By Muhammad Saleh Zaafir
ISLAMABAD: Pulitzer prize winning American journalist Seymour Hersh has claimed that an elite US special forces squad which operates covertly and includes terrorism and non-proliferation experts from the US intelligence community — the Pentagon, the FBI, and the DOE — is already present in Pakistan and could well be housed in the US embassy in Islamabad.
The startling disclosure was made in Hersh’s candid interview with Pakistan’s most popular TV channel Geo News’ widely viewed current affairs programme ‘Meray Mutabiq’, hosted by Dr Shahid Masood. The programme was aired on Saturday late evening.
Seymour Hersh said that the Americans had been constituting such crack teams for various purposes and the team in question here was to deal with any eventuality including any fear of takeover by Taliban or any other ‘development’ with regard to Pakistani nukes.
Group Editor of The News Shaheen Sehbai taking part in the programme expressed the view that Musharraf’s remarks about President Asif Zardari, as attributed by Hersh, could not be casually ignored. He said it must be investigated why Musharraf accused Zardari of not being a patriot, because, according to Sehbai, Hersh had some inside information given to him in interviews with Musharraf and Zardari which he did not reveal in his report. But Sehbai said journalists always attribute information given to them by responsible people to “reliable sources” if these people ask them to refrain from quoting them directly.
Former Director General, Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, Lt Gen Hamid Gul also participating in the programme, verified the credentials of Hersh and gave a detailed account of US presence in the sensitive areas in Pakistan. He opined that the US wanted to delegate the role of proxy super power of the region to India and for that Pakistan had to be denuclearised.
Former Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad Khan expressed his apprehensions about the alleged activities but he ruled out any possibility of the US team being in a position to gain access to Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.
The host Dr Shahid Masood had raised the question about the action that the team/squad could take in any eventuality. He referred to previous reports of Hersh which appeared in New Yorker magazine last week in which Hersh disclosed that after the US authorities received a report by their embassy in Islamabad indicating that a Pakistani nuclear component had gone astray, a highly classified US military and civil-emergency response team was put on alert. The team which operates clandestinely is reportedly under standing orders to deploy from Andrews Air Force Base, in Maryland (Washington), within four hours of an alert.
When the report turned out to be a false alarm, the mission was aborted but by the time the team got the message, it was already in Dubai while on its way to Pakistan. Hersh quoted a consultant of the US Defence Department in his write-up and later he discussed the role of the US embassy in ‘Meray Mutabiq’ last week, which was hosted by Dr Shahid Masood and participated by Group Editor The News Shaheen Sehbai.
It was the maiden interview of the US investigative journalist in the wake of his thrilling write-up about the US plans towards Pakistan’s nuclear programme and the controversial observations of former President Musharraf regarding his successor. Seymour Hersh while standing by his report, pertaining to the comments offered by former President General (R) Pervez Musharraf about incumbent President Asif Zardari, has disclosed that the former president had given some harsher comments about his successor but in the ultimate scrutiny he allowed the remarks that he made part of his article.
General Hamid Gul disclosed in his talk with Dr Shahid Masood that former president General Pervez Musharraf allowed the US planes to land in Pakistan to pick Osama bin Laden about whom they had an inkling that he was present in a remote village of Balochistan. He said that when Hersh visited him to verify the veracity of the information, “I requested him to publish the story and he obliged. I was of the opinion that the Americans want to get in Pakistan under the pretext of the story that had yet to appear and it could open the way for future US incursions,” the General added.