Pasha retires: A look back at the man behind the ISI mask

Published: March 19, 2012

Ahmad Shuja Pasha’s often controversial tenure as spy chief ends. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: After serving for 38 years, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen (retd) Ahmad Shuja Pasha’s career came to an end with his official retirement on Sunday.

A look back at the spy chief’s involvement in the military’s espionage outfit shows a chequered history. Pasha was appointed DG ISI in 2008, and received two extensions during his tenure.

It wasn’t easy from the get-go, however – or through the rest of his time occupying the all-important post. Pasha was made DG ISI when the newly-elected civilian government of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani tried, for two months, to place the premier spy agency under the control of the interior ministry.

Army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, however, would have none of it, according to military sources. Kayani intervened and confidentially advised the prime minister to appoint Pasha as the ISI chief. His prior posting included planning operations against al Qaeda militants and the Taliban in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Pasha’s claim to fame in the international arena came with the May 2 raid on the Osama bin Laden compound in Abbottabad – he remained in the spotlight in 2011 after meeting key witness in the memo scandal, Mansoor Ijaz, in London. This, along with his submission of an affidavit in court over the memo intrigue, irked the civilian government and heightened civil-military tensions.

Pasha’s military career started in 1974, when he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Frontier Force Regiment.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (33)

  • gp65
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:03AM

    Pasha’s career as ISI head included
    – Mumbai 26/11 attack,
    - GHQ attack,
    - Lahore attack on Sri Lanka Cricket team,
    - taking over of Swat by TTP,
    - Abbotabad,
    - Mehran base attack,
    - Saleem Shehzad,
    - missing persons and
    - memogate

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  • Jan
    Mar 19, 2012 - 11:02AM

    Salute to you sir for your services to Pak during difficult times

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  • Disco
    Mar 19, 2012 - 11:02AM

    Pasha’s claim to fame in the international arena came with the May 2 raid on the Osama bin Laden compound in Abbottabad

    Really? In fact it was the CIA’s claim to fame, being their only victory inside Pakistan (that too coming from an ISI tip off). Look at Libya, look at Syria, that is what happens when you don’t have a powerful intelligence agency, the void is filled by foreign agencies. Considering he had to deal with a hostil home media as well as external pressures, I don’t think any other ISI cheif has performed better than him.

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  • gp65
    Mar 19, 2012 - 12:01PM

    @Jan: “Salute to you sir for your services to Pak during difficult times”

    Is it possible that times may have been less difficult if ISI had been more effective in protecting Pakistan from internal and external dangers?

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  • WhatisThetruth
    Mar 19, 2012 - 12:17PM

    @Disco
    Libya and Syria are no different to Pakistan when it comes to intelligence agency. They are all subservient to foreign interests. How can any head of an intelligence agency allow the likes of Blackwater to operate in their country? How can any head of an intelligence agency allow the US to build the largest embassy in the world? There are many more of these how can…how can…how can…etc.

    It is easy to blame others to say that it happened in somebody else’s tenure. The reality is that when he came into head the agency, he did little to reverse the changes.

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  • Naveed Alam Khattak
    Mar 19, 2012 - 12:17PM

    Salue to Mr. Pasha. He served his country in difficult situation very well.
    Good Luck

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  • Near2u
    Mar 19, 2012 - 1:11PM

    @WhatisThetruth:
    Agreed with you rather than Mr. Disco. My thoughts are entirely different from most of the people.

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  • Jan
    Mar 19, 2012 - 1:30PM

    @gp65:
    Its easier said than done… with all the challenges facing Pakistan, I believe that he has done well…

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  • Blithe
    Mar 19, 2012 - 1:32PM

    Worst ISI chief in history if Pakistan.

    Him going has also orphaned a so called revolutionary
    party in Pakistan.

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  • Mar 19, 2012 - 1:33PM

    this man has the most secrets in his heart than anybody else, maybe i will have to wait for 20 years to hear pasha disclosing the real facts in a TV talk show

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  • Blithe
    Mar 19, 2012 - 1:34PM

    It isn’t a coincidence that IK never criticizes
    the blunders of the establishment.

