ISLAMABAD - The ‘disclosures’ from Defence Secretary LT-Gen (retd) Asif Yasin Malik on the ‘grey areas’ concerning the strategic relationship between Pakistan and the United States apparently put him into trouble with the retraction issued about his related statements a day after his assertion.

In an informal interaction with selective journalists from electronic media on Friday, the defence secretary was said to have spoken his mind on the presumed threats to Pakistan’s nuclear programme, contending that the US and United Kingdom were against it.

He was also quoted to have said that the spies from the foreign intelligence agencies were not allowed to operate undercover in Pakistan and the military authorities had complete information about the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) secret agents operating in Pakistan. Moreover, Malik also purportedly stated that Washington’s (toughened) tone and tenor towards Pakistan was ‘changing’ and there were no Black Water marines here anymore.

Requested to be kept off-the record, the Friday meeting was reportedly held on the pretext of briefing the electronic media correspondents about the newly found ‘success story’ of the PIA (Pakistan International Airlines). Sceptical about the secretary’s claims about the PIA, the journalists were less inclined to know about the state-run airlines’ presumed road to recovery from the unprecedented losses and were more interested in seeking answers to the questions shaping the crucial patterns, evolving the Pak-US strategic relationship, which have never been officially answered by the top quarters concerned.

Reportedly, anticipating compliance from the meeting participants to keep the nature of the event ‘unofficial,’ Asif Yasin Malik was said to have continued with the ‘disclosures’—for the very first time in a media interaction – to step into what many consider as uncharted terrain-threat perception on Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

The problem started when one of the journalists aired the news quoting the defence secretary on his views regarding the nuclear programme and the CIA agents. Aggrieved and panicked, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) wasted no time in contacting the media outlet concerned requesting it to replace the attribution made to the retired general to “Zarai” (sources) and not to air the part of the media talk concerning the ‘grey areas.’ The request was entertained, but the damage had already been done.

“Consequent upon the news item published in a section of the press, quoting the defence secretary on foreign issues, has been reported out of context and is based on assumptions. In response to a question, the spokesman for the Ministry of Defence clarified that the remarks attributed to the defence secretary by some sections of the press were incorrect and out of context. Pakistan is engaged in strategic dialogues with the United States and United Kingdom to strengthen cooperation in a broad range of areas on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interest.

We have similar arrangements with a number of other countries. We remain committed to our international partners to counter the threat of terrorism and promote durable peace and stability in the region, which is in the national interest of Pakistan. Military and intelligence cooperation form part of this broader common effort,” a ‘clarification’ issued by the Ministry of Defence said on Saturday. “The Ministry of Defence emphasises that the stories based on conjectures must not be given due space and importance,” it added. On the other hand, some of the journalists who were part of the meeting said that the related information aired and printed in some sections of the press was correct. It was, however, to be kept off-the-record, they agreed. “Every word of the broadcasted or printed news items is based on truth,” the correspondents said.