Changing Horses Midstream
Sultan M Hali
The Government of Pakistan has decided to appoint Lieutenant General Zahirul Islam as the new Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (DG ISI). According to media reports, both President Asif Zardari and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani were keen that DG ISI Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha gets another year’s extension. It made sense since the ISI has been the forerunner in the ongoing war on terror and one does not change horses midstream.
General Pasha held his own in fighting on multiple fronts, keeping the enemy at bay. It was the ISI bashing campaign by arch rival and erstwhile ally CIA that was unwittingly abetted by certain politicians and a section of the Pakistani media, which made Pasha decline the offer of extension. Directly after the Osama bin Laden episode on May 2, 2011, while briefing Parliament, the General had offered to resign, but the parliamentarians urged him to stay on. The unfair bashing of the armed forces/ISI through the media by certain elements has been a source of concern for the soldiers, as well as the patriotic people of Pakistan. This has not only shown the armed forces/ISI in bad light, but has also proliferated divisive themes/messages among the domestic audience creating false perceptions of mistrust and an unjust sense of conflict between state institutions.
As media reports on memogate erupted across Pakistan, some political analysts left no stone unturned in propagating against the army/ISI. They clearly projected a case against the two organisations for their alleged involvement in generating the political morass in Pakistan. Such hawkish analysts misperceiving the prevalent politico-social milieu misconstrued the real spirit and intention of the army/ISI, and made cynically acrimonious application like ‘the Senate elections would never be allowed to take place’. They cast aspersions that much before the Senate elections, the government would dissolve. They conjectured that since the armed forces and government are not on the same page, the army will resort to extra-constitutional measures and take over the control of the country. The effort was aimed at provocative coverage of events to create further mistrust between the army/ISI and government.
The ongoing trial of the Mehran Bank scandal clearly projects that the ISI was acting under the direct orders of the then President. However, in order to hide their own moral turpitude, the politicians are hell bent on shooting the messenger, rather than heeding the message.
The politicians, using the media as an unwitting tool, created a wrong perception that the Pak Army/ISI were responsible for the prevailing turmoil in the country and that their aim was to dislodge the elected government. The events unfolded differently bringing shame and discredit to such analysts and opinion makers. The Senate elections have been held peacefully and the government remains in power.
Moreover, the army/ISI and government are very much on the same page. Those who created misperceptions about the army/ISI need to be exposed and their non-involvement in politics should be projected assertively, suggesting that their respect is mandatory for all people, including the media and the politicians.
The armed forces are the custodians of Pakistan, ensuring timely measures to thwart internal and external threats. They have always offered sacrifices to defend the ideological and geographical borders of the motherland. The nation is proud of their performance -- may it be war against terrorism, flood relief operations, earthquakes and natural calamities, social and economic uplift programmes and/or provision of educational facilities.
The army and ISI are key institutions of Pakistan. They stood like a rock in the way of foreign intrusion, especially in dealing with the CIA suggesting to the government to devise new rules of engagements and take hard decisions to safeguard national interests in the light of the new geostrategic environment with divergent and regional Pak-US interests. The foreign propagandists have obviously targeted the army/ISI to achieve their nefarious designs. However, the entire nation, including the media, must support and counter all negative propaganda against these institutions.
Like the Mossad, CIA, RAW or MI-6, the ISI has been engaged in working for the government, but one never observes hostile propaganda against other institutions similar to the one unleashed against it. If external sources indulge in ISI bashing, they have their own agenda, but we as a nation must avoid becoming their tools. Lieutenant General Zahirul Islam has his task cut out for him. Having served earlier as Pasha’s deputy, he brings in heaps of experience, but will need the government’s guidance to lead the ISI successfully.