Title: Pakistan: Writer Exposes ISI's Role in Politics 

Document Number: FBIS-NES-97-230
Document Date: 18 Aug 1997
Sourceline: BK1908021197 Islamabad The Nation in English 17 Aug 97 p 4
Subslug: Article by Altaf Gauhar: "How Intelligence Agencies Run Our

I had an opportunity to watch quite closely the working of our
intelligence agencies during the 1965 war with India. At that time the
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was headed by Brigadier Riaz Hussain, who
later became the Governor of Balochistan, the Military Intelligence (MI)
was under Brigadier Muhammad Irshad and A.B. Awan was the Director of the
Intelligence Bureau (DIB). Each agency had its own sphere of duties but
they had a common goal -- preserving the national security. Since there is
hardly any significant political activity, domestic or foreign, national or
international, which does not, directly or indirectly, impinge on national
security, there was much overlapping in the work of the three agencies.
Despite the all-embracing definition of national security unnecessary
conflict in day to day working was avoided as the lSl and the MI confined
themselves to matters of direct military interest and the IB concentrated
on domestic political activities. The DIB reported directly to the Prime
Minister and the two military agencies to the Commander-in-Chief of the
Army (C-in-C). It was left to the C-in-C to bring all matters of interest
to the notice of the Prime Minister through the Ministry of Defence.
This arrangement continued fairly smoothly until the imposition of
Martial Law in 1958. I was in the Prime Minister's Secretariat during the
last days of parliamentary government in 1957-58 and Malik Feroz Khan Noon
used to get reports of the contacts which military intelligence agencies
were making with the political leaders of different parties. There was
little that he could do about it since President Iskander Mirza was drawing
up his own plan of action to put an end to parliamentary rule in collusion
with the C-in-C, General Ayub Khan. Noon was resisting Mirza's pressure to
grant a four-year extension of term to Ayub Khan. I remember Ayub Khan
bursting into my office one afternoon in full, uniform. I was relieved when
he said: "Since the Principal Secretary has gone for lunch I thought I
would ask you to request the Prime Minister to stay with me in Rawalpindi
when he comes on a formal visit next week."  He left the room before I
could recover my breath. When I conveyed the message to the PM he said: "I
know he wants me to give him an extension of term. His term does not end
till 1959. Why is he in such a hurry?" Years later when I mentioned this
incident to Ayub Khan he said: "The fellow was under the influence of his
wife. He wanted to promote General Sher Ali. My boys were keeping tabs on
Once the Martial Law was promulgated in 1958 all the intelligence
agencies came under the direct control of the President and Chief Martial
Law Administrator.  The maintenance of national Security, which was the
principal function of these agencies, came to mean the consolidation of the
Ayub regime; any criticism of the regime was seen a threat to national
security. The three intelligence agencies started competing with each other
in demonstrating their loyalty to Ayub Khan and his system of government.
Since Ayub Khan was reluctant to increase the military budget, neither the
ISI nor the MI could post their officers in the districts and because of
that limitation their domestic activities remained quite restrained. But
they continued to be assigned specific duties to keep a watch on
'undesirable' politicians and civil servants.
When I came to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, I found a
psychological warfare unit under operation in the office of the Secretary.
It was, headed by Col Mujibur Rahman, who later became the Secretary of the
Ministry in the Ziaul Haq regime. Was it an intelligence plant meant to
keep an eye on the working of the civil government? Whatever its purpose, I
found it a complete waste of time and I was able to persuade the President
to have it recalled by the GHQ.
The President used to receive regular reports on the political
situation in the country from the ISI and the MI. These reports in sealed
envelopes marked 'Eyes Only' were usually handed over to the President by
the C-in-C.  On a few occasions the President gave me these reports and it
seemed to me that the agencies were keeping the politicians, particularly
the East Pakistanis, under close surveillance. I rarely found anything
insightful in these reports. The DIB had direct access to the President and
his weekly reports used to be fairly exhaustive. It was during the
presidential election in l964 that the ISI and the MI became extremely
active.. While the DIB gave the President a detailed, assessment of his
prospects in the election the ISI and the MI kept him informed of th e
trend of public opinion based largely on gossip.  The election results
showed that the three agencies had seriously under estimated the popularity
of Mohtrama Miss Fatima Jinnah and given Ayub Khan too optimistic a picture
of his prospects.
