Pakistan’s ISI: The Invisible Government

Pakistan’s ISI: The Invisible Government


Pakistan’s ISI The Invisible Government

Since partition, no political force within Pakistan has driven the nation’s
domestic and international political agenda as has its army, and more
specifically, one of its intelligence units, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)
agency. Comprised of the three branches of Pakistan’s military, the Army,
Navy, and Air Force, the ISI, in its time has been linked to political
assassinations, the smuggling of heroin and opium, and the smuggling of
materials and components for nuclear weapons. From headquarters on
Khayban-e Suharwady Street in Islamabad, the ISI has worked to suppress
political opposition to the military regimes that have dotted Pakistan’s
political landscape since 1947.
It has also embraced radical Islamic extremism and worked with the
United States in aiding the Afghan mujahideen in expelling the Soviets
from Afghanistan. At the same time, it has been charged with using
Islamic militants in a campaign of terror to wrench control of the
provinces of Jammu and Kashmir from the Indians. Now, in light of the
events of 11 September 2001, ISI’s exploits over the course of the last fifty
years have entered into the Western Hemisphere’s mainstream press as the
United States is compelled to work with the organization in pursuing its
war on terror.1
In 1948, following Pakistan’s loss of the first Indo-Pakistani War, and the
abysmal intelligence performance of Pakistan’s intelligence service, the
Intelligence Bureau, the then–Deputy Army Chief of Staff General
R. Cawthorne2 formed the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.3
Sean P. Winchell teaches in the Grandview, Missouri, School District. He
earned honors degrees in Political Science and History at the State
University of New York, Stony Brook.
International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 16: 374–388, 2003
Copyright # 2003 Taylor & Francis Inc.
ISSN: 0885-0607 print/1521-0561 online
DOI: 10.1080/08850600390201477
Created from the three branches of Pakistan’s military, and modeled after
Iran’s intelligence service, the SAVAK, the ISI coordinates with the Army,
Navy, and Air Force intelligence units of Pakistan’s military in the
collection, analysis, and dissemination of military and nonmilitary
intelligence, focusing mainly on India. After receiving its training from the
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the French intelligence service, the
SDECE4, the ISI originally had no active role in conducting domestic
intelligence collection activities, except in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir
(POK) and Pakistan’s Northern Areas (NA) of Gilgit and Baltistan. The
ISI’s role in Pakistani politics changed in 1958, when then–Army Chief of
Staff General Ayub Khan seized power in a coup, adding a new political
dimension to the ISI’s responsibilities.5
Prior to the 1958 coup and the implementation of martial law, the ISI,
which is part of Pakistan’s Ministry of Defense, reported directly to the
Army Chief of Staff. After the implementation of martial law, the ISI
began to report to then-President Ayub Khan and the martial law
administrator. In addition, under General Khan, the ISI became
responsible for monitoring Pakistani politicians, especially those in what
was then Eastern Pakistan. Khan expanded the ISI’s role to the
protection of Pakistan’s interests, which included the creation of a
covert action division within the ISI to assist Islamic militants in
Northeast India, as well as to assist the Sikh Home Rule Movement
in the 1960s.6
Under General Khan, the ISI was given the mission of conducting ‘‘the
collection of foreign and domestic intelligence, coordination of intelligence
functions of the three military services; surveillance over its cadre,
foreigners, the media, politically active segments of Pakistani society,
diplomats serving outside of the country; the interception and monitoring
of communications; and the conduct of covert operations.’’7
Through the 1960s, the ISI and other Pakistani intelligence services were
largely concerned with conducting domestic counterintelligence operations.
At the behest of Ayub Kahn, the ISI warned social organizations with
potential political influence, such as student groups, trade organizations,
and unions not to become involved in the political arena, and kept these
groups under tight surveillance. In addition, the ISI instructed Islamic
clerics to leave any political rhetoric out of their exhortations.8
General Khan further expanded the ISI’s powers when he began to suspect
the loyalty of Bengali officers in the Intelligence Bureau’s Dakha Branch in
East Pakistan. Khan ordered the ISI to conduct domestic intelligence
operations in the region, and to monitor East Pakistani politicians.9
During the 1964 presidential elections the ISI became particularly active.
