Shuja Pasha admitted ISI’s role in Mumbai attack: ex-CIA chief

In his latest book ‘Playing to the Edge’, Michael Hayden, the former CIA Director, expressed his deep frustration of the "duplicity" of the Pakistani leadership when it came to taking action against terrorist groups.

February 23, 2016 03:30 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 02:28 am IST - Washington

Soon after the 2008 Mumbai terror attack the then chief of Pakistan’s ISI conceded that some of the powerful spy agency’s retired members were engaged in training those involved in the heinous crime but refused to take action, a former CIA chief has said in a new book.

In his latest book ‘Playing to the Edge’, Michael Hayden, the former CIA Director, expressed his deep frustration of the “duplicity” of the Pakistani leadership when it came to taking action against terrorist groups in particular al-Qaeda, Taliban, LeT and the Haqqani network.

Arguing that the Pakistan Army is built to fight against India and not terrorists, the top leadership in the country, in particularly those from its military in the past one decade, have repeatedly expressed its inability to take on the terrorist groups in the tribal regions as desired by the U.S., he wrote.

Referring to the Mumbai terrorist attack, Mr. Hayden, who was the CIA chief till 2009, said it was very clear that there seemed to be so many Pakistani fingerprints on the atrocity.

“I began routinely harassing my counterpart in Pakistan, now Ahmed Shuja Pasha [the former director general of Military Operations, the Pakistan army’s top operational post], on the phone, urging him to get to the bottom of the attack and to discuss it frankly with us,” he wrote.

“We had no doubt that the attack was the work of LeT, and there was mounting evidence that preparation for and direction of the attack took place from within Pakistan, where LeT enjoyed the protection and support of ISI,” Mr. Hayden said.

Pasha, who had come to ISI only a few weeks earlier and had no previous intelligence experience, came to the U.S. on Christmas Day and spent most of the next afternoon in his office.

“He worked carefully from notes. His investigation had revealed that some former ISI members were involved with Lashkar-e-Taiba [no surprise there]. Pasha admitted that these unspecified [and still uncaptured] retirees may have engaged in some broad training of the attackers, but he was characteristically vague about any detailed direction the attackers had gotten during the attack via cell phone from Pakistan,” Mr. Hayden wrote in the book.

“I took to passing sufficiently sanitised intelligence to Pasha on what we believed was going on in order to try to goad him into action. If he knew that we knew...perhaps we could get some movement. We didn’t have a whole lot of success,” Mr. Hayden wrote.

Narrating an incident when the then Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf refused to fill up gas in the airplane that flew him to Islamabad, where he had gone to press him to take action against terrorists, Mr. Hayden wrote: “One more bit of evidence that these guys really were the ally from hell“.

The crew had forgotten their government credit card— you can’t make this stuff up— and the Pakistanis wouldn’t budge, he wrote.

Mr. Musharraf refused to take action, despite some crucial evidence being provided to him.

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