Fate of ISI, NDS agreement hangs in the balance

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  • Security official says Afghans resorting to maligning Pak’s intelligence apparatus through media after attacks
  • Analysts say anti-Pak lobbies working for decades in Afghanistan to deepen doubts about Pak’s role

 

Anti-terrorism intelligence cooperation between Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) hangs in the balance after successive terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan.

The ISI and NDS signed a landmark memorandum of understanding (MoU) for intelligence cooperation last month to disallow terrorists from using each other’s land for subversive actions against each other.

Details of the pact include identification of the common enemies for effective action. Towards that end, extremist and terrorist elements including Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Mullah Fazlullah have also been identified in the pact.

Moreover, the NDS has also provided a list of extremist outfits to the ISI, against which Afghanistan seeks Pakistan’s assistance. The pact helped strengthen ties between Islamabad and Kabul in addition to reinforcing their resolve on war on terror.

Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval said on May 23 that the recent agreement was based on “faulty assumption” that India uses its influence on Afghan officials to malign Pakistan for every problem in Afghanistan.

Many Afghan groups have reservations as well and continue to distrust the ISI regarding its covert support for the Taliban.

Once the deal was confirmed by both the countries, lobbyists became active to damage the intelligence sharing deal. India was in the forefront and put diplomatic pressure on Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani to review the agreement while its lobbyists made vocal efforts to derail the cooperation.

As the writ of Dr Ghani’s government shrinks to Kabul following the spate of recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, anti-Pakistan lobbyists build a potential argument to put blame on Pakistan for failure of the Afghan regime. The worst attack came on June 22 when Taliban launched a brazen assault on the Afghan parliament, triggering gunfire and explosions and sending lawmakers scurrying for cover.

This was followed by Afghan intelligence services spokesman Hassib Sediqqi’s alleging that an ISI officer had helped the Haqqani network carry out the attack outside parliament in Kabul. Sediqqi alleged that the suicide car bomb used in Monday’s attack was manufactured in Peshawar, adding that Afghan authorities were made aware of the attack on June 10 and had deployed extra security.

However, when asked whether the Afghan intelligence agencies had any forensic evidence to the support its claim, the NDS failed to come up with any reply. Pakistan saw this blame without any concrete evidence as a damaging factor in the bilateral ties. Foreign office spokesman was quick to counter the allegation, rejecting these allegations as ‘baseless’.

“These allegations have been leveled against ISI and its officers in the past as well,” Qazi Khalilullah said.

PAK, AFGHAN COOPERATION GOING DOWNHILL:

An official in the security establishment told Pakistan Today that the anti-terrorism cooperation has touched its “lowest ebb” after the recent attacks on the Afghan parliament. He further added that instead of taking up issues mutually, “the Afghans have resorted to maligning Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus through media”. He added that “such acts would only undermine Ghani’s own credibility”.

When asked what Afghanistan should have done to ensure good neighborly relations, the official said that if Afghanistan had any evidence, they should have shared it like Pakistan did recently.

“You saw what Pakistan did soon after the terrorist attack on APS School Peshawar? The army chief along with ISI DG traveled to Afghanistan along with forensic evidence, shared it with Afghan authorities and got action against terrorists. If Afghan government has any evidence, why do they resort to media attacks instead of sharing the information as outlined in the MoU,” the official added.

The official said that the recent memorandum of understanding (MoU) between ISI and NDS was a great achievement between both the brotherly neighbours who both were victims of the menace of terror and intelligence cooperation was best tool to counter terrorism jointly.

“Pakistan is a well-wisher of the Afghan government and its people. We are committed to the recent agreement on intelligence sharing to root out the menace of terrorism,” the official said. He also remarked that good neighborly relations and commitment to our relations with Afghanistan is Pakistan’s first priority.

“We would keep ignoring such allegations just to help the new Afghan government regain its strength against terrorists,” the official added.

INDIAN EXPLOITING SITUATION:

Noted security analyst Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi told Pakistan Today that Indians are exploiting situation in Afghanistan to their advantage and would keep doing so in future as well.

“The issue is the way in which Pakistan designs its activities to foil the goals of its enemies,” he added.

Commenting over the fate of the intelligence cooperation MoU, Rizvi opined that it is important to wait and see the extent to which it will impact the policies in Kabul vis-a-vis Pakistan.

“There is no empirical evidence on how much the intelligence cooperation has improved between Pakistan and Afghan government. What we see is that the rhetoric from Kabul has not changed and soon after the attack on their Parliament, they have again blamed Pakistan for it,” Rizvi added.

Noted journalist and analyst on Pakistan-Afghanistan relations Tahir Khan holds the view that anti-Pakistan lobbies were working for decades in Afghanistan to deepen doubts about the role of Pakistan.

“This agreement has helped restore trust between Pakistan and Afghanistan. But soon after the Afghan parliament attack, the NDS chose to blame Pakistan without a proper investigation or any evidence. This has badly damaged the trust building efforts,” he added.

Tahir Khan said that blame game would not help either Afghanistan or Pakistan and both sides must ensure better cooperation and institutional communications to help remove mistrust.

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