ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s spy chief offered to resign Friday amid public outrage over the U.S. operation that killed Osama bin Laden, an incident that humiliated the nation’s army and cast doubt on the capabilities of an intelligence network long believed to be nearly omnipotent.
Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, in emotional testimony at a private session of Parliament, apologized for what he said was an intelligence lapse and said he would leave his post if Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani deemed him unfit for the job, according to lawmakers. Yet Pasha also spoke in defiant tones about Pakistan’s alliance with the United States, which was severely strained even before the bin Laden killing.
Protests in Pakistan draw masses upset over the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, with some vowing a revolution to avenge his death. This comes after a military center was bombed in apparent retaliation for the attack.
The testimony came hours after suicide bombers killed 80 paramilitary recruits at a training center near the northwestern city of Peshawar, in an attack the Pakistani Taliban claimed as “revenge” for bin Laden’s death. Although police said they were unsure whether that was the motive, the attack seemed likely to deepen anger over the commando raid by the United States, which many Pakistanis view as an unfaithful ally whose military campaign in neighboring Afghanistan has sparked a violent backlash inside Pakistan.
According to one lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Pasha said that ties with the United States had “gone bad” since the secret U.S. raid in the military garrison city of Abbottabad and that Pakistan would be prepared to “resist” any future such operations.
“They want to take action on their own on our soil,” Pasha said of the United States, according to this lawmaker. “We will not allow their boots on our ground.”
Pasha’s statement and offer to resign appeared to be part of an effort to acknowledge denunciations from opposition parties over the intelligence services’ failure to locate bin Laden’s redoubt in Abbottabad.
It was unclear whether Parliament would take action on the resignation offer, or even whether it had the authority. There were no demands during Friday’s session, which stretched into the early hours of Saturday, to accept the offer from Pasha, who has worked closely with the CIA since assuming his post in 2008. Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who was also present at the session, has already declined to accept Pasha’s resignation, lawmakers said.
Once the session ended, Parliament issued a resolution that condemned the U.S. raid in Abbottabad and asked the government to “revisit and review its terms of engagement with the United States.” The resolution expressed confidence in the Pakistani military but also called for an independent investigation into the bin Laden case and the U.S. operation. Earlier this week, Gillani announced that the military would lead an inquiry, a decision that was widely criticized.
The briefing — by Pakistan’s powerful top brass before a civilian body that has nominal influence — was extremely unusual. The army, of which Pasha’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate is a part, has ruled Pakistan for half of its 64-year existence, and it controls most foreign and security policy matters. As anger over the bin Laden operation has risen, the military has appeared to try to shift blame to the unpopular civilian government.