Monday, March 2, 2009

Undercover Chaos by Dr. Hamid Hussain

On Sun, 3/1/09, PakNationalists wrote:

If It’s Zardari’s End, It Should Be Nawaz’s Too By Laila Sohail Sunday, 1 March 2009

“No one party can fool all of the people all of the time, that’s why we have two parties,” says Bob Hope. Zardari may be nearing his end, but what is there to rejoice for if Sharif is his replacement? Both are incompetent, and both belong to parties that are non democratic.

Blasts from the Past to understand the Present Political Crisis in Pakistan

This character belongs to Swat now do some calculation and you will get the answer of the present crisis:

Major Aamir's interview with Dr Shahid Masood

Undercover Chaos – Role of Pakistani Armed Forces Intelligence Agencies in Domestic Arena Published Defence Journal, December 2005. Dr. Hamid Hussain is an independent analyst based in New York.

‘It must also be pointed out that ISI’s extremely good performance in the external sphere was considerably marred by its undue involvement in domestic political affairs and this must be put to an immediate end’. Air Chief Marshal Rtd Zulfiqar Ali Khan Commission Report, March 27, 1989

In every country intelligence agencies of armed forces have a reasonably well defined role in the overall security paradigm of the country. The scope of this role is different in each country depending on the prevailing norms and specific development of the state and society in each case. In most countries, there is some overlap, where military intelligence agencies have some limited role in domestic arena in the context of national security of the country.

In countries like Pakistan with a tradition of a dominant military which has frequently stepped in to remove quarreling politicians to directly administer the state, the role of military intelligence agencies have invariably expanded to different areas of society. There are two major intelligence organizations of Pakistan armed forces. One is Directorate of Military Intelligence (MI) and the other Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Over the last sixty years, the role and operational environment of both organizations have undergone a dramatic change. This article will only look at the domestic role of these organizations in Pakistan. It will review the background of evolution of these two organizations and highlight how this has evolved over the years depending on changing circumstances. The article will also look at the meteoric rise of military intelligence officers and its negative impact on society in general and specifically on the inner dynamics of the armed forces. It will be concluded with a summary and some recommendations.


At the time of country’s independence in 1947, MI was a small organization with very limited resources and influence. ISI was established in 1948 after poor performance of existing rudimentary military intelligence structure in the country’s first war with rival India over the disputed territory of Kashmir. However, it remained a small entity and until 1971, a Brigadier was heading the agency with no significant advanced technology which is essential for modern espionage. The original task of MI was related to battlefield intelligence and discipline and order in the armed forces. The primary task of ISI was collecting intelligence about hostile countries and groups and counterintelligence. Over time, both during civilian and military rule, the area of operation of both organizations expanded which now involves many areas of the state and society. Initial encroachment of military intelligence agencies in domestic arena started in the context of discontent among different ethnic groups of the country. Prior to the separation of the eastern wing in 1971, Bengali grievances against central government prompted ISI to keep tab on Bengalis. This involvement was more pronounced during 1970-71, which by all accounts was essentially a civil war where ISI was directly involved in arresting and interrogating Bengalis.

After the separation of East Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto took control of the truncated and demoralized country. In his quest for absolute rule, he formally established a political cell in ISI. It is ironic that a civilian political leader gave a formal political role to serving armed forces intelligence officers. In early 1973, when Bhutto dismissed provincial assemblies of Baluchistan and N.W.F.P. an open armed rebellion erupted in Baluchistan and a military action was ordered. This was seen as an insurrection; therefore it was natural that ISI was involved to some extent in the interrogation of Baluch rebels. In N.W.F.P., there was no armed struggle but some Pushtun nationalists were detained and interrogated by ISI. (1) During 1977 elections, Bhutto not only asked for ISI’s assessment of political developments but special cells were established at ISI detachments in provinces to monitor elections. DG ISI Major General (later Lieutenant General) Ghulam Jilani Khan personally briefed Bhutto on updated election results. (2) When massive agitation started against Bhutto, ISI also regularly informed him about changing political situation in the country. Fearful of army, Bhutto also established a separate cell in the civilian Intelligence Bureau (IB) to keep an eye on what was happening in the armed forces. Colonel Mukhtar, a retired army officer was made in charge of this cell under whom several retired officers reported on army affairs. After 1977 Martial Law, the cell was disbanded and all records seized by military authorities. (3)

At present, ISI is headed by a serving Lieutenant (Lt.) General and each provincial detachment is headed by a Brigadier. DG ISI reports to the executive head of government, whether Prime Minister or President. Currently, MI is also headed by a serving Major or Lt. General who is appointed by army chief and reports to his chief directly or through Chief of General Staff (CGS). Each provincial MI section is headed by a Brigadier. (4) Different tiers of ISI officers keep a liaison with provincial police and civil administration depending on the nature of the assigned case. Junior officers are trained at School of Intelligence in Murree. There are no career military intelligence officers and junior officers with intelligence training are posted to MI or ISI for a limited time period. Some officers who develop their own interest in intelligence may serve longer terms. Senior officers do not have a structured training for intelligence operations and when posted to intelligence agencies, they learn from their juniors on the job.

