas, said the television station's reporter gleaned the name from a source. He defended the broadcast, saying it was “based on fact”, and denounced allegations that the name was leaked to the television channel by an official with a motive.

The US Embassy and a spokesman for Pakistani intelligence declined to comment. The AP is not publishing the station chief's name because he is undercover and his identity is classified. It was not immediately clear whether the Americans would pull him out of the country.

Asad Munir, a former intelligence chief with responsibility for tribal areas, said very few people knew the name of the CIA station chief in Islamabad. But he said that releasing it would not necessarily jeopardise the American's safety.

“Normally people in intelligence have cover names,” Mr Munir said. “Only if there is a photograph to identify him could it put his life in danger.”

In December, the CIA pulled its then station chief out of Pakistan after a name alleged to be his surfaced in public and his safety was deemed at risk. That name hit the local press after it was mentioned by a lawyer who planned a suit on behalf of the victims of US drone strikes in the tribal belt.

Suspicions have lingered that that outing was orchestrated by the Inter-Services Intelligence to avenge an American lawsuit that named its chief over the 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai.

The ISI denied leaking the CIA operative's name.—AP

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