ISI - Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence Agency

A State within a State ?

[Al Qaeda and the Inter Services Intelligence Agency]

BBC - Pakistan spy service 'aiding Bin Laden' (Dec 30, 2001)

BBC - Profile: Pakistan's military intelligence agency (Jan 9, 2002)

CNN - Has Pakistan tamed it's spies ? (Apr 29, 2002)

Washington Times - Pakistan: Al Qaeda's privileged sanctuary ? (Jun 17, 2002)

Asia Times - Pakistan: The world's next failed state ? (Mar 1, 2003)

[The Taliban and the Inter Services Intelligence Agency]

Times of India - CIA worked in tandem with Pakistan to create Taliban (Mar 7, 2001)

MsNBC - In Pakistan, a Grand Illusion: Ruling Afghanistan by Proxy (Oct 3, 2001)

Asia Times - Taliban's trails lead to Pakistan (Dec 13, 2001)

The Guardian - Pakistan's ISI playing dangerous game (May 25, 2002)


[Daniel Pearl and the Inter Services Intelligence Agency]

The Guardian - Journalist's killing 'linked to Pakistan intelligence' (Feb 24, 2002)

Asia Times - Pearl a victim of Pakistan's grim legacy (Feb 26, 2002)

Strategy Page - Pearl Murder, ISI and Pakistani Terrorism (Mar 15, 2002)

Guardian - Who killed Daniel Pearl ? US ignoring evidence of links with Pakistan's secret service (Apr 5, 2002)


[Kashmir Terrorism and the Inter Services Intelligence Agency]

The Times of India - How Pakistan's ISI funds it's proxy war (Nov 29, 1999)


[Hamid Gul, Former ISI Director-General]

Tehelka - Hamid Gul Interview: If it suits the US, they would start a jihad inside India (Sep 14, 2001)

Newsweek - Arnaud de Borchgrave interviews Hamid Gul (Sep 14, 2001)

Asia Times - Hamid Gul Interview (Nov 13, 2001)



M. Ehsan Ahrari

August 2001

The views expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


For the United States and other nations concerned with security in South and Central Asia, one of the most ominous trends has been the growing influence of Jihadist groups in Pakistan which feel obligated to wage holy war against everything that they perceive as non-Islamic. Their objective would be a Pakistani government similar to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The danger this would pose to regional stability and U.S. interests is clear. The author assesses Jihadi groups from the framework of a new "Great Game" for influence in Central Asia involving an array of states. He argues that, if this competition leads to increased violence, outside states including the United States could be drawn in. On the other hand, if the region stabilizes, it could provide solid economic and political partners for the United States. A well-designed American strategy, Ahrari contends, might help avoid crises or catastrophe.
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Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI]

The Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] was founded in 1948 by a British army officer, Maj Gen R Cawthome, then Deputy Chief of Staff in Pakistan Army. Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the president of Pakistan in the 1950s, expanded the role of ISI in safeguarding Pakistan's interests, monitoring opposition politicians, and sustaining military rule in Pakistan.
The ISI is tasked with collection of of foreing and domestic intelligence; co-ordination of intelligence functions of the three military services; surveillance over its cadre, foreigners, the media, politically active segments of Pakistani society, diplomats of other countries accredited to Pakistan and Pakistani diplomats serving outside the country; the interception and monitoring of communications; and the conduct of covert offensive operations.

The ISI has become a state within a state, answerable neither to the leadership of the army, nor to the President or the Prime Minister. The result is there has been no real supervision of the ISI, and corruption, narcotics, and big money have all come into play, further complicating the political scenario. Drug money is used by ISI to finance not only the Afghanistan war, but also the proxy war against India in Punjab and Kashmir.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee deals with all problems bearing on the military aspects of state security and is charged with integrating and coordinating the three services. Affiliated with the committee are the offices of the engineer in chief, the director general of medical service, the Director of Inter-Services Public Relations, and the Director of Inter-Services Intelligence.

Staffed by hundreds of civilian and military officers, and thousands of other workers, the agency's headquarters is located in Islamabad. The ISI reportedly has a total of about 10,000 officers and staff members, a number which does not include informants and assets. It is reportedly organized into between six and eight divisions:

Joint Intelligence X (JIX) serves as the secretariat which co-ordinates and provides administrative support to the other ISI wings and field organisations. It also prepares intelligence estimates and threat assessments.

The Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB), responsible for political intelligence, was the most powerful component of the organisation during the late 1980s. The JIB consists of three subsections, with one subsection devoted to operations against India.

The Joint Counter Intelligence Bureau (JCIB) is responsible for field surveillance of Pakistani diplomats stationed abroad, as well as for conducting intelligence operations in the Middle East, South Asia, China, Afghanistan and the Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union.

Joint Intelligence / North (JIN) is responsible for Jammu and Kashmir operations, including infiltration, exfilteration, propaganda and other clandestine operations.

Joint Intelligence Miscellaneous (JIM) conducts espionage in foreign countries, including offensive intelligence operations.

The Joint Signal Intelligence Bureau (JSIB), which includes Deputy Directors for Wireless, Monitoring and Photos, operates a chain of signals intelligence collection stations along the border with India, and provide communication support to militants operating in Kashmir.
Joint Intelligence Technical

In addition to these main elements, ISI also includes a separate explosives section and a chemical warfare section. Published reports provide contradictory indications as to the relative size of these organizational elements, suggesting that either JIX is the largest, or that the Joint Intelligence Bureau is the lrgest with some sixty percent of the total staff. The Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) is the ISI's main international financial vehicle.

The Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence is of particular importance at the joint services level. The directorate's importance derives from the fact that the agency is charged with managing covert operations outside of Pakistan -- whether in Afghanistan, Kashmir, or farther afield. The ISI supplies weapons, training, advice and planning assistance to terrorists in Punjab and Kashmir, as well as the separatist movements in the Northeast frontier areas of India.

The 1965 war in Kashmir provoked a major crisis in intelligence. When the war started there was a complete collapse of the operations of all the intellience agencies, which had been largely devoted to domestic investigative work such as tapping telephone conversations and chasing political suspects. The ISI after the commencement of the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war was apparently unable to locate an Indian armoured division due to its preoccupation with political affairs. Ayub Khan set up a committee headed by General Yahya Khan to examine the working of the agencies.

The ISI has been deeply involved in domestic politics and, has kept track of the incumbent regime's opponents. Prior to the imposition of Martial Law in 1958, ISI reported to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army (C-in-C). When martial Law was promulgated in 1958 all the intelligence agencies fell under the direct control of the President and Chief Martial Law Administrator, and the three intelligence agencies began competing to demonstrate their loyalty to Ayub Khan and his government. The ISI and the MI became extremely active during the l964 presidential election keeping politicians, particularly the East Pakistanis, under surveillance.

The ISI became even more deeply involved in domestic politics under General Yahya Khan, notably in East Pakistan, where operations were mounted to ensure that no political party should get an overall majority in the general election. An amount of Rs 29 lac was expended for this purpose, and attempts were made to infiltrate the inner circles of the Awami League. The operation was a complete disaster.

Mr. Bhutto promoted General Zia-Ul-Haq in part because the Director of ISI, General Gulam Jilani Khan, was actively promoting him. General Zia, in return, retained General Jilani as head of ISI after his scheduled retirement. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto established the Federal Security Force and gave it wide-ranging powers to counter the influence of ISI, but the force was abolished when the military regime of Zia ul-Haq seized power in 1977. When the regime was unpopular with the military and the president (as was Benazir Bhutto's first government), the agency helped topple it by working with opposition political parties.

The ISI became much more effective under the leadership of Hameed Gul. The 1990 elections are widely believed to be rigged. The Islami Jamhoori Ittehad [IJI] party was a conglomerate formed of nine mainly rightist parties by the ISI under Lt General Hameed Gul to ensure the defeat of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) in the polls. Gul denies this, claiming that the ISI's political cell created by Z.A. Bhutto only 'monitored' the elections.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan made Pakistan a country of paramount geostrategic importance. In a matter of days, the United States declared Pakistan a "frontline state" against Soviet aggression and offered to reopen aid and military assistance deliveries. For the remainder of Zia's tenure, the United States generally ignored Pakistan's developing nuclear program. Pakistan's top national security agency, the Army's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, monitored the activities of and provided advice and support to the mujahidin, and commandos from the Army's Special Services Group helped guide the operations inside Afghanistan. The ISI trained about 83,000 Afghan Mujahideen between 1983 to 1997 and dispatched them to Afghanistan. Pakistan paid a price for its activities. Afghan and Soviet forces conducted raids against mujahidin bases inside Pakistan, and a campaign of terror bombings and sabotage in Pakistan's cities, guided by Afghan intelligence agents, caused hundreds of casualties. In 1987 some 90 percent of the 777 terrorist incidents recorded worldwide took place in Pakistan.

The ISI continues to actively participate in Afghan Civil War, supporting the Talibaan in their fight against the Rabbani government.

ISI is currently engaged in covertly supporting the Kashmiri Mujahideen in their fight against the Indian authorities in Kashmir. Reportedly "Operation Tupac" is the designation of the three part action plan for the liberation of Kashmir, initiated by President Zia Ul Haq in 1988 after the failure of "Operation Gibraltar." The designation is derived from Tupac Amru, the 18th century prince who led the war of liberation in Uruguay against the Spanish rule. According to a report compiled by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) of India in 1995, ISI spent about Rs 2.4 crore per month to sponsor its activities in Jammu and Kashmir. Although all groups reportedly receive arms and training from Pakistan, the pro-Pakistani groups are reputed to be favored by the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence. As of May 1996, at least six major militant organizations, and several smaller ones, operate in Kashmir. Their forces are variously estimated at between 5,000 and 10,000 armed men. They are roughly divided between those who support independence and those who support accession to Pakistan. The oldest and most widely known militant organization, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), has spearheaded the movement for an independent Kashmir. Its student wing is the Jammu and Kashmir Students Liberation Front (JKSLF). A large number of other militant organizations have emerged since 1989, some of which also support independence, others of which support Kashmir's accession to Pakistan. The most powerful of the pro-Pakistani groups is the Hezb-ul-Mujahedin. The other major groups are Harakat-ul Ansar, a group which reportedly has a large number of non-Kashmiris in it, Al Umar, Al Barq, Muslim Janbaz Force and Lashkar-e Toiba, which is also made up largely of fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to press reports, several hundred fighters from Afghanistan and other Muslim countries have also joined some of the militant groups or have formed their own. The Harakat ul-Ansar group, a powerful militant organization which first emerged in 1993, is said to be made up largely of non-Kashmiris.

ISI is reported to operate training camps near the border of Bangladesh where members of separatist groups of the northeastern states, known as the "United Liberation Front Of Seven Sisters" [ULFOSS] are trained with military equipment and terrorist activities. These groups include the National Security Council of Nagaland [NSCN], People's Liberation Army [PLA], United Liberation Front of Assam [ULFA], and North East Students Organization [NESO]. ISI is said to have intensified its activities in the southern Indian States of Hyderabad, Bangalore, Cochin, Kojhikode, Bhatkal, and Gulbarga. In Andhra Pradesh the Ittehadul Musalmeen and the Hijbul Mujahideen are claimed to be involved in subversive activities promoted by ISI. And Koyalapattinam, a village in Tamil Nadu, is said to be the common center of operations of ISI and the Liberation Tigers.

The ISI Role in Pakistan's Politics

Dr. Bidanda M. Chengappa, Senior Fellow, IDSA

The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate has over five decades of nationhood emerged into a powerful institution in Pakistan. It has been active as an organisation both under military rule and civilian regimes. The ISI gains importance from the fact that the political and military leaderships have always perceived threats to their national security since independence. The role of an intelligence agency is to serve as the first line of defence by providing the government with advance information about threats to national security.

The ISI has a monolithic organisational structure which oversees both external and internal intelligence operations in the country. The organisation's internal intelligence operations tend to be generally associated with the abuse of power. This negative view needs to be linked to whether or not the government has clearly defined their charter of duties for internal operations. Considering this problem remains a grey area even in a liberal democracy like the United Kingdom, the case of Pakistan as a 'limited' democracy may well be far worse. To that extent both the government and the intelligence agency are to blame for the latter's misuse of power.

Pakistan like other countries has serious problems in managing its intelligence agencies. This is evident from the fact that in over five decades of nationhood there have been six committees to review their functioning. To complicate matters, the country has experienced 24 years of military rule in 52 years of nationhood, which enables greater scope for misuse of intelligence agencies. It is clear from journalistic reportage, writings of politicians, bureaucrats and political commentators that both military and democratic regimes alike have abused intelligence agencies for promoting their party/personal rather than constitutional interests.

The ISI concentrated more on internal rather than external intelligence for the first three decades. Till the 1970s, the organisation had a limited external agenda which was largely India-centric. This was due to the fact that Pakistan had fought three wars with India and remained preoccupied with an Indian military threat to her national security. Thereafter the ISI altered its focus with the Russian military entry into Afghanistan and has since evolved a greater external orientation. The ISI was closely involved with the guerilla war against Soviet forces through the 1980s. Despite these commitments the ISI retained its internal-orientation due to the compulsions of military rule which involved tracking political personalities and parties who could prove problematic for the generals who wielded power.

Prior to the creation of the ISI, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) as the sole intelligence agency was already in existence and was primarily a quasi-police organisation headed by a senior police officer. The IB's poor performance in the 1947-8 Indo-Pakistan war over Kashmir resulted in the decision to create the ISI with an India-centric focus in 1948. The civilian government in the initial decade of independence depended on the IB for its intelligence inputs. Thereafter with the switch to military rule in 1958, the ISI was on the ascendant largely because the generals preferred to rely on an organisation with a military character rather than a quasi-police outfit. To an extent, the ISI-IB relationship was an extension of the civil-military equation in the country wherein the civil bureacracy had weakened due to political interference, corruption and lateral entries from the armed forces, besides other sectors. The military however remained insulated from political interference and largely maintained its professionalism.

While discussing the role of intelligence agencies in internal politics some cases are justifiable wherein there is a national security angle. For instance, the need for the ISI and/or the IB to keep track of domestic politics is necessary owing to the separatist demands by various ethnic groups to break away from the nation. This refers to the problem in Sind and Pakhtunistan which have acquired ethno-nationalistic dimensions. It poses a serious threat to the integrity of Pakistan and therefore the involvement of intelligence agencies in principle may not be questionable. However intelligence operations are usually suspect in their modus operandi which often merits scrutiny.