General Muhammad Zia ul Haq Era 1977-1988

Lt. General Ghulam Jilani Khan was DG ISI from 1971-78. He served under Bhutto but intriguingly he was kept by General Zia after the coup in 1977. Some speculate that Jilani kept Zia informed about Bhutto’s moves during the critical last few months of his rule and that is why Zia not only kept him at the helm of ISI but later rewarded him with the post of Defense Secretary and Governorship of Punjab. During his stint at ISI, Jilani had hired a number of retired officers on contract basis. These officers kept an eye on others which is a normal routine in every country. However, there was complete lack of trust between serving and retired officers which had an impact on the performance of ISI. These contract officers were called ‘Jil Snoopers’ by their serving colleagues. (5) During Jilani’s tenure, on domestic front, ISI was involved in limited surveillance of politicians and limited support to an Election Cell established by Zia. The Election Cell was headed by X Corps Commander Lt. General Faiz Ali Chisti and its members included Major General Jamal Said Mian, Major General ® Rao Farman Ali and Air Marshal ® Ehsan-ul-Haq. Jilani’s successor Major General Muhammad Riaz Khan was a low key officer and a gentleman who was not good at political intrigues which would become hallmark of some of his successors. He died from a heart attack.

It was under the guardianship of Lt. General Akhtar Abdur Rahman (1980-87) that ISI underwent a dramatic transformation. In this, arrival of Soviet forces in Afghanistan, availability of huge amounts of money and active involvement of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were instrumental. (6) Several factors were responsible for the rapid expansion of ISI; however Afghan factor was a critical one as Zia assigned the task of handling Afghanistan to ISI. Availability of huge sums of money from a variety of sources, active support of United States to boost Pakistan’s intelligence capability to thwart Soviet covert measures and wide ranging contacts with intelligence agencies of Britain, France, China and Saudi Arabia resulted in the emergence of a robust, confident and expanded intelligence outfit seeing itself as the player on international filed. Technical advancement of ISI also occurred during this time when advanced instruments of espionage were provided by United States. All these new capabilities were now equally available for internal monitoring in addition to handling external threats as military ruler also had his domestic political adversaries and disgruntled officers in the armed forces.

Zia was shrewd enough not to put all his eggs in one basket. Although Akhtar was his eyes and ears and served him faithfully, however Zia gradually gave some assignments to MI in mid 1980s. MI then headed by Major General (later Lt. General) Hameed Gul was given the task of establishing Survey Sections which were mainly relegated the task of keeping an eye on internal political development. (7) In 1987, Zia promoted Akhtar to four star General and made him Chairman Joint Chief of Staffs Committee (JCOSC). Akhtar’s replacement at ISI was Hameed Gul (1987-1989). During this time, Afghanistan was the major focus of ISI. Zia era ended abruptly on August 17, 1988, when he along with senior military brass died in a mysterious plane crash.

Civilian Rule 1988-1999

After Zia’s death Vice Chief of Army Staff, General Mirza Aslam Beg took command of the army and decided to work behind the civilian façade rather than direct rule. This was the time when General Head Quarter (GHQ) and intelligence agencies started blatant political maneuvers. In 1989, the newly elected Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto leery of ISI’s close association with her political rivals appointed a retired Lt. General Shamsu ur Rahman Kallu to head ISI (1989-90). This decision was made without taking army high command into confidence; therefore Kallu was blacked out by his own organization. In addition, army Chief Mirza Aslam Beg transferred the political role of ISI to MI (then headed by Major General Asad Durrani) which was directly under GHQ control. When Benazir government was dismissed in 1990, Durrani was given the task of running both MI and ISI for a while before he became Director General of ISI (August 1990-March 1992). After his departure from ISI, Durrani was serving as Commandant of National Defence College. However, he kept his channels open with politicians without informing his chief. He had unauthorized contacts with then opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto. Benazir was under the impression that Durrani was negotiating on behalf of GHQ. In May 1993, during her meeting with army Chief Abdul Waheed Kakar, she talked about issues discussed by Durrani. Although Kakar had some information about Durrani’s contacts but Benazir’s revelations stunned him. However he kept quite and got all details. Durrani was struck off Duty (SOD) and his dismissal orders were served to him when he landed after an overseas trip. (8) Later, during her second term (1993-96) Benazir rewarded Durrani by appointing him ambassador to Germany.

During his first term (1990-93), Nawaz Sharif picked Lt. General Javed Nasir to head ISI (March 1992-July 1993). Nasir was part of an informal link with Nawaz Sharif’s father Mian Muhammad Sharif through the non-political proselytizing religious organization, Tableeghi Jamaat. A retired judge Rafiq Ahmad Tarar (who gained notoriety for bribing judges of Baluchistan High Court to remove Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and later rewarded with the Presidency of the country) was also part of this informal group. Sharif used ISI and IB as a cushion when his relations with new army chief General Asif Nawaz Janjua (1991-93) soured. Janjua’s sudden death set in motion a new cycle of intrigues and new army Chief General Abdul Waheed Kakar had his hands full from day one. After sending both Prime Minister and President home in 1993, Kakar sacked both the serving DG of ISI Nasir and a former DG of MI and ISI Durrani. New DG ISI Javed Ashraf Qazi was assigned the task of cleaning up ISI and he was followed by Lt. General Nasim Rana. During Benazir’s second term (1993-96), she tried not to stir the intelligence pot. At that time, both ISI and her own Afghan hand Major General ® Naseerullah Khan Babar were on the same page as far as Afghanistan was concerned which prevented any serious clash.

