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Paper no.287

01. 08. 2001

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[ This is a circa 2001 article by the former Minister of the Interior of India, a fascinating perspective about the Pakistani ISI, the organization which today directs, arranges funding for, and controls Al Qaeda and the network of Terror Groups it affiliates with.  This article was written prior to 9/11. Repro'd intact from Note that the CIA has acknowledged responsibility for the development of anti-Soviet activities in Afghanistan through cooperation with the ISI.  In the aftermath of the CIA's and the Soviet's exit from Afghanistan, Pakistan's leadership, having a newfound terror weapon at their disposal, started to use it against Western and Indian interests.  9/11 was one of those Pakistani efforts.  It is not clear whether everyone at the CIA today realizes the profound ramifications of outside Oil Industry recruitment of Pakistan's leadership to buffer terror activities that run to their strategic benefit in softening up regions for seizure of their oil and other economic interests for them. It is fascinating to see the early learning curve with the pseudo-Sikh Khalistani movement, and how it bred an understanding in Pakistan of how to build an Al Qaeda Terror net. -- INTELLIGENCE NEWS EDITOR ]

Article by  B. Raman

The intelligence community of Pakistan, which was once described by the "Frontier Post" of Peshawar (May 18,1994) as its "invisible government" and by the "Dawn" of Karachi (April 25,1994) as "our secret godfathers" consists of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the ISI.  While the IB comes under the Interior Minister, the ISI is part of the Ministry of Defence (MOD).  Each wing of the Armed Forces has also its own intelligence directorate for tactical MI.

The IB is the oldest dating from Pakistan's creation in 1947.  It was formed by the division of the pre-partition IB of British India.  Its unsatisfactory military intelligence (MI) performance in the first Indo-Pak war of 1947-48 over Jammu & Kashmir (J & K) led to the decision in 1948 to create the ISI, manned by officers from the three Services, to specialise in the collection, analysis and assessment of external intelligence, military and non-military, with the main focus on India.

Initially, the ISI had no role in the collection of internal political intelligence except in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and the Northern Areas (NA--Gilgit and Baltistan).  Ayub Khan, suspecting the loyalty and objectivity of the Bengali police officers in the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB) of the IB in Dacca, the capital of the then East Pakistan, entrusted the ISI with the responsibility for the collection of internal political intelligence in East Pakistan.

Similarly, Z.A.Bhutto, when faced with a revolt by Balochi nationalists in Balochistan after the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, suspected the loyalty of the Balochi police officers of the SIB in Quetta and made the military officers of the ISI responsible for internal intelligence in Balochistan.

Zia-ul-Haq expanded the internal intelligence responsibilities of the ISI by making it responsible not only for the collection of intelligence about the activities of the Sindhi nationalist elements in Sindh and for monitoring the activities of Shia organisations all over the country after the success of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, but also for keeping surveillance on the leaders of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of Mrs.Benazir Bhutto and its allies which had started the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) in the early 1980s.  The ISI's Internal Political Division had Shah Nawaz Bhutto, one of the two brothers of Mrs.Benazir Bhutto, assassinated through poisoning in the French Riviera in the middle of 1985, in an attempt to intimidate her into not returning to Pakistan for directing the movement against Zia, but she refused to be intimidated and returned to Pakistan.

Even in the 1950s, Ayub Khan had created in the ISI a Covert Action Division for assisting the insurgents in India's North-East and its role was expanded in the late 1960s to assist the Sikh Home Rule Movement of London-based Charan Singh Panchi, which was subsequently transformed into the so-called Khalistan Movement, headed by Jagjit Singh Chauhan.  A myriad organisations operating amongst the members of the Sikh diaspora in Europe, the US and Canada joined the movement at the instigation and with the assistance of the ISI.

During the Nixon Administration in the US, when Dr.Henry Kissinger was the National Security Adviser, the intelligence community of the US and the ISI worked in tandem in guiding and assisting the so-called Khalistan movement in the Punjab. The visits of prominent Sikh Home Rule personalities to the US before the Bangladesh Liberation War in December, 1971, to counter Indian allegations of violations of the human rights of the Bengalis of East Pakistan through counter-allegations of violations of the human rights of the Sikhs in Punjab were jointly orchestrated by the ISI, the US intelligence and some officials of the US National Security Council (NSC) Secretariat, then headed by Dr.Kissinger.

