Friday, August 1, 2008

ISI Rogues, Real or Imagined?

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was involved in the recent deadly bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, according to a report in the New York Times.

In response to the NY Times report, Ms. Sherry Rahman, Pakistan's information minister, was quoted by AP as saying: "Years of backing an anti-Soviet jihad has left its mark. There are probably still individuals within the ISI who are ideologically sympathetic to the Taliban and act on their own in ways that are not in convergence with the policies and interests of the government. We need to identify these people and weed them out."

Later, Ms. Rahman claimed she was quoted out of context by a western wire service (AP) and added, "There is no question of any purge in the ISI. The government has already stated that there are no links or evidence of ISI involvement in the Kabul bombing. It was in the past during the Afghan jihad against Soviet forces that a few pro-Taliban elements had found their way in, and with the change in policy have been firmly rooted out."

Given the past record of ISI's deep involvement with militants in Afghanistan and Kashmir, it is quite plausible that there are rogue elements within the ISI up to their old tricks again. After all, which intelligence agency in the world has been pristine in making a clean break or in its dealings with unsavory characters, regardless of the nationality or state policy?

The American CIA has been the subject of purges more than once since its creation after World War II. First, under Admiral Stansfield Turner appointed by President Carter, in late 1970s. The second time, more recently, by Porter Goss after the 911 terror attacks and Iraq intelligence debacles. And yet, the CIA continues to be under suspicion for highly questionable practices carried out by CIA operatives with or without the approval of senior officials. Not the least of these criminal actions are kidnappings, imprisonments, torture and murder of many innocent people around the world. Some of these actions involving British, Canadian and German citizens have been well documented recently. It is alleged that the ISI and other intelligence agencies have collaborated with the CIA in kidnapping citizens of Pakistan and other countries as a part of the ongoing "war on terror". Hundreds of Pakistanis have gone missing in the last few years.

Pakistan's ISI also had a major purge ordered by President Musharraf in 2002 after 911 when Pakistan changed its policy toward the Taliban. It is not clear how complete this purge was, given the long history of a very large number ISI operatives who were embedded with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements for a long time. In fact, Gen. Akhtar Abdul Rahman, Pakistani ISI’s head from 1980 to 1987, regularly met with bin Laden in Peshawar, Pakistan; the CIA essentially micromanaged Afghanistan’s opium production; the ISI trained militants to attack the Soviet troops; well over 100,000 Islamic militants were trained in Pakistan between 1986 and 1992 in camps constructed and overseen by the CIA and MI6, with the British SAS training future al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in bomb-making and other terrorist skills.

The New York Times, the source of the latest report about ISI, does not have a particularly stellar record of credibility. The disinformation campaign by Judith Miller, one of its key reporters, is still fresh in the minds of many people. The truth is that this campaign was used by President Bush and Vice President Cheney in making the case for war in Iraq. The fact that NY Times reports clearly contributed to building up the case for Iraq war is particularly alarming, as it suggests the possibility that these reports would be used to justify another war.

Regardless of the credibility of the New York Times, it is important for Pakistan government to take the issue of rogues in the ISI seriously and review its practices. It must conduct its own thorough investigation and purge any one found to be engaging with the Taliban to aid in acts of terror. Pakistan's President, the military brass and the Prime Minister must not tolerate any breach of discipline in carrying out the policies established by the democratically elected government. This is the only reasonable course of action for Pakistan to protect its own national interest and enable democracy to take root in Pakistan. There can be no success in the war on terror unless the ISI is made accountable to the people of Pakistan.


Anonymous said...

When there is discourse about ISI-Taliban relationship there is always a decoy argument that CIA helped create Taliban-Al-queda.This is entirely false. The CIA only financed Afgan Mujahideen indirectly through ISI with help of Saudi intel.The ISI diverted some of the slush funds from the campaign like it is doing now to fund its own war in Kashmir.Hizbul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba,Jaish-e-Mohamed are fully controlled and trained by ISI. The Arabs led by Osama and misc didnt like Americans anyway and had their own funds and recruited fighters from across the arab world through declaration of fatwa for jehad in Afghanistan. The ISI-Army was playing a double game from day one from 2001.The storming of combat-outpost of Americans through a sophisticated conventional attack opened American eyes to the possibility of SSG retired/serving personnel plus the bombing of Kabul embassy.The larger question is,whether the ISI-Army agenda is inline with interests of state of Pakistan. The systematic ceasefire violations along LoC,co-ordinated bomb attacks in Indian metros,re-igniting Kashmir insurgency are all pointing to one direction.Escalation to precipitate a conflict with India so that the Army pre-eminent position and credibility is back in minds of ordinary pakistanis and diverting the anger to India.

The Iraq 2003 war was fully justified according to me well in line with American interests.Of course, there is always a need to sell the strategic concepts to naive common man. The so called free market economy need predictability,continuity and stability.Saddam Hussein was an irrational person,he fought wars according to his whims and fancies and not for strategic interests of Iraq unlike US or Russia.The ~60% energy security of US is in Kuwait-Saudi Arabia-UAE. He showed his lunacy by striking Kuwaiti oil fields in 90s and constantly had his eyes on Saudi Arabia.Anyway realpoliticks is no morality tale.

Riaz Haq said...

Who do you think were the Mujahedeen? They were mainly Afghan refugees, Pakistani tribals, and Arab fighters who poured in from the Arab world. These same people were bankrolled, trained and equipped by a combination of Americans, Saudis and Pakistanis, and later constituted Taliban and Al-Qaeda. There was heavy involvement of the US and the British special ops along with Pak military in training them with AK-47s, RPGs, Stingers, improvised explosives etc.

