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‘ISI was close to catching bin laden’

Pakistan's top spymaster, Lt General Shuja Pasha, the chief of the Inter-Service Intelligence told a closed door session of Pakistan's parliament that ISI's efforts at combatting terrorism are commendable and that the agency is "ready for accountability at every forum." Imtiaz Ahmad reports.

world Updated: May 14, 2011 02:42 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad

Pakistan's top spymaster, Lt General Shuja Pasha, the chief of the Inter-Service Intelligence told a closed door session of Pakistan's parliament that ISI's efforts at combatting terrorism are commendable and that the agency is "ready for accountability at every forum."

Briefing parliament about the the efforts of his agency, Shuja Pasha said that the ISI was close to nabbing Osama Bin Ladin at the time the American raid took place.

"We had cornered Bin Ladin," he said, adding "we had destroyed the Al-Qaeda network." He denied that the ISI had failed the country and said that his agency was ready to take on any challenge.

Shuja Pasha spoke as part of a larger group of military chiefs who briefed parliamentarians on Friday on the Abbottabad incident. Prime Minister Gilani and top ministers also spoke on the occasion. Pasha told the assembled lawmakers that efforts were being made by third parties to create differences and misunderstanding between the army and the government.

"These are the negative elements," he commented. The country's air force chief, Rao Qamar, also spoke to parliamentarians and in his remarks denied that the radar system was not working.

"It was working and fully operational," he said, dismissing news reports that one of the reasons Pakistan could not respond to the American intrusion was because the radar system was not functional.

The in-camera joint session of parliament on the Osama bin Laden operation began on Friday evening in Islamabad. The special session of the parliament was called so that the armed forces could brief the country’s civilian leadership on the details of the US unilateral raid into Pakistani territory on May 1 and 2.

Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, ISI Chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha and Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Sulaiman briefed the joint session, followed by a question and answer session.

At the start of the session opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali said that DG ISI should answer the MPs question or the session would be useless. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif had turned down PM Gilani’s invitation to attend the session.

Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif also did not attend. Nawaz Sharif said that accountability of the military was very necessary and that heads in the military and civilian leadership should roll.

Sharif called the military leadership incompetent.