The ISI monitored candidates running for office, especially in what was
then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), keeping Bengali politicians in
Dakha, Pakistan’s legislative capital,10 under close surveillance. The ISI
attempted to keep Khan apprised of the political mood in East Pakistan,
which the ISI believed had swung in favor of President Khan. But the ISI
had miscalculated the popularity of Khan’s opponent, Fatima Jinnah.11
The following year, the ISI’s intelligence collection and analysis during the
Indo-Pakistani War, which took place over Kashmir, was a fiasco. The ISI,
under Director-General Brigadier Riaz Hussain,12 was then vigorously
conducting domestic intelligence collection operations inside Kashmir, and
had numerous assets inside the Indian-controlled sector. Once the conflict
started, all its assets in the region went underground, blinding the ISI to
what was occurring, both militarily and politically. This included losing
track of a division of Indian tanks. Part of the problem that faced the ISI
was that prior to the conflict, it had devoted itself to domestic intelligence
operations, including keeping track of the regime’s various political
opponents. The ISI had also been conducting intelligence operations
against India. As a result, the ISI was at a complete loss in addressing the
army’s (and the government’s) needs for timely military intelligence.
Through the late 1960s and into the 1970s, the ISI worked in tandem with
the CIA, under the Richard Nixon administration, to provide aid and
support to the Khalistan movement in Punjab.13 In addition, the CIA and
the ISI collaborated to discredit then–Indian Prime Minister Indira
Gandhi’s granting of naval facilities to the Soviet Union at Vizag and on
the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The program came to an end with
Gandhi’s death in 1984.14
Under President Yahya Khan, the ISI once again escalated its domestic
intelligence collection activities, especially in East Pakistan. It sought to
guarantee that no East Pakistani candidate would win the presidential
election. But, the operation was a complete failure. Throughout the
1960s, the Awami League, led by Bengali leader Sheikh Mujibur
Rahman, gained in popularity. In 1970, the Awami League won an
overwhelming majority of seats to the National Assembly in the general
election and, under Parliamentary law, had the right to form a
government with Rahman as the newly elected Prime Minister. President
Khan, who did not want to grant East Pakistan greater political
autonomy, then delayed the commencement of the National Assembly,
which in turn provoked a civil war.15
For the next two years, as East and West Pakistan fought a bloody civil
war, the ISI attempted to crush the Bengali resistance movement in East
Pakistan. The ISI’s efforts included the assassination of several prominent
Bengali politicians. The conflict was finally brought to an end in late 1971
when the Indian military interceded on behalf of the East Pakistani
government, leading to the defeat of Pakistan proper on 16 December
1971, and the formation of Bangladesh, or the Bengali state.16
Following Pakistan’s defeat and the independence of Bangladesh, Yahya
Khan was forced to step down and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was elected
President of Pakistan.
President Bhutto tried to bring the ISI under control by appointing
Lieutenant General Gulam Gilani Khan as its director. At Khan’s behest,
Bhutto promoted Lieutenant General Zia ul-Haq to the position of Army
Chief of Staff.
Despite being in a democracy, the ISI had become so entrenched in
Pakistani society by the time that President Bhutto came to power that it
was readily adopted by his regime. In 1972, Bhutto, faced with a revolt by
Baluchistani nationals in Baluchistan, and suspecting the loyalty of officers
in the Quetta branch of the Intelligence Bureau, once again increased the
ISI’s mandate, making it responsible for conducting intelligence operations
in the region.17
In March 1977, Pakistan held its first general elections, with Bhutto’s
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) winning a substantial victory. His opponents
decried the election results as fraudulent. These accusations led to violent
protests and strikes. On 5 July 1977, General Zia ul-Haq, with the aid of
the ISI, seized power in a coup. Zia then ordered Bhutto’s arrest and had
him tried for the 1974 murder of a political opponent. Convicted of the
murder, Bhutto, on 4 April 1979, amid worldwide protests, was executed.
On 17 September 1978, amidst the negative fanfare, Zia declared himself
President and ruled under martial law until 30 December 1985, when he
restored some of the Pakistani people’s civil rights.
The son of an Islamic cleric, Zia was a fundamentalist who believed that the
only way Pakistan could become a major regional power was to turn it into
an Islamic state. Consequently, he made a deliberate attempt to Islamize the
Pakistani military. During this period, officers were actively encouraged to
become Islamic fundamentalists, and only those officers who were
practicing Muslims received promotion. Experts now believe that
approximately thirty percent of the country’s army officers are Islamic
The ISI’s powers were expanded to collect domestic intelligence on
political and religious organizations that were opposed to Zia’s regime. In
addition, the ISI began to smuggle arms and aid to Sikh extremists in the
Indian province of Punjab.19
In 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test, Pokharan I. In tandem with
Pakistan’s third defeat at the hands of India, the Bhutto government had
established a division within the ISI to conduct the ‘‘clandestine
procurement’’ of nuclear materials and missile technology from China and
North Korea. In order to hide the establishment of the nuclear weapons
program, the division received funding from both Saudi Arabia and Libya.