    You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

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  • Owais Ehsan
    Mar 19, 2012 - 2:35PM

    Just a small comment on the role of ISI… First off, its only External Threat (not internal – which is done by IB, FIA and Military Intelligence + Air and Naval Intelligence). Second, ISI doesn’t perform operations its job is to gather information and pass it on to security forces. Most of the stuff we hear is not correct or verified, plus they are not allowed to say anything publicly hence all mud slinging from India to local press is mostly one-sided and biased. Not to say ISI is perfect , but success of a Spy Agency is gauged by the negative press it creates specially in the eyes of the enemies be that be foreign or local.

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  • Hasan
    Mar 19, 2012 - 2:40PM

    Utter waste of space … an entirely misleading headline. Its just a rehash of what is already known. What were the author and editor thinking. Nothing in the article sheds light on what kind of a person he is behind the ‘ISI mask’. Whether he likes golf or cricket, BBQ or chicken qorma, Faiz Ahmad Faiz or Ghalib and so on. One would urge the authors and editors at ET to be vigilant and write headline appropriate content.

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  • a sialkotian
    Mar 19, 2012 - 3:06PM

    pasha was the best isi cheif ever salute to pasha he should be made chairman of federal commision service

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  • Mute
    Mar 19, 2012 - 3:10PM

    “this man has the most secrets in his heart than anybody else, maybe i will have to wait for 20 years to hear pasha disclosing the real facts in a TV talk show”

    BRO I WISH AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

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  • anti-gp65
    Mar 19, 2012 - 3:10PM

    @gp65
    If you cannot appreciate a person, its better that you dont comment.

    If you are a pakistani, then people like you are taking it towards a downfall.

    If youre not, buzz off!

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  • Usman
    Mar 19, 2012 - 3:22PM

    He was handed over a country infested with extremists and CIA operatives who were ready to wreak havoc (and they did) at one phone call. To have weathered that storm is no ordinary feat. Look at Syria and Libya and take a deep breath that at least we have an intelligence agency that can look at CIA, Mosaad and RAW eye to eye.

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  • Hassan
    Mar 19, 2012 - 3:42PM

    After his remarkable stint at the ISI – the army is pleased to offer him the role of a janitor at the GHQ.

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  • Abdul Qayyum Bhatti
    Mar 19, 2012 - 3:42PM

    With all good and evils tied to the career of Gen. Pasha as ISI chief, he bring back the ISI to lead its own way instead of following CIA directions.

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  • Mar 19, 2012 - 4:04PM

    Vienna,March 19,2012
    Indeed well done hiding Osama Bin Laden and extended family
    without visas. Still hosting in hidden places the one eyed Mullah
    Omer and other terorrist suicide warriors under the false claim
    of serving Pakistani interests abroad the whole globe! Pakistan
    needs friends not enemies.My son,who is not an Indian but a
    neutral Austrian, calculates the cost of a single destructive weapon
    is more than enough to build ten routinely advanced countries
    of Austrian size of ten million population each for future generations.
    Should the whole world die FAITHFUL AND BLIND not half blind
    like Mullah Omar instead of prospering?
    Taravadu Taranga Trust for Media Monitoring TTTMM India
    –Kulamarva Balakrishna

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  • enlighten moderate
    Mar 19, 2012 - 4:14PM

    our silent guardian..take sm rest sir..but he will surely share his experiences..

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  • faizan
    Mar 19, 2012 - 4:23PM

    Simple formula: If USA doesn’t like somebody in our military or civil government, that person MUST be good for Pakistan.

    Pasha did great.

    And for all of those who criticize him for missing persons – Musharraf’s 9 year rule started the practice and nurtured it. Not Pasha.

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  • Roflcopter
    Mar 19, 2012 - 4:26PM

    @gp65, you forgot to include
    - Floods in Pakistan
    - Hurricane Irene
    - Japan earthquake

    and much much more.

