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ISI chief offers to resign: Reports

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha on Friday purportedly offered to resign after parliamentarians criticised him for lapses related to the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden last week, according to media reports.

world Updated: May 14, 2011 11:38 IST

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha on Friday purportedly offered to resign after parliamentarians criticised him for lapses related to the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden last week, according to media reports.

Earlier, information minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said Pasha had "surrendered" himself to Parliament so that he could be held accountable for any lapses.

Pasha's dramatic announcement came during an in-camera joint session of both houses of parliament that was briefed by military officials about the operation by US special forces to kill bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 2.

TV news channels quoted their sources as saying that Pasha had offered to quit after being cornered by lawmakers from the main opposition PML-N and the ruling Pakistan People's Party.

An emotional Pasha said he was ready to resign if Parliament asks him to do so, the channels reported.

Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, a senior leader of the PML-N, reportedly had a heated exchange during the session that began at 3 pm and continued for over six hours.

Tehmina Daultana, another senior leader of the PML-N, reportedly accused Pasha of meddling in politics.

The news channels further reported that some parliamentarians shouted "Shame! Shame!" as the ISI chief, a close aide of army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was questioned by lawmakers.

Pasha reportedly said that mistakes had been made but he had not erred knowingly. He also reportedly apologised to the people and Parliament.

There was no official word on the development.

Speaking to the media while the session was underway, information minister Awan said: "Clearly, the Director General (of the) ISI surrendered himself to parliament and said he was ready to appear before the Pakistani Prime Minister or parliament or any commission as he considers himself accountable".

Awan quoted Pasha as saying that he was ready to face the consequences of any "negligence or intentional failure" linked to the US raid.

Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani attended the joint session of parliament that was briefed by the ISI chief, Deputy Air Vice Marshal Asim Suleman and the Director General of Military Operations.

The briefing was followed by a question-and-answer session.

The military and the government are facing embarrassing questions after the US raid against bin Laden brought to light the fact that he had been living for years in a garrison city that is home to thousands of soldiers and several key military institutions.

The US administration has stepped up pressure on Pakistan to probe allegations of complicity or incompetence following the security establishment's failure to detect bin Laden's presence.

Pakistan's civilian government has been criticised by sections of the media and the public for its failure to act against the powerful military for its perceived failure to detect bin Laden as well as the raid by US special forces.

Awan quoted ISI chief Pasha as saying that some members of political parties were criticising the Pakistan Army and intelligence services and that this would go against "national interests and strengthen the enemy".

She contended it was time to stand behind the armed forces like a rock and boost their morale.

"They should be assured that they were not alone and the whole nation was behind them. They need to be supported at this critical juncture," she said.

Awan asked all political forces to foil attempts by the "enemies of Pakistan" to create a wedge between the people and the armed forces.

Awan quoted the ISI chief as telling parliament that the spy agency had "paralysed" al Qaeda and "broken its back" even before the killing of bin Laden by shattering the entire network of the terrorist group.

She said the briefing also addressed the parliamentarians' concerns about Pakistan's strategic assets.

A "highly sensitive and modern security system" is in place to guard strategic assets spread across the country and no one should even consider "casting an evil eye" at them, she said.

Awan said the military officials informed Parliament that "fully armed US aircraft were ready to react to any Pakistani reaction" to the raid against bin Laden.

The DGMO briefed the session about how the Pakistan Army had reacted to the US raid, she said.

The deputy air force chief spoke about the availability and status of radars along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He mentioned how the air force had responded.

ISI chief Pasha said the US used stealth technology in its helicopters so that they could not be detected by radars, Awan told the media.

"It was due to technological superiority that they managed to get in undetected," she quoted Pasha as saying.

Pasha also told the parliamentarians that the provincial government, local police and related agencies too were responsible for gathering information about the al Qaeda chief, Awan said.

"We are, of course, not shying away from our responsibility but all must share their failure," she quoted Pasha as saying.

The ISI chief said despite this shortcomings exposed by the US raid, Pakistan's defence forces were "fully ready to avert any misadventure".

He was critical of the role of some sections of the media and described them as "irresponsible".

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met leaders of parties allied to his Pakistan People's Party to forge a strategy for the joint session of the Senate and National Assembly.

Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had demanded that part of the joint session should be open to the media to ensure neutrality and transparency.

However, a meeting of the House Business Advisory Committee chaired by Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi was unable to evolve consensus on this issue.

The "Red Zone", an area in the heart of Islamabad that is home to important buildings like the parliament, presidency and Prime Minister's House, was sealed off hours before the session.

Security across Pakistan, already on high alert, was further enhanced after two suicide bombers struck a paramilitary training facility this morning and killed 80 people.

A meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, the country's highest decision-making body on security issues, on Thursday warned that Pakistan would review counter-terrorism cooperation with the US in the wake of the covert operation in Abbottabad.