At this crucial moment, the joint session of the Parliament has been considering the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) about Pakistan’s foreign policy in general and the new terms of engagement with the United States including NATO and ISAf in particular in the backdrop of deadly Salala attacks, killing 24 Pakistani troops on November 26 last year. Despite the rejection of US investigation report, suspension of NATO supply, vacation of Shamsi Airbase and boycott of the second Bonn Conference, America has not retreated from expanding its espionage network in the country.
For this purpose, US has decided to extend its embassy building in Islamabad with a height of seven storeys. In this respect, even The Washington Post reported recently that the US embassy in Islamabad, which already houses the largest CIA contingent in the world, is being expanded without approval of Pakistan’s foreign ministry or input from the country’s intelligence agencies.
It is notable that in January 16 this year, the building blueprint was approved by a committee consisting of the officials of the Capital Development Authority (CDA), representatives of Planning, Emergency and Disaster Management and members nominated by the Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners.
In this regard, an official of the CDA told a daily newspaper that the site plan of the US embassy was approved under new building by-laws enforced since 2007 in Islamabad under which ground plus seven storeys are allowed for the buildings in Diplomatic Enclave. Earlier only four storeys were allowed there.
However, without raising any objection and taking note of the security consequences, the committee which was satisfied with various features presented in the construction plan, blindly gave approval of constructing seven storeys.
According to media reports, when a local intelligence agency raised concerns on March 21 this year, the city managers of the CDA have decided to limit the height of the new US embassy complex to four storeys instead of seven. The spy agency asked the CDA “to explain as to how it could approve a seven-storey structure in the Diplomatic Enclave, and urged the CDA to take appropriate action.” Two weeks ago, the related secret agency had also written a letter to the CDA in which it termed the “building plan of the US embassy a security hazard.”
Although taking cognisance of the security concerns, the CDA has reportedly been left in a fix because on the one side, it could not afford to defy the genuine apprehensions of the intelligence agency, while on the other, it had no courage to unilaterally revoke or revise the approved plan of the embassy of the sole super power.
In this context, CDA Chairman Farkhand Iqbal told a daily newspaper, “We will definitely take appropriate action and will ask US authorities to stop construction of the embassy complex till further decision is taken by the CDA in this matter.”
Now, apparently it looks that instead of seven storeys, four storeys will be allowed for the US embassy’s complex. But the real scheme of the seven storeys will remain intact because the CDA cannot take any action on its own behalf to revise the US building plan unless the issue is being settled by the higher forum like the Foreign Office.”
Nevertheless, the clandestine aims behind the proposed height of the US embassy building is to fix surveillance devices and the sophisticated electronic monitoring system at the rooftop in order to enable the American officials and CIA agents to watch movements and activities inside important buildings such as the Presidential House, Prime Minister Secretariat, Parliament House, the ministries and government offices including the headquarter of Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).
It is of particular attention that in 2009, Pakistan’s media had focused on private security firms which American diplomats were using in the country under the pretext of providing security to its embassies. In this regard, the existence of the US notorious private security firm, Blackwater was verified in our country with a new name as Xe Services. In this respect, Blackwater and CIA started recruiting Pakistani nationals who were vulnerable and could work on their payroll.
As part of US espionage network, hundreds of the CIA agents who entered Pakistan under the guise of diplomats hired houses in Islamabad. They started supervising and guiding the anti-Pakistan activities of their affiliated militants including their Pakistani agents. Having coordination with Indian secret agency RAW and Israeli Mossad, these spies were not only trying to gather information about Pakistan’s nuclear assets, but also supporting subversive acts like suicide attacks, target killings, ethnic and sectarian violence so as to destabilise Pakistan as it is the only nuclear country in the Islamic world. In this respect, on January 27, 2011, the killing of two Pakistani nationals in Lahore by CIA agent, Raymond Davis had clearly exposed the intentions of America and covert operations of its secret agency.
Observing the activities of the so-called diplomats and CIA agents, ISI started thwarting the anti-Pakistan activities of the agents of Blackwater and CIA. In this context, with the pre-information of ISI, Pakistan’s police and other security agencies arrested a number of agents. For instance, on September 19, 2009, police raided the Inter-Risk, a private security company in Islamabad, and arrested its two employees, namely Tauqeer and Muhammad Khan, possessing unlicensed shotguns, handguns and ammunition. On the other side, US embassy spokesperson Richard Snelsire pretended, “The US contract with the Inter-Risk is to provide security at the embassy and consulates.”
While keeping vigilant eye on these external elements, on many occasions, ISI helped in stopping the secret movements of the CIA spies who were traveling in vehicles, covered with black mirrors—showing themselves as diplomats. Sometimes weapons were snatched from them, and sometimes they were sent back to Islamabad. In this respect, on the information of this top spy agency, Pakistan’s establishment expelled several American spies operating in the country. On the other side, US withheld $700 million in military aid to punish its military and ISI.
In fact, very differences started between Pakistan and America as ISI interrupted covet actions of these so-called diplomats. In this regard, during his meeting with the CIA Director Michael Morell in July, 2011, former ISI Director General Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha flatly told that we would continue anti-terror and intelligence-sharing cooperation between the two agencies, but would never tolerate a private ‘network’, the CIA is secretly maintaining in Pakistan.
Even new ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam will not deviate from real functions of ISI which it has already been performing. New DG can only further improve the efficiency of this agency, but basic aims of securing the national integrity remains the same.
Nonetheless, the US embassy expansion aims at accommodating greater influx of technical assets, undeclared CIA operatives and contractors to pursue CIA-led operations in Pakistan. It is in the same context that the US has been relentlessly lobbying for expanding infrastructure at Khalid Aviation Base, setting up of consulates in Multan and Quetta, and acquiring land accommodation facilities in major cities across the country. Americans are also trying to shift their consulate in Lahore to Johar Town, where they want to purchase a huge plot. But, the Foreign Office and intelligence agencies are not willing to allow the shifting of the consulate, presently located very close to the Governor’s House. In the recent past, the government had also rejected the request of American ambassador to open consulate in Quetta.
While Pakistan’s superior agency has compelled the CIA to wind up its network in the country, America’s new plan to extend the height of the US embassy complex is another spying project in Islamabad. It is the right hour that the government must intervene to revise the approval of the seven-storey scheme of the US embassy building, passed by the CDA as it is likely to pose multiple security threats to the country.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations