A Revamp of Pakistani Intelligence Community is underway
Author: B. Raman (Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai)
Date: 18 December 1998
On October 12, 1998, five days after the resignation of Gen.Jehangir Karamat
as the army chief following a controversial talk delivered by him on the post-Chagai
situation in Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif replaced Lt. Gen. Nasim Rana
by Lt. Gen. Ziauddin, till then the Adjutant-General, as the Director-General of
the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Lt. Gen. Rana was subsequently posted as
Lt. Gen. Ziauddin of the Engineering Corps, who was promoted as Lt. Gen. on
February 25,1996, is due to retire on February 2,2000. After the recent
resignations of Lt. Gens. Ali Quli Khan and Khalid Nawaz following their
supercession by Gen. Pervez Musharraf as the new army chief, Lt. Gen. Ziauddin
has moved to the No.2 slot in the seniority list of Lt.Gens. Thus, after Lt.
Gen. Hamid Gul, who was appointed as the DG, ISI, by the late Gen. Zia-ul-Haq
and removed by Benazir Bhutto in February,1989, after his Jalalabad fiasco, Lt.
Gen. Ziauddin has become the seniormost Lt.Gen. to occupy the post of DG, ISI.
Lt. Gen. Rana, who was appointed by Benazir as the ISI chief in 1995, was a
Major-General at the time of his appointment and was subsequently promoted to
Maj.Gen. Muhammad Aziz Khan, a Director in the ISI in charge of Afghan
operations including overseeing the activities of the Taliban, the
Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (formerly Harkat-ul-Ansar) and the Arab mercenaries under
Osama alias Osma Bin Laden, has been promoted as Lt.Gen. and posted as the Chief
of General Staff in which capacity he would, inter alia, supervise the work of
the Directorate-General of Military Intelligence. In addition to these changes,
there has been a number of reshuffles at the senior and middle levels of the ISI,
many of them in the Afghan section. These reshuffles have been carried out by
Lt. Gen. Ziauddin.
On November 5,1998, Col (retd) Iqbal Niazi, till then the Principal Staff
Officer in the Prime Ministers Secretariat, was appointed as Additional
Director-General (ADG) of the Intelligence Bureau ( IB), with an indication that
he would soon be appointed as the DG. The post of DG has been lying vacant
following the removal of Manzoor Ahmed, the previous DG, by Nawaz Sharif for
submitting an incorrect report that one of the Cruise missiles fired by the US
Navy towards Afghanistan on August 20,1998, had hit a target in Pakistani
territory killing many people. After taking over, Col. Niazi has carried out a
re-shuffle of officers in the Afghan and Sindh sections of the IB. Seven senior
Police officers, two of the rank of Inspectors-General and five of the rank of
Deputy Inspectors-General, who were dealing with Afghanistan and Sindh, have
been reverted back to their parent cadre.
Simultaneously, Lt.Gen. (retd) Javed Nasir of the Tablighi Jamaat, who was
removed as DG, ISI, by Nawaz Sharif in 1993 under US pressure because of the
CIAs displeasure over his alleged non-cooperation in the re-purchase of the
unused Stinger missiles from the Afghan mujahideen, and Brig. (retd) Imtiaz,
Director of the internal Political Division of the ISI under Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul,
have started working as principal intelligence and security advisers to Nawaz
Sharif. According to the "Frontier Post " of Peshawar (October
16,1998), the two work from Nawaz Sharifs residential office.
After coming to power in 1988, Benazir abolished the internal Political
Division of the ISI and dismissed Brig. Imtiaz. Nawaz Sharif, then Chief
Minister of Punjab, took him as his security adviser and made him responsible
for assisting the Sikh extremist elements. When he became the Prime Minister in
1990, he appointed Brig. Imtiaz as the Director (the post has since been
upgraded as DG) of the IB. On returning to power in 1993, Benazir again
dismissed Brig. Imtiaz and had him arrested and prosecuted for illegal
activities during his tenure in the ISI, including the alleged murder of a
member of a leftist party. He was acquitted by the court last year.
The Pakistani intelligence community consists of the ISI, which is the
external intelligence agency, the IB, the internal agency, and the
Directorates-General of intelligence of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.
The ISI, which is a totally military agency, however, works under the Prime
Minister and its budget is part of the budget of the Defence Ministry as in
France and Germany. The IB, which is largely officered by police officers, but
increasingly headed by retired or serving military officers, comes under the
Interior Ministry and its budget is part of the budget of that Ministry.
Till 1989, the ISI was always headed by a serving army officer and had
primacy in the intelligence community. Even though its charter describes it as
an external intelligence agency, successive Pakistani leaders have used it for
internal intelligence too, particularly in the non-Punjabi minority provinces of
the erstwhile East Pakistan, Balochistan, Sindh and the North-West Frontier
Province (NWFP) as they did not trust the police officers of the IB belonging to
the non-Punjabi communities.
In 1989, Benazir decided to restore to the civilian IB its primacy in the
intelligence community and remove from the ISI internal intelligence tasks. To
carry out her decisions, she appointed Maj.Gen.(retd) Shamsur Rahman Kallue, a
close friend of her fathers, as the ISI chief. Her decisions to restore primacy
to the IB and to break with the past practice of appointing a serving Maj.Gen.
as the ISI chief marked the beginning of her differences with Gen. Mirza Aslam
Beg, the then Army chief, and led to her ultimate dismissal in August,1990.
On becoming Prime Minister in 1990-end, Nawaz Sharif reversed her orders,
appointed Lt.Gen. Assad Durrani, a serving officer, as the ISI chief and
restored to the ISI its primacy in the intelligence community. The position was
again changed by Benazir on returning to power in November,1993. She not only
restored the primacy of the IB and made it exclusively responsible for internal
intelligence, but also transferred many sensitive Afghan operations from the ISI
to the IB. She made her Interior Minister, Maj.Gen. (retd) Nasirullah Babar, who
as a Colonel had headed the ISIs Afghan Division under her father, exclusively
responsible for Afghan operations. Maj.Gen. Babar, with the assistance of the
USAs Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was the creator of the Taliban and
helped it in capturing Kabul in September,1996.
Benazir and the CIA had each their own reason for creating and backing the
Taliban. A company with which Asif Zardari, her husband, was connected , had the
exclusive contract for the import of cotton from Turkmenistan for Pakistans
textile industry and the Taliban protected the cotton convoys from attacks by
other mujahideen groups. The CIA was interested in using the Taliban for its
operations against Iran and for facilitating the construction of oil and gas
pipelines by UNOCAL, the US oil company, from Turkmenistan to Pakistan.
When the Sudan asked Bin Laden to quit its territory in May,1996, Maj. Gen.
Babar persuaded Benazir to agree to a request from Burhanuddin Rabbani, then in
power in Kabul, to let Bin Laden travel to Jalalabad via Pakistani territory on
condition that he would not act against the US and Saudi Arabia from Afghan
territory. Maj.Gen. Babar, through the IB and the ISI and with the support of
the Taliban which had reasons to be grateful to him, ensured this.
The caretaker Government of Meraj Khalid, which came to power after her
dismissal in November, 1996, and Nawaz Sharif who returned to power after the
elections of February, 1997, restored the primacy of the ISI once again,
transferred all Afghan operations back to the ISI, dismissed and arrested Masood
Sharif, DG,IB, under Benazir, for his alleged involvement in the murder of her
brother Murtaza Bhutto in September,1996, and replaced a large number of Police
officers of the IB with serving and retired military officers, many of them
deputed from the ISI. However, Nawaz Sharif did not disturb Lt.Gen. Rana even
though he was an appointee of Benazir and allowed him to continue as the DG of
Maj. Gen. Rafiullah Niazi, who had been appointed by the caretaker Government
as the DG, IB, in place of Masood Sharif, was replaced by Nawaz Sharif with
Manzoor Ahmed in September,1997, following the assassination of some Iranian
military trainees at Rawalpindi by the Sipah-e-Sahaba, a Sunni extremist
organisation. Manzoor Ahmed himself was removed after the US bombing of
Afghanistan on August 20,1998.
