In what is perhaps an unprecedented development, a major U.S. newspaper has called for the removal of the chief of a foreign country’s intelligence chief.

The New York Times, through an editorial, has requested that Washington forcibly take out Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s principal intelligence agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), amidst allegations the agency has close ties with militant groups.

“It should tell Pakistan’s security leadership that if Washington identifies anyone in ISI or the army as abetting terrorists, those individuals will face sanctions like travel bans or other measures,” the editorial stated.

The paper condemned ISI as “inimical to Pakistani and American interests” and requested Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari “to speak out firmly against abuses, insist on adherence to the rule of law and join his political rival, Nawaz Sharif, in pressing the security services to change”.

Another editorial by the Times addressed suspicions that the May murder of Pakistani reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad was engineered by Islamabad intelligence officials. (The US Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has made the same charge).

Shahzad had written articles intimating that high-level Pakistani government officials had links to terrorist groups.

The Times wrote: “Now the Obama administration has evidence implicating the ISI in this brutal killing… [Reform] can start by insisting on the retirement … Shuja Pasha, the ISI chief, and the appointment of a more credible successor.”

ISI is also suspected of having harbored and protected Osama bin Laden for years and planning the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.

Pakistan’s government has denied any involvement in Shahzad’s murder and denounced Mullen’s comments.

Pakistan’s minister of information, Firdous Ashiq Awan, said Mullen made an “extremely irresponsible and unfortunate statement.”

“This statement will create problems and difficulties for the bilateral relations between Pakistan and America,” Awan said. “It will definitely deal a blow to our common efforts with regard to the war on terror.”