Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN | Sep 4, 2013, 01.55 AM IST
Pak military plotted to kill Asma Jehangir in India: US intelligence report The plan was evidently aborted after she learned of it and went public.
WASHINGTON: Pakistani military officials plotted to kill prominent human rights activist Asma Jahangir while she was on a visit to India, according to new US intelligence disclosures arising from the Snowden affair.
The plan was evidently aborted after she learned of it and went public. But it is just one incident in a pattern of extrajudicial killings orchestrated by Pakistani military and intelligence leaders, according to classified documents given by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to the Washington Post, which reported some episodes and extracts to protect perceived US interests vis-a-vis Pakistan.
US spy agencies have for years reported senior Pakistani military and intelligence leaders were orchestrating a wave of extrajudicial killings of terrorism suspects and other militants, the paper said.
It added in July 2011, an assessment of communications intercepts and other intelligence by the NSA concluded that the Pakistani military intelligence had continued over the preceding 16 months a pattern of lethally targeting perceived enemies without trial or due process.
The killings, according to the NSA, occurred ''with the knowledge, if not consent, of senior officers''.
The disclosure is important in the context of Pakistan's persistent denials of its use of terrorism, both domestically and against India.
New Delhi alleges attacks against India, on the border and inside the country, are carried out by the Pakistani military intelligence.
But Islamabad insists it is done by ''non-state actors,'' and on occasions has even gone to the extent of claiming India conducts terrorist attacks on itself and blames Pakistan.
The US assessment of Pakistani behavior in this regard, particularly in its domestic context, is blunt, stark, and even self-incriminating.
In fact, the Post report says, US officials repeatedly sought to keep evidence of Pakistani human rights abuses out of the public eye.
A classified diplomatic cable sent from the US Embassy in Islamabad to officials in Washington in September 2009, raising concern about the extrajudicial killings of militants by Pakistani army units, advised against public disclosure of the incidents. It said it was more important to maintain support for the Pakistani armed forces.
But while US publicly portrays Islamabad as an ally, the 178-page summary of the US intelligence community's so-called ''black budget'' reveals an intense focus on Pakistan as a toxic swamp of terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
''Pakistan appears at the top of charts listing critical US intelligence gaps. It is named as a target of newly formed analytic cells. And fears about the security of its nuclear program are so pervasive that a budget section on containing the spread of illicit weapons divides the world into two categories: Pakistan and everybody else,'' the Post report says, alluding to the fact that despite such concerns, Washington has lavished $26 billion aid to the country over the past 12 years.
The Snowden disclosures reveal the US is devoting tremendous amount of money, resources, and energy to assess Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and its safeguards.
US agencies are focused on two particularly worrisome scenarios, the report said: the possibility that Pakistan's nuclear facilities might come under attack by Islamist militants, as its army headquarters in Rawalpindi did in 2009, and even greater concern that they might have penetrated the ranks of military or intelligence, putting them in a position to launch an insider attack or smuggle out nuclear material.
Some success was reported in understanding the security of Pakistan nuclear arsenal. The black budget describes the creation of a Pakistan WMD Analysis Cell to track movements of nuclear materials.
Agencies, including the CIA and the Defense Department, were able ''to develop and deploy a new compartmented collection capability'' that delivered a ''more comprehensive understanding of strategic weapons security in Pakistan''.
Even so, ''the number of gaps associated with Pakistani nuclear security remains the same,'' the document said, and ''the questions associated with this intractable target are more complex''.
The budget documents indicate US intelligence agencies are also focused on the security of the nuclear program in India, the report said, without providing details.
Disclosure that India is also under US scrutiny in this regard should disabuse planners in New Delhi that Washington treats it as an ally in such matters.