During his second term (1996-99), Nawaz Sharif was initially busy with his showdowns with opposition, President and Judiciary and cleverly kept working relations with army brass. Once securing his other bases, he confronted army Chief General Jehangir Karamat about a speech which Karamat gave suggesting establishment of a National Security Council consisting of civilian and military decision makers to tackle difficult issues. To the whole military’s astonishment and disgust, Karamat tendered resignation. On October 12, 1998, Sharif chose then Adjutant General (AG) of army, Lieutenant General Ziauddin Ahmad Butt to head ISI. Sharif didn’t take Mussharraf into confidence about this crucial appointment and moved Butt to ISI before the new Chief could get his team of confidants into place. Mussharraf countered this move by promoting Deputy Director General (DDG) of ISI Major General Muhammad Aziz (later General and Chairman JCOSC) and giving him the second most important job after Chief by appointing him Chief of General Staff (CGS). Aziz was in charge of Afghan affairs in ISI as DDG and he moved some of the Afghan Cell activities to MI, which is under GHQ control. It was a de ja vu of 1989, when Benazir had tried to bring her own man to head ISI. Over a decade, Afghan Cell activities have invariably expanded into domestic arena as a number of state and non-state actors of the country were actively involved. This re- shuffle helped Mussharraf to keep firm control over overall intelligence activities; however it set the stage for more intrigues.

Political leadership of Pakistan is essentially a family business and rather than following a political code of conduct, politicians have always looked for the shortest route to power which goes through the GHQ. Rather than fighting their battles at polling booths and in assemblies, civilian politicians hob knob with army to get to the positions of power and privilege. Without exception, all political parties and their leaders have worked with military brass in one or another capacity. Civilian leaders insecure in their own political arena and deeply suspicious of the army leadership have tried to play their own little games. When allowed to run the affairs of the country, they try to influence the appointment to intelligence agencies and cultivate sympathetic officers. Helpful officers are duly rewarded for their services. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s reliance on ISI increased as he was increasingly coming under pressure from domestic opposition. He would get regular briefing from DG ISI about domestic political scene. Benazir Bhutto during her first term (1988-90) appointed a retired Lt. General Shamsur Rahman Kallu as DG ISI. However, when Kallu was completely shut out by his own organization and GHQ, she relied more heavily on IB to counter military’s moves. Deputy Director of IB Masud Sharif Khattak was instrumental in laying the trap for ISI officers, Brigadier Imtiaz (by that time Imtiaz had left his powerful position in ISI and was posted in Risalpur) and Major Amir (he was in charge of Islamabad detachment of ISI). The scandal known as ‘Operation Midnight Jackals’ was about involvement of active duty military officers to bribe Benazir’s party members to switch loyalties and help in passing the no confidence motion against her. Nawaz Sharif during his first term (1990-93) tried to cover both bases by appointing Lt. General Javed Nasir to head ISI and Brigadier ® Imtiaz to head IB. However, when he created a constitutional crisis by directly confronting an equally stubborn President Ghulam Ishaque Khan, army Chief forced both of them to resign. Both Nasir and Imtiaz were removed immediately from their powerful positions after the ouster of Sharif. During his second term (1996-99), Sharif kept tabs on then army Chief Jehangir Karamat. A senior officer of ISI and some junior officers were assigned the task to track down the details of Ukraine tank deal. It is not clear whether then DG ISI Lt. General Nasim Rana had any information about this. There have been no allegations of any wrongdoing on part of Karamat in defense purchases; however, some sources suggest that when Sharif confronted Karamat and asked for his resignation, he had these files at his table. Sharif used the change of guard at army leadership in 1998 after resignation of Karamat to appoint his favorite Lt. General Ziauddin Ahmad Butt as DG ISI before new chief could bring in his own team of confidants. Both Sharif and Butt met their Waterloo in October 1999 when Sharif tried to appoint Butt as army Chief.

Civilian leaders reward those officers who help them in their political maneuvers. Sharif appointed the sacked DG ISI Nasir as his intelligence advisor and later Chairman of Evacuee Property Trust Board (EPTB). Two officers of ‘Operation Midnight Jackals’ fame who were sacked from the army were properly compensated by Sharif. Brigadier Imtiaz was given the coveted directorship of IB while Major Amir was made special advisor to N.W.F.P. Chief Minister and later given a job at Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). Benazir Bhutto rewarded former DG ISI Durrani with an ambassadorship to Germany. In addition, former DG IB Masud Sharif and a former head of Sindh detachment of ISI are now members of central committee of Pakistan Peoples Party. Many Colonel and Brigadier level intelligence officers have developed mutually beneficial relationships with political and business elites of the country. Such measures set a very bad precedent as sacked officers become more rich and influential after they shed their uniform giving the signal to future mavericks that intrigues may be quite rewarding. This mutually beneficial and sometimes corrupting influence created the instability which never allowed a smooth working relationship between highest decision makers of the country. Mutual mistrust and fear gave way to more intrigues and rumors ruining even any semblance of a well informed coordinated effort to tackle complex issues of the country.
The most damaging effect of mutual suspicion and manipulation of intelligence positions by civilian and military leaders was on the country’s image and severely jeopardized some important areas of national security and foreign policy. Adversaries were fully aware of these differences and used them to their advantage. One example will show the negative impact of such maneuvers. DG ISI Ziauddin Butt was close to Nawaz Sharif and not trusted by GHQ. Army chief was dealing with some crucial matters through his own intelligence officers. Taliban of Afghanistan were getting two sets of emissaries and they were fully aware where the real power centre was in Pakistan. Butt’s ISI emissaries were in contact with Taliban while representatives of army chief were telling Afghans not to listen to Ziauddin Butt. On October 07, 1999, Butt went to Qandahar and confronted Mullah Omar with the evidence of presence of training camps of some extremist religious organizations involved in sectarian killings in Pakistan. Mullah Omar gave Ziauddin cold shoulder telling him to go back to Pakistan to find the terrorist camps there, as Afghanistan had none. Normally ISI delegations were entertained with a feast but on this occasion Mullah Omar called in one of his boys and asked him what was on the menu of the ordinary kitchen and made his point by serving okra dish to Butt and his entourage. (9)