The aim of this paper is to examine the ISI role in Pakistani politics during the post-Zia period which begins from September 1988 till the late 1990s. It would be useful to provide a theoretical perspective for a better understanding of the subject. This would include a discussion on the various models of intelligence agencies and the nature of their operations. The major issues are: (a) the formation of the Islamic Jamouhri Ittehad (IJI) in September 1988 as a counter to the PPP (b) the taping of the private conversation between former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the late Rajiv Gandhi in Islamabad in July 1989, (c) an abortive attempt to topple Benazir Bhutto through a vote of no-confidence in October 1989 (d) Benazir's ouster from premiership in August 1990 (e) the split in the MQM party during April 1992 (d) the death of General Asif Nawaz Janjua in January 1993.

To understand the ISI's domestic intelligence activities in the 1990s it would be useful to review its internal role under earlier regimes. The paper therefore outlines the ISI internal role under leaders like Ayub Khan, Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto and Zia-ul Haq. Though the paper primarily deals with the ISI, it also discusses some instances of IB involvement in internal politics. The four main intelligence agencies in the country are the Intelligence Bureau, the ISI, the Military Intelligence (MI) and the state police Special Branch (which provides intelligence from the provinces).

Theoretical Framework

The main sources of the 'idea' of the state are to be found in the concept of nation and the organising ideology. Invariably a strong state apparatus might compensate for a weak organising ideology or legitimacy. A weak state has an overriding concern with domestic security threats and is characterised by insufficient political and societal consensus to enable them to eliminate the large-scale use of force.

The characteristics of a weak state are: (a) high levels of political violence (b) active role of political police affecting the daily life of citizenry (c) political conflict over nature of the organising political ideology (d) lack of coherent national identity (e) no clearly defined hierarchy of political authority (f) high degree of state control over the media.1

In a scheme for the classification of intelligence agencies there are three models: (a) bureau of domestic intelligence (b) political police (c) independent security state. (a) The bureau would have specific powers derived from a charter or statute and it is primarily concerned with information-gathering about criminal prosecution of security offences and it does not conduct aggressive countering operations against citizens or political groups. (b) the political police is different from the bureau because it enjoys greater autonomy from the democratic policy-making and is adequately insulated from the legislative and judicial scrutiny. It is close to the groups in power wherein its powers and responsibilities flow from loosely defined delegations of executive power. It could also gather political intelligence and conduct aggressive countering operations against political opposition. (c) The independent security state has no external controls and differs from the political police because its goals are determined by agency officials and could be dissimilar to that of the political elite. Its operations are directed by the agency officials rather than the elected officials.2

The internal role of an intelligence agency essentially revolves around counter-intelligence activities and domestic intelligence duties. Counter-intelligence aims to thwart the efforts of hostile countries which threaten national security through activities like espionage, subversion, sabotage or assassination. Whereas domestic intelligence is concerned with:

"…threats against its ability to govern, or its very existence, that arise from individuals or groups within the nation's borders. Such threats could come from groups that seek to overthrow the government by illegal means, that seek to use violence to change government policies, or that seek to exclude from the body politic members of a given ethnic,racial, or religious group."3

There are different definitions of domestic intelligence which need to be highlighted. According to one view "gathering information on individuals within a country who allegedly attempt to overthrow the government or deprive others of their civil liberties or rights." To quote another : " information-gathering and record keeping which is unrelated to a particular, known crime and is directed at persons and groups engaged in political activity."4 The various definitions share a commonality about the political nature of their targets of domestic intelligence. This therefore gives rise to the label 'political police' which makes its role different from other internal functions which focus on intelligence generated to deter criminal activity or for law enforcement purposes.

What the state seeks from an intelligence organisation is information which can provide assistance in the maintenance of control in order to achieve the desired policies. If an intelligence agency does not confine its activities within a framework of the law then it proves detrimental to the pursuit of democracy. National security policy makers are forced to balance security needs with pluralistic interests and expectations. Therefore an intelligence organisation must be subject to civilian control:

… the growth of an unrepresentative and unaccountable state within the State has been a product of the twentieth century . Its growth was, paradoxically, actually aided by the unpopularity of security and policing agencies; forced by this into the lowest possible visibility, they learned to develop techniques of invisible influence and control.5

The study of intelligence agencies necessarily involves the three inter-linked concepts of information, power and law. The objective of intelligence organisations is to obtain information often by transgressing the law in order to ensure there is no threat to the power of the state.

Theoretically, decision-making in government is supposed to have the benefit of intelligence inputs. To that extent an intelligence agency has the ability to influence decisions in its own way by providing or withholding information from decision makers. In turn this affects the manner in which the government is able to exercise its power.

Intelligence agencies often feel the need to obtain information through illegal means like telephone tapping, audio-surveillance or bugging, breaking into buildings to access documents, torture individuals etc. These activities of intelligence agencies if exposed in the media can prove to be highly detrimental to the position and image of the government. Yet the government becomes a party to the acts of omission and commission of the intelligence organisations.

For the politico-bureaucratic leadership often intelligence-related activities could prove to be an enormous embarrassment and therefore these agencies remain low-profile faceless organisations. This particularly pays the government dividends when it has to publicly deny any involvement about the role of an intelligence agency which comes to light. Invariably such a situation arises when the agency has mishandled an operation which then gives rise to a problem. It could either be related to human rights or to a violation of a citizen's privacy. Thus intelligence organisations as a faceless facet of governance amount to an invisible government.

An intelligence agency, though a part of the bureaucracy, has some notable differences which stem from the nature of its relationship to the state and society. The agency attempts to maintain its autonomy from the state in terms of targets, nature of operations and counter-strategies. It also helps an agency to resist encroachment by other state agencies and thereby ensure its autonomy. Significantly, secrecy is integral to sustain such autonomy.

The other issue is the intelligence agency-society relationship. The agency in its information-gathering operations has to neccesssarily penetrate society. These operations which are conducted on some occasions against resistance and otherwise unheeded are aimed at the state's endeavour to maintain security and order.

Governments often tend to confuse their own security with security of the state in the context of domestic politics.6 For instance the government often invokes 'national security' to identify domestic opponents with some foreign threat to indulge in 'legitimate' violence.7

These threats have three dimensions-internal, external and externally fostered internal security vulnerabilities. In view of such a situation an intelligence organisation tasked with ensuring the security of state, is involved with both internal and external security functions. Some countries have separate intelligence organisations to operate internally and externally while others have a single organisation for both internal and external operations.

While internal and external threats do not merit further elaboration, the externally fostered internal security threat needs definition. It is an amalgam of these two threats wherein a foreign power is involved with providing assistance to insurgency or ethnic groups pursuing separatist demands. Similarly a foreign power attempting to destabilise another country's government using the latter's citizens through economic warfare or other means also falls under this category.

It would therefore be relevant to make a distinction between the role intended of an intelligence agency in promoting internal security functions and its track record gleaned from the print media or book length studies. In the case of the ISI it appears that the agency has attempted to pursue its intended role as well as interfere in domestic politics. The latter role gains importance from the fact that it directly impacts on the political instability in Pakistan.

Introduction: pre-Zia period

This section discusses the ISI role in Pakistani politics under the various leaders like Ayub Khan, Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto and Zia-ul Haq. Initially the ISI lacked an internal role which was the domain of the Intelligence Bureau. However as the first signs of seccessionism surfaced in the erstwhile East Pakistan during the late 1950s the politco-bureaucratic leadership suspected the sympathies of Bengali IB officers and directed the ISI to operate there.

This explains how the ISI role in domestic politics developed over the years. Thereafter the government- of- the-day determined the priorities and directions of the intelligence agencies. In turn these directives shaped the professional culture and orientation of intelligence agencies in the country. One commonality between these regimes whether military or civil was that they used intelligence agencies to dabble in domestic politics.

Former Pakistan President Iskandar Mirza in an interview to the Pakistan High Commissioner MAH Isapahani in Great Britain makes a reference to the Ayub era. He highlights the priorities of military intelligence being more on internal intelligence rather than on external intelligence. Mirza attributes Pakistan's military failure in one of the Indo-Pakistan wars, among others issues, to this incorrect orientation of the military intelligence apparatus.8

The late Editor Mazhar Ali Khan wrote in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn:

The ISI is seen by many people to be an unwanted legacy of military rule. While under martial law regimes, the agency's expanding constitutional role was at least understandable, because with the Constitution suspended, the will of the military dictator took precedence over every rule, law and tradition; but after the end of military rule and restoration of the Constitution, for ISI's functioning to go beyond its parameters was violative of the Constitution. It also defied the regulations that govern the network of agencies and institutions that serve the armed forces.9

The ISI and the Intelligence Bureau from time to time participated in influencing the domestic politics of Pakistan. The late President Ayub Khan abused the ISI for political ends as did his successors Yahya Khan and late Prime Minister Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto. Under the Ayub regime, the ISI after the commencement of the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war was apparently unable to locate an Indian armoured division due to its preoccupation with political affairs.

During the Ayub Khan years the ISI's professionalism comes across when it convinced him against a particular course of action related to involvement in internal politics. This incident relates to the military dictator's decision to assassinate his political rival Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan. However the ISI told the President that he would soil his hands as the proposed victim had no personal enemities and the murder could be easily traced back especially if committed by a state organ.10

Similarly during the Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto regime the IB was accused of malpractices going by the fact that its chief was shunted out of office unlike his ISI counterpart. One reason for this could be that while the head of the IB did not cooperate with the Pakistan Army in working against Bhutto the DG ISI on the other hand must have supported the Generals.

Z.A. Bhutto has been credited with strengthening the ISI role in domestic politics and in the mid 1970s, during his leadership there were problems in Balochistan and North-West Frontier Province which neccessitated the creation of ISI political cells in these areas. This was because the leadership distrusted Pathan and Baloch IB officers.

The other reference to the ISI is available in Stanley Wolpert's latest book 'Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan: His Life and Times'.11 The author states how the ISI and the IB cooperated with each other to interfere in domestic politics during the late Prime Minister ZA Bhutto's regime. According to him the Director of the IB, M Akram Sheik and the Joint Director (IB) Muhammad Isa were busy with the compilation of dossiers, analyses and detailed reports on National Assembly candidates and their respective election prospects. He discusses how on February 19, 1977 the ISI headed by Director General Ghulam Jillani Khan alongwith the IB jointly compiled an assessment of the PPP's election prospects. Brigadier (retd) Syed Tirmazi, a former ISI officer states:

"It may be noteworthy that we hardly carried out any surveillance of politicians. The activities of some were, however, kept under discreet, decent, unobtrusive and invisible 'watch'. At times, we were also ordered to bug the telephones of some individuals. Such orders came in writing from the Prime Minister himself. This authority he had not delegated to anyone else. We would compile the report and sent it to the PM with appropriate recommendations to continue or discontinue the watch. In most cases it was discontinued".12

The Pakistan Government brought out a White Paper which focuses on the role of intelligence agencies in the country and particularly their internal involvement. Z A Bhutto has extensively referred to this White Paper in his autobiography "If I Am Assassinated…" To quote:

The role of the Intelligence agencies of the State as a political arm of the PPP regime, particularly in relation to the general elections, raises many questions. When politics permeates such sensitive institutions as the Intelligence Bureau or the Inter-Services-Intelligence Directorate, it naturally deflects them from their prime concern with the State's external and internal security. Political bias against dissenting political parties which are a very necessary component of a democratic society, also tends to complicate and distort the task of State security.13

Thereafter during the Zia years the role of the ISI is quite evident in Benazir Bhutto's autobiography 'Daughter of the East' on how the martial law regime sought to suppress the PPP. The ISI not only kept tabs on the Bhutto family when they were in the country but also during their stay abroad. In one instance a Pakistani surveillance team attempted to keep track of Benazir even while she was in political exile in London. She then telephoned Scotland Yard and complained about a car-load of men waiting outside her house. Only after that the Pakistani intelligence ceased to intimidate her in London.14

A former Punjab Governor the late Lt General Ghulam Jillani Khan himself once reportedly expressed apprehensions about being under surveillance during the Zia regime. The General is supposed to have asked Brigadier Syed AI Tirmazi who was then serving as the director—joint counter-intelligence—ISI Directorate, whether he was under surveillance. General Ghulam Jillani Khan was a father figure credited with nurturing the ISI rise from a peripheral to a powerful organisation in Pakistan. He had served as the DGI under three regimes beginning with President Yahya Khan, Prime Minister Ali Bhutto and President Zia. Given his intimate knowledge of ISI's policy directives he may not have had misplaced fears.15 Like his predecessors, Zia too did not hesitate to use the ISI for promoting his political interests of retaining power. It is well known that the military dictator instructed the ISI to unite all the opposition parties into the IJI in order to neutralise the PPP from regaining power.

Information and Governance

The inability of democracy to take root in Pakistan provides scope for martial law to assert itself which in turn gives rise to the ISI—as an adjunct of the military—to get involved with internal politics. In a genuine democracy symbolised by committed party workers and a free press the role of an intelligence agency tends to get diluted due to the active role of democratic institutions. Similarly in a 'limited' or 'guided' democracy which prevails in Pakistan the converse is true.

Pakistan since creation faces a problem of political leadership which can be traced to the colonial rule. During the British Indian regime local influentials proved to be suitable candidates for elections to the provincial assemblies. Thereafter with the ascendance of the Muslim League in nationalist politics a problem arose because it was not an indigenous or "homegrown" party. It was an external element in the provincial politics. Hence provincial political leaders and bureaucrats developed a degree of suspicion towards the Muslim League. To that extent the Muslim League was unable to substitute the provincial administrative machinery "as a rival source of patronage". In the process bureaucracy controlled the flow of funds rather than the political party. These factors enabled the bureaucracy to eclipse the political leadership and assert itself in the first decade of independence. Subsequently power shifted from the bureaucracy to the military which then assumed the mantle of leadership for almost two and a half decades. On account of these factors the development of democracy remained dwarfed in the country.

In the absence of democracy there was no scope for political parties to develop into strong organisations. In the sense that a politically well-managed party voted to power would depend on its workers for information about political, economic and social developments around the country. Similarly democracy is also synonymous with a free press which provides the pulse of the nation and amounts to an information channel for the government. Moreover, the hallmark of news media being timely and credible news-reportage, it provides the best source of information to the leadership as a tool for governance. Thus the lack of democracy for almost two and a half decades has denied the nation two important information channels, namely, the political parties and the press, which are so necessary for good governance.

