Washington: Shedding its India-centric phobia, Pakistan’s main spy agency ISI has in its new threat assessment determined that Islamist militants, and not India pose the main threat to Pakistan.
In a recent internal assessment of security, the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s most powerful military spy service has determined for the first time in 63 years that it expects a majority of threats to come from Islamist militants, The Wall Street Journal reported quoting a senior ISI officer.
The assessment, WSJ said, a regular review of national security allocated a two-thirds likelihood of a major threat to Pakistan coming from militants rather from India or elsewhere.
“It’s earth shattering. That’s a remarkable change,” Bruce Hoffman, a counter terrorism specialist and professor at Georgetown University was quoted as saying.
“It’s yet another ratcheting up of the Pakistanis’ recognition of not only their own internal problems but cooperation in the war on terrorism,” he said.
The paper said it was unclear whether the assessment of the ISI, largely staffed by active military officers, was fully endorsed by Pakistan’s military and civilian government.
“The report’s impact on troop positioning and Pakistan’s war against militants remains to be seen,” the daily said.
The assessment reflects the thinking in the mainstream of the ISI, The Wall Street Journal said.
“But US officials worry that elements of Pakistan’s military establishment, which they say includes retired ISI officers, continue to lend support to militants that shelter in Pakistan’s tribal regions, an effort these people say is aimed at building influence in Afghanistan once the US pulls out,” it said.
The paper quoted Major Gen Athar Abbas, the chief Pakistan military spokesman, as saying he hadn’t seen the ISI report.
He said India remained a threat but confirmed that it is the ISI’s role to draw up security assessments, the daily said.
While the jostling for influence in Afghanistan between India and Pakistan isn’t likely to diminish, WSJ said, the ISI assessment could push Islamabad into taking stronger action against Pakistani and Afghani militants operating from its porous mountainous travel region.
The paper claimed that US has been playing behind-the-scene role to dial down tensions between the two nations as Washington wants Pakistan to redeploy more troops from its eastern frontier with India and send them to Pakistan’s western border region.
The paper said India believes that ISI retains its ties with the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which New Delhi blames for carrying out the Mumbai attacks.
But the paper quoted Gen Athar Abbas as saying that Pakistan plans to mount a campaign against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan.
But the operation has been delayed as the Pakistan’s Taliban have recently staged a comeback in other tribal areas that the military had earlier secured.