Lately we (Jahangir’s World Times team) happened to meet Brigadier Ghazanfar Ali, former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Regional Commander, to find out why ISI has been accused of giving into the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and how far ISI has fared in protecting the sovereignty of Pakistan.
Jahangir’s World Times: What is the role of an intelligence agency in any country?
Brigadier Ghazanfar: The role of an intelligence agency is to protect the sovereignty, dignity and honour of its country from real and symbolic enemies. Intelligence agency preserves the security and safety of a nation by conducting different covert operations in collaboration with different intelligence agencies of the world to garner maximum benefit.
JWT: It is said that ISI has compromised the sovereignty of Pakistan?
BG: No, not at all. In fact, ISI has been deceived by CIA. We have been double crossed. We are paying for saying no to the parallel network CIA wants to run in Pakistan. You cannot blame ISI for drone attacks or blame your government to let this gruesome act carry on. You cannot blame ISI for American unilateral raid on Osama. ISI trusted CIA and if they paid their friend back in a counterfeit currency, then it speaks about their morals and high standards. This is a pure case of Psychological War Operation that CIA plays to undermine the reputations of others and carry out its covert agenda at the cost of others.
JWT: But ISI has been blamed for selling itself short to CIA?
BG: In the present circumstances when the war of terror has crucified us to the hilt, the devious moves of CIA could not be built as a case devised by ISI. Taking lead from this incident people are blaming ISI for its failures in different incidents such as 1971 war, Benazir’s murder and now in Osama case. We need to understand one important thing that an intelligence agency’s job is to extract information, put it to intelligence format and forward it to the relevant departments for execution. The job of an intelligence agency is not to conduct operation on the information it gathers. It is the duty of executing agencies like police, army etc, to do so. Take the case of attack on the Sri Lankan team. There was ample proof that the team would be attacked in Lahore. Punjab government had been informed about the threat by the Agency. Not only were they provided with the threat warning but even the exact location and style of attack was intimated to them. The executing agencies or the security apparatus did not do their part and hence we were caught nonplus.
The job of an intelligence agency is not to conduct operation on the information it gathers. It is the duty of executing agencies like police, army etc, to do so.
JWT: Since intelligence agencies work for public interest so are they accountable for their actions.
BG: Every intelligence agency has a reporting line. ISI is answerable to the Prime Minister, similarly Military Intelligence (MI) is monitored by Chief of the Army Staff. And only recently General Shuja, the ISI Chief presented himself to the parliamentarians to answer their queries in the wake of Abbottabad raid.
JWT: ISI has been blamed to be a state within a state.
BG: Saying that ISI is a state within a state is thoroughly a wrong assessment. ISI or for that matter any agency does at times make certain independent decisions. If that action is magnified to be taken as a resort to power and governance, then that could not be anything but a wilful intention to malign the reputation of ISI. Take the case of CIA, it has been involved in even overthrowing government; Rafic Hariri’s murder is one example. Similarly, Mossad has been recently accused of killing Hamas leader in Dubai for which it has been charged as well. As least ISI is not involved in such kind of activities, but of course if it comes to safeguarding the unity, entity and sovereignty of Pakistan ISI has all the right and reason to thwart the danger. In case of India it does so quite often and has been upholding the cause of Kashmir for that matter.
JWT: Are you saying that ISI supports Mujahideen?
BG: I am not saying that ISI supports Mujahideen. That is absolutely a false notion. ISI has been tasked by the government of Pakistan to assist CIA in thwarting Soviet presence from Afghanistan during Soviet Afghan war. It was ISI that trained Mujahideen recruited from different parts of the country by CIA to fight against Soviet Union and communism. When USSR retreated and America too hurried for its quite sojourn back home, the battle ground was left open to the Mujahideen ‘now aimless and uprooted. Had ISI not been in the vanguard to direct and channelise these elements, the situation would have been worse then what we find today? The Afghan case or the so-called Mujahideen-turned-terrorists are the making of CIA. America should not have left Afghanistan prematurely. It should not have entered into a war with another Muslim country immediately withdrawing from Afghanistan. It should not have miscalculated on the talents and biases of Mujahideen. Now if you are putting the entire blame on ISI, it sounds a bit too strong.
JWT: Another allegation laid on ISI is about its digging into the domestic politics?
BG: I do not agree to it as well. Pakistan has been under the military rule for more than 30 years. These rulers have pushed ISI, as has been confirmed by General Hameed Gul, Asad Durrani and Imtiaz Beg, in putting the political jigsaw right. We have to understand that the fault lies with the leadership, with the head of the states. If Musharraf or for that matter Zia and Ayub Khan in their zest to prolong their stay in power, had asked ISI to perform certain task, ISI was obliged to comply with the order. Take the example of May 12 when Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry went to Karachi. This is a peculiar case when no intelligence agency has been asked to identify if there were any criminal forces in the offing to create any disturbance in the city. Knowing that the atmosphere was fully charged for any untoward happening no prevention measures were taken. What happened on that ill-fated day and who carried out that mayhem is now an open secret? My point is that agencies do not indulge in politicising domestic atmospheres if they are not ordered to do so.
Pakistan has to stop relying solely on America. It is high time that Pakistan turn to its neighbour and build a regional bloc to get support from countries like Iran, China, Turkey, etc.
JWT: So do you dismiss the notion that ISI has been involved in making or breaking governments in Pakistan?
BG: ISI has been overthrowing government on the orders of the leaders. Let me put few facts over here. We should know that all the intelligence agencies of the world be it RAW, Mossad, CIA or M16 are involved in domestic political business. RAW has been involved in the election of Indra Gandhi. States cannot manage their affairs without the assistance of intelligence agencies.
JWT: What is the bone of contention between ISI and CIA?
BG: America is a hypocrite and it has stabbed ISI in the back. The bone of contention between CIA and ISI is the parallel system that the CIA has established in Pakistan. ISI has been asking CIA to wrap up their business in Pakistan.
JWT: What is the solution?
BG: Pakistan has to stop relying solely on America. It is high time that Pakistan turn to its neighbour and build a regional bloc to get support from countries like Iran, China, Turkey, etc. Pakistan needs to work on its diplomatic relations with other countries as well.