ISI speaks up

THE head of the Inter-Services Intelligence appears to have said all the right things in a rather candid interview with a German magazine. What Gen Pasha divulged should come as music to anyone interested in democracy in Pakistan and peace in South Asia. His remarks showed a clear understanding of the issues involved. That he took his orders from the president; that terrorism was the real enemy; and that there should be no war in the region are the right noises that were made.

Given this nation’s history and scepticism with the army’s role in politics, on the face of it, what the ISI chief has said is refreshing. His stated willingness to go to India to help out with the Mumbai siege probe, if the government so decides, is also welcome. It is an indication that the army, for now, is only interested in its professional duties and not playing backdoor politics.

There will be some who may find faults with the ISI chief talking to the media or saying that he reported to the president as opposed to the prime minister, as the law of the land prescribes, but that’s nitpicking, really. Who else but the ISI should at all times have a good sense of reality? As the constitution stands today after Gen Musharraf’s tinkering with it the president is the pinnacle of state power for all practical purposes. That both the president and the prime minister represent the same governing party is a blessing that must be counted; there are no differences between the head of state and the head of government which in the past has been the cause of derailing the democratic process.

Nothing that Gen Pasha said in his interview contradicts the government’s stated policy. Perhaps the exercise was meant to put a human face to the much maligned institution that he heads. Whether one interview where he sometimes used “accent-free” German to articulate his position is enough, or more will be needed, will become clearer in the days to come.

Friday, 09 Jan, 2009

Dawn Editorial

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