General Pervez Mussharraf Era 1999-Present

After the 1999 coup, Mussharraf chose his close friend Lt. General Mahmud Ahmad to head ISI. Mussharraf chose another close friend Major General Ehsan ul Haq (later General and Chairman JCOSC) to head MI. In the aftermath of September 11, when Pakistan was caught in the eye of the storm, Mussharraf appointed Ehsan to head ISI in October 2001. Ehsan’s two deputies, Major General Muhammad Akram and Major General Ehtasham Zamir Jafri serving as Deputy Directors of ISI took care of the domestic front. Akram contacted Pakistan Peoples Party leader Makhdoom Amin Fahim and offered the deal that if Benazir steps down from party’s leadership, army may be willing to accommodate Pakistan Peoples Party under the leadership of Fahim. An elated Fahim arranged for a meeting in Dubai with Benazir through a third party to discuss army’s offer. Knowing the ego of Pakistani political leaders, one should have expected the explosive nature of this offer. Benazir got furious and an embarrassed Fahim fumbled with his cellular phone and ran out of the room. (10) Jafri and Akram managed the political agenda of GHQ and helped to get support from various segments of political elite for the referendum of legitimizing Mussharraf’s elevation to the office of President. Later, they also worked to wean off politicians from different parties to support new set up under the guidance of the military and micromanaged 2002 elections. Brigadier Asad Munir served under Ehsan in MI and when Ehsan became in charge of ISI, he brought Munir from MI to head the crucial North West Frontier Province (N.W.F.P.) section of ISI. In 2002 elections, Munir managed the provincial political sector for the military government. In this capacity, he was instrumental in lining up various elected representatives to support Commander ® Khalil ur Rahman for Senate seat. Khalil was later appointed Governor of N.W.F.P. and he paid back Munir (now retired from army) by bringing him as his principle secretary. However, due to various reasons, Munir quit this position shortly afterwards.

In previous military governments, only a small number of senior officers were involved in political maneuvering. The most unfortunate development in the present military set up is the fact that a large number of senior officers in various capacities have been interacting with politicians. Officers in different positions are directly involved in the political restructuring. In addition to the intelligence officers, several senior officers around General Mussharraf, Principle Staff Officers at GHQ, officers posted at National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Corps Commanders and even Major Generals are directly dealing with politicians. After 1999 coup, Corps Commanders met with several political leaders to gauge the mood. (11) Later in preparation for elections, senior officers helped to cob a new political set up consisting mainly of political turn coats of two major political parties. In this exercise, the major instrument which was used was threats to open the files of these politicians lying in NAB. One example will show the extent of this phenomenon. Immediately after 2002 elections, the framework for a new pliable political set up was organized at different levels. In Punjab, one newly elected member of National Assembly was summoned by Director General (DG) Rangers Punjab, Major General Hussain Mehdi to his official residence. DG Rangers was flanked by a General from NAB. Referring to the Punjab Rangers who are posted at Pakistan-India border and usually wear tall head gear in ceremonies, Mehdi threatened the newly elected member in these words, ‘while coming inside the house, you may have noticed the guards. Beware of them because sometimes they throw the people to the other side of the fence’. (12) Such open involvement of a large number of senior officers in political intrigues may prove to be fatal for military’s cohesion. It is incumbent upon General Mussharraf to think about the long term negative fall out of such measures on the discipline of armed forces and come up with a different approach.

Coming Out of the Shadows

A very disturbing trend has emerged in Pakistan over the last two decades where former intelligence officers have entered the major decision making process about different issues. This is not limited to the military matters or during direct military rule but extends well beyond all normal bounds. Pakistan has the unique distinction that not one but several of its former heads of military intelligence agencies regularly write about various issues and appear almost daily on television networks giving their pearls of wisdom. This has given the country and the world the shocking truth about the very limited intellectual horizon, restricted knowledge base and serious personality flaws of these gentlemen. One may have to do serious inquiry to try to find even the names of the former heads of Indian intelligence, Research and Analysis Wing or Israeli intelligence Mossad, but Pakistan is so lucky that half a dozen of its former chief spooks are seen everyday bragging and throwing their half baked theories and ideas right and left in front of the camera and in print.