Four reasons are attributed for Nawaz Sharif?s decision to remove Lt.Gen.
Rana from the ISI and to revamp the ISI and the IB. First, the failure of the
agencies to effectively control the Taliban and Bin Laden, both of whom are fast
becoming Frankensteins. Nawaz was reportedly unhappy with the failure of the two
agencies to prevent the press conference of Bin Laden at Khost in Afghanistan on
May, 26, 1998, in which he called for a jihad against the US and Israel.
Pakistani analysts also say that the Iranian diplomats and a large number of
Shias of Mazar-e-Sharif were massacred not by the Deobandi Pashtoons of the
Taliban as was initially believed but by the Deobandi Punjabis of the
Sipah-e-Sahaba of Pakistan who had also joined the Taliban and the Arab
mercenaries of Bin Laden in the assault on the town.
Second, his annoyance with both the agencies and particularly with Lt. Gen.
Rana over their perceived failure to keep him correctly informed of the
proceedings of a Corps Commanders conference held on September 19,1998, in which
some participants with Lt. Gens. Ali Kuli Khan and Khalid Nawaz (since
superseded) in the forefront, allegedly criticised Nawaz Sharifs erratic style
of governance and inept handling of the economy which, they feared, could
neutralise whatever advantages Pakistan might have acquired through its nuclear
explosions. It is their criticism which later on impelled Gen. Karamat to make
his controversial statement.
Third, the failure of the ISI to collect timely intelligence about Indias
plans to carry out nuclear tests in May. Fourth, the poor performance of the IB
in Sindh and Punjab.
It has been reported that after Indias nuclear tests, Lt.Gen. Javed Nasir
had commissioned a study by two of his trusted officers in the ISI on the
failure to forecast Pokhran-II. They were reported to have strongly criticised
the functioning of the intelligence set-up. Extracts from the report as
published by the "News" of Islamabad (September 27, 1998) stated as
follows: " The national intelligence apparatus has considerably lost its
usefulness in fulfilling the intelligence needs of the policy-makers and the
entire intelligence network suffers from a grave disconnection between military
and civilian efforts, leading to what may be described as undercover
It added: " For any significant improvement in the Pakistan intelligence
community, it has to be controlled by a single incontestable authority, with its
funds cut by half, making business-as-usual impossible to sustain. The time has
come to realise the need and importance of unclassified government information,
research and open sources and integrate them with classified national
intelligence. These expanding new avenues are a must to understand the context
of all classified information. Unclassified sources provide you the required
data base for intelligence analysis. And since most of our intelligence
community does not know what is already available from unclassified sources, it
lacks the context and precision and is generally busy discovering what is
already discovered. Unfortunately, at present, we have no system for connecting
the classified intelligence analysts to the wealth of open sources nor even, for
that matter, to the vast quantities of unclassified information available to the
rest of the Government."
One of the priority tasks of the reshuffled ISI is going to be to pressurise
the Taliban to throw Bin Laden out of Afghanistan. Nawaz Sharif is under
tremendous pressure from the US to make the Taliban moderate its anti-woman
policies and to hand over Bin Laden to the US, failing which the US reportedly
wants the ISI and the IB to co-operate with the CIA and the FBI in having him
captured from his hide-out in Kandahar and flown to the US in a Noriega-style
Nawaz is apparently in a dilemma. Bin Laden is a hero figure to large
sections of Pashtoons not only of Afghanistan, but also of Pakistan. Any
suspicion that he colluded with the US in the capture of Bin Laden could turn
the Pashtoon public opinion in general and the Islamic extremists in particular
against him. At the same time, failure to act on the repeated US requests could
delay the lifting of the US sanctions against Pakistan even if he gives
satisfaction to the US on the non-proliferation issue.
Pakistani authorities, therefore, seem to be trying to explore the
possibility of helping Bin Laden to escape to the Southern Philippines where the
Abu Sayaaf group might give him shelter in the territory under its control or to
Chechnya. No Government of any Islamic State would accept him lest they fall
foul of the US. The only way out, in Pakistani calculation, is to help him flee
to a country where Muslim insurgent elements control some territory.