In addition, proceeds from heroin and opium smuggling were deferred to
the program. Finally, the ISI also began smuggling nuclear technology out
of Europe, all of which the United States knew, but did nothing about.20
The Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan compelled the CIA to
increase its ties with the ISI. The Agency had previously been working
with the ISI to discredit Indira Gandhi and to aid the Sikh Home Rule
Movement. Now, the CIA began collaborating with the ISI in training the
Afghan mujahideen to combat the Soviets, also providing them with
logistical support and financial and military aid.21
CIA intelligence officers were sent to Pakistan to liaise with the ISI, and
members of the ISI’s covert action division received training in the United
States. The CIA, through the ISI, ultimately channeled some three billion
dollars worth of arms to the Afghan mujahideen.22
But the CIA did not know at the time that the ISI was not using all of the
arms or money as Washington had intended. The ISI was appropriating arms
destined for the mujahideen and selling them to the Iranians and pocketing
the proceeds. When the Ronald Reagan administration learned of the ISI’s
activities, it sent a fact-finding mission to Pakistan to investigate. But by
then the ISI had already altered its records of the transactions and
destroyed any evidence that might show its complicity. The ISI was also
using the CIA-provided funds to enroll graduates from Pakistani
madrasas23 to fight in the war against the Soviets, and in the process
laying the ground for the rise of the Taliban.24
Between 1983 and 1997, the ISI trained approximately 83,000 Afghan
mujahideen. For its efforts Pakistan paid a price, as Soviet forces located
inside Afghanistan began bombing Pakistani cities located along the
Afghanistan–Pakistan border.25
In addition to supporting Afghan mujahideen fighters, the ISI began to
assist Kashmiri separatists in their efforts to make Kashmir part of
Pakistan. In 1988, as part of that support, then–President Zia created
Operation Tupac.26 The idea behind the project was to avenge Pakistan’s
defeat in the 1971 war with India and, in the process, attempt to balkanize
it. Operation Tupac had three operational objectives: (1) the disintegration
of India; (2) the utilization of spy networks to conduct acts of sabotage;
and (3) the ISI was to ‘‘exploit porous borders with Nepal and Bangladesh
to establish bases and conduct operations’’ [inside India].27
In addition, the CIA gave a wink and a nod to the production of opium
and heroin in northern Afghanistan under the ISI’s auspices. The growth
and sale of the substances is important for three reasons: (1) The drugs
and their subsequent use by many of the Soviet forces stationed in
Afghanistan turned many of the Soviets stationed there into drug addicts,
diminishing both their will and their ability to fight; (2) the proceeds from
the sale of the heroin in Europe and the United States afforded the ISI the
opportunity to continue to finance its proxy war against the Soviets; and
(3) the proceeds from the drugs also helped to support Pakistan’s
burgeoning nuclear weapons program. It, too, was a program the United
States knew of, but did nothing about. Following the expulsion of the
Soviets from Afghanistan, heroin smugglers in Pakistan used their
experience from Afghanistan to increase their smuggling to the West.28
Several notable terrorists rose out of the ashes of the Soviet occupation of
Afghanistan and the CIA–ISI’s joint efforts to oust them. Included among
them are Ramzi Yousef, the individual responsible for the February 1993
bombing of New York City’s World Trade Center; Mir Aimal Kansi, who
in 1993 murdered two CIA employees outside of CIA headquarters in
Langley, Virginia; and Osama bin-Laden, as well as a whole host of
Islamic militants in the Philippines and narcotics smugglers in Pakistan.29
Since partition in 1947, Pakistan has tried in vain to wrest control of Muslimdominated
Jammu and Kashmir from India. For most of this period, the ISI
has used Islamic militants living in Kashmir to foment discord. Since
partition the ISI has also served as the ‘‘principal liaison’’ with militant
Islamic organizations, many of which the United States now considers
terrorist organizations. Included are the Allah Tigers, al-Umar
Mujahideen, Harkat ul-Ansar, Hizb-ul-Islam, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Jamaat
Hurriyat Conference, and the Muslim mujahideen.30
Joint Intelligence North (JIN), the ISI section that supervises Islamic
militants in Jammu and Kashmir, has been largely responsible for
providing financial aid, military assistance, and logistical assistance to
