ISLAMABAD — A political party opposed to U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan revealed what it said was the name of the top CIA spy in the country on Wednesday and called for him and the head of the agency to be tried for a recent missile strike.
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd would not confirm the Islamabad station chief’s name and declined to immediately comment. The Associated Press is not publishing the name given by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party because it could not verify its authenticity.
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. The missile attacks have become an increasing source of tension between the U.S. and Pakistan, but Washington has shown no willingness to stop them.
Shireen Mazari, the information secretary for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, called for the current station chief and CIA director John Brennan to be tried for murder and waging war against Pakistan in connection with a drone strike in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Nov. 21. She claimed the station chief did not enjoy diplomatic immunity.
Mazari said in a news conference that the strike on an Islamic seminary in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Hangu district “killed and injured a large number of those present, including children.”
But Pakistani intelligence officials say the attack killed five Afghan militants, one of whom was a deputy to the leader of one of the most dangerous groups fighting American troops in Afghanistan. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists.
The Hangu district police chief, Iftikhar Ahmad, said at the time that no one was seriously wounded in the attack.
The strike was one of the first to take place outside of Pakistan’s remote tribal region and outraged members of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which controls the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.
The party is led by cricket star Imran Khan, who has been an especially vocal critic of drone strikes. He and other Pakistani officials publicly criticize the strikes as a violation of the country’s sovereignty, although the government secretly supported some past attacks. They also say the strikes kill too many civilians.
Human rights organizations say the attacks have killed hundreds of civilians. The U.S. rarely discusses the covert CIA drone program in Pakistan, but officials have insisted the civilian casualty figures are much lower.
Khan’s party pledged on Saturday to block trucks carrying NATO troop supplies to and from Afghanistan until the U.S. stopped drone attacks. Protesters stopped trucks and roughed up drivers before the police intervened to stop them. The NATO supply trucks remain stuck though because transportation officials are still worried about what protesters will do.
The CIA pulled its top spy out of Pakistan in December 2010 after a Pakistani lawsuit accused him of killing civilians in drone strikes. The lawsuit listed a name lawyers said was the station chief, but the AP learned at the time it was not correct. Nevertheless, the CIA pulled out of the country after militants threatened to kill him.
It’s rare for a CIA station chief to see his cover blown. In 1999, an Israeli newspaper revealed the identity of the station chief in Tel Aviv. In 2001, an Argentine newspaper printed a picture of the Buenos Aires station chief and details about him. In both instances, the station chiefs were recalled to the U.S.
The CIA’s work is unusually difficult in Pakistan, one of the United States’ most important and at times frustrating counterterrorism allies.
The station chief in Islamabad operates as a secret general in the U.S. war against terrorism. He runs the Predator drone program targeting terrorists, handles some of the CIA’s most urgent and sensitive tips and collaborates closely with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
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. American officials said at the time that the station chief clashed with the U.S. ambassador in Pakistan, who objected to CIA drone strikes during diplomatic negotiations.
Associated Press writer Lara Jakes in Washington contributed to this report.