By Sebastian Abbot
and Lara Jakes
ISLAMABAD: Rising anger over deadly drone attacks spurred a Pakistani political party Wednesday to reveal the secret identity of what it said was the top U.S. spy in the country. It demanded he be tried for murder, another blow to already jagged relations between the two nations.
Two U.S. missile strikes in recent weeks — including one that killed the Pakistani Taliban’s leader as the government prepared to invite him to hold peace talks — has increased simmering tensions between Washington and Islamabad after years of public fury over the covert attacks. The apparent disclosure of the top CIA officer’s name will almost certainly strain the fragile diplomacy that the U.S. is relying upon to help negotiate an end to the war in neighboring Afghanistan.
It was the second time in recent years that Pakistanis opposed to drone strikes targeting Islamic militants have claimed to have revealed the identity of the top CIA spy in the country.
In a letter to Pakistani police, Shireen Mazari, the information secretary of political party Tehreek-e-Insaf, called for the CIA station chief in Islamabad and CIA Director John Brennan to be tried for murder and “waging war against Pakistan” in connection with a Nov. 21 drone strike on an Islamic seminary in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The political party is led by cricket star Imran Khan and controls the government in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. It is one of the main critics of the U.S. drone program and has pushed Pakistan’s federal government, which is controlled by a rival party, to take extreme measures like cutting off the NATO troop supply line to Afghanistan until the U.S. stops the attacks.
Mazari said in a news conference that the strike in the province’s Hangu district killed four Pakistanis and two Afghans, and also wounded children. In her letter, Mazari claimed that the CIA station chief did not enjoy diplomatic immunity and should be prevented from leaving the country. She said interrogating him could produce the names of the pilots who fly the drones.
Anila Khawaja, a spokeswoman for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, declined to say how the party learned the station chief’s name.
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd would not confirm the Islamabad station chief’s name and declined further comment. The Associated Press is not publishing the name disclosed by Mazari because it could not verify its authenticity.
Pakistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world for CIA agents, who operate there as secret soldiers in the U.S. war against terrorism. The job of the CIA station chief in Islamabad is generally a one-year assignment. It involves running the Predator drone program targeting terrorists and serving as a U.S. liaison to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, where the station chief’s identity is known by top officials.
The CIA station chief who ran operations in Pakistan during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden left his post in 2011 due to illness, U.S. and Pakistani officials say. The whereabouts of the current CIA chief in Islamabad were unknown Wednesday.