‘Once the military becomes the dominant institution, a new class of officers emerges which elaborates military’s political role. This is the ‘military intellectual’ class. (13) Due to increased reliance of military leaders on military intelligence, over time, intelligence officers have also entered this ‘military intellectual’ class. Former DG ISI Lt. General Hameed Gul, Asad Durrani, Javed Ashraf Qazi and some mid level officers are the intelligence representatives of this class. It is ironic to see that intelligence officers like Durrani, who have been sacked by none other than the army chief for indulging in political intrigues giving sermons about effect of politicization of officers on military discipline. In one of his articles, Durrani states ‘the institutional consensus on the subject is that whatever else the military’s dabbling in politics did or did not do, it never did any good to the army’. He further elaborates that ‘what causes the gravest concern is that meddling in politics muddles up the military culture’. (14)

A cursory look at the careers of some senior intelligence officers gives an interesting insight into the working of the military. Lt. General Ghulam Jilani Khan served as DG ISI from 1971-78. He later served as Governor of Punjab and in this capacity was instrumental in cultivating and grooming the new political elite. Industrialist Nawaz Sharif was the most prominent member of this new elite who served as Prime Minister twice before being ousted and then exiled by military. General Akhtar Abdur Rahman who was DG ISI from 1980-87 became Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Lt. General Asad Durrani, another former DG of MI and ISI served as ambassador to Germany and Saudi Arabia. He was a major player in the exile deal of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Saudi Arabia. His close contacts with Saudi intelligence from Afghan Jihad days were a vital asset in these assignments. He has also served at the Board of Governors of Institute of Strategic Studies. He is quite active in the military’s ‘think tank’ community. Lt. General Javed Nasir after his sacking from ISI served as special intelligence advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chairman of Evacuee Property Trust Board.

Many close advisors of General Mussharraf have intelligence background and served in various capacities in the intelligence outfits of the military. Former DG of MI and ISI, General Ehsan ul Haq is now Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Another former DG of MI and ISI Lt. General ® Javed Ashraf Qazi is currently Education Minister of the country responsible for the overhauling of the education system of the religious schools (madrassas). Earlier he served as Railways Minister. Lt. General ® Asad Durrani who served as DG of MI and ISI was appointed ambassador to Saudi Arabia by Mussharraf. Another former DG, Lt. General ® Nasim Rana served as Secretary Defence. Former Deputy Director of ISI, Aziz rose to become CGS, Corps Commander and then full General and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Lt. General Ghulam Ahmad who served as Chief of Staff (COS) to President Mussharraf headed the political wing of ISI in 1993. Current CGS, Lt. General Tariq Majeed has served as DG MI. Current DG ISI Lt. General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani has served as Director General Military Operations (DGMO) and Corps Commander of important X Corps. Three other senior officers who served in ISI (Lt. General Faiz Jeelani, Lt. General Jamshed Gulzar and Lt. General Muhammad Akram) rose to become Lt. Generals and Corps Commanders. Lt. General Iftikhar Hussain Shah who has also served in ISI as Deputy Director was appointed Governor of N.W.F.P. during the crucial days after September 11 coordinating the damage control efforts to prevent spill over effects from neighboring Afghanistan and later during military operations in tribal areas. Brigadier ® Ejaz Shah served as head of ISI Punjab and later served as Home Secretary of Punjab, responsible for the law and order situation of the province.

Previously, intelligence assignments were not considered coveted appointments among Pakistani army officers. However, with increasing clout of the intelligence agencies in decision making process and enhancement of career opportunities now make these jobs very attractive and lucrative. The influence of a stint in intelligence can be gauged from the fact that a large number of officers who served in armed forces intelligence agencies rose to senior ranks. On the other hand, in an unprecedented move, some officers after serving at prestigious appointments as Corps Commanders have accepted the jobs to run intelligence agencies (Lt. General Mahmud Ahmad and Lt. General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani). Importance of intelligence to national security cannot be underestimated and good professional and trained officers manning these important posts are vital. However, for optimal functioning of the intelligence agencies of armed forces, it is critical that they should be divested from the political role which they are currently playing.

Slippery Slope
The invariable involvement of intelligence officers in the domestic political scene can have wide ranging negative impact on the professionalism of the armed forces in addition to subverting any meaningful political process. There are several examples of intelligence officers becoming entangled in political rivalries. Many intelligence officers have been accused of taking political sides for professional advancement and monetary benefits. There have been serious allegations of misuse of secret funds by intelligence officers at every level. Many such officers have been sacked by the army Chiefs because of their corruption. The life style of many mid-level former intelligence officers clearly shows that they have acquired money from sources other than their salaries.

