Thursday, October 23, 2008

Authority & Responsibility - 12

Satiricus wrote:

Anwar Saeed's analysis sounds credible as he says that the likelihood is that the ISI’s modus operandi in Pakistan is pretty much the same as that of the CIA in the United States.

Bashir Syed wrote:

The ISI debacle By Anwar Syed

August 10, 2008 Sunday Sha’aban 7, 1429


Dear Sir,

Another analysis appeared in the same Daily Dawn! There is an old Commerce Rule that Authority and Responsibility goes together and there is also a saying that behind every deceit there is a crime.

Setting the record straight By Yousuf Nazar

August 10, 2008 Sunday Sha’aban 7, 1429

THE PPP government made a faux pas in trying to bring the ISI under its control and it is probable that the move may have come under great pressure to do so after the recent bombing of the Indian mission in Kabul.

But let it be clear that the notion the ISI spends most of its time on external defence is false and that civilians should therefore not bother about it is an equally flawed argument. History does not support this view. It is also wrong to believe that the US administration’s reservations about rogue elements in the ISI are a recent or post-9/11 phenomenon.

When intelligence agencies are not accountable to the elected government and are not subject to checks and balances they can become a state within a state. The Shah of Iran’s Savak was notorious for its repression. The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover was even suspected of carrying out the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the CIA was directly involved in the assassination of foreigners before it was forbidden to do so by an executive order issued by President Ford in February 1976.

Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence was formed in 1948 by the then deputy army chief of staff, Gen R. Cawthorne. Prior to the 1958 coup, the ISI reported directly to the army chief. After the imposition of martial law, the ISI began to report to President Ayub Khan. It was not Mr Bhutto who started the use of the ISI for domestic intelligence. It was under Gen Ayub Khan that the ISI became responsible for monitoring Pakistani politicians, especially those in what was then East Pakistan. Ayub expanded the ISI’s role and it was to protect Pakistan’s interests, which included the creation of a covert action division within the ISI to assist Islamic militants in north-east India, as well as to support the Sikh Home Rule Movement in the 1960s.

Altaf Gauhar, one of the most powerful bureaucrats to serve Ayub Khan, wrote a revealing piece about the nature of ISI operations in the daily Nation on Aug 18, 1997: “The president used to receive regular reports on the political situation in the country from the ISI and the MI. These reports in sealed envelopes marked ‘Eyes Only’ were usually handed over to the president by the C-in-C. On a few occasions the president gave me these reports and it seemed to me that the agencies were keeping the politicians, particularly the East Pakistanis, under close surveillance. I rarely found anything insightful in these reports. The DIB had direct access to the president and his weekly reports used to be fairly exhaustive. It was during the presidential election in l964 that the ISI and the MI became extremely active [emphasis added].”

According to Altaf Gauhar, the crisis of intelligence failure came during the 1965 war. Brig Riaz (then ISI chief) told Altaf Gauhar that he had contacts inside Occupied Kashmir and in other major Indian cities. “I will flood you with news. Don’t worry”. When the war started there was a complete blackout of news from all the intelligence agencies. When Gauhar got nothing out of the ISI for two days he went to Brig Riaz only to learn that all his contacts had gone underground.

The ISI played a key role in the Afghan war and worked closely with the CIA in what was its biggest covert operation since the Vietnam war. While much is made of its role, most Pakistani analysts have either ignored or not given due importance to the fact that oil prices collapsed in the 1980s and the Soviet Union became bankrupt.

Notwithstanding this aspect, by 1985 the tide of the war had shifted in favour of Moscow according to analysis produced that same year by Richard Clarke, who was the US deputy assistant secretary of state for intelligence at the time. According to his memoirs, his boss told him: “Don’t just tell me we’re losing, Clarke, tell me what the [expletive deleted] to do about it.”

Secretary of Defence Casper Weinberger’s decision in 1986 to send Stinger missiles was crucial in turning the tide in favour of the Afghan fighters trained and backed by the ISI. By this time US aid had also been increased to $600m from $35m in 1982.

At the conclusion of the war, the CIA and the Americans abandoned the Afghans but the ISI continued to play a key role in Pakistan’s Afghan policy, including the training of the Taliban in Afghanistan. What complicated matters was the Taliban’s involvement with Osama bin Laden. The Taliban regime had provided sanctuary to bin Laden who was wanted by the US even before 9/11. President Clinton ordered cruise missile attacks on Afghanistan in August 1998 to target what he described as one of the most active terrorist bases in the world. In his television address on Aug 20, 1998, Mr Clinton named “exiled Saudi Arabian dissident” Osama bin Laden as the mastermind behind the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. On the same day, a spokesman for the ruling Taliban, Mullah Abdullah, told CNN and Reuters that “bin Laden is safe and no damage has been done to any of his companions.” Top Clinton administration officials suspected, even in 1998, that if “Pakistan’s ISI wanted to capture bin Laden or tell us where he was, they could have done so with little effort”, according to the Richard Clarke, Bill Clinton’s counter-terrorism chief.

The ISI’s name figured again in the aftermath of 9/11. Dawn published the following story on Oct 10, 2001.

“Director General of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Mahmud Ahmed has been replaced after … FBI investigators established credible links between him and Umar Sheikh, one of the three militants released in exchange for passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane in 1999. The FBI team, which had sought adequate inputs about various terrorists including Sheikh from the intelligence agencies, was working on the linkages between Sheikh and former ISI chief Gen Mahmud which are believed to have been substantiated, reports [the] PTI website. Informed sources said there were enough indications with the US intelligence agencies that it was at Gen Mahmud’s instruction that Sheikh had transferred 100,000 US dollars into the account of Mohammed Atta, one of the lead terrorists in strikes at the World Trade Centre on Sept 11, it adds.”

While this news was disturbing to say the least, the objective fact remains that Gen Mahmud Ahmed, the ISI chief, was replaced barely a month after he had returned from Washington after spending about 10 days meeting top officials of the Bush administration.

The record speaks for itself. The ISI has played a key role in elections beginning with the 1965 presidential polls and in conducting Afghan policy and operations. We have hardly ever had free and fair elections and the Afghan crisis now threatens the very survival of Pakistan as it exists today.

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