Sultan M Hali
Currently, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI as well as Pakistan Army are being targeted incessantly by the international media and perhaps unwittingly, by a section of the national media too. The rationale behind the ire of the international media is understandable as the international forces are facing certain defeat in Afghanistan but for face saving they want to blame the ISI and Pakistan Army for their woes in the war ravaged country.
ISI, which was established in 1948, has been through trials and tribulations before but has never faced the kind of open international hostility it now encounters. It has seen a sixty three years’ rise in glory and achievements. Its crowning moment came in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when with the technical and financial assistance of CIA, it managed to launch the Afghan mujahedeen to force the Soviets to retreat from Afghanistan and ultimately result in the break-up of the erstwhile superpower.
ISI has been the envy of other intelligence agencies in the region especially RAW. India has been wary of ISI and has left no stone unturned in besmirching its good name and blaming it for all its woes. The indigenous freedom movement in Held Kashmir to various insurgencies in Assam, Bodoland, Gorkhaland, Mizoland, Nagaland, Punjab, and Tamil Nado, have all been blamed upon ISI. It has also been engaged in a long drawn campaign to ruin ISI’s reputation in the eyes of the west, more explicitly Britain and USA. Each time a dignitary from either western power has visited India during the last decade and a half, there have been “coincidental” terrorist attacks and the blame laid squarely on ISI.
In October 2006, a British Ministry of Defence research paper that accused ISI of indirectly helping Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, being responsible for the 7/7 London bombings and recommending that ISI should be dismantled was leaked on the eve of then Pakistan’s President Musharraf’s arrival in London. Hardly had President Musharraf landed in Pakistan after his marathon trip to Belgium, Cuba, USA and UK that he was greeted with yet another allegation on ISI. To rub salt in the wound, Mumbai’s police chief, A N Roy came out with his own conclusion of the investigations into July 11 bomb attacks in Mumbai, alleging that the attacks were planned by the ISI and carried out by the Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, based in Pakistan.
9/11 changed India’s fortunes. It found a great opportunity to surround and destabilize Pakistan through RAW operatives in its numerous consulates and trade missions in Afghanistan with the help of its Afghan surrogates. There has been ample evidence that RAW has been fomenting trouble in Balochistan as well fanning mischief in FATA and the tribal belt but blaming ISI for the predicament. 26/11 or the 2008 Mumbai attacks provided more material for India to blackball ISI. Evidence now available indicates an international conspiracy with the compliance of RAW to kill numerous birds with one stone. Firstly, Haimant Karkare, the Maharashtra Anti Terrorist Squad chief, who had arrested a number of Indian serving and retired military personnel for the crime of abetting and aiding terror attacks on Muslims, was eliminated on 26/11, secondly ISI was blamed for the attack and international pressure was brought upon it so that it could be castigated and downsized, and thirdly, India used the attack as a plea for cancelling the ongoing Composite Dialogue process to bear even more pressure on Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Indian spy agency RAW made inroads in Afghanistan and has been using its fourteen Consulates and Trade Missions all along the Pak-Afghan border, teeming with RAW operatives, to recruit, train equip and launch insurgents to destabilize Pakistan. Meanwhile, for the international troops in Afghanistan, who have learnt no lessons from Afghan history, from the British and Russian experience and the recent Soviet debacle on the same territory, continued to persist with their agenda thinking they had vanquished the Afghans and broken the back of the so called Al-Qaeda and Taliban. However, as the going in Afghanistan got tougher, the whispering started becoming louder, with newspaper reports, Op-Eds suggesting the same becoming more frequent. Complications in operations, rising war casualties and frayed nerves gave rise to RAND Corporation reports and Pentagon analyses that “rogue elements” in ISI were leaking information of impending attacks to the Taliban, allowing them to take evasive action. Thus the whispering campaign, which when found inadequate, led to the extreme measure of the attack on the Indian Chancery in Kabul and pinning the blame on ISI. Pakistan’s rejection of the accusation led to similar attacks in Indian cities of Ahmadabad and Bangalore followed by an attack on Pakistan’s mission in Herat with ISI being named as the culprit in each. To add insult to injury, damning evidence was produced in the shape of “intercepted telecommunication messages” between ISI and the miscreants “responsible” for the attack.
The whispering became louder and reached a crescendo when Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor was arrested red handed acting against the state of Pakistan. To make matters worse, the so called arrest and execution of Osama drama was staged in Pakistani garrison town of Abbotabad to further humiliate ISI and Pakistan Army. This brought the relationship between the US and Pakistan to its lowest ebb, with US state officials like its CIA Director and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee blaming Pakistan squarely for imaginary crimes.
It has become imperative for the government of Pakistan, its intelligentsia, the people and the media to join forces to neutralize the adverse effects of the psychological warfare being staged to demonize and target the ISI and Pakistan Army. Those who perceive the ISI or Pakistan Army as the enemy are perhaps mistaken. They may have had grouse with certain individuals in these august institutions but to target the organizations themselves is like cutting the branch on which your own nest rests. ISI is not RAW and need not be targeted and needs national support.