As you can read in Charlie Wilson's war (or watch the movie), there was a matching funds agreement between Saudis and Americans to fund the war.

There was ample supply of out-of-work fighters after the Soviets pulled out. These fighter had no other skills but to fight and the ISI used them to start an insurgency in Kashmir and to support Taliban in taking over Afghanistan who hosted Al-Qaeda. The US completely abandoned the area and left it to the ISI to manage, leading up to 911.

ISI became very powerful, and it influenced events in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan and India. This was a disaster for the entire region.

As far as Iraq war is concerned, I believe it was an unnecessary war based on falsehood. It has become a huge, expensive distraction for the US and a boon for Al-Qaeda in its recruiting drive. It has hurt US interests badly.

Anonymous said...

Written by a former RAW chief(ISI's nemesis)..but very interesting long read..

B. Raman

On July 26,2008, the Pakistan Government placed the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) under the direct control of the Interior Division.

2.A notification issued before the departure of Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani for Washington for talks with President George Bush,said: “In terms of Rule 3(3) of the Rules of Business of 1973, the Prime Minister has approved the placement of the Intelligence Bureau and the Inter-Services Intelligence under the administrative, financial and operational control of the Interior Division with immediate effect.” jure, the ISI and the IB were working y under the Prime Minister, while the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was being overseen by the Interior Minister, but de facto, they were reporting to President Pervez Musharraf till the elected Government under Gilani came to office in the last week of March,2008.

4. Since then, the Gilani Government was under pressure from the US to act against what had come to be known as “the ISI within the ISI”----- that is, a group of military officers in the ISI who were allegedly helping the Taliban in Afghanistan and the anti-India jihadi terrorist organizations.

5. In December,2003, Musharraf escaped two attempts to assassinate him at Rawalpindi allegedly mounted by Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda elements with the complicity of some junior officers of the Army and the Air Force. The failure of the ISI to detect this conspiracy led to fears that there are elements in the ISI, which are opposed to co-operation with the US even against Al Qaeda.

6.Dr.Aamir Liaqat Hussain, the then Minister of State for Religious Affairs, gave expression to these fears in an interview to the "Daily Times" of Lahore on May 5, 2005. He warned that Musharraf had a lot of enemies ‘within’ who could make an attempt on his life again at any time. He said that there were certain elements within the forces who could attack the General. He added: “No common people could attack President Musharraf, but certainly there are elements in the forces who can launch yet another attack against him. There is an ISI within the ISI, which is more powerful than the original and still orchestrating many eventualities in the country.” He added that he feared a threat to his own life because he supported Musharraf's call for an enlightened and moderate Islam and had been given the task of preparing the texts of sermons advocating enlightened and moderate Islam to be used at all mosques of the Armed Forces.

7. Fears that this “ISI within the ISI” had become even stronger since then increased after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in the last week of December,2007. Many police officers suspected that it had got her killed with the help of Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but Baitullah has strongly denied that he had any role in her assassination.

8. According to Pakistani Police sources, they had strong reasons to suspect that this “ISI within the ISI” had organized the unsuccessful attempt to have President Hamid Karzai assassinated in Kabul in the last week of April,2008, and to have the Indian Embassy in Kabul blown up in July,2008.

9. While there has been talk of this ‘ISI within the ISI” since May,2005, nobody has so far been able to identify the officers constituting it. Senior Pakistani Army officers deny its existence and describe the allegations of Dr.Aamir Liaqat Hussain as a figment of his fertile imagination.

10. The transfer of the ISI and the IB to the Interior Ministry was seen by senior Army officers as an attempt by Asif Zardari to make Rehman Malik, his close confidante, who is designated as the Adviser to the Interior Ministry with the status of a Cabinet Minister, the Czar of all intelligence agencies directly reporting to him.

11. The proposed transfer met with a storm of protests from the ISI itself and from the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Army due to the following reasons:

Senior Army officers were outraged that the Director-General of the ISI, who is a Lt.Gen, should be asked to work under Malik, a retired police officer, who held a post equivalent to the rank of a Major-General when he was in service.

All the papers regarding Pakistan’s clandestine procurement of nuclear and missile technologies from China and missile technology from North Korea are in the ISI. The interrogation of A.Q.Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist, in 2004 under US pressure was done by Lt.Gen.Ehsan-ul-Haq, the former DG of the ISI. All the papers relating to L’Affaire A.Q.Khan are in the ISI. In the wake of the recent allegations by A.Q.Khan about Musharraf’s prior knowledge and approval of his dealings with North Korea, the attempt to remove the ISI from the control of the Army was viewed by Musharraf and other senior Army officers as an attempt by the US to get access to these papers through Malik.

Similarly, the proposed transfer of the ISI, which is responsible for covert operations against India and Afghanistan, was viewed by them as an attempt by the US to have access to details of these operations.

12. Following these protests, the Government reversed the notification within 24 hours and restored the status quo ante. The Government issued another notification which said that the earlier notification had been ‘misunderstood’ and that the ISI would “continue to function under the Prime Minister”.“The previous notification only “re-emphasised the need for more coordination between Ministry of Interior and the ISI in relation to the war on terror and internal security.” It said a detailed notification would be issued later to clarify the situation.

13. Annexed is an updated version of article on the ISI, which I had written for an Italian journal in the last week of January,2008. (30-7-08)

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



The Intelligence Bureau (IB) of undivided India, which was created by the British colonial rulers, to collect domestic political intelligence was largely a police organization. It had no responsibility for the collection of foreign intelligence.

At the time of the partition of India in 1947, its personnel, assets and records were divided between India and Pakistan. Most of the Muslim police officers serving in the IB of undivided India chose to join the IB of Pakistan. Others stayed behind in the IB of India.

