Pakistan's military establishment on Thursday attempted to draw a distinction between its Inter-Services Intelligence
(ISI) agency "having links" with militant organisations and "supporting" such outfits, the Pakistan daily Dawn
In a wide-ranging conference that saw the country's powerful military establishment discuss security issues, including internal security, civil-military relations, and relations with India, Afghanistan, and the US, the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, hit out against allegations that the ISI has tied with militant organisations.
"Having links is different from supporting. Name any intelligence agency which does not have links. Links can be positive, and he [US Defence Secretary James Mattis] did not say there was support, so the narrative [against Pakistan's army and intelligence agencies] that I talked about is relevant here as well. We should not be a part of it. We have our own narrative," Ghafoor said, according to Dawn
Ghafoor's attempt at differentiating "links" from "support" came even as the country's civilian establishment, stung by remarks from US officials, sought to defend the ISI.
According to agency reports that cited Dawn, the Pakistani Foreign Office on Thursday refuted as "baseless" the remarks of a top US general who said the ISI has connections with terrorist groups.
"The US government and army cannot make Pakistan a scapegoat for its failures in Afghanistan," Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said.
Both Ghafoor and Zakaria were responding to remarks made by top US defence officials who explicitly named the ISI and said that the intelligence agency had "clear" connections with terrorist outfits.
"It is clear to me that the Inter-Services Intelligence
(ISI) has connections with terrorist groups," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford
had told the US Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
On Thursday, responding to the allegations, Zakaria said Pakistan has cleared its areas and begun a decisive offensive against terrorists on its soil.
Calling Gen Dunford's statement "baseless", he said Pakistan has acted against terrorists indiscriminately.
The top American general on Tuesday was joined by his Defence Secretary Jim Mattis
in slamming the ISI.
"We have seen havens left to the terrorists' own devices. We have seen the government of Pakistan come down on terrorism, while ISI appears to run its own foreign policy," Mattis had said, acknowledging for the first time in the public domain that ISI runs its own policy and does not seem to be controlled by the federal government.