The invisible soldiers of Islam

Published: August 27, 2010

The writer served as director-general of the ISI from 1990-92 asad.durrani@tribune.com.pk

Lately, we have been too depressed to notice a piece of real good news. Our very own ISI has been ranked the world’s top intelligence agency. And just in case one had never heard of the “smashing lists website”, a look at it would be worth its while. The ratings are done professionally. That the ISI carries out its primary mission — forewarn external threats and counter covert operations  — reasonably well, must have counted, but “no double agents or defectors, no one ever caught on camera, and all of this on a modest budget”, seem to have clinched us the gold medal.

Only the other day the agency was complimented, even though back-handedly, to have helped a rag-tag militia in Afghanistan, frustrate the world’s mightiest military alliance, Nato. Calls for a double celebration, I suppose!

After the Soviets left Afghanistan, the US, our partner during the occupation, had a change of heart. Since we had “misused” our frontline status to upgrade our nukes, we had to be punished for this impertinence. Invoking Pressler (Amendment) should normally have sufficed; except for a problem. The ISI having played the lead role during the Afghan resistance — helped no doubt from some of the best in the business — was now raring to join the big league. An efficient secret service of suspect loyalty can become a pain in the neck. When General Brent Scowcroft, a former US national security adviser, publicly acknowledged that the ISI’s assessment of Iraqi forces in Kuwait was better than theirs, it was time for the upstart to be cut to size.

Before it is killed, a dog is given a bad name, and the ISI was hence labelled a rogue organisation. In Afghanistan it was no longer helping a national resistance but “building-up a client regime”; if some religious literature found its way to the newly independent Central Asian Republics, it must be the ISI “exporting regressive ideologies”; and its support to the uprising in Indian-held Kashmir was but “state-sponsored terrorism”. And the baggage that the ISI carried because of its involvement in domestic politics — an upshot of the military’s role in Pakistan — made all this easier for
our detractors.

If the outfit withstood the onslaught and is again lauded as the best of its kind, it must have done something good. However, there is another reason that the ISI must be wooed, once more: it is America’s best bet to clinch a face-saving deal in Afghanistan. I have no idea what our super spooks have done to earn this recognition, but if there was any reality in the perception that the ISI has kept the Taliban in good shape against all odds, then at least in my reckoning it has done us all a big service. Without an effective resistance, the occupation of Afghanistan is not likely to be vacated. And unless that happened, our western borders would remain on the boil.

Intelligence agencies are not a panacea for all ills. They can at best ward off immediate threats and provide space for other organs of the state to find long-term remedies. Admittedly, it is the harder part and ours counts amongst the softer states. It would rather abdicate its duty to the ISI and then call it “a state within a state”, or do worse: bring an external intelligence agency under command of the interior ministry and send its spymaster abroad to face criminal charges.

How to deal with this “mother of all threats” is a different matter. For now, the ISI has other battles at hand, and would do well fighting them one at a time.

Lt-Gen(r) Asad Durrani

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2010.

Reader Comments (105)

  • qasim
    Aug 27, 2010 - 12:41AM

    Interesting. Glad to know that we have the best spy masters in the business.Recommend

  • Syed A. Mateen
    Aug 27, 2010 - 12:45AM

    As Pakistani national, I am proud of what ISI is doing to save the country from all bad elements.

    When I read some unfavourable reports against the ISI, I become a proud Pakistani that no one in this world can beat the services rendered by Pakistan’s ISI for the country.

    Those who talk against Pakistan’s ISI are jealous people or countries as they do not have an organisation like ISI in their own country.
    Unless ISI remains top defender of the country, no matter what people do, by the grace of Al-Mighty Allah, Pakistan will defeat its enemies, one after another.

    Pakistan ZinabadRecommend

  • Noor Muhammad
    Aug 27, 2010 - 12:47AM

    Should not the title have been a “the invisible soldiers of Pakistan”?Recommend

  • A
    Aug 27, 2010 - 1:23AM

    A sickening article if I ever read one. These so call defenders of Pakistan have ripped the soul out of this nation by rearing the very same fanatical forces that are now bent on our destruction. It just goes back to the same old story: The military has destroyed this country with its brainless strategic games. Recommend

  • Aug 27, 2010 - 1:48AM

    “And the baggage that the ISI carried because of its involvement in domestic politics — an upshot of the military’s role in Pakistan — made all this easier for our detractors.”

    One would have to be really delusional to call ISI’s meddling in domestic politics an “upshot”, or of course belong to the organization in question.

    “They can at best ward off immediate threats and provide space for other organs of the state to find long-term remedies.”
    When exactly has the ISI or the army done this? Did it give space to ZAB’s government? Did it give space to the four governments in the 90′s, which were all dismissed with the army’s implicit backing? Has it given democratic instituions space when the army ruled Pakistan for more than three decades?