The Government of independent India placed its IB under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs and expanded its charter to make it responsible for the collection of internal as well as foreign intelligence. This position continued till September 21,1968, when the Government of India bifurcated the IB and converted its foreign intelligence division into an independent organization called the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW). The R&AW was placed directly under the Prime Minister and was made part of the Cabinet Secretariat, which functions under the Prime Minister.

Like the IB, the R&AW too was initially a largely police organization with a small number of military officers taken on deputation to handle military intelligence. Since then, the predominance of police officers has been reduced and more officers unconnected with the police have been inducted into the R&AW. It is a largely civilian organization with a small number of military officers.

The evolution in Pakistan took a different path. The IB of Pakistan, which is part of the Ministry of the Interior, was initially a largely police organization and was given the responsibility for the collection of internal and external intelligence. However, following complaints from the Army about the poor performance of the IB and its police officers during the first Indo-Pakistan war of 1947-48 over Kashmir, the Government of Pakistan created a new organization called the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate and made it responsible for the collection of foreign intelligence.

The ISI was placed under the control of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and its personnel were taken from the three wings of the armed forces. It became a military-dominated intelligence agency.

Initially, the ISI had no responsibility for the collection of internal intelligence, which continued to be collected by the police officers of the IB. This position started changing after the Army started meddling in politics in the late 1950s. Field Marshal Ayub Khan ( President during 1958-69), who distrusted the police officers of the IB, made the ISI responsible for the collection of internal intelligence too having a bearing on national security. He also created in the ISI a Covert Action Division to provide assistance to the tribal insurgents in India’s North-East.

The internal intelligence role of the ISI was further strengthened under the late Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto (1971-77) and then under the late Gen.Zia ul Haq (1977-88), who overthrew Bhutto and seized power in 1977. Both Bhutto and Zia used the Political Division of the ISI for the collection of intelligence about their political opponents and the ethnic and linguistic minorities. While the police officers of the IB continued to perform their internal intelligence collection role, the reports of the ISI were given greater credence than those of the IB.

Under Z.A.Bhutto and Zia, the role of the Covert Action Division of the ISI was expanded and strengthened in order to enable it to assist Sikh and Kashmiri separatists in India and radical elements in the Indian Muslim community. The assistance was in the form of funds, training and supply of arms, ammunition and explosives.

Z.A.Bhutto also ordered the creation of a new Division in the ISI to assist the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission in the clandestine procurement of nuclear technology and equipment from abroad. This Division played an active role in helping Pakistan acquire a military nuclear capability.

Thus, when Zia overthrew Bhutto and seized power in 1977, the ISI had three important roles---collection of internal and external intelligence, covert action in India and clandestine procurement of nuclear technology and equipment.

The internal political intelligence Division of the ISI came under considerable criticism after the death of Zia in a plane crash in August,1988. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of Mrs.Benazir Bhutto won the elections held thereafter. The ISI, then headed by Lt.Gen.Hamid Gul, strongly opposed her taking over as the Prime Minister. It alleged that she was in touch with India when she was living in political exile in the UK and hence projected her as a security risk.

Under US pressure, the Army and the ISI agreed to her becoming the Prime Minister on condition that she would not have anything to do with the nuclear programme. Even after she had assumed office, the ISI kept disseminating reports alleging that she was an Indian agent. The ISI’s animosity to her increased when she abolished the internal political intelligence Division and ordered the Covert Action Division to stop supporting the Sikh separatists of India. However, she gave it a free hand in J&K.

The ISI’s animosity to her resulted in her dismissal by the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in August,1990, and fresh elections. During the elections, the ISI, with money allegedly donated by a private bank, assisted the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) of Mr.Nawaz Sharif and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) in their election campaign and worked against the candidates of the PPP.

The PML and the JEI won the majority of seats. After taking over as the Prime Minister, Nawaz ordered the re-establishment of the internal political intelligence Division of the ISI. He also made Brig.Imtiaz, who used to head the Political Division of the ISI before 1988, the Director of the IB. Thus started the process of the militarization of the IB. This has continued since then and acquired momentum under President Pervez Musharraf.

Since 1990, there have been allegations that the Political Division of the ISI has been interfering in the conduct of the general elections in order to get candidates critical of the Army defeated through rigging and other means. These allegations gained force under Musharraf. In 2002, he was accused of misusing the ISI for ensuring the victory of the Pakistan Muslim League faction headed by Mr.Shujjat Hussain, which supported him. In the run-up to the elections on February 18,2008, there were similar allegations of the misuse of the ISI by him to influence the results.

De jure, the ISI is supposed to report to the Prime Minister, but de facto it generally reports to the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) and keeps the Prime Minister in the dark about its activities. There were, however, three instances when the heads of the ISI were more loyal to the Prime Minister than to the COAS and this created tensions in the relations between the Prime Minister and 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.Mirza Aslam Beg, the then COAS, which ultimately led to her dismissal in August,1990. Gen.Beg stopped inviting Kallue to the Corps Commanders conferences and transferred the responsibility for covert action in India 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) as the Prime Minister. He appointed as the DG,ISI, Lt.Gen.Javed Nasir, a fundamentalist Kashmiri officer, though he was not recommended by Gen.Asif Nawaz Janjua, the then COAS, for the post. This created friction in the relations between Nawaz Sharif and his COAS, who excluded the ISI chief from all important Army conferences.

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 Musharraf led to friction between the two. 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 the 1990s, there was a controversy in Pakistan as to who really controlled the ISI and when was its internal Political Division set up. Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan, former chief of the Pakistan Air Force, filed a petition in the Supreme Court 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 the 1990 elections. Testifying before the Supreme Court on June 16,1997, Gen. (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg claimed that though the ISI was manned by serving military officers and was part of the Ministry of Defence, 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 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.