This covert colloboration between the ISI and the US intelligence community was also directed at discrediting Mrs.Indira Gandhi's international stature by spreading disinformation about alleged naval base facilities granted by her to the USSR in Vizag and the Andaman & Nicobar, the alleged attachment of KGB advisers to the then Lt.Gen.Sunderji during Operation Bluestar in the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June, 1984, and so on.  This collaboration petered out after her assassination in October,1984.

The Afghan war of the 1980s saw the enhancement of the covert action capabilities of the ISI by the CIA.  A number of officers from the ISI's Covert Action Division received training in the US and many covert action experts of the CIA were attached to the ISI to guide it in its operations against the Soviet troops by using the Afghan Mujahideen, Islamic fundamentalists of Pakistan and Arab volunteers.  Osama bin Laden, Mir Aimal Kansi, who assassinated two CIA officers outside their office in Langley, US, in 1993, Ramzi Yousef and his accomplices involved in the New York World Trade Centre explosion in February, 1993, the leaders of the Muslim separatist movement in the southern Philippines and even many of the narcotics smugglers of Pakistan were the products of the ISI-CIA collaboration in Afghanistan.

The encouragement of opium cultivation and heroin production and smuggling was also an offshoot of this co-operation.  The CIA, through the ISI, promoted the smuggling of heroin into Afghanistan in order to make the Soviet troops heroin addicts. Once the Soviet troops were withdrawn in 1988, these heroin smugglers started smuggling the drugs to the West, with the complicity of the ISI.  The heroin dollars have largely contributed to preventing the Pakistani economy from collapsing and enabling the ISI to divert the jehadi hordes from Afghanistan to J & K after 1989 and keeping them well motivated and well-equipped.

Even before India's Pokhran I nuclear test of 1974, the ISI had set up a division for the clandestine procurement of military nuclear technology from abroad and, subsequently, for the clandestine purchase and shipment of missiles and missile technology from China and North Korea.  This division, which was funded partly by donations from Saudi Arabia and Libya, partly by concealed allocations in Pakistan's State budget and partly by heroin dollars, was instrumental in helping Pakistan achieve a military nuclear and delivery capability despite its lack of adequate human resources with the required expertise.

Thus, the ISI, which was originally started as essentially an agency for the collection of external intelligence, has developed into an agency adept in covert actions and clandestine procurement of denied technologies as well.

The IB, which was patterned after the IB of British India, used to be a largely police organisation, but the post of Director-General (DG), IB, is no longer tenable only by police officers as it was in the past.  Serving and retired military officers are being appointed in increasing numbers to senior posts in the IB, including to the post of DG.

In recent years, there has been a controversy in Pakistan as to who really controls the ISI and when was its internal Political Division set up.  Testifying before the Supreme Court on June 16,1997, in a petition filed by Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan, former chief of the Pakistan Air Force, 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 elections, Gen. (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg, former Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), claimed that though the ISI was manned by serving army officers and was part of the MOD, 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 have 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.

The ISI is always headed by an Army officer of the rank of Lt.Gen., who is designated as the Director-General (DG).  The present DG is Lt.Gen.Mahmood Ahmed.  He is assisted by three Deputy Directors-General (DDGs), designated as DDG (Political), DDG-I (External) and DDG-II (Administration). It is divided into the following Divisions:

* The Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB)---Responsible for all Open Sources Intelligence (OSINT) and Human Intelligence (HUMINT) collection, inside Pakistan as well as abroad.

* The Joint Counter-Intelligence (CI) Bureau: Responsible for CI inside Pakistan as well as abroad.

* The Joint Signals Intelligence Bureau (JSIB): Responsible for all communications intelligence inside Pakistan and abroad.

* Joint Intelligence North (JIN): Responsible for the proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir and the control of Afghanistan through the Taliban.  Controls the Army of Islam, consisting of organisations such as Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Al Badr and Maulana Masood Azhar's Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM). Lt.Gen.Mohammad Aziz, presently a Corps Commander at Lahore, is the clandestine Chief of Staff of the Army of Islam.  It also controls all opium cultivation and heroin refining and smuggling from Pakistani and Afghan territory.