militants in the region.31
The modern plan to drive India out of Jammu and Kashmir was
formulated in 1984 by then ISI Director-General Hamid Gul. The ISI
originally implemented its plan via propaganda, then steadily increased
pressure in the 1990s as ISI-backed Islamic militants began to launch
strikes and street rallies. The militants then conducted terrorist attacks
against Indian interests in Kashmir.32
Young Islamic militants were trained in Jammu and Kashmir, and the ISI
is believed to have funded the campaigns of Kashmiri politicians or bribed
them outright, to gain their support.33
Starting in 1989, following the withdrawal of Soviet forces and the
election of Benazir Bhutto34 to the presidency, the ISI began supporting
Islamic separatist organizations, such as the Jamaat E-Islami as part of
a ‘‘process of Islamization and revolt.’’35 Consequently, the ISI started
using monies garnered from its Afghani drug smuggling operation to
finance ISI-backed terrorist incursions into the Indian provinces of
Kashmir and Punjab.36
The ISI is believed to spend nearly Rs 100 Crores 37 every year to run its
proxy war in Kashmir. Islamic militants inside Jammu and Kashmir receive
arms and ammunition from the ISI. It also directs indoctrination programs
and runs training camps, which in turn produce seasoned and motivated
Islamic militants experienced in the use of advanced weapons systems and
According to the Indian military, prior to 11 September 2001, the ISI
had approximately thirty camps running in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir
and Pakistan proper. It was assisted in running these camps by the
Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA),39 which is known for having close ties with
Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network. The HUA’s two militias,
the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Harkat-ul-Jihad, provide food, shelter,
and clothing for trainees at these camps. In addition, the ISI has
contracted militants from Afghanistan, Bahrain, Chechnya, Iran,
Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkey, and Yemen to fight in
Finally, the ISI is known to have supplied Islamic militants in Kashmir
with assault rifles and more advanced weapons systems, which included the
Russian Snayperskaya Vinyovka Dragunov (SVD) sniper rifle, surface to
air missile systems (SAMs), and plastic explosives.41
The ISI is also believed to be cooperating with Bangladesh’s intelligence
service in contacting Bangladeshi insurgents in India’s northeastern region
and the province of Assam.42
The ISI is believed to have assassinated Shah Nawaz Bhutto, the brother of
former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto,43 in 1985 by poisoning him on the
French Riviera. The ISI’s intention was to intimidate Bhutto into not
returning to Pakistan to push for democratic elections. She refused to be
intimidated, and returned home after General Zia was killed in a plane
crash. In 1988, she won the Prime Minister’s position.44
By that time, it had become readily apparent to many in Pakistan that
the ISI was out of control. That belief was confirmed in 1990 when a
commission Bhutto had appointed to look into ISI’s activities concluded
that the organization ‘‘had the makings of a de facto government.’’
Consequently, Bhutto tried to rein in its power. Prior to the release of
the report, she had already taken steps to curb ISI’s role. Her first step
was to halt the practice of appointing a Lieutenant General
recommended by the Army Chief of Staff as the Director-General.
Instead, in 1989 she renamed Major General Shamsur Rahman Kallue
to the post. Next, she borrowed a page from her father, and tried to
bring the ISI under her control by promoting generals loyal to her into
Pakistan’s two other intelligence services, the Federal Investigation
Agency (FIA), which launched attacks against ISI-backed Islamic
extremists, and to the Intelligence Bureau (IB). Unfortunately for
Bhutto, these steps drew the ire of Army Chief of Staff General Aslam
Beg. Along with her maladroit efforts at influencing other key Army
appointments, Bhutto quickly found herself at loggerheads with General
Beg, which ultimately led to her dismissal by Pakistan’s President in
August 1990.45
Under the leadership of Director-General Hameed Gul, the ISI’s role in
Pakistani politics grew again. ISI’s activities are thought to have included
rigging the 1990 elections, which brought Nawaz Sharif to his first term as
Prime Minister.46
Like his predecessor, Sharif (1990–1993) also tried to bring the ISI under
control. Following his election, he appointed Lieutenant General Javed Nasir