After the elections of 2002, Musharraf kept the ISI directly under his control and did not allow the elected Prime Minister to have any responsibility for supervising its work.

During the 1980s, the Covert Action Division of the ISI was used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US for recruiting, training and arming not only Afghan Mujahideen, but also fundamentalist elements of Pakistan for fighting against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The Saudi intelligence agency recruited over 6,000 Arabs in West Asia and North Africa and sent them to the ISI for being trained, armed and infiltrated into Afghanistan. All the funds and arms and ammunition from the CIA and all the funds from the Saudi intelligence for use against the Soviet troops were channelled through the ISI. Among the Arabs brought in and trained were Osama bin Laden and his supporters. The ISI’s links with bin Laden and his operatives thus started from the 1980s with the knowledge and approval of the CIA.

The withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988-89, which was due to the jihad waged by the Afghan Mujahideen, Pakistani jihadis and the Arabs under bin Laden, strengthened the reputation of the ISI. During the same period, the ISI helped DR.A.Q.Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist, in the clandestine procurement and transport of nuclear equipment for the Kahuta Uranium Enrichment plant, which enabled Pakistan to acquire a military nuclear capability with the technology given by China and the equipment procured by the ISI. The US closed its eyes to the nuclear procurement activities of the ISI because of the CIA’s dependence on it for the jihad against the Soviet troops.

Differences started appearing between the CIA and the ISI in 1990. These were due to the CIA’s unhappiness over the non-co-operation of the ISI in its efforts to buy back from the Afghan Mujahideen the unused shoulder-fired Stinger missiles supplied to them for use against Soviet aircraft. The CIA’s concerns over the ISI were enhanced by reports of Pakistani assistance to Iran in the nuclear field starting from 1988 and Pakistani contacts with China and North Korea in the nuclear and missile fields.

In 1993, the Clinton Administration forced Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister, to remove from the ISI Lt.Gen. Javed Nasir, the then Director-General, and some of his officers because they were seen as non-cooperative in its efforts to buy back the Stingers. Nasir was a Deobandi fundamentalist, who belonged to the Tablighi Jamaat, a Pakistani organization to preach Islam, which was assisting the jihadi organizations in their recruitment drive in Pakistan and abroad.

In 1994, during the second tenure of Benazir as the Prime Minister, the ISI and Maj.Gen.Naseerullah Babar, her Interior Minister, acted jointly in encouraging the formation of the Taliban in order to restore law and order in Afghanistan, which had collapsed after the Afghan Mujahideen came to power in April,1992. By September,1996, the Taliban, with the ISI’s help, succeeded in capturing power in Kabul and extending its control over all the Pashtun areas.

Initially, the CIA closed its eyes to it because UNOCAL , the US oil company, was interested in the construction of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan and was facing difficulty in going ahead with this project due to the break-down of law and order. The US interest in seeking the assistance of the Taliban for the UNOCAL project disappeared after the UNOCAL itself abandoned it as not feasible. In 1996, Osama bin Laden and his advisers shifted from the Sudan to Afghanistan when the Taliban had not yet captured power in Kabul.

After capturing power in Kabul, the Taliban welcomed the presence of bin Laden and encouraged him to shift from Jalalabad to Kandahar. He was permitted to start his training infrastructure in Afghan territory. Alarm bells started ringing in the US over the developing nexus between the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the role played by the ISI in training the Taliban and reports of the resumption of the contacts of bin Laden with his old friends in Pakistan in the ISI as well as in Pakistani fundamentalist organizations.

The US concerns over these developments increased after bin Laden formed in 1998 his International Islamic Front (IIF) For Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People and Al Qaeda organized explosions near the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam on August 7,1998. The US Cruise missile attacks on Al Qaeda’s training camps in Afghan territory on August 20,1998, were not effective.

From then on, there was increasing pressure by the US on the Government of Nawaz Sharif to either pressure the Taliban to hand over bin Laden to the CIA or to permit the US Special Forces to mount a special operation from Pakistani territory to kill or capture bin Laden. Nawaz did not do either as he was afraid of the repercussions in Pakistan if he collaborated with the US against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

After overthrowing Nawaz Sharif and seizing power in October, 1999, Musharraf appointed Lt.Gen.Mahmood Ahmed, a close friend of his, as the DG of the ISI. The US was unhappy over what it viewed as non-cooperation by the ISI in its efforts to have bin Laden killed or captured. Before it started its military strikes on the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghan territory on October 7,2001, it pressured Musharraf to replace Lt.Gen.Ahmed as the DG of the ISI. Musharraf appointed Lt.Gen.Ehsan-ul-Haq as the DG. He was succeeded by Lt.Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, who has since taken over as the COAS from Musharraf. The present DG is Lt.Gen.Nadeem Taj.

Kiyani tried to keep the ISI out of political controversies. In recent months, it is the IB which is becoming increasingly controversial after Musharraf appointed Brig (retd) Ijaz Shah, a close personal friend of his, as its Director and inducted a number of retired army officers into it. He also placed the IB under the control of Shaukat Aziz, his confidante, who was the then Prime Minister. Before her assassination, Benazir used to complain that the threat to her security mainly came from Ijaz Shah, Lt.Gen.(retd) Hamid Gul and Chaudhury Pervez Elahi, former Chief Minister of Punjab, all the three of them Zia loyalists. She did not make any complaint against the ISI. However, since her assassination, there have been allegations by her party members that junior officials of the ISI might have also been involved in her assassination in addition to those named by her when she was alive. Ijaz Shah resigned after the elections.

