Restructuring the ISI — II —Shaukat Qadir

As long as the bulk of the individuals staffing the ISI are from the services, with the vast majority from the army, the political leadership is likely to remain uneasy with its premier intelligence organisation

Like all countries, each of the three military services has its own intelligence service. If the Pakistani Intelligence Bureau, the IB, is our domestic intelligence organisation, then the ISI naturally becomes the premier intelligence agency with a much larger, national role to play, as indeed it has been doing. While providing a periodic assessment of threat to the nation, it carries out such intelligence and counterintelligence operations as sanctioned by the government.

In such an eventuality, its intelligence gathering role is not military alone; it is economic, industrial, diplomatic, etc. and includes projections into the future, e.g. considering long term outcomes of the US positioning itself in the Far East, the Middle East, and Afghanistan.

Consequently, the truth is that its very name is misleading: it is certainly not the Inter-Services Intelligence — it could be our CIA, or RAW, or the Bureau of National Intelligence. That is where restructuring must begin, with a renaming, because the name implies a reliance on, and responsibility to, the services. Therefore, it is, quite naturally, primarily staffed by services personnel, frequently with no worthwhile intelligence background or inclination. In fact, very few ‘career’ officers — those going places — used to be posted to intelligence assignments, though this has changed to some degree over the years.

The next aspect to consider is the Director General. Traditionally, the DG has been a serving two/three-star officer who does a couple of years as DG before moving on. Often he has had no exposure to intelligence assignments before becoming DG ISI, though there have been some who were DG Military Intelligence before assuming the role of DG ISI, like the current incumbent.

Intelligence is a specialised business. It takes someone devious with a flair for intelligence to head a national intelligence organisation. What is more, he needs a sufficiently long term to make policies and see them implemented — the Director of the CIA has six years, Mossad eight. It would be appropriate for the national intelligence organisation to be headed by an individual, civilian or military, selected for his personal qualities to head such an organisation, for a term not less than five years and not exceeding eight.

A start is possible with the new appointee, Lt Gen Pasha, who will reach the age of superannuation fairly soon. If he is considered an individual with a flair for intelligence, he should be retained as DG of our premier intelligence organisation, post retirement, for a minimum tenure of five years.

Currently, when we have a serving three-star officer as DG, subordinate departments are headed by serving two-star officers. These too are career officers who will do their couple of years before moving on. I strongly suggest that these too should preferably be civilians, selected for their flair for intelligence work, contracted for at least ten years — extendable until the national intelligence organisation begins to throw up professional intelligence personnel from subordinate positions.

Finally, the ISI, or whatever its new name, should be ‘civilianised’. Spread over a period of time, individuals of appropriate qualifications and qualities should be inducted into this organisation. There might be a number of service personnel who might like to stay on. These too should be selected for their assignments with the understanding that they will no longer retain their military affiliation.

All national intelligence organisations across the world employ a smattering of military personnel, specialists in their field in advisory capacities. And so should Pakistan’s premier intelligence organisation. Some of them have regular troops placed at their disposal for special operations. Two prominent examples of such intelligence organisations are the CIA and Mossad. Both these organisations enjoy special authority to undertake operations on their own, which should usually be undertaken by the military. This authority stems from the US’ unchallengeable position as the world’s superpower, the umbrella of which it also extends over Israel.

Pakistan’s, and most other countries’, needs are more modest, for which no special forces need to be placed at their disposal. However, if the restructuring recommended here is undertaken, the ISI, under whatever title is chosen for it, will be pruned and converted into an efficient national intelligence organisation, manned and led by specialists, instead of the current ad hoc arrangements.

Moreover, having been de-linked from the military, particularly the army, on the one hand, there will be no possibility of it undertaking ‘rogue operations’ and, on the other, the army will lose a major support to its perceived political clout in the country.

This may not be the restructuring the Americans were thinking of when they made this demand, since they are perpetually seeking a ‘quick fix’, but this is the restructuring that Pakistan needs in the long run. An immediate beginning could be made by finding qualified civilians to fill the posts held presently by serving two-star officers.

As long as the bulk of the individuals staffing the ISI are from the services, with the vast majority from the army, the political leadership is likely to remain uneasy with its premier intelligence organisation so closely linked to the army, which is perceived as the most powerful political organisation in the country.

This is the concluding article in a two-part series. The first article appeared last Saturday. These articles are modified from a series that originally appeared in the daily National

Source: Daily Times, 11/10/2008


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