The Pakistani generals during their two and a half decades of military rule did not opt for these democratic sources of information available to them. Instead they had to rely on their intelligence agency as the sole source of information as a tool for governance. So much so that in a martial law regime the intelligence organisation played the dual role of political parties and the press vis-à-vis the government. While the military has directly ruled the country for almost half its existence earlier it has also indirectly ruled during the other half through its intelligence agency. Evidently the military never wanted to release its hold on political power and preferred to remain a 'back seat driver' guiding or limiting the evolution of democracy in the country. Moreover the generals were keen on supporting a friendly political regime that would agree to their terms and conditions in running the government. The intelligence agency owing to its close relationship with the military government was therefore able to emerge into a power centre in the country.

Post Zia period

During this period there was an uneasy relationship between the military and the political leadership when the country last experienced a decade of democracy. While the military did not directly intervene in the political process the generals used the ISI as a lever to manipulate the course of politics to suit their interests. Essentially the generals wanted a civilian government that would not curtail their power and to that extent such democracy came to be termed 'limited', 'guided' or Islamic democracy. The ISI was variously used to prop up friendly political persona who enjoyed good relations with the military leadership and conversely to minimise the chances of success for a hostile leader through the creation of unfavourable conditions.16 It was also involved with the creation of new parties or split existing ones in order to act as a counter-weight against other parties.

Apparently the ISI proved to be more useful to the military leadership—in the post-Zia decade—which could not exercise its power over state and society overtly but had to do so covertly. The ISI under a civilian government had to tread with care and caution so as not to embarrass the government. In the post-Zia period the military as an institution had become unpopular among the people just like it had earned a bad name for itself following the partition of Pakistan post-1971. The military after a loss of face on both occasions therefore preferred to withdraw to their cantonments. During these 'democratic' interregnums the ISI political cell always remained active to ensure that the elected leaders did not pose a threat to the power of the military leadership.This threat to the generalship could emanate from an attempt to interfere with areas that were declared military turf, like for instance the Kashmir policy or nuclear policy.

During the post-Zia period former President Ghulam Ishaq Khan's dismissal of then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto from office on August 6, 1990 was a significant development highlighting the role of an intelligence agency in national politics. The reasons officially stated were charges of corruption, failure to work with the provinces and attempts to question the powers of the armed forces.

However Benazir said that the ISI was involved against her government which could be analysed in terms of the power of information. This is linked to the concept of persuasion which is defined as "the process of making sure that the other people obtain and believe information you want them to have"17 aptly applies to this case. The ISI as the 'eyes' and 'ears' of the military would have had the power to influence the President to take a decision against Benazir.

Benazir Bhutto—December 1988-August 1990

The ISI in September 1988 headed by Lt General Hamid Gul cobbled together the Opposition parties in Pakistan and formed the IJI in order to defeat the Benazir Bhutto-led PPP from coming to power. Clearly, caretaker President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the COAS General Beg were not keen on Benazir winning the elections and they used all the resources at their command namely the ISI, the MI, the IB and the police special branches to thwart her political victory.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was "in office but out of power" as she was compelled to adhere to certain conditions of the military leadership in order to assume office. These conditions included: (a) to continue the late General Zia's Afghan policy (b) allow General Mirza Aslam Beg and Lt General Hamid Gul to continue in their appointments as Chief of Army Staff and Director General ISI respectively (c) not to depress the defence budget (d) not to initiate any accountability proceedings against army personnel.

After Benazir became the Prime Minister she had a problem with the ISI in the sense that an agency which was working against her till the other day now formed part of her government. She associated the agency with her father's judicial execution and saw it as a repressive arm of the military which therefore amounted to an attitudinal problem towards the ISI. In tune with this mindset one of her first moves was to sack Brigadier (retd) Imtiaz from the ISI and close down its political division in early 1989. She appointed Major (retd) Masood Sharif, a close friend of her husband, Asif Zardari as the Director IB.

Benazir had serious differences with the ISI over its Afghan policy in early 1989 and this resulted in a rift between the PM and the ISI leadership. The DG ISI Lt General Hamid Gul was eased out from office and a retired Lt General Shamsur Rehman Kallue was appointed the new DGI. According to one version the COAS General Beg had transferred the dossiers on political leaders and other records/materials related to political intelligence from the ISI headquarters to the GHQ soon after Hamid Gul's relinquishing the appointment of the DGI.18 This move neutralised the appointment of Lt General Kallue as DGI and also the effectiveness of the ISI in domestic politics.

She also set up a committee under a former Air Chief Marshal Zulfiquar Ali Khan to review the functioning of intelligence agencies in the country. The objective of this exercise also aimed at a reorientation of the ISI exclusively for external intelligence and the IB for internal intelligence roles in the country. However Benazir was out of office before the implementation of these reforms on the intelligence front were possible.

Lt General Gul when questioned about this involvement by Air Marshal (retd) Zulfiquar Ali Khan (who headed the Intelligence review committee under the Benazir regime ) said that, "If I had not formed the IJI, there would have been no elections because the smaller parties have been fearful of taking on the PPP individually".19

Benazir Bhutto strengthened the role of the Intelligence Bureau for intelligence-gathering within the country in order to marginalise the participation of the ISI in this self-appointed mission. This reflected in the IB's budget increase to four times the existing figure. Benazir created 20 senior positions at the joint director level to strengthen the management structure in the organisation.

She increased the numerical strength of the subordinate-level operational staff by thrice the existing level and new IB cells were created at the tehsil headquarters and at all the police stations. Another feature was computerisation of the IB offices around the country. The IB was activated against terrorism and narcotics related crimes by participating in liaison with foreign investigative agencies. Importantly, the IB charter expanded to include support for Taliban operations in Afghanistan.

Rajiv Gandhi-Benazir Bhutto conversation taped

In post–Zia Pakistan, intelligence agencies were effectively used to topple governments. One such case pertains to how an intelligence agency was used to remove then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto from office. It has been reported that on July 17, 1989 an intelligence agency clandestinely recorded the. conversation between then Prime Ministers Benazir and Rajiv Gandhi while the latter was on a state visit to Pakistan. The room was bugged by the intelligence agency and the two leaders in the course of their private meeting at Islamabad discussed, among other issues, the possibility of mutual troop reduction. Apparently, Benazir was supposed to have agreed in principle to the proposal.

Soon thereafter the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Mirza Aslam Beg and President Ghulam Ishaq Khan met each other on July 24, 1989 and decided to topple the Benazir government. In order to convince the Opposition and obtain their backing for the need to destabilise the government these tapes were reportedly played to them. 20 It essentially had the desired effect and successfully influenced the Opposition parties to side with the COAS and the President against Benazir Bhutto.

Operation 'Midnight Jackals'

Rahimullah Yusufzai writes in the Newsline of January 1991 that the ruling party and the opposition were involved in big time spying against each other during the PPP's eventful 20 month rule. IB tape records of clandestine "Operation Midnight Jackals" provide a bizarre account of the PPP-IJI tussle to buy over a Member of National Assembly on the eve of the no-confidence motion against Benazir Bhutto.21

The "Operation Midnight Jackals" began with Mohammad Arif Awan a PPP activist and MNA from Shiekupura district, who offered himself for sale in order to penetrate the group working on behalf of the IJI. In other words he was a PPP 'plant' aimed at neutralising the hostile strategy of the IJI. According to his version the IJI leader Malik Naeem, Senator Gulsher Khan from the Khyber Agency, Brigadier (retd) Imtiaz, Major Aamer and Arif Awan's nephew, Malik Mumtaz were the group who initially established contact with Mohammad Arif Awan.22

The PPP MNA Arif Awan, from September 28 to October 6, 1989, on his part recorded the conversations between members of the group which were conducted at his nephew Malik Mumtaz's residence. The plan of action was for Arif Awan alongwith three other PPP MNAs to offer to switch sides and a deal was clinched for Rs 50 lakh. On their part the PPP MNAs promised to vote along with the Combined Opposition Parties MNAs in the no-confidence motion. The deal also assured that one of the defectors would be made a Federal Minister if the IJI proved successful in its venture.

The attempt however proved to be abortive in the first attempt on November 1, 1989 when the vote of no confidence could go through. Thereafter they were successful the next year in the next attempt to do so. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto accused the ISI of deposing her from power. She said that the ISI influences the Army through the power of information. While the Army respected her, its leadership was briefed by the ISI and therefore went against her interests23.

Caretaker Prime Minister Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi—August 1990-November 1990

The caretaker government had appointed Major General Mohammad Assad Durrani after the dismissal of the previous regime. During its brief tenure the government through the ISI funded the political alliance of the Islamic Jamhoori Ittehad led by the PML(N) President Nawaz Sharif.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif—November 1990-July 1993

After assuming office on November 19, 1990 the DGI Major General Mohd Assad Durrani was promoted to Lt General and the government sought to reverse the Benazir regime's move to downsize the ISI. The next logical step was to reduce the importance of the IB which Benazir had strengthened as a counter-weight to the ISI.

Nawaz Sharif headed the IJI-led government which also resorted to using intelligence agencies to gain unfair advantage in domestic politics. This refers to an incident when the IJI-led coalition government chose to spy on their alliance partners the MQM which came to light on December 1990. The IB had installed bugging devices in some rooms of MQM MNAs. Thereafter as a precautionary measure other MQM MNAs also checked their rooms for bugging devices and surprisingly they also made hitherto unknown discoveries there. For instance, Mr Aminul Haq, parliamentary leader subsequently searched his room Number 45 at the MNAs Hostel and found a transmitter behind the window.24

This proved to be a major embarrassment for the ruling IJI considering it was an MQM ally at that time. Sharif somehow had to avoid any splintering of the MQM from the alliance at that point in time. To remedy the problem the Federal government sent a two member team to explain the situation and apologise to Altaf Hussain in Karachi.

The Mohajir Quami Movement split

The conspiracy to divide the MQM was initiated during the Benazir regime but took shape thereafter. At that time Lt General Asif Nawaz Janjua was a corps commander Karachi and was keen on eliminating the anti-state elements like the MQM. The MQM leader Altaf Hussain had in February 1991 itself sensed the army's plans to split his party. This was because on March 2, 1991 he had expelled 19 members from the party and the ISI and MI were in touch with them. Altaf Hussain even complained to the President that the ISI was conspiring to divide the MQM.25 During May 1991 there were newspaper reports that a couple of prominent MQM leaders were killed in Karachi by masked gunmen.26 The question is whether these MQM leaders were shot by intelligence personnel or not ? Subsequently the split formally took place on August 21 at a convention of the MQM (Haqiqi) wherein Amir and Afaq expelled Altaf Hussain from their party.27

General Asif Nawaz Janjua's 'political assassination'

The untimely demise of General Asif Nawaz Janjua fuelled a fair amount of controversy with First Information Reports being filed against Brigadier (retd) Imtiaz the Director Intelligence Bureau (DIB). The issue gathered momentum following his widow Nuzhat Janjua's formal complaint to then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan about the unnatural nature of the death.28 She clearly stated her strong suspicions that her husband had been poisoned because he had told her about threats to his life. Also there were anonymous letters which sought to caution the general about threats to his life. Apparently the General and the the DIB had developed some serious differences in their inter-personal relationship with each other.

There are essentially two arguments for and against the conspiracy theories regarding the death. The general trend of arguments tend to support a conspiracy theory involving the general's death. However it should also be noted that one element goes against the conspiracy theory. This is a fact that General Zia-ul Haq had eliminated the need for Lt Generals to undergo medical check-ups. Given this consideration the state of the general's health remains a grey area and his death though untimely could be attributed to a heart attack.

Nuzhat Janjua suspected that her late husband had been poisoned with arsenic administered in a cup of tea served to him at a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee meeting. Some political commentators have also pointed out that his widow must have made the formal complaint on the basis of some strong grounds and that the bereaved lady would not make such an attempt for political purposes. Interestingly the government posted a police picket at the general's grave in order to ensure that the body was not exhumed for medical inspection. There were rumours that the general's stomach was removed prior to the burial to avoid detection of foul play.

The issue snowballed in April 1993 as the Army adopted an open-minded approach to the possibility of foul play behind the general's death.29 The rationale for discussing General Asif Nawaz Janjua's death in such great detail is only because if the conspiracy theory is valid then the tacit role of intelligence agencies is bound to assume relevance. To that extent this could well be one more instance of intelligence agencies interfering in internal politics. The incident illustrates how even an Army chief was vulnerable to the machinations of the intelligence agencies despite the power that is associated with his office.

Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto: October 1993-November 1996

The involvement of intelligence agencies in politics is clear from an interesting development during the mid-point of Benazir's second tenure when the Director IB (DIB) requested to quit service. In April 1994 the then DIB Mr Noor Ellahi Leghari had formally requested Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to relieve him from office. He had held the same appointment during Benazirs first Prime Ministerial tenure.30

The DIB had reportedly suggested that the appointment of the head of the civilian intelligence agency merited some continuity of tenure regardless of the change of political governments. Ellahi Leghari had suggested some institutional mechanisms aimed at better working of the IB. Apparently the unholy nexus between intelligence agency chiefs and political leaders in power has been useful to hound opposition parties in disregard to all norms of decency, justice and fairplay. To that extent the DIB request to the PM appears to set a healthy precedent.

The use of intelligence agencies in politics comes out clearly when Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif released secretly recorded tapes of a conversation to gain political advantage against Benazir. These tapes contained a conversation between NWFP chief minister, Aftab Sherpao and top officials of Mehran Bank as "conclusive evidence of horse-trading" in order to challenge the PML government of Sabir Shah on December 1, 1994.

Pakistani political leaders have been making public statements from time to time that the intelligence agencies are the real power centers in the country. Dr Mubashir Hassan former Finance Minister and founder- secretary general of the PPP speaking at a function to launch a political movement on May 3, 1996 said "…at present the political system is the outcome of manipulation at the top and the rulers had become helpless before the Intelligence agencies."31

Mehran Bank scandal

The Mehran Bank scandal clearly establishes the ISI involvement in Pakistani politics during the 1990s. The incident exposes the abuse of public funds by the military and intelligence agencies in order to manipulate political change in the country. The bank proved to be a club for spies and politicians to collaborate illegally with each other against other elected leaders. The intelligence agencies prevailed upon politicians from different parties to trade their loyalties for a price. The objective of the intelligence agencies was to destabilise a hostile government and then put in place a 'friendly' regime. The scandal comprises the entire gamut of financial crimes like fake loans, kickbacks, illegal transactions and bribes and involved several high profile names of politicians and a serving Army chief.32

The financial scandal came to light on March 24, 1994 when the MBL President Younus Habib was arrested for siphoning off money from both Habib Bank and MBL. According to media reports Younus Habib had paid five billion rupees to prominent politicians from both the PML(N) and the PPP besides former Army chief General Aslam Beg and other provincial politicians. The discrepancy was discovered when the MBL could not produce the ISI deposited money in the MBL account.33

Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif added fuel to the fire on May 31, 1994 and announced that President Farooq Leghari was involved in the scandal and had used the bank to inflate prices in a land deal involving a Rs 15 million transaction. The President confirmed that Younus Habib had facilitated the deal but denied charge about any illegalities. The government then appointed two judicial commissions to investigate the MBL scandal and the President filed libel charges against Sharif.

Air Chief Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan , who now practises politics wrote to the Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court Sajjad Ali Shah that the ISI's acceptance of money from private parties for political purposes damaged the shining image of the armed forces. The Chief Justice then treated this as a public interest litigation and started a hearing on the ISI role in domestic politics. On June 16, 1997 General (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg said that Lt General Assad Durrani had received the money and spent Rs 60 million for funding certain candidates and the remainder on other operations. He added that Durrani had kept him informed about the developments.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif: March 1997-October 1999

Former Prime Minister Sharif used the ISI effectively to investigate financial dealings abroad by various politicians and bureaucrats particularly those of Benazir Bhutto. These investigations included the major contracts signed with foreign companies and the kick-backs deposited in Swiss Bank accounts. To that extent, the ISI as an intelligence organisation was misused considering the existence of an investigative agency namely the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) precisely for such a purpose.

Sharif realised that intelligence services were a useful tool in governance and reportedly sought to start a new intelligence wing in the FIA.34 Had this move fructified there would have been a fourth intelligence agency in addition to the existing three in the country. For a leader as the beneficiary of intelligence inputs the multiplicity of agencies would only help in corraborating information from various agencies to ensure its authenticity. Besides, the other advantage in terms of political information would be that developments unreported by one agency would be compensated by another one. However, the drawback of having another additional agency would only create scope for unhealthy competition and give rise to inter-agency rivalry between the IB, ISI, MI and the proposed FIA intelligence wing.

During the months preceding the ouster of the Sharif regime the various intelligence agencies worked against each other. The ISI and the MI were pitted against one another as the DG ISI reports to the PM (but is under the COAS only for organisational control) whereas the DGMI comes under the COAS. In the process the political and military leaderships were at loggerheads with each other and the competition between their respective intelligence agencies only proved to be an extension of this clash of interests.

The Pakistani newspaper Nation on June 28, 1997 commenting on the ISI involvement in the Mehran Bank scandal stated, "The case has refocussed public attention on what is widely perceived to be a government within a government—the intelligence agencies and their virtually autonomous role in the political affairs of the country. The baneful influence of the intelligence agencies has spread its malign shadow over the political destiny of the country."

According to an Awami National Party leader Ghulam Ahmad Bilour the ISI is the real power in the country. He said that the ISI is not even in the control of the President or the Prime Minister. The political leader said , " Neither Mr Nawaz Sharif knows what they (ISI) are doing, nor did they keep Ms Benazir Bhutto informed about their activities".35

A 105 page report on the lack of utility of Pakistan's intelligence community, was prepared by intelligence officers and submitted to the DGI in October 1998 according to the News. The authors of the report, with long experience in clandestine operations and technical collection., categorically stated that the national intelligence apparatus has considerably lost its usefulness in fulfilling the intelligence needs of the policy makers. They further added that the entire intelligence network suffers from grave disconnection between the military and civilian efforts, leading to what may be described as anarchy undercover.36

The intertwining of politics and intelligence agencies results in political instability with the latter attempting to destabilise governments through various resources at their command. The intelligence agencies have served as a tool for the military leadership to exercise their power over the political leadership and thereby ensures the absence of democracy in the country.


Statements by two different political leaders, Mubashir Hassan and Ghulam Ahmed Bilour with different party affiliations made at two different points in time with a common theme about the role of intelligence agencies in domestic politics cannot afford to be dismissed lightly. To that extent there is bound to be some substance in their observations.

The rationale for the ISI involvement in domestic politics could be attributed to three reasons (a) the need for the military to manipulate politics and indirectly rule the country (b) to marginalise the civilian intelligence agency which could become powerful with patronage from an elected government (c) the absence of a genuine external threat to national security.

Whenever the ISI was controlled by a civilian government the MI reoriented itself to political intelligence activity to keep the generals informed about the relevant developments around the country. In the process the IB by design and not default has been relegated to a 'runners up' or second slot in the intelligence community with the first place reserved for the ISI. Also the MI appears to be peripherally involved with an internal role, especially counter-insurgency duties in Sind, which by its very nature would imply an element of an involvement in provincial politics.

The theoretical framework conceived three models of intelligence agencies namely (a) bureau of domestic intelligence (b) political police (c) independent security state. The ISI would fall under the category of an independent security state with the following characteristics. It lacks external controls and differs from the political police because its goals are determined by agency officials and are likely to differ from that of the political elite. Importantly, agency officials rather than elected officials direct its operations.

The rationale for the ISI turning into an 'invisible government' has much to do with Pakistan being a 'weak state' which depends on a strong state apparatus to compensate for the problem of ideology. The two-nation theory advocating a Muslim homeland as an ideology proved to be a failure for various reasons. Besides, all the characteristics of a weak state are applicable to Pakistan even in the 1990s.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif successfully used the ISI to collect evidence of corruption by political rivals like Benazir Bhutto and other bureaucrats involved in major contracts with foreign companies. The intelligence agencies have played a frontline role in the struggle for power between the PPP and the PML (N). So much so, the political leadership in the post-Zia period has not really used these intelligence agencies for promoting good governance; it has instead only used them in their internecine warfare which has contributed to instability and led to a crisis of governance in the country.

The import of the ISI wielding power in the country has a strong bearing on Islamabad's national security and foreign policy. It is a major decision influencing element in the security and foreign policy formulation process and tends to adopt an anti-India policy. For instance, a viable solution to improve the cooperation and friendship in India-Pakistan ties is through the promotion of trade and commerce between the two sides. However, Pakistani intelligence personnel are used as an instrument to impede development of trade ties between the two neighbours. It has been reported that Pakistani businessmen keen on exploring opportunities for trade with India who visit the Indian High Commission in Islamabad are discouraged from doing so. The Pakistani intelligence personnel tend to harass these businessmen.

The other aspect of ISI involvement in domestic politics is its linkages with Islamic fundamentalist groups which are anti-India in character. The ISI is known to have close connections with the Harkat ul Ansar and the Lashkar-e-Toiba which are extremely active in waging terrorist operations against the Indian state and its people in Jammu and Kashmir for the past decade. This relationship between the ISI and fundamentalists, fostered among other objectives on anti-India interests, clearly characterises a close-minded approach to any improvement in relations with India.


1. Peter Gill ' Policing Politics: Security Intelligence and the Liberal Democratic State' (Frank Cass, London, 1994) p. 70.

2. Ibid., p. 60 -61.

3. Ibid., p. 6.

4. Ibid

5. Ibid., p. 77.

6. Ibid., p. 70.

7. Ibid., p. 69.

8. President Iskandar Mirza's Memoirs (Exclusive) published in Newsline, June 1996, p. 136.

9. Mazhar Ali Khan, 'The Transgressers', Dawn, January 12, 1993, cited in John Kaniyalil "ISI: The Master Manipulator", Strategic Analysis, November 1993, p. 993.

10. Mushahid Hussain and Akmal Hussain, 'Pakistan : Problems of Governance' (Delhi: Konark Publishers, 1993) p. 73-4.

11. Stanley Wolpert, 'Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan: His Life and Times' (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993) p. 279.

12. Brigadier (retd) Syed A.I. Tirmazi, 'Profiles of Intelligence' (Lahore: Combined Printers, 1995) p. 225.

13. Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, 'If I Am Assassinated…' (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1979) p 56.

14. Benazir Bhutto, 'Daughter of the East' (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1988) p. 218-9.

15. Brig (retd) Tirmazi, n. 12, p. 19.

16. Munir Ahmed writes that the ISI, MI and state Special Branch police all did their best to thwart the PPP from winning the elections but failed to do so in 'Pakistan Toot Jayega' (Urdu) (Pakistan Will Break Up) (Lahore: Taklikat Publishers, April 1996) p. 24.

17. Gill, n. 1, p. 53.

18. Ahmed, n. 16, p. 26.

19. POT Pakistan, p. 443-47, 1992.

20. Ahmed, n. 16, p. 37.

21. 'Secret September Operation to Dislodge Benazir Bhutto Revealed' in POT Pakistan, vol. xix, no. 25, January 31 , 1991, p. 560-3.

22. Ibid.

23. 'Benazir Blames GHQ, Military Intelligence for Her Ouster' POT Pakistan, vol. xviii, no. 167, August 10, 1990, p. 3198-93.

24. "Bugging Devices Found in MQM MNA's Hostel Rooms", POT Pakistan, vol. xviii, no. 267, December 29, 1990, p. 5154-55; 'Growth of Pakistan's Intelligence Agencies', POT Pakistan, vol. xix, p. 304, and "IB Official Suspended for Bugging MNA's Hostel", POT Pakistan, vol. xix, no. 2, January 2, 1991, p. 29.

25. "Altaf Alleges New Plan to Eliminate MQM From Political Scene' POT Pakistan, May 22, 1992, vol. xx, no 119, p. 2553; also see n. 18, p. 205.

26. Ibid., "MQM Activist Killed After Being Kidnapped", p. 2554.

27. Ahmed n 16, p. 210.

28. It was reported that General Janjua had serious differences with President Ishaq Khan a week before his death after being questioned over a raid conducted by an army team to arrest a district and sessions judge for allegedly accepting illegal gratification in Karachi in ' President's Differences With Asif Nawaz' POT Pakistan, vol. xxi, no. 14, January 16, 1993, p. 280.

29. "Asif Nawaz Was Murdered, Says General's Wife" POT Pakistan, vol. xxi, no. 84, April 13, 1993, pp. 1754-5.

30. "IB Chief Wants to be Relieved of Appointment" POT Pakistan, vol. xii, no. 87, April 18, 1994, p. 864.

31. P0T Pakistan, vol. xxiv, no. 107, May 7, 1996, p. 1026.

32. Zakir Siddiqui, "The Mehran Bank Scam" April 1994, Newsline, pp. 49-52.

33. "Mehran Bank Deals Raise Many Awkward Questions" and "Comments: Mehran Bank Scandal" April 28, 1994, vol. xxii, no. 96, pp. 941-2 and 943-4.

34. "FIA To Have Intelligence Wing Soon" POT Pakistan, August 31, 1999, p. 3160.

35. "ISI is Real Power in Country Says ANP leader" POT Pakistan, vol. xxvi, no. 280, November 16, 1998, p. 3622.

36. "Intelligence Gathering Systems Need to be Redefined" POT Pakistan, vol. xxvi, no. 255, October 22, 1998, p. 3303.

Pakistan's Intelligence Service

People not familiar with the history of Afghanistan's relationship with Pakistan might be suprised to find how much it has been influenced by the CIA. In many ways, the terrorist organizations spawned from this history are the very ones causing all the trouble today. Here is some more background on all this.

Pakistan’s sinister Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) remains the key to providing accurate information to the US-led alliance in its war against Osama bin Laden and his Taliban hosts in Afghanistan. Known as Pakistan’s ‘secret army’ and ‘invisible government’, its shadowy past is linked to political assassinations and the smuggling of narcotics as well as nuclear and missile components.

The ISI also openly backs the Taliban and fuels the 12-year-old insurgency in northern India’s disputed Kashmir province by ‘sponsoring’ Muslim militant groups and ministering its policy of ‘death by a thousand cuts’ that so effectively drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan and led to their political demise.

The goings on behind the ISI’s nondescript headquarters, located behind high walls on Khayban-e-Suharwady avenue in the heart of the capital Islamabad and its operational offices in the adjoining garrison town of Rawalpindi, have dominated Pakistan’s domestic, nuclear and foreign policies – especially those relating to Afghanistan – for over two decades.

The ISI chief, Lt Gen Mahmood Ahmed, who was visiting Washington when New York and the Pentagon were attacked, agreed to share desperately needed information about the Taliban with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other US security officials. The CIA has well-established links with the ISI, having trained it in the 1980s to ‘run’ Afghan mujahideen (holy Muslim warriors), Islamic fundamentalists from Pakistan as well as Arab volunteers by providing them with arms and logistic support to evict the Soviet occupation of Kabul.

The ISI is presently the ‘eyes and ears’ of the US-led covert action to seize Bin Laden from the Taliban, since hundreds of its agents and their Pathan ‘assets’ continue to operate across Afghanistan. Its influence with the Taliban can be gauged from the inclusion of Gen Ahmed in the Pakistani military and diplomatic delegation to the militia’s religious capital, Kandhar, in southern Afghanistan in an attempt to defuse the looming military crisis. The Pakistani delegation appealed to the Taliban, albeit in vain, to hand over Bin Laden to the US, which holds him responsible for the 11 September attacks on the World Trade Center and Washington in which nearly 7000 people are feared to have died.

Founded soon after independence in 1948 to collect intelligence in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and in East Pakistan (later Bangladesh), the ISI was modelled on Savak, the Iranian security agency, and like Savak was trained by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the SDECE, France’s external intelligence service. The 1979 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan led the CIA, smarting from its retreat from Vietnam, into enhancing the ISI's covert action capabilities by running mujahideen resistance groups against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Former Pakistani president General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, who was ultimately assassinated along with his ISI chief, expanded the agency’s internal charter by tasking it with collecting information on local religious and political groups opposed to his military regime. Under Gen Zia the ISI’s Internal Political Division reportedly assassinated Shah Nawaz Bhutto, one of the two brothers of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, by poisoning him on the French Riviera in 1985. The aim was to intimidate Miss Bhutto into not returning to Pakistan to direct the multi-party movement for the restoration of democracy, but Miss Bhutto refused to be cowed down and returned home, only to be toppled by the ISI soon after becoming prime minister in 1988.

The ISI is believed to have recently formed a secret task force under Gen Ahmed comprising Interior Minister Lt Gen (retd) Moinuddin Haider and Deputy Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Muzaffar Usmani to ‘destroy’ major political parties and the separatist Mohajir Quami Movement (MQM) in southern Sindh province.

This task force has reportedly encouraged not only religious Islamic organisations such as the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JuI) but also sectarian organisations such as the fundamentalist Sipah Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (which are closely linked to the Taliban and Bin Laden) to extend their activities to Sindh. These organisations are believed to have ‘slipped the ISI collar’ and begun recruiting unemployed Sindhi rural youth for the Taliban, posing a threat to Gen Musharraf's co-operation with Washington by formenting jihad against the West.

After the ignominious Soviet withdrawal from Kabul in 1989 the ISI, determined to achieve its aim of extending Pakistan's ‘strategic depth’ and creating an Islamic Caliphate by controlling Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics, began sponsoring a little-known Pathan student movement in Kandhar that emerged as the Taliban. The ISI used funds from Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's federal government and from overseas Islamic remittances to enrol graduates from thousands of madrassahs (Muslim seminaries) across Pakistan to bolster the Taliban (Islamic students), who were led by the reclusive Mullah Muhammad Omar. Thereafter, through a ruthless combination of bribing Afghanistan’s ruling tribal coalition (which was riven with internecine rivalry), guerrilla tactics and military support the ISI installed the Taliban regime in Kabul in 1996. It then helped to extend its control over 95 per cent of the war-torn country and bolster its military capabilities. The ISI is believed to have posted additional operatives in Afghanistan just before the 11 September attacks in the US.

Along with Osama bin Laden, intelligence sources say a number of other infamous names emerged from the 1980s ISI-CIA collaboration in Afghanistan. These included Mir Aimal Kansi, who assassinated two CIA officers outside their office in Langley, Virginia, in 1993, Ramzi Yousef and his accomplices involved in the New York World Trade Center bombing five years later as well as a host of powerful international narcotics smugglers.

Opium cultivation and heroin production in Pakistan’s northern tribal belt and neighbouring Afghanistan was also a vital offshoot of the ISI-CIA co-operation. It succeeded not only in turning Soviet troops into addicts, but also in boosting heroin sales in Europe and the US through an elaborate web of well-documented deceptions, transport networks, couriers and payoffs. This, in turn, offset the cost of the decade-long anti-Soviet ‘unholy war’ in Afghanistan.

"The heroin dollars contributed largely to bolstering the Pakistani economy, its nuclear programme and enabled the ISI to sponsor its covert operations in Afghanistan and northern India's disputed Kashmir state," according to an Indian intelligence officer. In the 1970s, the ISI had established a division to procure military nuclear and missile technology from abroad, particularly from China and North Korea. They also smuggled in critical nuclear components and know-how from Europe – activities known to the US but ones it chose to turn a blind eye to as Washington’s objective of ‘humiliating’ the Soviet bear remained incomplete.

A Director General, always an army officer of the rank of lieutenant general, heads the ISI, which is controlled by Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence and reports directly to the chief of army staff. As the current ISI chief, Gen Ahmed is assisted by three major generals heading the agency’s political, external and administrative divisions, which are divided broadly into eight sections:

* Joint Intelligence North: responsible for the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Kashmir insurgency. This section controls the Army of Islam that comprises Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda group and Kashmiri militant groups like the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (banned by the US last week), Lashkar-e-Toiba, Al Badr and Jaissh-e-Mohammad. Lt Gen Mohammad Aziz, presently commanding the Lahore Corps and a former ISI officer, reportedly heads the Army of Islam, which also controls all opium cultivation and heroin refining and smuggling from Pakistani and Afghan territory

* Joint Intelligence Bureau: responsible for open sources and human intelligence collection locally and abroad

* Joint Counter-Intelligence Bureau: tasked with counter-intelligence activities internally and abroad

* Joint Signals Intelligence Bureau: in-charge of all communications intelligence

* Joint Intelligence Miscellaneous: responsible for covert actions abroad, particularly those related to the clandestine procurement of nuclear and missile technologies

* Joint Intelligence X: looks after administration and accounts

* Joint Intelligence Technical: collects all technical intelligence other than communications intelligence for research and development of equipment

* The Special Wing: runs the Defence Services Intelligence Academy and liaises with foreign intelligence and security agencies.

"The concern now for General Musharraf is whether the ISI will remain loyal to him and provide the US with credible information or continue to pursue its aims of ensuing the Taliban’s continuance in Kabul," said one intelligence officer. The US, he added, will pull out of the region once its objectives have been achieved, but Afghanistan, with its incessant and seemingly irresolute turmoil, will remain Pakistan’s neighbour for good.


by B. Raman

The intelligence community of Pakistan, which was once described by the "Frontier Post" of Peshawar (May 18,1994) as its "invisible government" and by the "Dawn" of Karachi (April 25,1994) as "our secret godfathers" consists of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the ISI. While the IB comes under the Interior Minister, the ISI is part of the Ministry of Defence (MOD). Each wing of the Armed Forces has also its own intelligence directorate for tactical MI.

The IB is the oldest dating from Pakistan's creation in 1947. It was formed by the division of the pre-partition IB of British India. Its unsatisfactory military intelligence (MI) performance in the first Indo-Pak war of 1947-48 over Jammu & Kashmir (J & K) led to the decision in 1948 to create the ISI, manned by officers from the three Services, to specialise in the collection, analysis and assessment of external intelligence, military and non-military, with the main focus on India.

Initially, the ISI had no role in the collection of internal political intelligence except in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and the Northern Areas (NA--Gilgit and Baltistan). Ayub Khan, suspecting the loyalty and objectivity of the Bengali police officers in the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB) of the IB in Dacca, the capital of the then East Pakistan, entrusted the ISI with the responsibility for the collection of internal political intelligence in East Pakistan.

Similarly, Z.A.Bhutto, when faced with a revolt by Balochi nationalists in Balochistan after the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, suspected the loyalty of the Balochi police officers of the SIB in Quetta and made the military officers of the ISI responsible for internal intelligence in Balochistan.

Zia-ul-Haq expanded the internal intelligence responsibilities of the ISI by making it responsible not only for the collection of intelligence about the activities of the Sindhi nationalist elements in Sindh and for monitoring the activities of Shia organisations all over the country after the success of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, but also for keeping surveillance on the leaders of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of Mrs.Benazir Bhutto and its allies which had started the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) in the early 1980s. The ISI's Internal Political Division had Shah Nawaz Bhutto, one of the two brothers of Mrs.Benazir Bhutto, assassinated through poisoning in the French Riviera in the middle of 1985, in an attempt to intimidate her into not returning to Pakistan for directing the movement against Zia, but she refused to be intimidated and returned to Pakistan.

Even in the 1950s, Ayub Khan had created in the ISI a Covert Action Division for assisting the insurgents in India's North-East and its role was expanded in the late 1960s to assist the Sikh Home Rule Movement of London-based Charan Singh Panchi, which was subsequently transformed into the so-called Khalistan Movement, headed by Jagjit Singh Chauhan. A myriad organisations operating amongst the members of the Sikh diaspora in Europe, the US and Canada joined the movement at the instigation and with the assistance of the ISI.

During the Nixon Administration in the US, when Dr.Henry Kissinger was the National Security Adviser, the intelligence community of the US and the ISI worked in tandem in guiding and assisting the so-called Khalistan movement in the Punjab. The visits of prominent Sikh Home Rule personalities to the US before the Bangladesh Liberation War in December, 1971, to counter Indian allegations of violations of the human rights of the Bengalis of East Pakistan through counter-allegations of violations of the human rights of the Sikhs in Punjab were jointly orchestrated by the ISI, the US intelligence and some officials of the US National Security Council (NSC) Secretariat, then headed by Dr.Kissinger.

This covert colloboration between the ISI and the US intelligence community was also directed at discrediting Mrs.Indira Gandhi's international stature by spreading disinformation about alleged naval base facilities granted by her to the USSR in Vizag and the Andaman & Nicobar, the alleged attachment of KGB advisers to the then Lt.Gen.Sunderji during Operation Bluestar in the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June, 1984, and so on. This collaboration petered out after her assassination in October,1984.

The Afghan war of the 1980s saw the enhancement of the covert action capabilities of the ISI by the CIA. A number of officers from the ISI's Covert Action Division received training in the US and many covert action experts of the CIA were attached to the ISI to guide it in its operations against the Soviet troops by using the Afghan Mujahideen, Islamic fundamentalists of Pakistan and Arab volunteers. Osama bin Laden, Mir Aimal Kansi, who assassinated two CIA officers outside their office in Langley, US, in 1993, Ramzi Yousef and his accomplices involved in the New York World Trade Centre explosion in February, 1993, the leaders of the Muslim separatist movement in the southern Philippines and even many of the narcotics smugglers of Pakistan were the products of the ISI-CIA collaboration in Afghanistan.

The encouragement of opium cultivation and heroin production and smuggling was also an offshoot of this co-operation. The CIA, through the ISI, promoted the smuggling of heroin into Afghanistan in order to make the Soviet troops heroin addicts. Once the Soviet troops were withdrawn in 1988, these heroin smugglers started smuggling the drugs to the West, with the complicity of the ISI. The heroin dollars have largely contributed to preventing the Pakistani economy from collapsing and enabling the ISI to divert the jehadi hordes from Afghanistan to J & K after 1989 and keeping them well motivated and well-equipped.

Even before India's Pokhran I nuclear test of 1974, the ISI had set up a division for the clandestine procurement of military nuclear technology from abroad and, subsequently, for the clandestine purchase and shipment of missiles and missile technology from China and North Korea. This division, which was funded partly by donations from Saudi Arabia and Libya, partly by concealed allocations in Pakistan's State budget and partly by heroin dollars, was instrumental in helping Pakistan achieve a military nuclear and delivery capability despite its lack of adequate human resources with the required expertise.

Thus, the ISI, which was originally started as essentially an agency for the collection of external intelligence, has developed into an agency adept in covert actions and clandestine procurement of denied technologies as well.

The IB, which was patterned after the IB of British India, used to be a largely police organisation, but the post of Director-General (DG), IB, is no longer tenable only by police officers as it was in the past. Serving and retired military officers are being appointed in increasing numbers to senior posts in the IB, including to the post of DG.

In recent years, there has been a controversy in Pakistan as to who really controls the ISI and when was its internal Political Division set up. Testifying before the Supreme Court on June 16,1997, in a petition filed by Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan, former chief of the Pakistan Air Force, challenging the legality of the ISI's Political Division accepting a donation of Rs.140 million from a bank for use against PPP candidates during elections, Gen. (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg, former Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), claimed that though the ISI was manned by serving army officers and was part of the MOD, it reported to the Prime Minister and not to the COAS and that its internal Political Division was actually set up by the late Z.A.Bhutto in 1975.

Many Pakistani analysts have challenged this and said that the ISI, though de jure under the Prime Minister, had always been controlled de facto by the COAS and that its internal Political Division had been in existence at least since the days of Ayub Khan, if not earlier.

The ISI is always headed by an Army officer of the rank of Lt.Gen., who is designated as the Director-General (DG). The present DG is Lt.Gen.Mahmood Ahmed. He is assisted by three Deputy Directors-General (DDGs), designated as DDG (Political), DDG-I (External) and DDG-II (Administration). It is divided into the following Divisions:

* The Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB)---Responsible for all Open Sources Intelligence (OSINT) and Human Intelligence (HUMINT) collection, inside Pakistan as well as abroad.
* The Joint Counter-Intelligence (CI) Bureau: Responsible for CI inside Pakistan as well as abroad.

* The Joint Signals Intelligence Bureau (JSIB): Responsible for all communications intelligence inside Pakistan and abroad.

* Joint Intelligence North (JIN): Responsible for the proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir and the control of Afghanistan through the Taliban. Controls the Army of Islam, consisting of organisations such as Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Al Badr and Maulana Masood Azhar's Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM). Lt.Gen.Mohammad Aziz, presently a Corps Commander at Lahore, is the clandestine Chief of Staff of the Army of Islam. It also controls all opium cultivation and heroin refining and smuggling from Pakistani and Afghan territory.

* Joint Intelligence Miscellaneous (JIM): Responsible for covert actions in other parts of the world and for the clandestine procurement of nuclear and missile technologies. Maj Gen (retd) Sultan Habib, an operative of this Division, who had distinguished himself in the clandestine procurement and theft of nuclear material while posted as the Defence Attache in the Pakistani Embassy in Moscow from 1991 to 93, with concurrent accreditation to the Central Asian Republics (CARs), Poland and Czechoslovakia, has recently been posted as Ambassador to North Korea to oversee the clandestine nuclear and missile co-operation between North Korea and Pakistan. After completing his tenure in Moscow, he had co-ordinated the clandestine shipping of missiles from North Korea, the training of Pakistani experts in the missile production and testing facilities of North Korea and the training of North Korean scientists in the nuclear establishments of Pakistan through Capt. (retd) Shafquat Cheema, Third Secretary and acting head of mission, in the Pakistani Embassy in North Korea, from 1992 to 96. Before Maj.Gen. Sultan Habib's transfer to ISI headquarters from Moscow, the North Korean missile and nuclear co-operation project was handled by Maj.Gen.Shujjat from the Baluch Regiment, who worked in the clandestine procurement division of the ISI for five years. On Capt.Cheema's return to headquarters in 1996, the ISI discovered that in addition to acting as the liaison officer of the ISI with the nuclear and missile establishments in North Korea, he was also earning money from the Iranian and the Iraqi intelligence by helping them in their clandestine nuclear and missile technology and material procurement not only from North Korea, but also from Russia and the CARs. On coming to know of the ISI enquiry into his clandestine assistance to Iran and Iraq, he fled to Xinjiang and sought political asylum there, but the Chinese arrested him and handed him over to the ISI. What happened to him subsequently is not known. Capt.Cheema initially got into the ISI and got himself posted to the Pakistani Embassy in North Korea with the help of Col.(retd) Ghulam Sarwar Cheema of the PPP.

* Joint Intelligence X (JIX): Responsible for administration and accounts.

* Joint Intelligence Technical (JIT): Responsible for the collection of all Technical Intelligence (TECHINT) other than communications intelligence and for research and development in gadgetry.

* The Special Wing: Responsible for all intelligence training in the Armed Forces in the Defence Services Intelligence Academy and for liaison with foreign intelligence and security agencies.