The ISI has always had three operational priorities. Firstly, the annexation of Kashmir through covert action; secondly, acquiring a strategic depth in Afghanistan through a Government which would be favourable to Pakistani interests; and thirdly, to help the Government in its clandestine nuclear and missile procurement efforts.

These priorities have not changed. That is why it has refrained from taking action against the Pakistani jihadi organizations, which are active in India and against the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan, which is operating against the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan from sanctuaries in Balochistan and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

While pretending to extend unconditional co-operation to the US in its so-called war against terrorism, Musharraf kept the co-operation confined to action against Al Qaeda operatives based in Pakistani territory. Even the co-operation against Al Qaeda is restricted to action against Al Qaeda sleeper cells operating from non-tribal areas. He did not take any effective action against Al Qaeda sanctuaries in the FATA or against the leadership of the Neo Taliban, headed by Mulla Mohammad Omar, its Amir, operating from the tribal areas of Pakistan. Nor did he act against the terrorist infrastructure directed against India.

In December,2003, Musharraf escaped two attempts to assassinate him at Rawalpindi allegedly mounted by Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda elements with the complicity of some junior officers of the Army and the Air Force. The failure of the ISI to detect this conspiracy led to fears that there are elements in the ISI, which are opposed to co-operation with the US even against Al Qaeda.

Dr.Aamir Liaqat Hussain, the then Minister of State for Religious Affairs, gave expression to these fears in an interview to the "Daily Times" of Lahore on May 5, 2005. He warned that Musharraf had a lot of enemies ‘within’ who could make an attempt on his life again at any time. He said that there were certain elements within the forces who could attack the General. He added: “No common people could attack President Musharraf, but certainly there are elements in the forces who can launch yet another attack against him. There is an ISI within the ISI, which is more powerful than the original and still orchestrating many eventualities in the country.” He added that he feared a threat to his own life because he supported Musharraf's call for an enlightened and moderate Islam and had been given the task of preparing the texts of sermons advocating enlightened and moderate Islam to be used at all mosques of the Armed Forces.

The sympathies of many serving and retired officers of the ISI and the Army for Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and the Pakistani jihadi organizations and the unwillingness or inability of any Government of Pakistan to act against them are coming in the way of the success of the so-called war against global jihadi terrorism.

Riaz Haq said...

Since you have shared how a former RAW chief sees its nemesis, the ISI, let me share with you how the world sees RAW and its activities to destabilize its neighborhood. It's a little dated but still relevant. Here it is:

US report details direct RAW involvement in East Pakistan secession

The News Intelligence Network

By Aslam Khan

ISLAMABAD: A sensational American report has confirmed the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India's most powerful intelligence agency, was directly involved in the secession of East Pakistan into Bangladesh, and is currently engaged in similar activities. RAW has a long history of activity in Bangladesh supporting both secular forces and the area's Hindu minority, masterminding the break up of Pakistan in 1971, says the report made available to the News Intelligence Network (NIN) The report has been prepared by the innocent sounding Federation of American Scientists (FAS), a group which is however engaged in analysis and advocacy on science, technology and public policy concerning global security, especially about countries which have nuclear capability.

It is a privately funded non-profit policy organisation, whose Board of Sponsors includes 55 American Nobel laureates. FAS was originally founded as the Federation of Atomic Scientists in 1945 by members of the Manhattan Project, who produced the first atomic bomb. RAW is extensively engaged in disinformation campaigns, espionage, sabotage and terrorism against Pakistan and other neighboring countries, reveals the sensational secret report. It also gives details of the truly alarming involvement of RAW in terrorist activities in Pakistan. The report reveals the involvement of RAW in Bangladesh dating from the 1960s, when it promoted dissatisfaction against Pakistan in the then East Pakistan, including funding Mujibur Rahman's general election in 1970 and providing training and arming to the Mukti Bahini. The report claims an estimated 35,000 RAW agents have entered Pakistan at various times between 1983-99, with 12,000 having worked in the past or working presently in Sindh, 10,000 in Punjab 8,000 in North West Frontier Province and 5,000 in Balochistan. "As many as 40 terrorist camps are currently operating at Rajasthan, East Punjab, [occupied] Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of India and are run by RAW's Special Service Bureau [SSB]," the report reveals. The report further confirms that throughout the Afghan War, RAW was responsible for the planning and execution of terrorist activities in Pakistan to deter Islamabad from supporting the Afghan liberation movement against India's ally, the Soviet Union.

"The assistance provided to RAW by the KGB enabled RAW to arrange terrorist attacks in Pakistani cities throughout the Afghan War," the report says. "The defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan did not end the role of RAW in Pakistan, as it established training camps in East Punjab, [occupied] Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan where agents are trained for terrorist activities," it reveals.

It further says that RAW has become "an effective instrument of India's national power, and has assumed a significant role in formulating India's domestic and foreign policies." RAW, according to the report, has enjoyed the backing of successive Indian governments in these efforts. Working directly under the Prime Minister, the structure rank, pay and perks of the Research and Analysis Wing are kept secret from parliament.

"Current policy debates in India have generally failed to focus on the relative priority given by RAW to activities directed against India's neighbours versus attention to domestic affairs to safeguard India's security and territorial integrity," the report says. It points out that RAW has had limited success in dealing with separatist movements in Manipur and Tripura in the northeast, Tamil Nadu in the south and Punjab and Kashmir in the northwestern part of the country.

RAW, it adds, has failed to neutralise freedom fighters in Kashmir and similar indigenous movements in Kerala, Karnataka and other places, along with economic and industrial espionage activities in New Delhi and Bombay. Giving a background of the intelligence agency, the American report says RAW was set up in 1968 "specifically targeted on Pakistan".