The crisis of intelligence came during the 1965 war.  Brigadier Riaz
was good enough to show me his set-up, an impressive affair judging by the
sophisticated equipment and the operators at work. He told me that he had
contacts inside the Occupied Kashmir and in other major Indian cities. "I
will flood you with news. Don't worry". When the war started there was a
complete blackout of news from all the intellience agencies. When I got
nothing out of the ISI for two days I went to Brigadier Riaz only to learn
that all his contacts had gone underground.
The performance of the MI was even more frustrating. The mobile
transmitter which the MI had acquired to broadcast the Voice of Kashmir
conked out and Brigadier Irshad came to me to find him a spare transmitter.
When I told him that it would take at least a month to import another
transmitter he pleaded with me to take over the broadcast part of the
operation. "How can I do that I know nothing about the operation?" I
protested. "But that is the beauty of it." said Irshad, "even I know very
little about it." It did not take the Indians long to extract the whole
operational plan out of the 'infiltrators' whom they captured the moment
they entered the Indian occupied territory in Kashmir. Four of them were
put on All India Radio to make a public confession. I heard the details of
the operation on the air in utter disbelief. I rushed to Muzaffarabad to
acquaint Irshad with what I had heard. He fell back in his chair and
moaned: "The bastards have spilt the beans."
After the cease-fire I brought these incidents to Ayub Khan's notice
and urged him to review the working of these agencies. "They have no idea
of intelligence work," I submitted "all they can do is investigative work
like sub-inspectors of police, tapping telephone conversations and chasing
the suspects."  Much later Ayub Khan set up a committee to examine the
working of the agencies under General the Yahya Khan. Both A.B. Awan and I
were members of the committee. The GHQ tried to put all the blame on IB for
their own incompetence. Yahya wanted the committee to recommend that
officers of ISI and the Ml should be posted at district headquarters. Awan
strongly opposed the idea and I backed him. We could not understand the
purpose of getting the military agencies involved in domestic
administration. As we left the meeting Awan said to me "They are planning
to impose martial law."  He proved right though it took the Army quite some
time to get rid of Ayub Khan after unleashing a popular campaign against
The intelligence agencies got even more deeply involved in domestic
politics under General Yahya Khan.  The ISI jumped headlong into the
Political crisis in East Pakistan. A National Security Council was created
under the chairmanship of General Yahya Khan with Major General Ghulam Umar
as second in command to control the intelligence operation which was meant
to ensure that no political party should get an overall majority in the
general election. An amount of Rs 29 lac was put at the disposal of General
Umar for the purpose. Before the Army action General Akbar, who was the
head of the ISI and with whom I had good relations when I was in service,
requested me that I should introduce him to some Bengali academics and
journalists. The ISI was trying to infiltrate into the inner circles of the
Awami League. Had I given him any names they too have been put on Rao
Farman Ali's hit list of Bengali intellectuals. The operation proved a
total disaster. Lawrence Ziring says: "New efforts at a political solution
might have been attempted later, but army intelligence failed time and
again to correctly assess the situation, and the demeanor of the generals
was hardly conducive to rational decision-making." (Lawrence Ziring, The
Tragedy of East Pakistan, OUP, 1997). For General (retd) Aslam Beg to claim
on solemn oath before the Supreme Court of Pakistan that the ISI got
involved in the internal politics of the country only after a special cell
was created by Prime Minister Bhutto in 1975 is a culpable attempt at
concealing the truth and distorting the record of the operations of the
military intelligence agencies since independence. The present government
has only to report to the Supreme Court that the ISI deals with matters
relating to Pakistan's national security and that would be the end of
Asghar Khan's writ petition against Aslam Beg. Who will provide a
definition of national security to rule out the involvement of the ISI and
the MI in domestic politics which is seen as the biggest threat to the
security and solidarity of Pakistan?