ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The authorities in Pakistan have detained two former members of the country's intelligence service in the hope that they can provide information about the kidnapping of American journalist Daniel Pearl, Pakistani officials said yesterday.
The action represents an unusual assault on the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the powerful and semiautonomous military institution whose ties to Islamic militants have been a problem and an embarrassment for the current and previous governments of Pakistan.
The government is searching for a leader of Jaish-e-Muhammad, an Islamic militant organization. But the organization also has ties to Pakistan's intelligence agency, so experts here say it is not a surprise that the investigation would also result in the detention of the former Pakistani agents.
The more prominent of the two men known to have been detained is Khalid Khawaja, until recently a midranking member of the intelligence agency. Khawaja is not being accused of playing a role in the kidnapping, Pakistani officials said, but has been detained because his past ties to militant groups are thought likely to provide a lead in the case.
Among other things, Khawaja, a former air force officer, is said by Pakistani officials to have once served as a pilot for Osama bin Laden.
The arrests come at a crucial time in the investigation and for Pakistan's military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is scheduled to meet with President Bush at the White House this week.
After expressing early confidence that the case might be solved, Pakistani officials have become much more cautious, and some privately say that their best hope is that Pearl will be found unharmed in an empty apartment, with the kidnappers having vanished.