    “Admittedly, it is the harder part and ours counts amongst the softer states. It would rather abdicate its duty to the ISI and then call it “a state within a state”, or do worse: bring an external intelligence agency under command of the interior ministry and send its spymaster abroad to face criminal charges.”

    How exactly have governments abdicated their responsibility when they have to look over their shoulder 24/7 in fear of upsetting the army and the ISI? And the ISI is part of the army which is answerable (should be anyway) to the government. There is nothing wrong with trying to bring the ISI under the control of the federal government.Recommend

  • faraz
    Aug 27, 2010 - 1:49AM

    ISI failed in Operation Gibraltor of 1965, predicting results of 1971 elections leading to Dhaka fall, Siachin and Kargil operations. Terrorists carried out hundreds of attacks all across the country including ISI offices and GHQ. Entire FATA and Malakand division fell to taliban and thousands of men shifted hundreds of tons of ammunition all across the country. ISI couldnt control ethnic voilence in Karachi that started 25 years ago. And now Balochistan insurgency is in full swing and over 100,000 people have left the province. Sectarian voilence has killed thousands and people of Kurram agency have to first go to Afghanistan if they want to to Peshawar. Others laugh at our foolish policies of creating strategic depth and waging proxy wars using civilians, but we continue to live in delusion of grandeur; even Iraq and Afghanistan had fewer people killed in 2008. Recommend

  • Aug 27, 2010 - 1:51AM

    One more thing, since when did the ISI become soldiers of Islam? Very Hamid Gul of the author to state it as it is. And how exactly are they invisible? They are not invisible to the people in Balochistan whose family members have disappeared. They are not invisible to the governments that they have run out of office. Nawaz Sharif is an ISI-certified patriot manufactured during Zia’s era. So how exactly are they invisible?Recommend

  • Aug 27, 2010 - 1:56AM

    Smashinglists.com is a professional site which has conducted a “credible” rating? Talk about institutionalism gone too far! Thats like askmen.com listing out the worlds best armies! very credible eh?

    One would hope that apart from our “world ranking” intelligence agency we would have something more to show to the world. Indeed its a master agency, its been “vanishing” Pakistani citizens for years, shipped them off abroad, torturing them, planting journalists, rigging elections, and getting away with it.

    Well, atleast we get a dubious ranking to cling on to. Recommend

  • Aug 27, 2010 - 2:20AM

    I cant belive that the former head of the ISI, and a Lt gen no less is writing: If the outfit withstood the onslaught and is again lauded as the best of its kind, it must have done something good Lauded? Lauded by a website? which makes top 10 lists for every thing below the sky!

    Things must be really bad in terms of ISI’s PR that you feel that you need to point to a top 10 ranking to point out its importance.Recommend

  • angel
    Aug 27, 2010 - 2:44AM

    The hype against the civilian government and the recent heralds to the army and the articles by the ex-servicemen, the ISI life long agents, is not a coincidence.
    There is something really cooked in the pot by the cooks!Recommend

  • angel
    Aug 27, 2010 - 2:46AM

    LOL! they are the “soldiers” of Islam!!! We want soldiers of people not of Islam.Recommend

  • faraz
    Aug 27, 2010 - 3:02AM

    Here are some other Top 10 rankings produced by the same website:

    10 Favourite Dinosaur Species
    10 Worst Boyfriends in the World
    10 Coolest Magical Items from Fiction
    10 Worst Video Games Ever Made
    Top 10 Urban Legends Debunked
    10 Epic Google Search Fails
    20 Most Creative Restroom Accessories
    10 Most Bizarre Sounds You’d Not have Heard

    Hehehe!Recommend

  • Syed
    Aug 27, 2010 - 3:12AM

    This is exactly the kind of silly attitude with regards to religion.
    Mr. Durrani! ISI is an intelligence organization not an angel’s league to be dubbed ‘Islam’s soldiers’. Recommend

  • Naz Ebr
    Aug 27, 2010 - 3:59AM

    What success they (ISI) have achieved so far?
    Did they eradicate the terrorism in the country? Well, the TTP is still operating and has got strong enough to carry out attacks in major cities like Lahore and Islamabad.
    Have they cut-off the US ‘hand’ in the country? Frankly, not! The US drones still thunder inside the Pak territory and still ‘violate Pakistan’s sovereignty’.
    Did they bring some visible success in Kashmir, their second arena? Of course not. The Kashmiri still suffers and the Indian boots step on the Kashmiri land.
    Well, yeah they did succeed in facilitating the killings of innocent Afghans, helping the insurgents to blow up themselves in the mosques, sabotage the peace process in Afghanistan that could bring hope to common Afghans and help the thuds who chop off the women ears and noses. These are the ‘achievements’ the ISI has got so far. Congrats!Recommend

