The spy agencies of Pakistan and Afghanistan have signed an agreement on intelligence sharing and coordinated operations, a move criticised by Afghan lawmakers who said the pact will provide no benefits to Kabul.
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) signed the memorandum of understanding on cooperation last week, according to reports in the Afghan and Pakistani media.
The development was confirmed by Pakistan’s chief military spokesperson Maj Gen Asim Bajwa on Twitter late on Monday night. He said the MoU includes “(intelligence) sharing, complimentary and coordinated (intelligence operations) on respective sides” but did not give details.
MOU signed by ISI&NDS.Includes int sharing,complimentary and coordinated int ops on respective sides.— AsimBajwaISPR (@AsimBajwaISPR) May 18, 2015
The ISI has for long been accused by US, Afghan and Indian officials of meddling in Afghanistan and of having close ties with the Haqqani Network, a Pakistan-based terror group blamed for some of the most brazen attacks in Afghanistan in recent years.
Several Afghan MPs opposed the MoU during Monday's session of the Wolesi Jirga (lower house of parliament), saying it will provide no benefits to Afghanistan.
After lawmakers sought a clarification from the National Security Council (NSC), the first deputy speaker of the Wolesi Jirga, Zahir Qadir, asked parliamentary panels to summon NSC officials to explain.
According to Tolo News, MP Rahman Rahmani told the House: "During (Pakistan Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif's trip to Kabul, three Pakistani intelligence officers also arrived and you sign a shameful intelligence sharing agreement. By signing this agreement you have made yourself blind and dumb."
The deputy head of parliament's internal security commission, Mohammad Faisal Sami, said: "The government should have endorsed its defeat to Pakistan before signing this agreement and announce it publicly."
As the criticism mounted, the NDS rejected reports that its operatives would be trained and equipped by Pakistan. NDS spokesman Haseeb Sediqi told a news conference on Monday that reports regarding the deployment of Afghan security personnel to Pakistan for training based on the new MoU were “false”.
Sediqi said the MoU is not against the national interests of Afghanistan and the agreement was concluded based on “previous mutual cooperation between the two nations”.
Reports had suggested that the MoU will allow the ISI to train and equip NDS personnel. The reports further said Afghan intelligence and the ISI would jointly interrogate detained suspects.
The first-of-its-kind deal between the ISI and NDS followed a visit by Prime Minister Sharif, Pakistan Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif and ISI chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar to Kabul last Tuesday.
The Pakistani military spokesman confirmed the MoU only after Pakistani media learnt about it because of the criticism by the Afghan MPs, the Dawn newspaper reported.
The daily quoted an unnamed Pakistani official as saying that the signing of the agreement represented “new-found trust between Islamabad and Kabul, particularly between their security and intelligence establishments”.
After the National Unity government came to power in Kabul, President Ashraf Ghani visited the military’s General Headquarters during his first trip to Pakistan. Troops from the two countries have also conducted coordinated operations along the border and the first batch of Afghan cadets arrived for training in the Pakistan Military Academy early this year.
President Ghani’s spokesman Ajmal Abedi told ToloNews: “The MoU between Afghanistan and Pakistan is not a new thing. In the past, both institutions had such agreements, but now the focus of this agreement is mostly on jointly fighting terrorism.”
But officials of the previous government headed by Hamid Karzai told Tolo News that no such MoU was signed in the past with Pakistan.