as Director-General, even though Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General
Asif Nawaz Janjua had not recommended him. Unfortunately for Sharif,
Nasir’s appointment seems to have had little influence on the ISI’s day to
day operations.47
During her second term as Prime Minister, Bhutto once again tried to
regulate the ISI’s power by transferring its responsibility for clandestine
operations inside Afghanistan to the Ministry of the Interior. Sections
of the ISI close to then-Pakistani President Farooq Leghari had
Bhutto’s surviving brother, Murtaza Bhutto, murdered outside of his
house in Karachi in September 1996. The ISI then undertook a
propaganda campaign within the Pakistani media blaming Prime
Minister Bhutto and her husband for Murtaza’s murder. The cloud of
suspicion surrounding Bhutto afforded President Leghari the impetus
to dismiss her in November, once again bringing Nawaz Sharif to
Despite trying to curb the ISI’s power, Benazir Bhutto had an onerous
legacy. Pakistan has long used the ISI’s active role in Afghanistan as a
means of controlling the Afghan mujahideen and shaping its own
regional foreign policy objectives. In 1989, following the withdrawal of
Soviet forces from Afghanistan, the ISI chose to increase Pakistan’s
strategic strength in the region by establishing an ‘‘Islamic Caliphate’’ in
In 1994, Bhutto, at the behest of an American oil firm50 and several family
friends in Pakistan’s army, threw her support behind a group of Islamic
Afghan students, known as the Taliban, then located in the Pakistani city
of Kandahar. Absent of any ISI influence, the Taliban at first proved to be
particularly successful. Members of warring factions from across
Afghanistan left their own camps to rally under the Taliban’s flag. The
ISI, taking notice of the Taliban’s gains, secured financial backing from
Bhutto’s government and began to recruit students from madrasas all over
Pakistan in an effort to support the fledgling Taliban, then led by Mullah
Muhammad Omar.51
Using resources and contacts left over from the resistance to Soviet
occupation, and with ISI support and training, the Taliban bribed local
tribal warlords and conducted guerilla tactics in their efforts to gain power
in Afghanistan. In 1996, after two years of fighting, the ISI-backed Taliban
managed to defeat most of the warring factions and gained control of
approximately ninety-five percent of the country. Since then, the ISI has
been accused of actively supporting both the Taliban and bin Laden’s
terrorist organization, al-Qaeda.52
During his second term as Prime Minister (1997–1999), Nawaz Sharif again
tried to curb the ISI’s power, appointing Lieutenant General Ziauddin as
Director-General even though the Army Chief of Staff, General Pervez
Musharraf, had objected to his appointment. In response, Musharraf
named Lieutenant General Muhammad Aziz, then ISI’s Deputy Director-
General, as Director-General of Military Intelligence (DGMI). Musharraf
then placed Joint Intelligence North (JIN), the ISI division responsible for
conducting clandestine intelligence activities, under Aziz’s control.
Relations between Sharif and Musharraf deteriorated even further in 1999,
when Sharif dispatched Ziauddin to meet with officials in the Bill Clinton
administration in Washington, D.C., where they discussed Sharif’s
concerns over Musharraf’s continued loyalty. Returning to Pakistan,
Ziauddin was then ordered by Sharif to travel to Kandahar to pressure
Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar to stop supporting Islamic
fundamentalists in Pakistan and to work with Washington in extraditing
bin Laden to the United States. Upon learning of Ziauddin’s trip,
Musharraf dispatched Aziz to Kandahar, where he instructed Mullah
Omar that he was to disregard Ziauddin and instead follow his
instructions, which had Musharraf’s backing.53
By now, Sharif was widely viewed by many members of the public and the
Army, especially Musharraf, as becoming increasingly dictatorial. Musharraf
argued that Sharif was taking too many liberties in his running of the army.
On 19 October 1999, in a popularly backed coup, General Musharraf
overthrew Sharif and took control of the government, declaring himself
Chief Executive.54 Turning to the ISI, now–President Musharraf dismissed
ISI Director-General Ziauddin, and replaced him with Lt.-General Ahmed
Mahmud, an Islamic conservative.55
Politicians and political pundits in the United States have repeatedly asserted
that everything changed on 11 September 2001. Those words could not have
been truer for the ISI’s relationship with the United States and Afghanistan.
