The head of Pakistan’s powerful Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence offered his resignation to the country’s prime minister on Friday as he sought to defend the role of the spy agency. Lieut. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the ISI chief, conceded that Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan had been an “intelligence failure” and that he was prepared to step down and submit himself to any scrutiny, parliamentarians from both government and opposition parties told TIME on condition of anonymity. Gen. Pasha was speaking at a rare, closed-door briefing to Pakistan’s parliament where the lawmakers swore an oath not to reveal details discussed.
“I present myself to the Prime Minister for any punishment and am willing to appear before any commission personally,” Gen. Pasha said, according to the parliamentarians who spoke to TIME. “But I will not allow the ISI, as an institution, or its employees, to be targeted.” According to those present, the general offered his resignation to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, but it was neither accepted nor openly declined. “He did offer to resign, but there was no reaction,” a parliamentarian tells TIME. During the briefing, the spymaster was subject to rare and fierce criticism from opposition lawmakers. Pasha is serving the final year of a two-year extension as ISI chief. He was appointed by, and remains close to, Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Sources close to the military told TIME that Gen. Pasha had offered Gen. Kayani his resignation before the corps commanders’ meeting at military headquarters on May 5, but the army chief declined to accept it.