Pakistan army’s involvement in Afghanistan changed the dynamics of relations between army high command and intelligence agencies. The spill over effect on domestic arena was inevitable due to complex relations between military, intelligence and civilian players. In 1989, Hameed Gul was transferred from ISI to head a Corps at Multan. He kept his links with Afghan players. In 1992, Pakistan government promised the visiting Russian Vice President Alexander Rutskoy to free a Soviet Prisoner Of War (POW) held by Afghan resistance fighters on Pakistani soil. Gul prevailed upon Hikmatyar not to release the Russian POW thus embarrassing Pakistan government then led by Benazir. After his retirement, he kept his connections with Saudi intelligence open and was helping them in dealing with some Afghan clients. Even if one argues that he didn’t have any bad intention, however the consequences of involvement of former senior intelligence officers with foreign intelligence agencies can have far reaching consequences for the country. In 1993, newly appointed DG ISI Lt. General Javed Ashraf Qazi embarked on the ‘cleansing’ of ISI. ‘A large number of officers, including those in Afghan Bureau were retired or posted back to their units. However, many of them found their way back on the Afghan scene as military attaches and consulars in different cities of Afghanistan’. (15) Several of them have been again hired by Pakistan government on contract. A small number of mid-level officers continued to fish in the troubled waters of Afghanistan following their own agendas after leaving ISI. A former officer of Afghan Cell of ISI, Squadron Leader Khalid Khwaja gave details of his activities after his removal from ISI in an interview. He admits that he was dealing with his former boss at ISI, Afghans, Arabs and Pakistani political leaders. (16) Even if one argues that these officers have good intentions, the very nature of such activities is going to have an impact on national security. It does not matter what political spectrum such officers belong to, any state which allows such ‘loose canons’ to work unhindered does it at its own peril.

Expanding role of intelligence agencies invariably affected relations between senior officers. The relationship between some senior officers and intelligence agencies deteriorated very rapidly, affecting the smooth functioning of the army. When Zia’s close confidant, Lt. General Faiz Ali Chisti came under a lot of criticism, he thought that ISI was behind it. Chisti was brash and arrogant and would openly talk about his role in the coup and ridiculed Zia. He had the audacity to even talk about throwing Zia out of office openly during telephone conversation. (11) He even complained to then DG ISI Jilani. When ISI representative went to Chisti’s office to clarify ISI’s position, Chisti personally body searched this officer and looked in his briefcase. (18) Total lack of trust can be judged from the fact that Chisti was using his own Corps intelligence units to sniff about ISI’s plots. When General Akhtar took charge of ISI, the relations among senior officers took another downward trend due to Akhtar’s close relationship with Zia. In 1980, Chisti was retired in a humiliating way and his successor Lt. General Jahandad Khan was briefed by Akhtar telling him the anti-regime activities of Chisti and told him to take the command immediately. (19) Vice Chief of Army Staff, General Khalid M. Arif one week before his retirement disclosed to Zia that ISI was following his movements. Then Corps Commander Raja Saroop Khan had investigated the case and when the ISI officer was confronted, he told them that he was acting on orders from his seniors. (20) In some cases, surveillance of people at highest level is a norm in many countries, however specific procedures are followed. In case of Pakistan, lack of accepted norms and mutual mistrust has created more complexities. A military ruler relying heavily on his intelligence agencies for managing his own senior officers can create a lot of problems. The most damaging effect of this essential element on military’s discipline was during the long rule of Zia. A Lt. General who served as Corps Commander during Zia’s time commenting on the role of intelligence agencies during that time states that ‘merit unfortunately was no longer the only criterion for promotion to senior ranks; rather, it was loyalty to the regime. The ISI had already acquired a major say in promotion to senior ranks’. (21)

Genuine differences of opinion are one thing but when professional and personal jealousies cloud the thinking of the intelligence officers, the working relations can breakdown very quickly paralyzing the whole organization. One outgoing Director of Counter Intelligence Bureau of ISI (Tirmazi) has these words for his successor (Imtiaz), ‘I would personally inclined to agree that General Akhtar, to square-off some of his personal grievances against General Chisti, could have asked my successor, Brigadier Imtiaz to place General under occasional watch. Imtiaz was the kind who was always on the lookout to undertake such dirty jobs’. (22) Immersed in self-righteous attitude, deterioration of professional codes and clouding of perspectives of intelligence officers can occur quite dramatically. One example will show the slippery slope of such intelligence matters. Colonel Shuja Khanzada served in ISI for 12 years. In the last two years of his service, he was posted to a cushy appointment in Pakistan embassy in Washington. He had some differences with the ambassador and was called back to Pakistan in 1994 on orders of then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. His interview given in 1999 gives some insight into the thought process of these officers. First, he embarked on describing his own virtues by stating that ‘they were looking for a very professional officer’ and that ‘I was the most professional officer of the ISI’. Explaining his posting to Pakistan’s embassy in Washington, he states that ‘I was given that because of all my operations, because of my professionalism’. Then he went on to portray the Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington Maleeha Lodhi and Benazir as unpatriotic and selling Pakistan’s interests. Used to unhindered power and clout, the Colonel was so upset with his transfer that he met then army Chief General Kakar, CGS Jehangir Karamat, DG ISI Javed Ashraf Qazi and DG MI Lt. General Ali Quli Khan. He told Kakar that ‘you guys let me down’ and that if ‘General Beg been there, or General Janjua been there, how dare they pull me out from there. I would have seen that. Or if somebody like Mussharraf had been there, how could anybody put their hands on me and pulled me out’. (23) These words tell a lot about the thought process of a mid-level intelligence officer who has been just transferred from a cushy assignment abroad by a civilian Prime Minister. He may have a genuine grievance and Prime Minister may have been wrong or acted maliciously towards him, however the language of ‘national interest’ and patriotism which this officer used to give his side of the story clouds the whole argument. Off course, all these complaints and changed perspective of this officer may be solely due to the anger which he felt after his removal but it gives some insight to the readers.
Politicization of intelligence officers in inevitable when they are tasked with political duties while wearing the uniform. After shedding their uniform, these officers align with various political actors for political and personal reasons. Lt. General Khawaja Muhammad Azhar served in ISI during General Muhammad Ayub Khan’s Martial Law. In this capacity, he personally interrogated many prominent people who were not considered loyal to Ayub. After retirement he joined a religio-political party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Pakistan and served as the party’s Secretary General and Vice President. Former DG ISI Hameed Gul, former Additional Director of Political wing of ISI Brigadier Imtiaz Ahmad and head of Islamabad section Major Amir were involved in cobbling the opposition to Pakistan’s Peoples Party. Later, they were implicated in trying to organize a no confidence motion against first Benazir government (1988-1990). All three later aligned with the right leaning political parties. It is not clear whether they did this for political or personal reasons. Similarly, another DG ISI Nasir though not formal member of the Muslim League was a close associate of Sharif after his sacking.