* Joint Intelligence Miscellaneous (JIM): Responsible for covert actions in other parts of the world and for the clandestine procurement of nuclear and missile technologies.  Maj Gen (retd) Sultan Habib, an operative of this Division, who had distinguished himself in the clandestine procurement and theft of nuclear material while posted as the Defence Attache in the Pakistani Embassy in Moscow from 1991 to 93, with concurrent accreditation to the Central Asian Republics (CARs), Poland and Czechoslovakia, has recently been posted as Ambassador to North Korea to oversee the clandestine nuclear and missile co-operation between North Korea and Pakistan.  After completing his tenure in Moscow, he had co-ordinated the clandestine shipping of missiles from North Korea, the training of Pakistani experts in the missile production and testing facilities of North Korea and the training of North Korean scientists in the nuclear establishments of Pakistan through Capt. (retd) Shafquat Cheema, Third Secretary and acting head of mission, in the Pakistani Embassy in North Korea, from 1992 to 96.  Before Maj.Gen.  Sultan Habib's transfer to ISI headquarters from Moscow, the North Korean missile and nuclear co-operation project was handled by Maj.Gen.Shujjat from the Baluch Regiment, who worked in the clandestine procurement division of the ISI for five years.  On Capt.Cheema's return to headquarters in 1996, the ISI discovered that in addition to acting as the liaison officer of the ISI with the nuclear and missile establishments in North Korea, he was also earning money from the Iranian and the Iraqi intelligence by helping them in their clandestine nuclear and missile technology and material procurement not only from North Korea, but also from Russia and the CARs.  On coming to know of the ISI enquiry into his clandestine assistance to Iran and Iraq, he fled to Xinjiang and sought political asylum there, but the Chinese arrested him and handed him over to the ISI.  What happened to him subsequently is not known.  Capt.Cheema initially got into the ISI and got himself posted to the Pakistani Embassy in North Korea with the help of Col.(retd) Ghulam Sarwar Cheema of the PPP.

* Joint Intelligence X (JIX): Responsible for administration and accounts.

* Joint Intelligence Technical (JIT): Responsible for the collection of all Technical Intelligence (TECHINT) other than communications intelligence and for research and development in gadgetry.

* The Special Wing: Responsible for all intelligence training in the Armed Forces in the Defence Services Intelligence Academy and for liaison with foreign intelligence and security agencies.

Since 1948, there have been three instances when the DG,ISI, was at daggers drawn with 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.Beg, the then COAS, which ultimately led to her dismissal in August,1990.  Gen.Beg made Maj.Gen.Kallue persona non grata (PNG), stopped inviting him to the Corps Commanders conferences and transferred the responsibility for the proxy war in J & K and for assisting the Sikh extremists in the Punjab 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), who appointed as the DG,ISI, Lt.Gen.Javed Nasir, a fundamentalist Kashmiri officer, though he was not recommended by the COAS for the post.  Lt.Gen.Asif Nawaz Janjua, the then COAS, made Lt.Gen.Nasir PNG and stopped inviting him to the Corps Commanders conferences.  Despite this, Lt.Gen.Janjua returned to the ISI the responsibility for the proxy war in J & K and for assisting the Sikh extremists.

During her second tenure (1993-96), Mrs. Bhutto avoided any conflict with Gen.Abdul Waheed Kakkar and Gen. Jehangir Karamat, the Chiefs of the Army Staff in succession, on the appointment of the DG,ISI.  Her action in transferring part of the responsibility for the operations in Afghanistan, including the creation and the handling of the Taliban, from the ISI to the Interior Ministry headed by Maj.Gen. (retd) Nasirullah Babar, who handled Afghan operations in the ISI during the tenure of her father, did not create any friction with the army since she had ordered that Lt.Gen. Pervez Musharraf, then Director-General of Military Operations, should be closely associated by Maj.Gen.Babar in the Afghan operations.