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  • Epic Failure
    Mar 19, 2012 - 4:29PM

    Out of the 290 drone attacks carried out in Pakistan by CIA – 281 occured during Mr Pasha’s tenure – what an epic failure!

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  • Mar 19, 2012 - 4:35PM

    unfortunately i haven’t seen a gen of his IQ, i mean below average….now m feeling lucky…

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  • INDIANmuslim
    Mar 19, 2012 - 4:49PM

    the only person we indian muslim like is pasha or ISI

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  • Ozymandias
    Mar 19, 2012 - 5:01PM

    @Usman:
    Absolutely

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  • Farhana
    Mar 19, 2012 - 9:21PM

    Mansoor Ijaz, a person with big ego but hardly anything concrete to show for has taken the whole nation for a ride. And everyone has jumped on the bandwagon: including the judiciary and the mighty intelligence. This guy has no ‘real’ assets, has been too desperate to get himself in the power corridors, been spitting venom against army non-stop, has mountain of debts and court judgments against his bankrupted ventures and yet we all have fallen in – hook, liner and sinker..! When the dust settles, only 1 loser will emerge out of this – And that will be the Big man himself: Mansoor Ijaz.

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  • gp65
    Mar 19, 2012 - 9:23PM

    @Owais Ehsan: “Just a small comment on the role of ISI… First off, its only External Threat (not internal – which is done by IB, FIA and Military Intelligence + Air and Naval Intelligence)”

    There is a difference between what SHOULD be ISI’s role (external) vs. what IS the ISI role and only a naive person would believe that ISI has not been involved in internal matters including internal political matters – such as supporting particular political parties.

    @anti-gp65: “If youre not (a Pakistani), buzz off!”

    I am Not a Pakistani and have never claimed to be one. And I will express my views as long as they are within ET comment guidelines.

    @Roflcopter “@gp65, you forgot to include
    - Floods in Pakistan
    - Hurricane Irene
    - Japan earthquake
    and much much more”

    Some Pakistanis HAVE blamed India for floods in 2010 when most of the water in fact fell in Sind oil that does not even touch India. But I don’t think I have been as illogical. I have just mentioned the things that come within the purview of ISI.

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  • Syed
    Mar 20, 2012 - 2:47PM

    Good work Sir!! We want to see you again in a much more patriotic role.

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  • mir
    Mar 20, 2012 - 2:48PM

    @faizan:
    who said US did not like him, if that would have been the case than CIA and US would have not pressurized Govt and Army chief for an other extention for Pasha, 2ndly whenever the topic of missing persons come you ppl talk of those who have been missed in result of war of terror. you ppl forget the six thousand missing ppl of Balochistan, if pasha was so sincer to country than isi under his command would have not brought the sit of Balochistan to this extend where the ppl want a saperate state this is the gift of ISI. who funded jandola gp in Pakistan under the instructions of CIA. read the articles writting on net on topic of “creation of Jundolla”. today isi is involved in kidnaping for ransom of highly rich ppl in KPK and throwiing of the deocomposed dead bodies in Balochistan. and mind you im a true and sincer pakistani who love his country im not an indian.

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  • ahmad
    Mar 27, 2012 - 10:51AM

    Pasha’s career as ISI head included
    – Mumbai 26/11 attack,
    – GHQ attack,
    – Lahore attack on Sri Lanka Cricket team,
    – taking over of Swat by TTP,
    – Abbotabad,
    – Mehran base attack,
    – Saleem Shehzad,
    – missing persons and

    – memogate

    I dont know to laugh or cry-

    -

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  • Tony Singh
    Mar 27, 2012 - 2:35PM

    @Roflcopter:
    @gp65, you forgot to include
    - Floods in Pakistan
    - Hurricane Irene
    - Japan earthquake
    and much much more.”

    Actually those he left for you to work out if ISI was responsible. Your intellect shows….

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