The 21st Century Phenomenon



Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said, on Sunday 11/23/2008, that the controversial “political wing” of the notorious Pakistani Intelligence – ISI has been disbanded (“made inactive”).

The political wing is widely believed to have been engineering domestic politics to safeguard what it considers national security interests. However a security official said that the wing had only been rendered “inactive” and its staff had not been given any new assignments.

Historians say the ISI has been heavily involved in Pakistani politics since the 1950s, when the bureaucracy and the military emerged as the top power brokers in divided Pakistan. But its activities to engineer domestic politics became more pronounced in the 1980s and 1990s due to the key role of ISI in the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

ISI is widely believed to have created an anti-Pakistan People’s Party alliance before the 1988 general elections to ensure that the PPP, led by the late Benazir Bhutto, which it considered to be a security threat, would not win a comfortable majority.

In 1996, two ex-military politicians placed documents before the Supreme Court suggesting that ISI funded anti-PPP factions before the 1990 elections, but the case never reached a verdict.

ISI is also believed to have created a pro-army faction of the Pakistan Muslim League which came to power after the 2002 elections. The ISI is also reputed to have been given the final say on the appointments of ministers and governors under political governments. Indeed a senior security official confirmed on, Monday 11/24/2008, that the ISI was “not screening ministers and governors for their eligibility anymore”.

Western powers have long time blamed ISI for providing clandestine support to Taliban militants to destabilize Afghanistan as well as for Islamic militants in India (see – INDIAN Embassy Bombing).  

Although an attempt by this year’s elected government to bring ISI under civilian control backfired, due to resistance from military circles, and the government had to withdraw the move to place the ISI under the interior ministry, there is a change in the transparency and integrity of ISI in the last month followed by the new appointment of Lt’ Gen’ Ahmed Shujaa Pasha, on 09/30/2008, as the new ISI chief (see – CHANCE FOR CHANGE ).  The unexpected appointment came just 10 days after the deadly Marriott Bombing which is still unsolved but with disturbing footprints toward ISI itself.

ISI insiders believe the agency’s over-indulgence in politics has cost the service the trust of the public.  Nevertheless, analysts say that if the political wing is not actually disbanded, the threat of its revival will remain.

Although there is still a long way to go in implementing full civilian control on the Pakistani Army as a whole and in particular on ISI, the exposure of the negative role of ISI in the Pakistani internal politic, by itself, is a step forward and a good news. 


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