Since 1948, there have been three instances when the DG,ISI, was at daggers drawn with the COAS. The first instance was during the first tenure of Mrs.Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister (1988 to 1990). To reduce the powers of the ISI, to re-organise the intelligence community and to enhance the powers of the police officers in the IB, she discontinued the practice of appointing a serving Lt.Gen, recommended by the COAS, as the DG, ISI, and, instead appointed Maj.Gen. (retd) Shamsur Rahman Kallue, a retired officer close to her father, as the DG in replacement of Lt.Gen.Hamid Gul in 1989 and entrusted him with the task of winding up the internal intelligence collection role of the ISI and civilianising the IB and the ISI. Writing in the "Nation" of July 31,1997, Brig.A.R.Siddiqui, who had served as the Press Relations Officer in the army headquarters in the 1970s, said that this action of hers marked the beginning of her trouble with Gen.Beg, the then COAS, which ultimately led to her dismissal in August,1990. Gen.Beg made Maj.Gen.Kallue persona non grata (PNG), stopped inviting him to the Corps Commanders conferences and transferred the responsibility for the proxy war in J & K and for assisting the Sikh extremists in the Punjab from the ISI to the Army intelligence directorate working under the Chief of the General Staff (CGS).

The second instance was during the first tenure of Nawaz Sharif (1990-93), who appointed as the DG,ISI, Lt.Gen.Javed Nasir, a fundamentalist Kashmiri officer, though he was not recommended by the COAS for the post. Lt.Gen.Asif Nawaz Janjua, the then COAS, made Lt.Gen.Nasir PNG and stopped inviting him to the Corps Commanders conferences. Despite this, Lt.Gen.Janjua returned to the ISI the responsibility for the proxy war in J & K and for assisting the Sikh extremists.

During her second tenure (1993-96), Mrs. Bhutto avoided any conflict with Gen.Abdul Waheed Kakkar and Gen. Jehangir Karamat, the Chiefs of the Army Staff in succession, on the appointment of the DG,ISI. Her action in transferring part of the responsibility for the operations in Afghanistan, including the creation and the handling of the Taliban, from the ISI to the Interior Ministry headed by Maj.Gen. (retd) Nasirullah Babar, who handled Afghan operations in the ISI during the tenure of her father, did not create any friction with the army since she had ordered that Lt.Gen. Pervez Musharraf, then Director-General of Military Operations, should be closely associated by Maj.Gen.Babar in the Afghan operations.

However, sections of the ISI, close to Farooq Leghari, the then President of Pakistan, had Murtaza Bhutto, the surviving brother of Mrs.Benazir, assassinated outside his house in Karachi in September,1996, with the complicity of some local police officers and started a disinformation campaign in the media blaming her and her husband, Asif Zirdari, for the murder. This campaign paved the way for her dismissal by Leghari in November,1996.

The third instance was during the second tenure of Nawaz Sharif (1997-99) when his action in appointing Lt.Gen. Ziauddin, an engineer, as the DG,ISI, over-riding the objection of Gen.Musharraf led to the first friction between the two. Gen.Musharraf transferred Lt.Gen.Mohammad Aziz, the then DDG,ISI, on his promotion as Lt.Gen. to the GHQ as the CGS and transferred the entire Joint Intelligence North (JIN), responsible for covert actions in India and Afghanistan to the Directorate-General of Military Intelligence (DGMI) to be supervised by Lt.Gen.Aziz. It is believed that the JIN continues to function under the DGMI even after the appointment of Lt.Gen.Mahmood Ahmed as the DG, ISI, after the overthrow of Sharif on October 12,1999. Gen.Musharraf, as the COAS, made Lt.Gen.Ziauddin PNG and stopped inviting him to the Corps Commanders' conferences. He kept Lt.Gen.Ziauddin totally out of the picture in the planning and implementation of the Kargil operations. After the Kargil war, Nawaz Sharif had sent Lt.Gen.Ziauddin to Washington on a secret visit to inform the Clinton Administration officials of his concerns over the continued loyalty of Gen.Musharraf. After his return from the US, Lt.Gen.Ziauddin went to Kandahar, as ordered by Sharif, to pressurise Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Taliban, to stop assisting the anti-Shia Sipah Sahaba Pakistan and to co-operate with the US in the arrest and deportation of bin Laden. On coming to know of this, Gen. Musharraf sent Lt.Gen.Aziz to Kandahar to tell the Amir that he should not carry out the instructions of Lt.Gen.Ziauddin and that he should follow only his (Lt.Gen.Aziz's) instructions.

These instances would show that whenever an elected leadership was in power, the COAS saw to it that the elected Prime Minister did not have effective control over the ISI and that the ISI was marginalised if its head showed any loyalty to the elected Prime Minister.

In their efforts to maintain law and order in Pakistan and weaken nationalist and religious elements and political parties disliked by the army, the ISI and the army followed a policy of divide and rule. After the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, to keep the Shias of Pakistan under control, the ISI encouraged the formation of ant-Shia Sunni extremist organisations such as the Sipah Sahaba . When the Shias of Gilgit rose in revolt in 1988, Musharraf used bin Laden and his tribal hordes from the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to suppress them brutally. When the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM---now called the Muttahida Qaumi Movement) of Altaf Hussain rose in revolt in the late 1980s in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur in Sindh, the ISI armed sections of the Sindhi nationalist elements to kill the Mohajirs. It then created a split between Mohajirs of Uttar Pradesh origin (in Altaf Hussain's MQM) and those of Bihar origin in the splinter anti-Altaf Hussain group called MQM (Haquiqi--meaning real). In Altaf Hussain's MQM itself, the ISI unsuccessfully tried to create a wedge between the Sunni and Shia migrants from Uttar Pradesh.

Having failed in his efforts to weaken the PPP by taking advantage of the exile of Mrs.Benazir and faced with growing unity of action between Altaf Hussain's MQM and sections of Sindhi nationalist elements, Musharraf has constituted a secret task force in the ISI headed by Lt.Gen.Mahmood Ahmed, the DG, and consisting of Lt.Gen.(retd) Moinuddin Haider, Interior Minister, and Lt.Gen.Muzaffar Usmani, Deputy Chief of the Army Staff, to break the PPP, the MQM and the Sindhi nationalists.

This task force has encouraged not only religious political organisations such as the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) of Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI) of Maulana Fazlur Rahman etc, but also sectarian organisations such as the Sipah Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi of Riaz Basra, living under the protection of the Taliban and bin Laden in Kandahar in Afghanistan, to extend their activities to Sindh.

These organisations have now practically got out of the control of the ISI. Instead of attacking the PPP, the MQM and the Sindhi nationalists and bringing them to heel as Musharraf had hoped they would, they have taken their anti-Shia jehad to Sindh and have been recruiting a large number of unemployed Sindhi rural youth for service with the Taliban. Sindh, which was known for its Sufi traditions of religious tolerance, has seen under Musharraf a resurgence of the street power of the JEI and the JUI, which had been practically driven out of the province in the 1980s, by the PPP, the MQM and the Sindhi nationalists, and has seen in recent months anti-Shia massacres of the kind used by Musharraf in Gilgit in 1988. Over 200 Shias have been gunned down, including 30 doctors of Karachi, and the latest victims of the sectarian Frankenstein let loose by Musharraf in Sindh have been Shaukat Mirza, the Managing Director of Pakistan State Oil, and Syed Zafar Hussain Zaidi, a Director in the Research Laboratories of the Ministry of Defence, located in Karachi, who were gunned down on July 28 and 30,2001, respectively. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for both these assassinations.

As a result of the policy of divide and rule followed in Sindh by the ISI under Musharraf, one is seeing in Pakistan for the first time sectarian violence inside the Sunni community between the Sunnis of the Deobandi faith belonging to the Sipah Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Sunnis of the more tolerant Barelvi faith belonging to the Sunni Tehrik formed in the early 1990s to counter the growing Wahabi influence on Islam in Pakistan and the Almi Tanzeem Ahle Sunnat formed in 1998 by Pir Afzal Qadri of Mararian Sharif in Gujrat, Punjab, to counter the activities of the Deobandi Army of Islam headed by Lt.Gen.Mohammed Aziz, Corps Commander, Lahore.

The Tanzeem has been criticising not only the Army of Islam for injecting what it considers the Wahabi poison into the Pakistan society, but also the army of the State headed by Musharraf for misleading the Sunni youth into joining the jehad against the Indian army in J & K and getting killed there in order to avoid the Pakistani army officers getting killed in the jehad for achieving its strategic objective. The ISI, which is afraid of a direct confrontation with the Barelvi organisations, has been inciting the Sipah Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to counter their activities .

This has led to frequent armed clashes between rival Sunni groups in Sindh, the most sensational of the incidents being the gunning down of Maulana Salim Qadri of the Sunni Tehrik and five of his followers in Karachi on May, 18,2001, by the Sipah Sahaba, which led to a major break-down of law and order in certain areas of Karachi for some days.

Musharraf, the commando, believes in achieving his objective by hook or by crook without worrying about the means used. In his anxiety to bring Sindh under control and to weaken the PPP, the MQM and the Sindhi nationalists, he has, through the ISI, created new Frankensteins which might one day lead to the Talibanisation of Sindh, a province always known for its sufi traditions of religious tolerance and for its empathy with India.

Musharraf is under pressure from sections of senior army officers concerned over these developments to suppress the Sipah Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. He and Lt.Gen.Haider have been making the pretence of planning to do so. It is to be seen whether they really would and, even if they did, whether they would or could effectively enforce the ban on them.

In India, there is a point of view in some circles that the only way of effectively countering the ISI activities against India is to have an Indian version of the ISI, with extensive powers for clandestine intelligence collection, technology procurement and covert actions and that the proposed Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) should be patterned after Pakistan's ISI rather than after the DIA of the US and the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) of the UK, which are essentially agencies for the analysis and assessment of military intelligence in a holistic manner, with powers for clandestine collection only during times of war or when deployed in areas of conflict and with no powers for covert action.

The principle of civilian primacy in the intelligence community is widely accepted in all successful democracies and the discarding of this principle in Pakistan sowed the seeds for the present state of affairs there. In our anxiety for quick results against the ISI, we should not sacrifice time-tested principles as to how intelligence agencies should function in a democratic society.

In the 1970s,Indian policy-makers wisely decided that the Indian intelligence should not get involved in clandestine procurement of denied technologies since the exposure of any such procurement could damage the credibility and trustworthiness of the Indian scientific and technological community in the eyes of other countries.

This is what has happened to Pakistan. Its intelligence community did some spectacular work in clandestine procurement and theft of technologies abroad. But, once the details of this network were exposed, post-graduate students of Pakistan in scientific subjects, its academics, research scholars and scientists are looked upon with suspicion in Western countries and find it difficult to enter universities and research laboratories for higher studies and research and get jobs in establishments dealing in sensitive technologies and are less frequently invited to seminars etc than in the past. In its anxiety to catch up with India in the short term, Pakistan has damaged its long-term potential in science and technology.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail: )

Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence in Afghanistan

Pakistan's secret service, the ISI, has traditionally been very active in Afghanistan. The ISI has been the Pakistani establishment's instrument for controlling the Jihadists and shaping Pakistani foreign policy objectives in the region.

The town of Mazar-e-Sharif marks the northern most end of Afghanistan. It is a bare 35 miles south of Amu Darya, the river that separates Afghanistan from Central Asia. The town was the last staging post for retereating Soviet forces in the 1980s. Today, many consider this town to be the jump off point for Islamist warriors seeking battle in the Central Asian Republics. Traditionally, the inhabitants of Mazar-e-Sharif were Tajiks, Uzbeks and Turkmens. Ever since the summer of 1997, however, the town has seen a large increase in the number of black turbans, worn by men of the fanatic Taliban. Less prominent are the faceless operatives of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) who work out of a clutch of offices spread across the town. They monitor movements in and out of the region, run agents some of who go all the way to Russia, liaise with the Jihadi groups operating in the Central Asian republics and keep a sharp eye open for the slightest signs of local revolt.  The ISI, has in fact, been maintaining a rather large presence in this town ever since 1997 when it was captured by the Taliban. The town was held by one of the Taliban's most intractable opponents, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, whom the ISI wanted eliminated at all costs. But Dostum escaped. Not so lucky were the first batch of ISI officers who were supervising the battle for Mazar-e-Sharif. A military helicopter carrying four ISI operatives crashed near the town, killing all aboard. It is believed that among those killed in the crash was Azad Beg, the brother of former Pakistan army chief, General Mirza Aslam Beg.

The ISI's presence in Afghanistan has not diminished since the days of the Taliban offensives. It maintains major establishments at Kabul and Kandahar, apart from Mazar-e-eSharif. Besides, it has dozens of field offices and a network of agents. It has to keep watch not just at the northern borders but at the fighting north of Kabul, against the warriors loyal to the late Ahmed Shah Massoud, and in central Afghanistan where fighters of the Wahdat e Islami continue to resist the Taliban. The Pakistan establishment is equally wary of Iran and its Shia supporters in Afghanistan and the ISI is therefore tasked to watch the Iran border closely as well. Another critical ISI activity in this country is maintaining contacts with friendly Jihadi groups who have bases and run training camps within Afghanistan. The ISI and the Pakistani army too have their own training camps and safe havens to look after. Most of these camps are in the districts of Kunar, Nangarhar and Pakhtia that border Pakistan. Some camps, including one run by Osama's Al Qaeeda, are reported to be located in the northern province of Kunduz. These appear to be oriented towards the Islamist battle in Central Asia. The spread of the ISI in Afghanistan consequently is vast and some estimate that the covert Pakistani network in that country could well run into the thousands.

All this is one reason why the United States is counting on Pakistan being its strategic partner in the impending war against terrorism in Afghanistan. The enormous "intelligence" assets Pakistan is supposed to have on international terrorist Osama bin Laden and his protectors, the Taliban, is clearly coveted by the US intelligence and military establishments. The first kind of help the Americans have sought is intelligence or informed information about Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, his immediate security, the likely points of resistance within Afghanistan, and the strength, disposition and location of Taliban fighters. All this information is far more critical than the need for a physical staging post or permission to use Pakistani air space. The million dollar question is how much and how reliably will the ISI assist the Americans? For, the ISI like any other large organisation has an ethos of its own, has its own dynamics and compulsions - and a US military strike against the world's biggest symbols of militant jihad cannot but be a source of profound conflict within the ISI.