Prior to 11 September, neither the ISI nor the Pakistani government had any
desire to hand Osama bin Laden over to the United States. In fact, it is
believed that just prior to 11 September, the ISI had dispatched additional
operatives to Afghanistan to aid the Taliban.56
On 11 August, just a month before the terrorist attacks on the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon, General Musharraf was quoted in an
interview by the Russian newspaper Noviye Izvestia as saying ‘‘the
Taliban . . . control about 95% of the territory [Afghanistan] and cannot be
wished away. . . .We feel that the international community should engage
the Taliban rather than isolating them and ostracizing them.’’57
On 11 September, the ISI’s GeneralMahmud was inWashington at the time
of the attacks, and pledged to provide the United States with the intelligence it
needed to pursue its war on terror.58 Despite Mahmud’s promises, at least five
ISI intelligence officers are known to have assisted the Taliban in preparing
Afghan defenses against an imminent American attack.59
But President Musharraf subsequently forced the ISI to do an about-face
regarding its role in Afghanistan. In October, Musharraf sent Mahmud to
Kandahar in Afghanistan as part of a diplomatic mission to tell Mullah
Muhammad Omar to hand bin Laden over to the United States. Instead,
Mahmud did the exact opposite, advising Mullah Omar not to hand bin
Laden over. When Musharraf, who has long had strong ties to the ISI,
learned of Mahmud’s actions, he decided to bring the agency under his
control by removing its Director-General, replacing him with Lieutenant-
General Ehsan ul-Haq, who is believed to share Musharraf’s pro-Western
views. Ehsan, considered a moderate and a friend of Musharraf, had
previously served as the head of military intelligence, and is widely
respected within Pakistan’s military and by senior American intelligence
While relations between the United States and Pakistan have warmed
considerably with the ISI’s removal from Afghanistan, relations between
India and Pakistan continue to remain tense. India holds Musharraf
responsible for the 1999 conflict in the Kashmiri province of Kargil,
known as the Kargil War.61
Relations between India and Pakistan became more complicated when, on
13 December 2001, Kashmiri separatists staged an attack on India’s
Parliament in Delhi. The Indian government under Prime Minister Atal
Bihari Vajpayi blamed ISI-backed Islamic militants for the incident and
began to mount troops on the POK border. In response, Musharraf,
fearing an all-out war with India, is believed to have instructed the ISI to
make sure that Islamic militants not carry out any more attacks.62
The following month, in January 2002, President Musharraf pledged that
his country would contribute to the War on Terror, and began to disband the
ISI’s Afghanistan and Kashmir departments. ISI officials have reported that
as many as forty percent of those working for the ISI could be reassigned,
thereby reducing the ISI staff from an estimated 10,000 to 6,000. By
February 2002 intelligence officers within the Afghanistan and Kashmir
divisions had already been transferred, with more transfers expected.63
While the ISI’s Afghanistan division is believed to have been closed down
entirely, the Kashmir section continues to be more of a challenge since it
serves as one of Pakistan’s main sources of information on Indian
intelligence activities in the region. The ISI also has a long history of
providing logistical and military support to Islamic Kashmiri separatists.64
The major sticking point in the ISI’s restructuring is the agency’s
reluctance to shut down the Kashmir division for two primary reasons: (1)
the ISI and the Pakistani government do not trust the Indian government
and want to continue to conduct intelligence operations in the region; and
(2) the ISI is already troubled by the loss of its Afghanistan division.
President Musharraf may not want to further antagonize the agency by
completely shutting down its Kashmir division.65
Under pressure from the George W. Bush administration in Washington,
the ISI has also begun to sever its ties with Islamic extremists in the region,
most notably with the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and the Jaish-e-Muhammad
groups.66, 67
In addition, the ISI’s domestic political intelligence operations are being
transferred to Pakistan’s civilian intelligence service, the Intelligence
President Musharraf, as a former Army Chief of Staff, may better be able
to bring the ISI, which is part of Pakistan’s military structure, under control.
According to Gary Samore of the International Institute for Strategic Studies
in London, ‘‘under civilian rule the ISI had a fair amount of
independence . . . under Musharraf they are answerable.’’69
Following the 11 September attacks and the initiation of President Bush’s
response of a ‘‘war on terror,’’ the United States began to rely heavily on
intelligence provided by the ISI. In return for American electronic
intelligence (ELINT) and financial remuneration, the ISI has provided the
United States with human intelligence (HUMINT) of extreme importance
because the ISI is believed to possess vast stores of intelligence on bin
Laden, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. In addition, the ISI has detained
suspected al-Qaeda operatives as they attempt to cross into Pakistan, and
have handed many over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). A
most notable capture of a top-level al-Qaeda operative came in April 2002,
when the ISI informed the FBI of the whereabouts of Abu Zubaydah, al-
Qaeda’s operations chief. This information allowed the FBI to place a
tracking device on Zubaydah’s car, which eventually led to his arrest by
federal agents and deportation to the prison established for the purpose at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.70
Despite their cooperation with the U.S. effort, both Musharraf and the ISI
have their detractors. Afghanistan’s Interior Minister, Younis Qanooni, has
accused the ISI of helping bin Laden flee Afghanistan.71 Pakistan, which
views Afghanistan’s new government as being pro-Indian, has vehemently
denied the accusation.72
Until quite recently the ISI has been a ‘‘kingdom within a kingdom,’’
answerable to neither the army nor Pakistan’s President. Its leaders have
used their power to constrain political opponents at home, while
conducting various intelligence operations abroad.