However, sections of the ISI, close to Farooq Leghari, the then President of Pakistan, had Murtaza Bhutto, the surviving brother of Mrs.Benazir, assassinated outside his house in Karachi in September,1996, with the complicity of some local police officers and started a disinformation campaign in the media blaming her and her husband, Asif Zirdari, for the murder.  This campaign paved the way for her dismissal by Leghari in November,1996.

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 Gen.Musharraf led to the first friction between the two.  Gen.Musharraf transferred Lt.Gen.Mohammad Aziz, the then DDG,ISI, on his promotion as Lt.Gen. to the GHQ as the CGS and transferred the entire Joint Intelligence North (JIN), responsible for covert actions in India and Afghanistan to the Directorate-General of Military Intelligence (DGMI) to be supervised by Lt.Gen.Aziz.  It is believed that the JIN continues to function under the DGMI even after the appointment of Lt.Gen.Mahmood Ahmed as the DG, ISI, after the overthrow of Sharif on October 12,1999.  Gen.Musharraf, as the COAS, made Lt.Gen.Ziauddin PNG and stopped inviting him to the Corps Commanders' conferences.  He kept Lt.Gen.Ziauddin totally out of the picture in the planning and implementation of the Kargil operations.  After the Kargil war, Nawaz Sharif had sent Lt.Gen.Ziauddin to Washington on a secret visit to inform the Clinton Administration officials of his concerns over the continued loyalty of Gen.Musharraf.  After his return from the US, Lt.Gen.Ziauddin went to Kandahar, as ordered by Sharif, to pressurise Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Taliban, to stop assisting the anti-Shia Sipah Sahaba Pakistan and to co-operate with the US in the arrest and deportation of bin Laden.  On coming to know of this, Gen. Musharraf sent Lt.Gen.Aziz to Kandahar to tell the Amir that he should not carry out the instructions of Lt.Gen.Ziauddin and that he should follow only his (Lt.Gen.Aziz's) instructions.

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 their efforts to maintain law and order in Pakistan and weaken nationalist and religious elements and political parties disliked by the army, the ISI and the army followed a policy of divide and rule.  After the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, to keep the Shias of Pakistan under control, the ISI encouraged the formation of ant-Shia Sunni extremist organisations such as the Sipah Sahaba .  When the Shias of Gilgit rose in revolt in 1988, Musharraf used bin Laden and his tribal hordes from the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to suppress them brutally.  When the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM---now called the Muttahida Qaumi Movement) of Altaf Hussain rose in revolt in the late 1980s in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur in Sindh, the ISI armed sections of the Sindhi nationalist elements to kill the Mohajirs.  It then created a split between Mohajirs of Uttar Pradesh origin (in Altaf Hussain's MQM) and those of Bihar origin in the splinter anti-Altaf Hussain group called MQM (Haquiqi--meaning real).  In Altaf Hussain's MQM itself, the ISI unsuccessfully tried to create a wedge between the Sunni and Shia migrants from Uttar Pradesh.

Having failed in his efforts to weaken the PPP by taking advantage of the exile of Mrs.Benazir and faced with growing unity of action between Altaf Hussain's MQM and sections of Sindhi nationalist elements, Musharraf has constituted a secret task force in the ISI headed by Lt.Gen.Mahmood Ahmed, the DG, and consisting of Lt.Gen.(retd) Moinuddin Haider, Interior Minister, and Lt.Gen.Muzaffar Usmani, Deputy Chief of the Army Staff, to break the PPP, the MQM and the Sindhi nationalists.

This task force has encouraged not only religious political organisations such as the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) of Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI) of Maulana Fazlur Rahman etc, but also sectarian organisations such as the Sipah Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi of Riaz Basra, living under the protection of the Taliban and bin Laden in Kandahar in Afghanistan, to extend their activities to Sindh.