From Combat to Politics

The ISI despite being essentially a military organisation came to acquire a different ethos from that of the Pakistani army. The organisation's founder,Maj Gen. R Cawthorne, was an Australian born British Army officer who had chosen to remain behind with the Pakistani army after independence. He formed the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence as a pure military organisation in 1948 during the time of first India-Pakistan war over Kashmir. Not only was Cawthorne looking for more operational intelligence but he and other British officers of the newly formed Pakistani Army also wanted to keep an eye at what the Pakistani officers and men were up to. General Ayub Khan, after grabbing power in 1958, added a political function to the ISI's tasks. The ISI was to track politicians and at times to make sure they co-operated. In 1970 and 1971, the ISI was used to crush the Bengali resistance movement in the country's eastern wing. Prominent Bengali leaders were assassinated and others killed in bomb blasts. West Pakistan politicians too were fearful of the ISI, which by now had become a super intelligence agency controlled by the army. After the disastrous 1971 war, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan's first civilian leader in many years, tried to tame the ISI but failed and when General Zia ul Haq took over, the ISI was back with a vengeance. The ISI, under Zia, grew into a well oiled international organisation, benefiting enormously from the Afghan war that saw billions of dollars worth arms and aid to flow into the region. The ISI was tasked to divert a major part of the arms and money and use it for Pakistan's clandestine operations in the Indian Punjab and in building the country's nuclear capabilities. Access to clandestine sources of funds and considerable influence over the bureaucracy and political class ensured that the ISI became a power centre on its own right, even though in paper it remained nothing but another directorate of the Pakistani army.

Neither Afghanistan nor Kashmir could deflect the ISI's focus away from internal politics. For, this was one major source of influence. In the late 1980s, when the Pakistani army led by General Mirza Aslam Beg, agreed to the institution of democracy in Pakistan, the idea never was to allow civilian leaders unfettered access to power. The country nuclear power program, its covert ops, its military and foreign affairs were out of bounds for civilians. One of the reasons for Benazir's dismissal during her first stint in power was her ham handed attempts to influence key appointments in the Army. Her second dismissal was the direct result of her attempts to take on the ISI. She mistakenly presumed, like her unfortunate father had earlier, that the ISI could be countered by promoting rival agencies. She therefore appointed two "friends" as chiefs of the two existing civilian agencies. The first was the appointment of Rehman Malik as chief of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which looks into corruption and other issues, much like the CBI in India. The FIA launched a secret war against the Islamists, which amounted to a direct attack on the ISI. The Pakistani military brass is reported to have been particularly dismayed by reports that the FIA had established contact with the Israeli secret service, the MOSSAD, and was secretly taking Israeli help to investigate and crack down on Islamist terrorists after the Egyptian Embassy blast in 1995. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) too grew in importance since the re-election of Benazir in 1993. IB Director General, Masood Sharif, a retired Army Major appointed by Benazir, is believed to have played an active role in toppling the Shabir Shah government in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Worse, the Pakistani Army suspected that the IB chief had used money from the Mehran bank scam to finance the political horse-trading in the NWFP which ultimately led to the appointment of Benazir's ally, Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, as chief minister. Not surprisingly, one of the first acts of President Leghari, after dismissing Benazir on the early hours (3.10 am) of 5 November 1996, was to imprison the IB chief along with his deputy, as well as the head of the FIA, Rehman Malik. The IB chief and Wajed Durrani, SSP, Karachi, were accused of conspiring to murder Mir Murtaza Bhutto. Within hours of the Constitutional coup, ISI agents sealed the offices of the IB and the FIA. A serving Major General, Rafiullah Niazi, was appointed IB chief. Benazir was out and every ISI chief since then would do everything to make sure she never returned to power.

More intriguing and much better documented is the Nawaz Sharif-ISI saga. His elevation as prime minister in November 1990 was clearly attributable to the ISI. A sensational writ petition filed by the respected Pakistani stalwart and chief of Tehrik-e-Istaqal, Air Marshal (Retd.) Asghar Khan before the Pakistan supreme court claimed that the ISI had distributed at least Rs 140 million to various politicians before the 1990 elections on orders of the then Army chief, Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg. Prior to this, retired General Nasrullah Babar had openly accused the then ISI chief, Maj. General Assad Durrani, of personally distributing that money with the aim of ensuring Nawaz Sharif's election as prime minister. Interestingly, the ISI never contradicted the allegation or did anything to contest it in court. Gen. Beg admitted to the court:"It is in my knowledge that it was the practice with the ISI to support the candidates during the elections under the directions of the Chief Executive of the Government". In 1994, during a chat with members of the Karachi bar association, a particularly well known and still active ISI chief, Hamid Gul, admitted that ISI did indeed have a political role and that such a role had been formally incorporated in its charter in 1978. When his case came to nothing, Asghar Khan lamented: "To allow the ISI to continue dealing with political matters is to invite political instability. It is unrealistic to expect the armed forces to stay away from politics when so many of its officers continue to closely monitor these activities and in one way or the other remain involved with politicians and with political parties. The role of the ISI on different occasions in Pakistan's internal politics should awaken us to the need for taking this action but we seem to learn very slowly and sometimes never at all."

By all indications the ISI chose to learn nothing at all, and, surprisingly, nor did Pakistani politicians. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who during his second tenure as Prime Minister had grown exceedingly autocratic, began to feel that his chief of Army Staff, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, was too strong willed and tended to run things his own way with the help of his right hand man, Lt. Gen. Mhmd. Aziz. Sharif consequently cosied up to the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Khawaja Ziauddin, and soon it was apparent that the Army and the ISI were dancing to different tunes. The ISI began to interfere in army matters and for the moment the Gen. Musharraf could do nothing about it. This goes to prove that the ISI despite being a wing of the Army can behave, and has done so,  in ways contrary to the Army's aims. Sharif might just have got away and an army under Gen. Ziauddin could have been different. But the Army's loyalty to the chief ensured Sharif's ouster and Gen.Ziauddin's immediate house arrest. He was later court martialed and thrown out of the army. In his place, Musharraf immediately appointed 10 Corps (Rawalpindi) commander Lt. Gen. Mehmood Ahmed as ISI chief. Gen. Ahmed along with Lt. Gen. Mhmd. Aziz (now commander 4 Corps Lahore) were Musharraf two most favourite officers and both, incidentally, were pro-Jihadi.

Afghan Jihad: The Islamisation of the ISI

The late dictator Gen. Zia ul Haq was clearly the biggest patron of the ISI, and he was an Islamist. Unlike the secular whiskey slugging generals before him, Zia was a conservative, the son of a regimental cleric. He believed that Pakistan could only prosper as an Islamist state. He was the strategist of the Sikh and Kashmiri uprisings in India. In Afghanistan, he pushed for the Islamist groups amongst the various Majahideen outfits and made sure everybody understood the war to be Jihad. Some Pakistani observers have conjectured that the Americans were never comfortable with Zip's Islamist persona and somehow managed to engineer the air crash in which he was killed in 1988. The ISI's role in the Afghan Jihad has been well documented in the famous book, The Bear Trap: Afghanistan's Untold Story written by former ISI operative Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf. In book, Brig. Yousaf, is often critical of the US because of its attempts to prevent the ISI from supporting the Islamist groups like those led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In his postscript, the Brig writes: "The more I look back, the more I re-think events of the past three years, the more convinced I am that it was the deliberate policy of the US government that we should never achieve a military victory in Afghanistan." According to him, the Jihad was sabotaged by various US motivated measures, including the removal of ISI chief Lt. Gen. Abdul Rehman Akhtar in 1987, just before the chance of a decisive victory in Afghanistan. Then came the explosion that destroyed all the war stocks of the Mujahideen at Ojhri.

The lessons of Afghanistan were, however, not forgotten. The ISI's attention was turned to Kashmir where its chief Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul under the tutelage of Zia began the process of Islamisation and revolt. The Kashmir chapter of the Jamaat e Islami, which had a long standing enmity with the ruling National Conference, was activated and a new Islamist political front called the Muslim United Front (MUF) formed. The MUF provoked violence during the elections and made out that the ruling National Front was bent on denying them justice. The elections were proclaimed rigged and thousands of Jamaat supporters took to the streets in the towns of Kashmir. Hundreds of ISI agents spreading hatred against the National Conference and India were infiltrated into the valley. Existing Islamists and lumpen elements were provided opportunities to train in Pakistan and sent back with guns and easy money. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the ISI was mainly focused on Kashmir and Punjab in India. The Afghan Jihad had proved to be a failure with none of the Jihadi groups promoted by the ISI able to subjugate Afghanistan.

In 1994, egged on by an American oil company, Benazir Bhutto, then prime minister, trusted her family friends, retired General Nasrullah Babar and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of the Islamist Jamait ul Uleima e Islami Pakistan (JIUP), to raise an Afghan force, which eventually came to be called the Taliban. Initially, the ISI was kept completely out of the picture and all the necessary training and logistics provided by the paramilitary Frontier Constabulary. The Taliban proved to be spectacularly successful, partly because they sought to bring order in chaotic Afghanistan ruled by corrupt governors and partly because they promised a just, Islamic order and peace. Hundreds of soldiers from the opposition and scores of leaders crossed over to the Taliban. By end 1996, Benazir was deposed and the Pakistani Army came more fully into the picture. Regular Army units began fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Taliban in hard spots in Bamiyan, Panjsher and Kunduz. The ISI was pushed in once again, looking up old contacts, raising agents and using dirty tricks to defeat opponents. By 1997, the Taliban had wrapped up most of Afghanistan and it was expected that the last rebel strongholds would fall in time. That it did not happen testifies to the religious intolerance of the Taliban. They would brook no compromise and refused to moderate their views toward perceived religious rivals like the Shias. But the bottom line was that Kabul and 95 per cent of Afghanistan was in Taliban (read Pakistani) hands. The Pakistani military establishment was delighted: it had achieved what Gen. Zia had only dreamed about. Predictably, General Musharraf has always been conciliatory towards the Taliban. ''The Taliban are the dominant reality in Afghanistan. They control about 95 percent of the territory, and cannot be wished away...We feel that the international community should engage the Taliban rather than isolating and ostracizing them. The emphasis has so far been on coercive methods. The unilateral arms embargo on Taliban government is unjustified, discriminatory and will further escalate the war by providing encouragement to the opposition forces to seek a military solution,'' he said in an interview with the Russian newspaper Noviye Izvestia on 14 August 2001.

Following the Taliban victory, Afghanistan became the nursery of the Islamist international with Pakistan as the conductor. Islamist groups with diverse aims from all over the world congregated and found shelter and succour in Afghanistan. Together they forged a new ideology - that of a militant Islamic brotherhood. This process was greatly aided by foreign Islamists like Osama bin Laden, Saudi billionaire turned international terrorist. Jihad thus became a principle of Pakistani foreign policy and the ISI its greatest  proponents. The ISI brought together a variety of organisations, including the Harkat ul Mujahideen (formerly known as the Harkat ul Ansar), the Lashkar e Taiba, Al Badr, Jaish e Mohammad, the Sipahe Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and the JUI. They along with other international Islamist organisaions brought together by Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeeda formed the Islamist International. This loose federation of oragnisations comprise the Islamist Army that has begun battle with the Israelis, the Hindus and the Crusaders (the West). The ISI was neck deep in developing this great army and now suddenly they are being ordered to prepare to battle it. The about face is not just dramatic - for the ISI and the Islamists it is revolting, and unacceptable. The Islamists in Pakistan have taken to streets to protest Gen. Musharraf's decision to support the United States. Some say the islamists are a minority and have never won elections. The same is true for the Pakistani Army or for that matter, the ISI. But both are powerful organisations that have more say in the destiny of Pakistan than its citizens. The Pakistani Army will once again try to tame the ISI but nobody will be surprised if the Army turns out to be a Wehrmacht and the ISI, the Gestapo.

Author: Indranil Banerjie
Date: 20 September 2001

From The Pakistan Media: The Pakistan Army And The Inter-Services Intelligence: Soldiers Or Narco-Terrorists ? *

Former Prime Minister Says Drugs Deals Were to Pay for Covert Military Operation

By John Ward Anderson and Kamran Khan

Friday Times, 22-28 September 1994

Karachi, Pakistan

Pakistan’s Army Chief and the Head of the Intelligence agency proposed a detailed “blueprint” for selling heroin to pay for the country’s covert military operations in early 1991, according to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

In an interview, Sharif claimed that three months after his election as Prime Minister in November 1990, General Aslam Beg, then Army Chief of Staff, and General Asad Durrani, then Head of the Military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Bureau (ISI), told him the Armed Forces needed more money for covert foreign operations and wanted to raise it through large-scale drug deals.

“General Durrani told me, ‘We want a blueprint ready for your approval,” said Sharif, who lost to Benazir Bhutto in elections last October and is now leader of the opposition in Parliament.

“I was totally flabbergasted,” Sharif said, adding that he called “Beg a few days later to order the Army officially not to launch the drug trafficking plan.

Beg, who retired in August 1991, denied Sharif’s allegation, saying, “We have never been so irresponsible at any stage. Our politicians, when they’re not in office and in the opposition, they say so many things. There’s just no truth to it.”

Durrani, now Pakistan’s Ambassador to Germany, said: “This is a preposterous thing for a former Prime Minister to say. I know nothing about it. We never ever talked on this subject at all.”

Brig. Gen. S.M.A Iqbal, a Spokesman for the Armed Forces, said, “It’s inconceivable and highly derogatory; such a thing could not happen.”

The interview with Sharif, conducted at his home in Lahore, in May, was part of a broad investigation into narcotics trafficking in Pakistan. It marked the first time a senior Pakistani Official has publicly accused the country’s Military of having contingency plans to pay for covert operations through drug smuggling.

Officials with the US State Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration said they have no evidence that Pakistan’s military is or ever has been involved in drug trafficking. But US and other officials have often complained about the country’s weak efforts to curtail the spread of guns, money laundering, official corruption and other elements of the deep-rooted drug culture in Pakistan, which along with Afghanistan and Iran lies along the so-called Golden Crescent, one of the world’s biggest drug-producing regions.

In a scathing report two years ago, a consultant hired by the CIA warned that drug corruption had permeated virtually all segments of Pakistani society and that drug kingpins were closely connected to the country’s key institutions of power, including the President and Military intelligence agencies.

About 70 tonnes of heroin is produced annually in Pakistan, a third of which is smuggled abroad, mostly to the West, according to the State Department’s 1994 Report on International Drug Trafficking. About 20 per cent of all heroin consumed in the United States comes from Pakistan and its northern neighbour, Afghanistan, the second largest opium producer in the world after Burma. The United Nations says that as much as 80 per cent of the heroin in Europe comes from the region.

It has been rumoured for years that Pakistan’s Military has been involved in the drug trade. Pakistan’s Army, and particularly of the CIA – is immensely powerful and is known for pursuing its own agenda. Over the years, civilian political leaders have accused the Military – which has run Pakistan for more than half its 47 years of independence – of developing the country’s nuclear technology and arming insurgents in India and other countries without their knowledge or approval and sometimes in direct violation of civilian orders. Historically, the Army’s Chief of Staff has been the most powerful person in the country.

