Needed: a ‘bloody civilian’ at the ISI

By Kamran Shafi

In November 2009 I wrote an article arguing the case for a civilian head of the ISI, our equivalent of Britain’s MI5 (Security Service) and MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service); Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND); France’s General Directorate for External Security (DGSE); Israel’s Mossad; and India’s RAW to name a few.

Of 16 Directors of MI5 and 13 of MI6 since the year 1909, only one military man served as director for each of the agencies; in the case of the German BND, of eleven presidents only one was an army general and that too during the Second World War; and in the French DGSE six were civilians and three soldiers since the year 1981.

And now to our special bug-bears: the Indian RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) and the Israeli Mossad: RAW has always had civilians head it, all civil servants belonging to various departments of government. Only in the case of Mossad have generals outnumbered civilians but even there have not had a monopoly on the agency.

Each one of the above intelligence agencies reports to the Cabinet Secretary of their respective governments and through that office to the prime minister/president of the country. The chiefs of the defence services have nothing in the world to do with any of the agencies, only receiving briefing papers and other such, like other concerned department heads.

Why am I repeating what I said some years ago? Because the present series of crises this poor and hapless country is facing are a direct consequence of a rampant ISI that is working outside the limits set by the Rules of Business and which is goose-stepping into the realm of other departments of government merely because it has a serving general at its head and therefore considers itself a part of the untouchable army.

Take the so-called Case of the Murky Memo. A person of low credibility writes an article in an international newspaper fingering a high official of government and the president himself in an unbelievable ‘plot’ to defang the security establishment of its coup-making prowess, and the DG ISI himself goes marching off to London to ‘investigate’ his own president without as a by-your-leave of the government of Pakistan! I ask you!

And this when the ISI is not an investigative body; does not have the authority to prosecute anyone, and the DG has no experience whatsoever in police work. Yet he takes it upon himself to become the investigator, prosecutor and judge? I ask you! At the same time, whilst making a report to his ‘chief’, the COAS, he conveniently overlooks the severe abuse and insults heaped upon the ISI itself by that same person of low credibility. There is not a squeak out of anyone in the Deep State about THIS aspect of the article, some portions of which have been seized upon selectively to launch a witch-hunt, what else.

This whole tamasha started when, instead of the prime minister who is the actual appointing authority, the present chief of army staff acting on his own advice to himself ‘appointed’ the present DG of the ISI. Whilst the methodology of appointing the DG of the ISI, invariably a serving general of the Pakistan army, is flawed ab initio — the COAS suggesting three names of which the PM has to choose one (!) — the fact that the present incumbent was chosen by the COAS made it doubly disastrous.

Another reason for the timing of this piece is the recent noise generated on the Internet, particularly on Twitter by Imran Khan’s PTI trolls whose one aim in life seems to be to trash everyone who disagrees with their Great Leader in the most vile (and very stupid) manner. Some of them asked the question “Who controls the ISI?”, and when told it was the PM, loosed a veritable tsunami of abuse on everyone and Charlie’s Aunt going so far as to say the Pakistan army was the saviour of the country etcetera, and how dare the PM control the ISI and other words to that effect. Whilst one can understand their defence of the security establishment given the PTI’s allegedly close ties to it they should be a little more circumspect in the manner in which they defend people accused of aiding and abetting the Great Leader.

Anyhow, trolls do what trolls are supposed to do so let us let them be. What should concern every thinking citizen of this country is how to rein in the ISI which has disappeared our own people; which has destabilised governments, the present effort being one such; which has mounted no-confidence moves against elected, sitting governments; and which is positioning itself to play what seems like a destructive role in post-NATO Afghanistan.

To my mind the best way is to firmly bring it under civilian control in the Cabinet Division of the government of Pakistan. This will be easier done if a civilian from amongst the civilian cadre of the ISI sits at the head of the organisation. I know that there are some excellent civilian officers who are unable to rise to senior positions which are booked for army generals followed by a sprinkling of air force and naval officers. The present government should make this an imperative for itself and let the devil take the hindmost!

A word to the prime minister: Will you please stop blowing red-hot and then stone-cold? Whilst one so appreciated your brave statements in and outside parliament about not allowing a state within a state, one was gobsmacked when you said you meant the defence secretary was creating one. What inanity was that, Makhdum Sahib?

You didn’t stop there and went one worse when you said you had done ‘minnat’ of Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani and Shuja Pasha to take their extensions. And even though you tried to back-pedal the next day it was futile. ‘Minnat’ does mean ‘to beg’. So, keep your eye on the ball; don’t flinch; and if you can harness the Deep State you will be a hero.

Courtesy:  The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2011.

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