These organisations have now practically got out of the control of the ISI.  Instead of attacking the PPP, the MQM and the Sindhi nationalists and bringing them to heel as Musharraf had hoped they would, they have taken their anti-Shia jehad to Sindh and have been recruiting a large number of unemployed Sindhi rural youth for service with the Taliban.  Sindh, which was known for its Sufi traditions of religious tolerance, has seen under Musharraf a resurgence of the street power of the JEI and the JUI, which had been practically driven out of the province in the 1980s, by the PPP, the MQM and the Sindhi nationalists, and has seen in recent months anti-Shia massacres of the kind used by Musharraf in Gilgit in 1988.  Over 200 Shias have been gunned down, including 30 doctors of Karachi, and the latest victims of the sectarian Frankenstein let loose by Musharraf in Sindh have been Shaukat Mirza, the Managing Director of Pakistan State Oil, and Syed Zafar Hussain Zaidi, a Director in the Research Laboratories of the Ministry of Defence, located in Karachi, who were gunned down on July 28 and 30,2001, respectively.  The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for both these assassinations.

As a result of the policy of divide and rule followed in Sindh by the ISI under Musharraf, one is seeing in Pakistan for the first time sectarian violence inside the Sunni community between the Sunnis of the Deobandi faith belonging to the Sipah Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Sunnis of the more tolerant Barelvi faith belonging to the Sunni Tehrik formed in the early 1990s to counter the growing Wahabi influence on Islam in Pakistan and the Almi Tanzeem Ahle Sunnat formed in 1998 by Pir Afzal Qadri of Mararian Sharif in Gujrat, Punjab, to counter the activities of the Deobandi Army of Islam headed by Lt.Gen.Mohammed Aziz, Corps Commander, Lahore.

The Tanzeem has been criticising not only the Army of Islam for injecting what it considers the Wahabi poison into the Pakistan society, but also the army of the State headed by Musharraf for misleading the Sunni youth into joining the jehad against the Indian army in J & K and getting killed there in order to avoid the Pakistani army officers getting killed in the jehad for achieving its strategic objective.  The ISI, which is afraid of a direct confrontation with the Barelvi organisations, has been inciting the Sipah Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to counter their activities .

This has led to frequent armed clashes between rival Sunni groups in Sindh, the most sensational of the incidents being the gunning down of Maulana Salim Qadri of the Sunni Tehrik and five of his followers in Karachi on May, 18,2001, by the Sipah Sahaba, which led to a major break-down of law and order in certain areas of Karachi for some days.

Musharraf, the commando, believes in achieving his objective by hook or by crook without worrying about the means used.  In his anxiety to bring Sindh under control and to weaken the PPP, the MQM and the Sindhi nationalists, he has, through the ISI, created new Frankensteins which might one day lead to the Talibanisation of Sindh, a province always known for its sufi traditions of religious tolerance and for its empathy with India.

Musharraf is under pressure from sections of senior army officers concerned over these developments to suppress the Sipah Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.  He and Lt.Gen.Haider have been making the pretence of planning to do so.  It is to be seen whether they really would and, even if they did, whether they would or could effectively enforce the ban on them.

In India, there is a point of view in some circles that the only way of effectively countering the ISI activities against India is to have an Indian version of the ISI, with extensive powers for clandestine intelligence collection, technology procurement and covert actions and that the proposed Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) should be patterned after Pakistan's ISI rather than after the DIA of the US and the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) of the UK, which are essentially agencies for the analysis and assessment of military intelligence in a holistic manner, with powers for clandestine collection only during times of war or when deployed in areas of conflict and with no powers for covert action.

The principle of civilian primacy in the intelligence community is widely accepted in all successful democracies and the discarding of this principle in Pakistan sowed the seeds for the present state of affairs there.  In our anxiety for quick results against the ISI, we should not sacrifice time-tested principles as to how intelligence agencies should function in a democratic society.

In the 1970s,Indian policy-makers wisely decided that the Indian intelligence should not get involved in clandestine procurement of denied technologies since the exposure of any such procurement could damage the credibility and trustworthiness of the Indian scientific and technological community in the eyes of other countries.

This is what has happened to Pakistan.  Its intelligence community did some spectacular work in clandestine procurement and theft of technologies abroad.  But, once the details of this network were exposed, post-graduate students of Pakistan in scientific subjects, its academics, research scholars and scientists are looked upon with suspicion in Western countries and find it difficult to enter universities and research laboratories for higher studies and research and get jobs in establishments dealing in sensitive technologies and are less frequently invited to seminars etc than in the past.  In its anxiety to catch up with India in the short term, Pakistan has damaged its long-term potential in science and technology.

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

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