By Carl Prine
Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha, the Director General for Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), is expected to retire from active duty on March 18th after serving five years as the chief of country’s most powerful intelligence agency.
The big question remains: What’s Pasha’s legacy?
Like many others, I admire Pasha is an individual but I’ve become very concerned about how Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency has been run over the past five years. My criticism is on merit and as a Pakistani citizen and taxpayer I have every right to ask hard questions about what we’ve gotten from Pasha over the past half-decade of his tenure.
Let’s begin by talking about what ISI is supposed to do. Pasha’s ISI’s is tasked with a) safeguarding Pakistan’s national interests; and b) preventing external threats.
Is it an external threat when Osama bin Laden is assassinated in Abbotabad, near the military academy? When the Americans arrived in Abbotabad and stayed inside Pakistan and did whatever they wanted for more than 40 minutes, where was our ISI? Where was the vital intelligence leading to the raid? Is this not incompetence?
Unfortunately, what we had been seeing especially in Pakistan is that intelligence officials and agencies designed to stop terrorism are in fact acting like typical policemen, going over the post-incident details because they couldn’t pre-empt the destruction. This isn’t the service from ISI that we pay for in Pakistan.
During Pasha’s tenure not only have thousands of Pakistanis been killed in terrorist events but the attacks themselves have been brazenly executed: The PNS-Mehran assault, 26/11 Mumbai Massacre , the hit on Saleem Shezad , multiple naval bus bombings , the wave of Balochistan slayings , the GHQ raid, the attempted massacre of the Sri Lankan cricket team and thousands of targeted murders in Karachi .
One of the biggest reasons why our spy agencies failed us is because there’s been a complete breakdown of communication between all intelligence departments in Pakistan. Although organizations like the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NCTA) were formed solely for this purpose, it was actively sabotaged by the ISI and the organization which is primarily funded by the European Union is rotting in Islamabad.
Inside Pakistan, one hears the argument that countries like India, America and Israel are funding terrorist organizations and destabilizing Islamabad by supporting the Balochistan Liberation Army, the Baloch Republican Army and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan .
But ISI and General Pasha have failed to show evidence of a direct or even an indirect link between these nations and terrorist and separatist organizations here.
ISI remains one of the most important and respected intelligence organizations in the world, but the time has come for the agency to actually start performing. It must live up to its job description and reputation. To do so, it must change priorities and the civilian government must share the blame for it when it fails to do so.
The biggest mistake made by the President Asif Ali Zardari-led government was to grant extensions to the Chief of Army Staff, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the ISI’s Pasha. These extensions not only broke the morale of officers below them but hurt the institutions by taking a ‘personality-centric approach’ instead of fostering a healthy institutional climate.
Gen. Pasha is an outstanding soldier and he loves Pakistan very much, but what if a general is wrong about how he leads his agency? It’s really unfortunate for me to write a critical piece about my own country’s finest soldier, but truth comes only by inspecting what has happened to Pakistan under Pasha’s five-year watch. He might have been an brilliant officer but he’s been a most incompetent ISI director, perhaps the worst our nation has ever produced.
Our only hope is that merit and accountability will return to guide ISI.