Pakistan, the report says, has accused RAW of sponsoring sabotage in its Punjab province, where it has been supporting the Seraiki movement, "providing financial support to promote its activities in Pakistan and organising an International Seraiki Conference in Delhi in November December 1993". It adds: "RAW has an extensive network of agents and anti-government elements within Pakistan, including dissident elements from various sectarian and ethnic groups of Sindh and Punjab."

According to it, India is funding the current upsurge of terrorism in Pakistan "and has been behind the sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis, which has resulted in thousands of deaths in the last few years." Terrorist activities in Pakistan attributed to the clandestine activities of RAW in the report include:

A car bomb explosion in the Saddar area of Peshawar on 21 December 1995, which caused the death of 37 persons and injured over 50 others.

An explosion at Shaukat Khanum Hospital on 14 April 1996, claiming the lives of seven persons and injuries to over 34 others.

A bus traveling from Lahore to Sahiwal was blown up at Bhai Pheru on 28 April 1996, causing the deaths of 44 persons on the spot and injuring 30 others.

An explosion in a bus near the Sheikhupura Hospital killed nine persons and injured 29 others on 08 May 1996.

An explosion near Alam Chowk, Gujranwala on 10 June 1996 which killed three persons and injured 11 others.

A bomb exploded on a bus on GT Road near Kharian on 10 June 1996, killing 2 persons and injuring 10 others.

On 27 June 1996, an explosion opposite Madrassah Faizul Islam, Faizabad, Rawalpindi, killed 5 persons and injured over 50 others.

A bomb explosion in the Faisalabad Railway Station passenger lounge on 8 July 1996 killed 3 persons and injured 20 others.

Another startling claim made by the American report is that it was RAW that was behind the hijacking of an Indian airliner to Lahore in 1971, "attributed to the Kashmiris, to give a terrorist dimension to the Kashmiri national movement".

The report continues: "During the course of its investigation the Jain Commission received testimony on the official Indian support to the various Sri Lankan Tamil armed groups in Tamil Nadu," the report reveals. From 1981, RAW and the Intelligence Bureau, according to the report, established a network of as many as 30 training bases for these groups in India. Centres were also established at the high-security military installation of Chakrata, near Dehra Dun, and in the Ramakrishna Puram area of New Delhi.

The report says that RAW and the Ministry of External Affairs are provided Rs. 250 million annually as "discretionary grants" for foreign influence operations. "These funds have supported organisations fighting Sikh and Kashmiri separatists in the UK, Canada and the US," it says.

It further reveals: "An Extensive network of Indian operatives is controlled by the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC whose covert activities include the infiltration of US long distance telephone carriers by Indian operatives, with access to all kinds of information, to blackmail relatives of US residents living in India". Citing an example, it says that in 1996, an Indian diplomat was implicated in a scandal over illegal funding of political candidates in the US. Under US law foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing to federal elections.

The US District Court in Baltimore sentenced Lalit H. Gadhia, a naturalised US citizen of Indian origin, to three months imprisonment. Gadhia had confessed that he worked as a conduit between the Indian Embassy and various Indian-American organisations for funnelling campaign contributions to influence US lawmakers. Over US $46,000 from the Indian Embassy was distributed among 20 Congressional candidates. The source of the cash used by Gadhia was Devendra Singh, a RAW official assigned to the Indian Embassy in Washington, the report says. It adds that illicit campaign money received in 1995 went to Democratic candidates including US Senators Charles S Robb (D-VA), Paul S. Sarbanes (D-MD) and US Representatives Benjamin L Cardin (D-MD) and Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) -- (May 24, 1998).

Anonymous said...

Well, RAW's Special Operations activities have been dismantled by Gujral Govt in 1997 and nobody has since re-activated it including NDA Govt.Now after Kabul bombing NSA publically hinted that such capabilities will be re-activated..but nothing seems to have happened since.RAW has been deeply penetrated by Western intelligence and I believe it is still in midst of 'witch-hunt'.Its current pan-chewing chief and deputy is a butt of jokes.Besides infighting between its IPS cadre vs RAS(Research Analysis Service). I am not in anyway justifying its activities u hav mentioned..but its a FAS source and its a big non-proliferation lobby and hated India coz of its Cold War alliances. Of course the FAS source could be CIA docs which is inturn fed by ISI(coldwar allay) in matters relating to India. Even now Islamabad CIA station is infatuated with ISI.
->The Bangladesh operation is a result of Pak intel supporting insurgency in Mizoram & Nagaland along with Chinese intel agency.
The full scale of genocide committed by Pak's Punjabi military on Bangladesh is yet to assessed...similar to Khmer Rouge's campaign in Cambodia.

-> SriLanka initiated "great games"(helping Pak in 1971 war logistically and allowing US naval presence in Lanka) (still plays a a bit too)..and LTTE was supported as a tit-4-tat.

I think most insurgency fueled by RAW blewed up on its face..and today's coalition govts cannot risk a scandal since they are supported by razor thin margins. So a special ops capability like ISI is not likely in the future,

Again RAW is a strictly civilian with a few military guys on deputation and completely under PM.

Riaz Haq said...

Do you think your comments and the propaganda piece by former RAW chief are more objective and credible than a report by FAS, an independent organization? Just think about it.

As for the excesses by Pak military against its own citizens in what was East Pakistan, they are well documented and represent the darkest chapter in Pakistan's history which led to humiliation for the entire nation. But have you thought about the widespread human rights abuses by Indian government, including rape, murder, disappearances in Indian-held Kashmir? These are also well documented by Amnesty and HRW.

Anonymous said...