According to military sources, the intelligence agency has been pinched for funds since the war in Afghanistan ended in 1989 and foreign governments – chiefly the United States – stopped funneling money and arms through the ISI to Afghan Mujahideen guerillas fighting the Soviet-backed Kabul government. Without the foreign funds, the sources said, it has been difficult for the agency to continue the same level of operations in other areas, including aiding militants fighting Indian troops across the border in Kashmir. Such operations are increasingly being financed through money raised by such private organisations as the Jamiat-I-Islami, a leading fundamentalist political party.

A Western diplomat who was based in Islamabad at the time of the purported meeting and who had occasional dealings with Beg and Durrani, said, “It’s not inconceivable that they could come up with a plan like this.”

“There were constant rumours that ISI was involved in rogue drug operations with the Afghans – not so much for ISI funding, but to help the Afghans raise money for their operations,” the diplomat said.

In the interview, Sharif claimed that the meeting between him and the General occurred at the Prime Minister’s official residence in Islamabad after Beg called one morning and asked to brief him personally on a sensitive matter.

“Both Beg and Durrani insisted that Pakistan’s name would not be cited at any place because the whole operation would be carried out by trustworthy third parties,” Sharif said. “Durrani then went on to list a series of covert military operations in desperate need of money.”

Sharif, in the interview, would not discuss operation details of the proposal and refused the intelligence agency what covert plans the intelligence agency wanted to fund with the drug money.

Sharif said he had “no sources” to verify that the ISI had obeyed his orders to abandon the plan but that he assumed the agency had complied.

“I told them categorically not to initiate any such operation, and a few days later I called Beg again to tell that I have disapproved the ISI plan to back heroin smuggling.”

Embittered that his political enemies cut short his term as Prime Minister last year and helped engineer the return of Bhutto. Sharif has gone on an intense political offensive to destabilize her 10-month-old government. He claimed recently that Pakistan has a nuclear bomb and said he made the information public to prevent Bhutto from dismantling the programme under pressure from the West. The government has denied possessing a nuclear bomb but repeated previous statements that it has the ability to build one.

Calling Sharif a “loose cannon,” a second Western diplomatic source said, “I’d have a hard time believing” his allegations about the military’s drug trafficking proposal. The official suggested that Sharif’s disclosure might be designed to keep Bhutto and Pakistan-India relations off balance. “If anything should bring these two countries together, it is their common war against the drug problem, but this seems to fly in the face of that,” he said.


“Poppy Politics”

By M. Ilyas Khan and Owais Tahid

‘The News’, Pakistan, September 23, 1994

Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal belt has been a feature of the local economy for centuries. But these areas came to constitute the world’s largest heroin harvesting zone on a commercial basis only abut fifteen years ago, coinciding with the large scale induction of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Bureau (ISI) in these areas following Afghanistan’s Saur revolution in 1977. Could it be that the ISI promoted heroin as part of an official policy to fund its operations in post-revolution Afghanistan and elsewhere?

Former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif’s controversial interview published recently in The Washington Post has pinned the then COAS and the ISI Chief for having sought official permission to smuggle heroin to fund “covert military operations”. The question is, was it the first time the Army tried something like this, iat all? Some observers go a step further, suggesting that the very inception of heroin production in the Pak-Afghanistan border region was a planned affair, linked with the operations of the ISI, and perhaps also of the American CIA which was pursuing its own set of objectives.

More than a decade after the first successful processing and refining of opium to extract heroin by drug syndicates in the so-called Golden Triangle (Thailand, Laos, Burma), Afghans and their cousins on this side of Durand Line knew little or nothing, about opium extracts and their economic potential. Heroin for them remained an unheard of commodity throughout the rule of Sardar Daud and the early months of Saur revolution.

Today, members of the then Pakistan establishment, their political allies on both sides of the border, and their relatives and descendents who pass for rich politicians, make no bones about the role which ISI played in obliterating for all practical purposes, if only temporarily, the borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Significantly, as the ISI was doing this, technology for refining opium down to heroin started arriving in the borderland for the first time. In subsequent years of the Afghan war, it grew at a dizzying pace to match, and finally surpass, the growing influence of ISI in the region.

According to reports of some Western agencies, including the American CIA, until 1979 both Pakistan and Afghanistan hardly had any heroin production facility available. Official statistics of Pakistan Narcotics Control Board (PNCB) show that the country had virtually no heroin users up to that year. But the outlook began to change; by 1991, as much as 70 metric tonnes of heroin was passing through the country to various international destinations.

According to Khyber Agency locals, it was around 1979 that foreigners, particularly Americans and Germans, started pouring into the areas as if by some divine command, bringing with them refining equipment – a simple collection of pots and pans – and chemicals used to extract heroin from opium, mainly ascetic anhydride (AA). These foreigners had reportedly acquired their skills from the Golden Triange countries.

When Soviet troops entered Afghanistan later that fateful year, there was only one mobile laboratory in Landikotal to refine opium. Within the next year, the number of labs was 22, and by 1984 there were reportedly over 60 such labs in operation in Khyber Agency alone, with Mohmand Agency accounting for its own separate set of over half a dozen labs. The number has since swollen to over 100 labs in all, tugged around the Toyota pickups to ever more secure locations.

Following the promulgation of the death penalty for drug running in post-revolution Iran, Pakistan became the main conduit for heroin consignments produced in the border region. This fact is evidence that even if the ISI did not run drugs as an institutional policy, it did at least look the other way when someone else did. The decade-long era of ISI’s phenomenal rise to prominence as a politico-military intelligence network with professedly extra-territorial interests is, after all, replete with continued – and almost completely unhindered – shipment of large-scale heroin consignments over a distance of some 1,100 miles from Peshawar to Karachi, and beyond.

But a significant number of independent narcotics experts in Pakistan believe that ISI did not just look the other way. It is a widely held view that the ISI Directorate allowed Afghan resistance groups to smuggle drugs, particularly heroin, to fund their war effort in the early stages as well as after the cut off of the US assistance towards the late 1980s.

Knowledgeable sources have revealed that after Bhutto’s hanging in 1979, military dictator General Ziaul Haq, was advised by a prominent, foreign-trained advisor to capitalise on drug money in the absence of foreign assistance to meet the challenge on Western border. According to these sources, Pakistan Air Force planes were used in these early drug-running operations. No independent confirmation of this is available although sufficient circumstantial evidence can be drawn upon to corroborate this view.

Independent narcotic experts point to ISI’s deep involvement with, besides Afghan resistance groups, the Sikh militants of Indian Punjab who not only took frequent refuge in Pakistan but also used the heroin trade through Pakistan soil to fund arms purchases. Experts also link the pro-Pakistan Kashmiri militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen, with the drug-based assistance provided to it by the ISI and its Afghani ally, the Hizb-e-Islami of Gulbadin Hekmatyar, best known among all the Afghan groups for its heroin connection.

Experts also point to some recently revealed information about the growth of ISI from its modest origins to become an enviably extensive intelligence network with global operations in less than a decade’s time. They say it is hard to imagine such phenomenal growth without the help of drug money. The fact that by the mid-1980s, ISI rolls included 150,000 fully trained, fully equipped personnel, besides preparing the entire groundwork for planning 300 trained personnel behind the Indian border, must have cost the organisation a fortune, they say.

While ISI is widely held by experts to have indulged at one time or another, overtly or covertly, in drug running as a matter of policy, opinion is divided over whether the Pakistan Army has also been a party to it. No doubt there is little evidence to suggest Army’s involvement as an institution in heroin smuggling, but the involvement of individual Army officers in the trade has been widespread to spare the institution any of the embarrassment.

Perhaps taking advantage of the unique position of power which the Armed Forces have traditionally enjoyed in Pakistani politics, the men in uniform started taking liberties with the country’s anti-narcotic laws as far back as the mid-1970s, perhaps even earlier. An embarrassing situation arose in 1976 when, only three days before the State visit of former Prime Minister Zulifikar Ali Bhutto to Sweden, Swedish authorities recovered large quantities of hashish from two of Pakistan Air Force’s C-130 aircraft. The aircrafts were in Sweden to collect spares of SAB-17 trainer planes being assembled in Pakistan. The entire crew was arrested and put on trial.

Reports of the involvement of Armed Forces personnel in drug trafficking became more frequent in General Zia’s days. Answering a parliamentary question in 1986, a member of the late Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo’s Cabinet admitted on the floor of the National Assembly that as many as 18 Brigadiers and some PAF officers had been sentenced to various terms in jail on drug charges abroad.

At home, too, several Armed Forces personnel were held on drug charges from time to time. During the martial law period of 1977-85, a number of officers, mostly Majors heading Martial Law Courts, started accepting bribes from those held on drug charges, and proceeded to become heavily involved in drugs. At least 13 Majors and two Brigadiers were charged by the Military with drug related offences in the early 1980s.

Among them were such notorious characters as Major Afridi, Flight Lieutenant Khairun Rahman, Major Javed and Major Zahoor. Major Afridi, a loner, made several trips in a private car between Peshawar and Karachi, always in uniform and with a lady at his side, the empty spaces of the car stuffed with bags of heroin.

According to reports collected by these correspondents, these and other officers made extensive use of Army vehicles for transporting heroin on long and short distances. Major Afridi, Flt. Lt. Khairun Rahman and Majors Javed and Zahoor ultimately escaped from military detention. Afterwards, they reportedly continued to use military transport, for their illegal operations. Reports suggest that major Afridi had bribed a military doctor to order his transfer from lockup to the hospital on medical grounds, from where he slipped away to freedom and his drugs trade.

A more astonishing example is that of former Air Vice Marshal AShamim, who got himself hopelesstuck in the international drugs morass, believing that his influence with General Zia would help him retrieve his reputation. He was mistaken.

Not that General Zia did not offer help: Shamim was designated Pakistan’s Ambassador to Canada, an attractive assignment for one whose criminal record had become public. But the Canadian Government refused to accept his credentials. Later the Pakistani government tried to send him to Saudi Arabia as Ambassador, but the Saudis also reportedly refused to have him.

General Zia may continue to have a clean image in the eyes of many, but his entire eleven years of power were spent in close proximity with criminals, particularly drug traffickers. Two of his pilots were involved in using the presidential aircraft to smuggle heroin. At least one of them, Major Farooq Hameed, was arrested during a state visit to the US. But as desired by the dictator and in view of the “diplomatic complications” that might follow, no trial was held and the case was hushed up “in the interest of the Afghanistan war.”

General Zia also tried to protect another protégé, Hamid Hasnain, a Senior Executive of Habib Bank Ltd. but could not have his way. Hasnain was held in mid-1980s in Norway while smuggling heroin. General Zia reportedly demanded an explanation for the arrest, but the Norwegians threatened a diplomatic outcry if the Pakistani authorities pursued the case any further.

Another protégé of Zia, General Fazle Haq, once referred to as the world’s richest General, also came to be widely associated with NWFP, based drug cartels. His association with General Zia went back to their days in the Armoured Crops. Later, as a Corps Commander he helped Zia to overthrow Bhutto’s government, and served as Zia’s long term Governor of NWFP and his key Advisor on the Afghan war. His “crusade” against the Kukikhel drug barons of Khyber Agency in early 1985 is viewed by many as a war between the Afridi and Yusufzais over control of the Frontier heroin trade. While his direct involvement in the drug trade was never proved, credible reports suggest that he operated through Haji Ayub Afridi, perhaps the most powerful and influential drug baron of Pakistan to date.

In the early 1980s, two foreigners were arrested by Pakistani authorities while attempting to smuggle heroin. On one of them, a Norwegian named George Trober, the authorities found a notebook containing personal telephonic contacts of General Fazle Haq, then Governor of NWFP. The other, Hisayoshi Maruyama, a Japanese scout, was stated to be close to Zia’s family. Indeed, Maruyama’s close links with Zia’s family became the subject of a subsequent BBC documentary titled “The Scout Who Smuggled Heroin.”

A more significant aspect of Army’s involvement, at whatever level, in Pakistan’s narcotics trade is the reportedly extensive use of military transport for heroin trafficking. Army trucks transporting arms to resistance groups as well as the National Logistics Cell (NLC) vehicles are said to have been invariably used for shipping heroin consignments from upcountry all the way to Karachi, especially during the early days of Afghan resistance.

NLC’s role in supplying automatic firearms to dacoit gangs in interior Sindh and to urban rings in Karachi is not a secret any more. Former caretaker Prime Minister, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, is on record having made such allegations, which were never denied. NLC’s role in drug trafficking appears to have been equally ominous.

A recent example is that of a 10 tonne heroin consignment from Karachi, intercepted in January 1993 by Turkish authorities on a tip off from the USA. The ship carrying the “burden” had awaited the cargo for 28 days, anchored off the coast of Karachi on the guise of repairs. The consignment, duly packed in shipping containers in Peshawar, was reportedly brought to Karachi on NLC truck, and loaded onto the ship on deep sea. But thanks to satellite technology, the Americans were watching.

The continuous reports of NLC trucks being used for shady activities generated considerable controversy and pressures were brought to bear on the PNCB (Pakistan Narcotics Control Board), especially during Junejo’s time, to check this tendency. But the PNCB held that it had no power to search NLC vehicles carrying Afghan arms consignments. PNCB later requested permission to search NLC trucks, but was turned down by the then political authorities.

The recent interview allegedly given to The Washington Post by former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif, the veracity or otherwise of its contents notwithstanding, is the first piece of formal information to come from a high official of the time which supports observations by some experts about the Army’s involvement in the heroin trade.

According to some observers, Sharif might have said what he said in the purported interview “in the heat of the moment” (Kamran Khan met him the Day LDA was bringing down the encroachments around his Lahore residence), but given the track record of the then COAS, Mirza Aslam beg, and the fact that Pakistan’s aid pipelines from the West had started drying up by 1989, the allegation that a blueprint of drug trafficking was drawn by the Army “does have a ring of truth” to it.

The scenario was already being predicted by some international heroin trade watchers. A secret report commissioned by the American CIA and submitted in September 1992, suggested that “middle and junior grade (Pakistan Army) officers feel betrayed by the US over the arms cut off and talk openly about using the international narcotics trade to support military purchases. Whether any of this has gone beyond talk is not known”.

The report further observed: “…. The combination of the US aid cut off (following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, Pakistan lost this major source of funding for sophisticated weapons) and the drug money flowing into Pakistan through the black economy and the legal bearer bond schemes will tempt the Armed Forces to tap narcotics to finance their expensive weapons purchases.”