Majority of intelligence officers fade away from the scene after performing their task. However, a small number of officers have carried their personal, political or ideological agenda after leaving intelligence agencies. It is this group of officers which have done the greatest harm to their own organizations and country’s national security. One mid-level officer admitted that after removal from armed forces, he was still involved with ISI and its then DG Hameed Gul. He candidly admitted his own role in the political intrigues of ISI in these words, “After General Zia’s death in a plane crash (1988), elections were announced and there was a possibility that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led by Benazir Bhutto would win, which would be a great setback for the cause of jihad. We discussed this situation, and all the mujahideen thought that they should play a role in blocking the PPP from winning the elections. I joined my former DG Hamid Gul and played a role in forming the then Islamic Democratic Alliance comprising the Pakistan Muslim League and Jamaat-i-Islami”. (24) Intelligence business is a bit different than other military functions. If an officer of Army Supply Corps is caught with his hand in the cookie jar, the negative impact may not be very significant, however if an intelligence officer is caught with a financial, discipline or political digression, the negative fallout can be far reaching for country’s national security. Even if actual damage is small, the image of the whole organization takes a major hit which negatively affects the morale and performance of even good officers.

To be fair, there are numerous officers who served with dignity, honor and professionalism in these intelligence agencies. These are the unsung heroes who performed their assigned duties without favor or fear. After leaving the organization, they quietly settled down in their retirement life living with dignity and earning genuine respect from their colleagues. They have decided not to climb to the rooftop to sing their own praises, pontificate or put forward ‘delusional’ ideas. One must give credit where it is due and although one may disagree with the perspective of some officers, their personal life style gives ample evidence that they kept themselves clean. Former DG ISI late Major General Muhammad Riaz Khan, former Director of Counter Intelligence Bureau of ISI Brigadier Syed A. Tirmazi and former head of Afghan Cell Brigadier Muhammad Yusuf are few of those intelligence officers who have not been soiled with the stains of corruption. I’m sure there are many others whose names will never be known. Pakistan should be proud of such officers. These professionals rather than the politicized mavericks should be role models for coming generation of Pakistani officers.


Expansion of the role of intelligence agencies in the domestic arena has created a very complicated situation in Pakistan. In the past, there was a very complex relationship between heads of intelligence agencies, army Chiefs and civilian Prime Ministers. In this set up, institutional, personal, ideological and doctrinal interests freely intermingled and set the stage for many intrigues which damaged country’s reputation and had negative fallout for both the political and military culture. Close interaction of intelligence officers with political and business elite and journalists creates new alignments which can be utilized by both parties for their personal advantage to the detriment of both the civil society and military.

Many intelligence officers have become the ‘intellectual class’ of the military further compounding the difficult situation. These officers are involved with different think tanks and participate in conferences about various issues. Participation of senior military and intelligence officers in the national security dialogue of the country after shedding their uniform is normal in every country regardless of the shape and the form of the government. However, in a country like Pakistan where military is the dominant institution with very little if any non-military input about vital issues, the influence of intelligence officers can further tilt the balance against any alternative view. The rise of intelligence officers inside the military hierarchy also changes the dynamics of relations between senior brass. Over the last two decades, there has been a gradual increase in the number of officers with intelligence background to rise to important positions inside the military. With direct military rule, this trend has casted a long shadow on all spheres of Pakistan’s national life and not limited to defense and security related issues. Mutual mistrust and fear among senior officers emanating from political role of some officers is not a good omen for the smooth functioning of the military hierarchy.

Everyone including the military hierarchy agrees with the fact that involvement of military officers in political intrigues is disastrous for the professionalism of the armed forces. In addition, military is now seen as a partisan in political battles and those who oppose military view can further undermine the legitimacy and authority of the government, the ripples of which will invariably be felt by GHQ. GHQ has to come up with an innovative idea on how to tackle the difficult issue of domestic role of military intelligence agencies. In this regard, army Chief has to play the leading role as there is no sign of an independent political leadership yet on the horizon. He has to draw the boundaries and then make sure that everybody stays within those limits. Until a long term solution to the present political situation is found, the initiative has to come from General Mussharraf. First of all only General Mussharraf and few officers around him such as his Chief of Staff or Military Secretary should deal with political issues. Formation commanders and MI and ISI senior officers should be kept out of the loop to avoid further complications and erosion of army’s discipline and professionalism. Involvement of military’s intelligence agencies in domestic scene has already eroded their performance for the original mandate of keeping an eye on external threats. Lessons of failure of military intelligence agencies in 1965 and 1971 wars, Siachin fiasco in 1984 and total ignorance about India’s preparations for nuclear tests in 1998 should not be forgotten so easily. ISI has to be divested from the internal political intrigues to save both the military and the nation from further polarization.