Well that's precisely wat i am trying to say! I think u have mistaken me for playing tit-4-tat..i wasn't exactly disagreeing with ur observations ..just inputting info from other side too. The FAS is very credible in eyes of media and also lifted those observation from FAS..the 35,000 no: and all is quoted frm a former Baluchistan Governor or a pak senator.i dont recollect exactly who..The one thing I strongly disagree is the word "propaganda" in reference to B.Raman. His observations are strongly followed by media and all,havnt ever heard any venom from his blogs and all..RAW is purely external intel organization and one of main principles that is uniquely of intel agencies is "never to psy ops on our own people"(ISI violated that principle and got "reverse-indoctrinated" by the same jehadi propaganda)..besides its totally free to do what ever it wants and nobody will ask a question..its not even recognized publicly such that it doesn't even have a spokesperson or a website nor is an agency..its activities are totally illegal even in India..if u wanna b technical abt it!(quote Vikram Sood)i.e.that is wat a Canadian court observed when a Sikh wanted refugee status claiming that he is former RAW agent..court held that no such organization exit ;-) Its chief is called Cabinet Secretary(R) and agents are called field researchers.It hasnt yet done anything against the order and very much subservient to govt like normal civilian bureaucracies.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Eric Margolis of Toronto Sun about ISI:

US Vilifies Faithful Old Ally
By Eric Margolis

03/08/08 "Toronto Sun" -- - It’s blame Pakistan week. As resistance to western occupation of Afghanistan intensifies, the increasingly frustrated Bush administration is venting its anger against Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s military intelligence agency.

The White House leaked claims ISI was in cahoots with pro-Taliban groups in Pakistan’s tribal area along the Afghan border.

Pakistan’s Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar said the White House accuses ISI of warning Pashtun tribes of impending U.S. air attacks. President George W. Bush angrily asked Pakistan’s visiting Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani, “Who’s in charge of ISI?”

In Ottawa, the Harper government dutifully echoed Bush’s accusation against Pakistan, including the so far unsubstantiated claim that ISI agents had bombed India’s embassy in Kabul.

I was one of the first western journalists invited into ISI headquarters in 1986. ISI’s then director, the fierce Lt.- Gen. Akhtar Rahman, personally briefed me on Pakistan’s secret role in fighting Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. ISI’s “boys” provided communications, logistics, heavy weapons, and direction in the Afghan War. ISI played the key role in the victory over the Soviets.

On my subsequent trips to Pakistan I was routinely briefed by succeeding ISI chiefs and joined ISI officers in the field, sometimes under fire.

ISI is accused of meddling in Pakistani politics. The late Benazir Bhutto, who often was thwarted by Pakistan’s spooks, always scolded me, “you and your beloved generals at ISI.” But before Musharraf, ISI was the Third World’s most efficient, professional intelligence agency. It defends Pakistan against internal and external subversion by India’s powerful spy agency, RAW, and by Iran. ISI works closely with CIA and the Pentagon, but also must serve Pakistan’s interests, which often are not identical to Washington’s.

The last ISI director general I knew was the tough, highly capable Lt.-Gen. Mahmood Ahmed. He was purged by the new dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, because Washington felt Mahmood was insufficiently responsive to U.S. interests. Ensuing ISI directors were all pre-approved by Washington. All senior ISI veterans deemed “Islamist” or too nationalistic by Washington were purged, leaving ISI’s upper ranks top heavy with yes men and paper passers.

Even so, there is strong opposition inside ISI to Washington’s bribing and arm-twisting the Musharraf dictatorship into waging war against fellow Pakistanis and gravely damaging Pakistan’s national interests.

ISI’s primary duty is defending Pakistan. Pashtun tribesmen on the border sympathizing with their fellow Taliban Pashtun in Afghanistan are Pakistanis. Many, like the legendary Jalaluddin Haqqani, are old U.S. allies and freedom fighters from the 1980s.


Violence and uprisings in these tribal areas are not caused by “terrorism,” but directly result from the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan and Washington’s forcing the hated Musharraf regime to attack its own people.

ISI is trying to restrain pro-Taliban Pashtun tribesmen while dealing with growing U.S. attacks into Pakistan that threaten a wider war.

India, Pakistan’s bitter foe, has an army of agents in Afghanistan and is arming, backing and financing the Karzai puppet regime in Kabul. Pakistan’s historic strategic interests in Afghanistan have been undermined by the U.S. occupation. The U.S., Canada and India are trying to eliminate Pakistani influence in Afghanistan.

ISI, many of whose officers are Pashtun, has every right to warn Pakistani citizens of impending U.S. air attacks that kill large numbers of civilians.

But ISI also has another vital mission. Preventing Pakistan’s Pashtun (15% to 20% of the population of 165 million) from rekindling the old “Greater Pashtunistan” movement calling for union of the Pashtun tribes of Pakistan and Afghanistan — divided by British imperialism — into a new Pashtun nation. That would tear apart Pakistan and invite Indian military intervention.

Washington’s bull-in-a-china-shop behaviour pays no heeds to such realities.

Instead, Washington demonizes faithful old allies, ISI and Pakistan, while supporting Afghanistan’s communists and drug dealers, and allowing India to stir the Afghan pot — all for the sake of new energy pipelines.

As Henry Kissinger cynically noted, being America’s ally is more dangerous than being its enemy.

Copyright © 2008, Canoe Inc.

Anonymous said...

Wherever and whenever the army has interfered in politics it has brought devastating results. Pakistan`s dismemberment is a case for serious study. Much of Pakistan`s maladies began with the army`s anti-democratic stand in Pakistan. Who else but the US was acting from behind the scene to bolster the time and again failed generals including Musharraf.