With the rise of President Musharraf, and Pakistan’s strengthened
relationship with the United States, enough pressure may now exist to afford
Musharraf the opportunity to bring the ISI firmly under government control.
1 Rahul Bedl, ‘‘Vital Intelligence on the Taliban May Rest with Its Prime Sponsor—
Pakistan’s ISI,’’ Jane’, 3 May 2002. Available on the World Wide
Web: (
janes011001-1-nshtml). Intelligence Resource Program, ‘‘Directorate for
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),’’ Federation of American Scientists, 1 May 2002.
Available on the World Wide Web: (
2 In 1948, General Cawthorne was a leading member of the British Expeditionary
Force stationed in what was about to become the state of Pakistan.
3 Intelligence Resource Program, op. cit., p. 1.
4 SDECE: Service de Documentation Exte´rieure et de Contreespionage (the Service
of External Documentation and Counterespionage).
5 Rahul Bedl, op. cit., p. 2. Major General Ashok Krishna, AVSM (Ret.), ‘‘The
Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan,’’ IPCS, Article No. 191, 25 May
1999, p. 1; B. Raman, ‘‘Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),’’ South East
Asia Analysis Group, Paper No. 287, 8 January 2001, p. 1.
6 Indranil Banerjie, ‘‘Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence in Afghanistan,’’ SAPRA
India, 20 September 2001, p. 4; Intelligence Resource Program, pp. 1–2;
B. Raman, op. cit., p. 1.
7 Intelligence Resource Program, p. 1.
8 Federal Research Division, U. S. Library of Congress, ‘‘Pakistan: The Ayub
Khan Era,’ ’ 1 May 2002. Available on World Wide Web: (http: //,html). See section on Pakistan: Chapter 1, The
Ayub Khan Era.
9 B. Raman, op. cit., p. 1.
10 When Pakistan was established, it consisted of two halves: West Pakistan (today’s
Pakistan), and East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. When the nation was created,
Pakistan’s political leadership decided that the capital would be in West
Pakistan, while the Legislature would meet in East Pakistan.
11 Altaf Guahar, ‘‘Writer Exposes ISI’s Role in Pakistani Politics,’’ The Nation in
English, 17 August 1997, p. 2; Intelligence Resource Program, p. 2.
12 The Director General of the ISI has always been, with a couple of notable
exceptions, a Lieutenant, or three-star, General. Under the Director General
are three Deputy Directors General (DDGs), one from each of Pakistan’s
military branches: Army, Navy, and Air Force.
13 Following India’s independence, Jawaharlal Nehru, its first Prime Minister,
implemented a foreign policy of nonalignment, which afforded India the
opportunity to actively engage both the United States and the Soviet Union.
As India became more intimately involved with the USSR, U.S. policymakers
sought stronger ties with India’s neighbor, Pakistan.
14 Major General Yashwant Deva, AVSM (Ret.), ‘‘ISI and Its Chicanery in
Exporting Terrorism,’’ Indian Defence Review, 1995, p. 8; Altaf Guahar, op.
cit., p. 1; Intelligence Resource Program, p. 2; B. Raman, op. cit., p. 2.
15 Intelligence Resource Program, p. 2.
16 Indranil Banerjie, op. cit., p. 4.
17 B. Raman, op. cit., p. 1.
18 Ron Nordland, ‘‘A Dictator’s Dilemma,’’ Newsweek, 1 October 2001, p. 1.
19 Indranil Banerjie, op. cit., p. 4; Rahul Bedl, op. cit., p. 2.
20 Rahul Bedl, op. cit., p. 3; B. Raman, op. cit., p. 3.
21 Rahul Bedl, op. cit., pp. 1–2; Intelligence Resource Program, p. 3.
22 Yashwant Deva, op. cit., p. 3.
23 In the Islamic faith, madrasas are Muslim seminaries for the study of advanced
Islamic law, also known as Shari’a.
24 Yashwant Deva, op. cit., p. 3; B. Raman, op. cit., p. 2.
25 Intelligence Resource Program, p. 3.
26 Operation Tupac was named after Tupac Amaru, an eighteenth-century Incan
prince who led a rebellion against the Spanish to liberate Uruguay. A leftist
guerrilla group named after him functioned for many years in Peru. See Simon
Strong, Shining Path: Terror and Revolution in Peru (New York: Times Books/
Random House, 1992), especially pp. 114–115.
27 Intelligence Resource Program, p. 3; John Daily Wilson, ‘‘Describes Activities of
ISI in India,’’ The Pioneer (Delhi), 30 June 1999, p. 1.
