Pakistan military plotted to kill Asma Jahangir in India: US report

Pakistani military officers plotted to kill prominent lawyer Asma Jahangir who has towered over Pakistan's human rights war for over four decades, while she was on a visit to India, according to documents given to The Washington Post by NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Uttara Choudhury September 05, 2013 08:28:50 IST
Pakistan military plotted to kill Asma Jahangir in India: US report

New York: Pakistani military officers plotted to kill prominent lawyer Asma Jahangir who has towered over Pakistan's human rights war for over four decades, while she was on a visit to India, according to documents given to The Washington Post by NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The 2012 plot was never carried out as Jahangir learned that Pakistani intelligence officials had marked her for death and went public with it. The top-secret US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report did not identify which officers were plotting to kill Jahangir in May last year, but said the plan "included either tasking militants to kill her in India or tasking militants or criminals to kill her in Pakistan."

Pakistan military plotted to kill Asma Jahangir in India US report

Pakistan's human rights activist Asma Jahangir during a session of the World Social Forum in Karachi. Reuters

Jahangir has been a leading critic of Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency for years and has been outspoken in mocking the mullahs and poking a finger in the face of the barrel-chested generals. The eagle-eyed lawyer has championed battered wives, defended people accused of blasphemy, and sought justice for the victims of honour killings. These battles have won her admirers and enemies in great number.

Although the report speculated that the ISI was motivated to kill Jahangir "to quiet public criticism of the military," the DIA noted that such a plot "would result in international and domestic backlash as ISI is already under significant criticism for intimidation and extra-judicial killings."

The Jahangir plot is just one incident in a pattern of extrajudicial killings orchestrated by Pakistani military and intelligence leaders, according to classified documents given by Snowden to The Post.

Pakistan nukes under US surveillance

According to the Post, the $52.6 billion US intelligence arsenal is aimed mainly at obvious adversaries, including al-Qaeda, North Korea and Iran. But top-secret budget documents reveal an equally "intense focus" on purported ally: Pakistan. A 178-page summary of the US intelligence community's "black budget" shows the US has increased its surveillance of Pakistan's nuclear arms.

"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," said the Post.

The disclosures expose new levels of US distrust in an already shaky security partnership with Pakistan. The budget documents don't break down how much the US government spends to spy on Pakistan. But Pakistan certainly is at the center of two key categories - counterterrorism and counter-proliferation - that dominate the black budget.

"US intelligence agencies are focused on two particularly worrisome scenarios: 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 Islamist militants might have penetrated the ranks of Pakistan's military or intelligence services, putting them in a position to launch an insider attack or smuggle out nuclear material," said the Post.

Pakistan faces terrible economic and energy crises as its nuclear enclave goes toe-to-toe against India. It is estimated to have as many as 120 nuclear weapons, and the budget documents indicate that US intelligence agencies suspect that Pakistan is adding to that stockpile.

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