Tuesday, 04 January 2011

Pakistan's ISI Summoned in the U.S. Court

Written by  Malik Ayub Sumbal

The relations between the United States and Pakistan could be halted due to the recent summoning of the Pakistani top intelligence agency officials as well as other military men to appear before a U.S. court in Brooklyn, New York, this month for their alleged involvement in the 2008 terrorist bombings and shootings in Mumbai, India.

The court has summoned Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha and his predecessor Nadeem Taj,  as well Major Ali and Major Iqbal. Also ordered to appear are Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi and Jamaat-ud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, the alleged masterminds of the Mumbai attacks, according to the U.S. court.

The 26-page lawsuit has been filed by two U.S. citizens of Israeli origin, Rabbi Gabriel Holtzberg and his pregnant wife Rivka, on the behalf their four heirs who were among the 166 people killed in the Mumbai attacks.

According to Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife, each of those summoned must either appear personally or be represented by his lawyer before the court at the hearing in January.

The Pakistani government has already rejected all the allegations leveled against it by India in connection with the Mumbai attacks. The bombings and shootings, which occurred on November 26, 2008, caused immediate tension between India and Pakistan. Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani man first accused of the attacks, was arrested at the scene and later sentenced to death by an Indian court.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit stressed last Thursday during a media briefing: “Pakistan will strongly contest a lawsuit filed against its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the top government spy agency, and its present and past Directors General.” The government and Pakistan's embassy in Washington said they would defend ISI and its officials "fully and properly."

The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, emphasized in the National Assembly that Pakistan did not believe the ISI, as an agency of the government of Pakistan, or its present and former officials could be subjected to civil litigation in U.S. courts, adding, “We intend to take appropriate steps to obtain dismissal of this action.” Gilani had also announced in Parliament that the ISI chief would not appear in any U.S. court in connection with the case.

Commenting on the court summonses, former military dictator and President Pervaiz Musharraf said in London: "Neither the courts of Pakistan can summon the director of the CIA nor the US courts have any jurisdiction to summon the chief of the ISI.”

All the political parties of Pakistan, as well as the media and the public, stand behind the Pakistani spy agencies’ heads who have rejected the U.S. court summonses. In a strongly-worded speech on December 25, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain warned of dire consequences for the Pakistani government if it sends the ISI Director General to a U.S. court to answer questions. Addressing by telephone (from London, where he has lived in exile for several years) a large gathering at the Malakhra stadium in Bhit Shah on Saturday, Hussain declared: “Today, this gathering rejects the ISI chief’s summons and says if he is handed over to the U.S., the government will be wiped out from the country.”

Other leaders of the political parties also warned the government not to send any Pakistani spy agency personnel to any court of the world.

The present political regime in Pakistan has already been criticized by the media and the pubic regarding its relations with the United States, especially in light of the U.S. drone attacks in the northwest part of the country, which they consider an attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan.

Now the U.S. court summons will further deteriorate relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, as all Pakistani media and TV channels are highlighting this issue, debating whether or not any spy agency head may be called by the court of another country, according to international law.

In Pakistan, the army is the supreme institution, and the recent summons of the ISI chief will also create concerns among the army lobbies here in Pakistan.

According to defense analyst Rizwan Sharif, the long-awaited and ardently desired military operation of the United States in North Waziristan is forthcoming, and the Pakistani army is planning a grand military operation against the terrorists; therefore, the U.S. court matter may affect or delay this operation.

When The New American spoke to the former head of ISI, General (R) Hamid Gul, about the summoning of the Pakistani ISI head to the US court, he observed: “The United States [doesn’t] care about any international law or the sovereignty and dignity of any country. [The] United States of America is the violator of all the international rules and laws.” He noted that the USA is still reluctant to sign on as a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC). He also criticized the U.S. attack on Iraq, maintaining that the United States attacked  Iraq without getting permission from the United Nations Security Council. (The Bush administration said at the time that it went to war against Iraq to enforce UN Security resolutions, meaning that the administration was more intent on putting teeth behind UN resolutions than the Security Council itself. On the other hand, the administration took the United States to war without getting a declaration of war from the U.S. Congress as required by the U.S. Constitution.)

Gul applauded the Pakistani government’s decision to fight the summonses to the U.S. court, saying that the court might give a one-sided verdict that would result in the defaming of Pakistan in the international community.

When questioned by The New American as to whether Pakistani-U.S. relations would be affected by this issue, he replied: “There is a dichotomy in the relations of [the two countries], but despite this fact they are fighting the war against terrorism.” He added that although the United States claims that without the ISI and the Pakistani army they cannot fight the war against terrorism, on the other hand they are creating the kinds of issues that can seriously damage Pakistan’s image in the eyes of the world.

Gul further noted that the decision of Pakistan to fight against the 9/11 terrorism was forced upon the country — that then-President Pervaiz Musharraf was blackmailed by the U.S. to do this — or “Get ready to go back to the Stone Age.”

The New American also interviewed members of the Pakistani public, who expressed their outrage at the summons of the U.S. court to the Pakistani spy agency top officials. Sajjad Ahmed, a student of defense and strategic studies of Qaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, stated: “The United States should have to respect at least the internal security and spy agencies of Pakistan because these agencies are fighting for the Americans and battling the war of the whole world.” He added that the United States has always had reservations toward the role of these Pakistani high profile spy agencies,  and that this doubtful attitude of the United States will affect the relations of both these countries.

Photo of Pervaiz Musharraf: AP Images