28 Rahul Bedl, op. cit., p. 3; B. Raman, op. cit., p. 3.
29 Rahul Bedl, ibid.; B. Raman, ibid., p. 2.
30 Douglas Jehl, ‘‘Pakistan Cutting Its Spy Units Ties to Some Militants,’’ The New
York Times, 20 February 2002, p. 1. Tim McGirk, ‘‘Has Pakistan Tamed Its
Spies?,’’ Time, 6 May 2002, p. 34; John Daily Wilson, op. cit., p. 2.
31 John Daily Wilson, op. cit., p. 2.
32 Ibid.
33 Ibid.
34 General Zia met an untimely end on 19 April 1988 when the Air Force plane in
which he was flying exploded mysteriously in midair. What caused the explosion
has never been explained.
35 Indranil Banerjie, op. cit., p. 8.
36 Ibid.; Intelligence Resource Program, p. 1; Tim McGirk, op. cit., p. 34.
37 This is approximately 20.56 million U.S. dollars per year.
38 Yashwant Deva, op. cit., p. 5; Intelligence Resource Program, p. 2; Ashok
Krishna, op. cit., p. 2.
39 In 1997 the U.S. State Department declared the HUA a terrorist organization and
placed it on America’s terrorist watch list.
40 Ashok Krishna, op. cit., pp. 2–3.
41 John Daily Wilson, op. cit., p. 2.
42 Ashok Krishna, op. cit., p. 3.
43 Benazir Bhutto is the daughter of the slain former Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali
44 Intelligence Resource Program, p. 3.
45 Indranil Banerjie, op. cit., p. 5;Douglas Jehl, op. cit., p. 1; B.Raman, op. cit., pp. 5–6.
46 Intelligence Resource Program, p. 3.
47 B. Raman, op. cit., p. 5.
48 Ibid., p. 6.
49 Indranil Banerjie, op. cit., p. 1.
50 Which particular American oil firm is not listed in any of the source material that
I have come across, though several of these documents do stipulate that Prime
Minister Bhutto’s decisions were at the behest of an American oil firm.
51 Indranil Banerjie, op. cit., p. 9; Rahul Bedl, op. cit., p. 2.
52 Indranil Banerjie, ibid.; Rahul Bedl, ibid.; Tim McGirk, op. cit., p. 32.
53 B. Raman, op. cit., p. 7.
54 Sharif was arrested, charged with, and convicted of hijacking and terrorism. The
charges stemmed from an incident in October 1999 when he refused to allow a
plane carrying 198 passengers, one of whom was Musharraf, to land in
Karachi. See Owen Bennett Jones, Pakistan: Eye of the Storm (New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press, 2002), especially Chapter 2, ‘‘The 1999 Coup,’’ pp. 34–55;
and Mary Anne Weaver, ‘‘Pakistan: In the Eye of Jihad and Afghanistan’’ (New
York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002), Chapter 1, ‘‘General on a Tightrope,’’
especially pp. 11–18.
55 Indranil Banerjie, op. cit., p. 7.
56 Rahul Bedl, op. cit., p. 3.
57 Ibid., p. 9.
58 Ibid., p. 1.
59 Tim McGirk, op. cit., p. 35.
60 Rahul Bedl, op. cit., p. 2; David Chazan, ‘‘Profile: Pakistan’s Military Intelligence
Agency,’’ BBC’s News Online, 9 January, 2002, p. 8; Intelligence Resource
Program, p. 4; Douglas Jehl, op. cit., pp. 1–2; Tim McGirk, op. cit., pp. 34–35.
61 The Kargil War was a ten-week conflict in 1999 between the Indian army and
Islamic militants (who may have been members of the Pakistani military) who
had crossed the line of control from Pakistani Occupied Kashmir into India.
62 Rahul Bedl, op. cit., p. 2.
63 Douglas Jehl, op. cit., p. 1.
64 Ibid., pp. 1–2.
65 Ibid., p. 2.
66 The Jaish-e Muhammad Islamic extremist group is most notable in the West for
its kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
67 Douglas Jehl, op. cit., p. 1.
68 Ibid.
69 David Chazan, op. cit., pp. 4–5.
70 Indranil Banerjie, op. cit., p. 3; Tim McGirk, op. cit., p. 33.
71 Many in Afghanistan blame both the Pakistani government and the ISI for the
creation of the Taliban, and there currently exists within Afghanistan a strong
undercurrent of antipathy to both Pakistan and the ISI.
72 David Chazan, op. cit., p. 6.