is not subordinated to the will of any outside intelligence agency
howsoever friendly that agency may have been.
To claim that
there is a concerted campaign by certain individuals who do what they
please without any checks and balances is not justified.
all shades and hues have exploited ISI for their own purposes.
Of late Pakistan
has been the favorite whipping boy of the US media. It has been in the
eye of the storm for more than a year now. If the theme
was the grossly exaggerated and largely imaginary threat to the safety
and security of Pakistan's nuclear assets in the last quarter of
2007, it has now metamorphosed into the role of 'devious ISI' and its
alleged mischief mongering not only in the Pakistani neighborhood, but
within the country itself with the chorus of Pakistan needs to do more
in the war against terror providing the background noise all along.
surrounding the ISI came into sharp focus on the eve of the Pakistani
Prime Minister's recent visit to the US as a consequence of the clumsy
and ill conceived attempt to bring the ISI under greater political
control and the ensuing confusion of withdrawal of the notification
before even the ink had dried on it. Many observers have attributed
this hasty action to the desire of Pakistani leadership to appease the
American leadership by appearing to respond to the growing US
complaints against the ISI.
then, is what has suddenly gone wrong with the ISI which had
intimately worked with the CIA during the 1980s to push back the
Soviet invaders from Afghanistan and had been a vital source of
intelligence for the CIA in the post 9/11 operations in Afghanistan
and had to its credit the apprehension and handing over of hundreds of
Al Qaeda operatives to the American authorities.
the course of the past few years Indian intelligence presence has
vastly expanded in Afghanistan and Pakistani complaints about hostile
activities of Indian intelligence operatives working through the newly
established Indian Consulates in Kandahar, Jalalabad and other
locations in the proximity of Pakistani border have been reverberating
for some time now.
between the Karzai government and its Pakistani neighbor have also
been less than cordial and its defense and intelligence establishment
is dominated by the formerly Northern Alliance whose hostility towards
Pakistan is no secret. With these hostile sources of intelligence
feeding into the US intelligence, it is no wonder that suspicions
about the role of ISI have grown over time.
the level of violence in Iraq has of late gone down substantially the
reverse has been the case in Afghanistan with the number of US and
NATO casualties rising by the day. The expanding sway of Taliban in
Southern and Eastern Afghanistan and the growing ferocity of their
operations and instances of Taliban occupying and holding on to the
whole districts for weeks is embarrassing for the ISAF in Afghanistan.
circumstances the natural tendency is to look for scapegoats and ISI
happened to be the target over which the vendettas of the Afghans,
Indians and the US intelligence converged. Keeping in mind the example
of Iraq where Iran was the bogey and blamed for anything and
everything that went wrong in Iraq but when the going got better in
Iraq no one is talking of Iran now.
unfortunately now being blamed for all that afflicts Afghanistan
today. The only thing for which Pakistan is yet to be blamed is the
astronomical growth of poppy cultivation and narco-trafficking in
Now let us have a
look at some of the usual allegations against ISI.
The most common
accusation pinned against the ISI has been that some of its elements
who supported the Afghan Jihad and then the Taliban movement are still
pursuing the same agenda. Nothing can be farther from truth due to the
fact that ISI personnel are also mortals and those serving during the
80s have long retired.
Moreover, ISI is
not a permanent assignment for officers from the three services who
are deputed to ISI for a period of 2-3 years and only in exceptional
cases serve for prolonged tenures of 5-6 years. It is therefore hard
to imagine that those serving in the ISI in the 1980s and 1990s are
still serving there.
The second most
common allegation is that there are certain rogue elements within the
organization which are pursuing their own personal agendas. While in a
large organization where operatives in the field have a degree of
initiative, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that there can
be occasions where some individual or individuals would overstep their
mandate for which a professional and disciplined organization is bound
to take corrective actions and make the individuals accountable but to
claim that there is a concerted campaign by certain individuals who do
what they please without any checks and balances is not justified.
Finally, ISI is
a Pakistani asset whose prime responsibility is to defend the national
security interests within the parameters laid down by the Pakistani
government and it certainly is not subordinated to the will of any
outside intelligence agency howsoever friendly that agency may have
While it can be
rightly expected to be responsive to the requests of friendly
countries in terms of sharing of intelligence and providing assistance
it cannot and should not be expected to take orders from anyone but
the Pakistani authorities.
It is also a
fallacy to ascribe super human attributes and capabilities to the ISI
because it has its limitations in terms of resources: financial as
well as technical.
the past, the role of ISI 's political wing has been a source of
controversy. Unfortunately, governments of all shades and hues have
exploited it for their own purposes. If the government intends to
improve the civilian oversight of the ISI it could take a closer look
at the US system and create Intelligence subcommittees of the Senate
and National Assemblies, comprising people with requisite security
clearances to hold in-camera briefings on sensitive intelligence
are to be made ought to be thoroughly and dispassionately deliberated
based on the realities and not perceptions and purposely created
misperceptions since the issue involves extremely sensitive and vital
national security interests.
General ® Naeem Salik is a visiting scholar at School of Advanced
International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He has served in
National Command Authority from 1998 to 2005 and has been one of the
pioneers of the National Command Authority. National Command Authority
is believed to be the heart of Pakistani nuclear establishment.