Pakistan Politics: How decision regarding ISI was reversed so soon

By Hamid Mir

ISLAMABAD: Two emergency calls from Rawalpindi to London forced Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to change the decision of placing the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) under the Interior Ministry within a few hours, causing a serious embarrassment for him and his government.

Analysts agree that bad timing and ill-planning to establish control over the intelligence agencies have tarnished the image of Prime Minister Gilani inside and outside the country and exposed the hidden differences between different state organs responsible for national security.

Adviser for Interior Rehman Malik is still claiming that the decision to place the ISI and the IB under the Interior Division was taken with the consent of both President Pervez Musharraf and Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani but the President House and the GHQ have different stories to tell.

Sources close to President Musharraf claimed that Prime Minister Gilani only discussed the need for improving coordination and information between civilian and Army intelligence agencies a few days ago. The president agreed to this proposal but the notification issued by the Cabinet Division on July 26 shocked all and created panic in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

The president called the Army chief to counter-check and General Kayani checked from the director general of ISI as to who gave consent to the prime minister for placing the ISI under the Interior Ministry. After consulting each other, these three came to the conclusion that the prime minister had “misunderstood” something because there was no written understanding from the president or the Army chief in this regard.

The prime minister was in London when he received a call from Rawalpindi at 11 in the night (Pakistan Standard Time). Gilani was informed that the Army, and especially the ISI, was trying its best to stay away from politics for the past many months but his decision to place the ISI under the control of Rehman Malik would be seen as an attempt to again politicise the ISI for achieving certain political objectives.

The prime minister was also informed that there was a lot of resentment in the Army circles and more misunderstandings could be created as a result of the decision. He was told that the ISI could share its strategic intelligence with him or with the Defense Ministry but not with the Interior Ministry.

Within minutes, another caller informed Prime Minister Gilani in London that President Musharraf was not ready to accept this decision because it was a clear violation of rules of business of the Government of Pakistan.

After this exchange of views, Prime Minister Gilani immediately contacted PPP Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari in Dubai and informed him about the “feedback”.Asif Ali Zardari suggested to the prime minister that the country could not afford any misunderstandings between the armed forces and the civilian government, so it will be better to reverse the decision immediately.

Talking to this scribe on Sunday evening from Dubai, Asif Ali Zardari said that there was no bad intention in placing the ISI under the control of the Interior Ministry and stressed: “We don’t want any confrontation between different state organs and that was why the prime minister tried to remove some misunderstandings through a clarification released by the Press Information Department.”

Asif Ali Zardari accepted that some more homework and detailed consultations were needed before such a sensitive decision was announced but claimed: “It’s a new government with a lot of challenges and problems. Anybody can make mistakes in such a situation but nobody should doubt our intentions.”

Bad timing and poor strategy to improve coordination between the civilian and the Army intelligence agency have provided more excuses to the opposition to criticise the new government.

This bad strategy has also raised questions about the competence of Prime Minister Gilani and he may be asked by the party to explain why he took such a sensitive decision without proper homework and detailed consultations with all the stakeholders.

Source: The News, 28/7/2008

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