Emergence of terrorism as a dominant theme in national security dialogue is a new factor in existing complexities. In the context of terrorism, the role of military’s intelligence is invariably linked to internal situation. However, if the political role of these agencies is curtailed, general public will have more confidence that fight against terrorism is a legitimate area of activity for these agencies. In this regard, some valuable lessons can be learned from Israeli Defense Forces. A liaison can be maintained between military and civil intelligence outfits with a clear mandate from military high command and close supervision to avoid political adventures of intelligence officers. Meteoric rise of non-state actors as a serious security threat in different countries has changed the dynamics of intelligence operations globally. Even in well established democracies, domestic role of military intelligence agencies has expanded quite extensively and at a breath taking speed. On can not escape this fact in Pakistan, however a well thought out policy can minimize side effects from this inevitable expanding role.

Previous inquiries about the role of intelligence agencies should be made public and a limited but informed debate about the future course should be encouraged. With the exception of the extremist Islamist forces which can unleash violence against the military, there is no civilian group or political party which can challenge military’s dominance in present situation. It is now incumbent upon the leadership of Pakistani armed forces to seriously talk about this crucial issue. One expects that at least a handful of upright senior officers can put their career opportunities or post-retirement lucrative appointments on the back burner and seriously think about the future of their own institution and country. On part of General Mussharraf allowing a frank in-house discussion will be helpful in the long run rather than relying solely on ‘smiling nodders’. The military’s dominant role is now a reality in Pakistan and a middle road needs to be found. In the short term, the political role of ISI can be completely transferred to IB which in turn can be re-organized on professional grounds. Traditionally, officers from Police cadres are posted to IB but over the last few years, a large number of serving and retired army officers have been posted there. Currently, IB is headed by a serving Major General and his provincial deputies are also serving officers. This fact may give some solace to the military high command. ISI’s role should be only limited to external intelligence and overall security. Similarly, the domestic role of MI should also be completely abolished to bring some normalcy in the working of pure military matters. Gradually pushing back the military’s intelligence agencies to their proper and accepted role will be an uphill task for anybody especially for a military regime which is directly controlling the state and society. Pressure from civilian sector and an in-house debate in GHQ may help to some extent to achieve this very difficult but critical goal.

‘The army must have nothing to do with politics’. Order of the Day issued by General Asif Nawaz Janjua on assuming the charge of Pakistan army, August 1991


1 - Communication to author by one political prisoner who was detained during that period, 2002

2 - Brigadier ® Syed A. I. Tirmazi. Profiles of Intelligence. (Lahore: Combined Printers, 1995, Second Edition), p. 224-25

3 - Tirmazi. Profiles of Intelligence, p. 235

4 - for a detailed analysis of the structure and function of these organizations, see Hamid Hussain. Lengthening Shadows – The Spy Agencies of Pakistan. Covert Action Quarterly, Number 73, November 2002, pp. 18-22

5 - Tirmazi. Profiles of Intelligence, p. 18

6 - for a detailed analysis of covert activities of that time period in Afghanistan context see Hamid Hussain. United States-Pakistan Relations – Myths and Realities. Defence Journal, Volume 7; No 4, November 2003, pp. 12-21

7 - Tirmazi. Profiles of Intelligence, p. 25

8 - for details of this episode see Maleeha Lodhi. Pakistan’s Encounter With Democracy (Lahore: Vanguard, 1994 ), p. 127-29

9 - Author’s interview with a source familiar with the incident, October 2002

10 - Author’s interview with a source knowledgeable about this meeting, 2005

11 - Author’s interview with one of the participant of these meetings, 2005

12 - Author’s interview with a participant of this meeting, 2004

13 - Hamid Hussain. Forbidden Fruit – Military and Politics. Defence Journal, February 2003

14 - Lt. General ® Asad Durrani. It is the Blanket. The Nation (Online Edition), July 22, 2005

15 - Hamid Hussain. Love Thy Neighbor, Kill Thy Neighbor – Pakistan’s Afghan Policy. Afghan Studies Journal (Kabul), August 2004. Reprinted in Defence Journal, October 2005

16 – for transcript of the interview see,, June 22, 2005

17 - Chisti was in charge of several federal ministries. One incident is narrated to author by a senior civil servant who went to Chisti’s house for some official business. When he entered the room, he saw Chisti talking to someone on phone abusing Zia and threatening to overthrow him. The nervous civil servant made a hasty retreat fearing that he will be caught between feuding Generals.

18 - Tirmazi. Profiles of Intelligence, p. 336

19 - Lt. General ® Jahandad Khan. Pakistan: Leadership Challenges (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 182

20 - Khalid M. Arif. Khaki Shadows. (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 434-35

21 - Jahandad Khan. Pakistan: Leadership Challenges, p. 182

22 - Tirmazi. Profiles of Intelligence, p. 339

23 - Interview of Colonel ® Shuja Khanzada, 1999. South Asia Tribune, Vol: 2, July 27-August

24 - for transcript of the interview see , June 22, 2005

Dr. Hamid Hussain is an independent analyst based in New York. For corrections, comments and critique

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