Nixon gets all the blame for Pakistan`s defeat in 1971 but it is actually Kissinger who should be tried in a international court for murdering millions of people worldwide, somehow managed to escape unscathed due to fact suppression, distortion and manipulation of public opinion by a powerful media run by his jewish brethren worldwide.

UJMi said...

Something I wrote about ISI recently, you might find it interesting enough to read through.

Destroying the ISI -

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a former US (COIN) counter terrorism official comparing ISI with Hoover's FBI as reported in The Desert Sun:

“I would believe it to be highly improbable that someone from ISI didn't know he was there.” retired special agent for U.S. Army counter-intelligence Jim Biesterfeld said Tuesday, referring to Pakistan's equivalent of the CIA, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency. “As improbable as the sun not rising tomorrow.”

Biesterfeld, a Menifee resident who specialized in counterterrorism in the Middle East during his Army career, said he believes it likely the ISI knew of bin Laden's general whereabouts but didn't share with Pakistan's political leadership.

ISI officials “do pretty much what they want to do” with little executive oversight and “have their own agenda,” Biesterfeld said.

He compared the ISI to the FBI under its longtime director J. Edgar Hoover, who operated almost totally independently from oversight. “They know where all the bodies are buried,” he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an Time magazine opinion piece by retired CIA officer Robert Baer:

The U.S. has for years demanded that Pakistan mount a sweeping military offensive in North Waziristan to destroy the Haqqanis, but even if they were so inclined, the fact is that the Pakistani military has only ever been able to control the main roads in North Waziristan. The Pakistani army is incapable of occupying and holding this territory, no matter how much money we offer or how dire the threats we make.

At the core of the problem stands a simple proposition: Pakistan doesn't trust us with Afghanistan — and from Islamabad's perspective, not without cause. We took a strategic decision to invade a country central to their national-security doctrine without seriously consulting them, preferring to think in terms of an Afghanistan of our dreams. Nor did we take into account their strategic interests and the proxies through which they have pursued them. The Soviet Union made the same mistake when it invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

Having failed to prevail a decade later, we now have two choices, neither of them particularly attractive to Washington. We can attempt to destroy the Haqqani base in North Waziristan by invading Pakistan. But to do that effectively would require more troops than we currently have in Afghanistan. Doing so would obviously destroy whatever relations we still have with Pakistan, with profoundly dangerous consequences in Afghanistan and far beyond.

Alternatively, we could hash out a settlement with Pakistan, which would inevitably mean accepting the Haqqanis and easing out Karzai in any political settlement to the conflict. Such a deal would also potentially bring in Afghanistan's other neighbor with real strategic interests in the country — Iran. Iran can be unpredictable, but it's by no means certain it would accept true Pakistani-American collusion in Afghanistan. In the mid-'90s, Iran was all but at war with the Taliban, and if Iran isn't consulted on a settlement, it could play the spoiler.

Accepting Pakistan's postconflict agenda and backing off on the Haqqanis at Karzai's expense is too bitter a pill for Washington to swallow in an election year, so we'll muddle through for another year. But when the U.S. finally leaves, don't be surprised to see the Haqqanis in Kabul.

Read more:,8599,2094844,00.html#ixzz1Z4c8lXby

Riaz Haq said...

Here's leaked emails of intelligence analysts at Stratfor about "journalist" Saleem Shahzad:

On Monday February 27th, 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files, over five million e-mails from the Texas headquartered "global intelligence" company Stratfor. The e-mails date between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal's Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defence Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor's web of informers, pay-off structure, payment laundering techniques and psychological methods.

Re: Pakistan Journalist Vanishes: Is the ISI Involved?
Released on 2012-03-08 09:00 GMT

Email-ID 1644311
Date 2011-06-01 15:50:16
The most interesting aspect is the killing of a journalist. Fine line
between an investigative journalist and spy. When you rattle around
topics nobody wants aired, you pay the price. Truth tellers always get
shot. Its much easier to lie or make up stories.

On 6/1/2011 8:46 AM, Sean Noonan wrote:

i don't think we're going anywhere with this SSS thing, though it is
On 6/1/11 8:41 AM, Fred Burton wrote:

The poor bastard went down the rabbit hole and was neutralized.

ISI is fully infiltrated by sympathizers and operatives. So, he was
killed by ISI. Will we find a smoking gun? No. Will anybody care
about this dude? Not really. The Agency lost an asset. Life goes
on. There is a reason the CIA set up unilateral operations in

Suggest everyone read David Ignatius new book on CIA NOC and front
company operations in Pakistan. Once again, he has gotten dead

On 6/1/2011 8:06 AM, Sean Noonan wrote:

the question, though, is still who did it.

It means very different things if it is the ISI, the traditional
military, or the jihadists. Then a question of who within those
groups can also mean different things. Not saying we can answer that
very easily, but who specifically killed who (with the support of
who) would explain if there is an issue or not. Operating between
the intelligence services and jihadists is a very, very dangerous
place- so it's not all that surprising that these deaths occur. And
as tensions go up, so will those deaths. But we would have to know
the same people were involved in the deaths to really know what 'the
issue' actually is.
On 6/1/11 7:59 AM, Kamran Bokhari wrote:

The issue is not the man himself (though I am personally spooked
out because I knew him and we met not too long ago and he wrote on
my fb wall a day before he went missing). Instead the issue is the
growing number of deaths of people who have been supportive of
jihadists. Recall KK and Col Imam and now Triple-S. The other
thing is that each of these 3 people were with the ISI at one
point. A former army chief confirmed to me that SSS was at one
point on the payroll. Each of these guys had a falling out with
the official ISI but maintained links deep within the service.
These guys have also had ties to jihadists of one type while
pissing off other more radical types.--....