  • Aug 27, 2010 - 4:55AM

    One day we are told about the dual-face role of the ISI revealed by the WikiLeaks. The second day we are told about the glorified role of the ISI debunked by the Smashing Lists. General Sahib, have you heard of the ‘intelligence games’? This is not the Cold War era in which you were brought up, trained and groomed. The realities and games of the post-1991 world are different. Kindly learn them.Recommend

  • Iqbal Khan
    Aug 27, 2010 - 4:58AM

    Gentleman ! If we seriously want to save democracy and federation of Pakistan then ISI and its complete apparatus must be dismantled. Otherwise, the ideas like “Strategic Depth”, misadventures like “Kargil War” and “Proxy Wars” will ultimately disintegrate Pakistan…Recommend

  • Isfand
    Aug 27, 2010 - 5:18AM

    i agree with most of the guys comments,atleast there are still some ppl who are able to think with their own mind.
    Its just shamefull to call the Isi “Soldiers of Islam”,creating the Taliban in the 80′s and so being also responsible for the mess happened after(women rights deleted,extremism,terrorism etc….)is Islamic?
    Exportig terrorism to India which means killing of innocent women and children is Islamic?Surely every country has a right to safegaurd procect himself from external threats but overall can we say tht in these 60 years with Isi this country is a better and safer place thanks to them??
    @Syed A. Mateen wake up! our threats are illiteracy,hunger,overpopulation,corruption,terrorism,Wahhabism,the military establishment(which have created this threat “India”to fund them more and more)this same istitution is responsabile for our poor democracy record,they have promoted anti hindu anti India policies,lack of secularism(against Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan),lack of water,discrimantion agaisnt minorities!!
    I could have expected this kind of article from a pro pakistani forum,not from Tribune.Recommend

  • abid
    Aug 27, 2010 - 5:25AM

    completely agree with Faraz and Syed Nadir

    but “no double agents or defectors, no one ever caught on camera, and all of this on a modest budget”, seem to have clinched us the gold medal.

    I thought Sheikh Rashid has been caught on camera?

    On a serious note, the gold medal? You call a ranking by some website a gold medal? That just shoes how low your self esteem is and low self esteem leads people to do very dangerous thingsRecommend

  • Shahid Saeed
    Aug 27, 2010 - 6:24AM

    You do realize that the website is just a income source for a Pakistani kid, no more than 25 called Hamad Dar who also owns Koolmuzone? I thought it took more to become a three star general, head of the MI and ISI than to cite a small time list website run by a Pakistani kid whose patriotism is more binding than anything else (regardless of whether you can ever rank Intelligence agencies).Recommend

  • Shahid Saeed
    Aug 27, 2010 - 6:27AM

    Here’s Hamad Dar, a kid, boasting about his site “smashinglists” that the general and self-styled patriots rely on:-

    http://img838.imageshack.us/f/38001142474699113969100.jpg/Recommend

  • Shahid Saeed
    Aug 27, 2010 - 6:36AM

    If these are the ways of supporting evidence (and by extension vetting intelligence) of former DGs of ISI, then I’m pretty sure they do a great job at intelligence (hope everybody understands the sarcasm but putting it here so that people with no idea of sarcasm realize)Recommend

  • Khan
    Aug 27, 2010 - 6:49AM

    can we just somehow get rid of the ISI and the insane and lunatic spies. military has appropritated Pakistan to itself. I would rather not have this ‘world best intelligence agency”. can intelligence people spare our country and have some mercy on the Pakistanis?Recommend

  • Khan
    Aug 27, 2010 - 6:50AM

    a funny title.
    first of all it is not invisible. it is very much visible. and are we not misusing the word Islam a lot these days?Recommend

  • Aug 27, 2010 - 6:51AM

    Soldiers of Islam, uh? You’ve got to be joking, General!Recommend

  • T.Khan
    Aug 27, 2010 - 6:57AM

    Is this a cause for celebration?!!!!! People are dying of hunger and mal-administration in this God-forsaken country, and General saab is celebrating because our dubious spy agency is top ranked in teh world!!! Recommend

  • Jamshed
    Aug 27, 2010 - 7:01AM

    That website is being setup to generate some adsense money, you should better work on making ISI protect Pak. citizens from Suicide and drone attacks rather than pointing them to top charts.Recommend

  • Umayr Masud
    Aug 27, 2010 - 8:13AM

    Oh my god .. http://smashinglists.com/ is the site which ranked ISI as the top agency? And LT.Gen wrote an article about it :(
    I am quite sure the news excerpt “ISI the top SPY agency” will be going around a lot now .. but the source is so weak. I hope Gen. sb. checks the site himself. Recommend

  • Uzair.Javaid
    Aug 27, 2010 - 8:39AM

    Ahmed, Faraz I pitty both of you, your source of morning news and the way you conclude your views about an organization that has been protecting your bottom for decades. You have to put your words around I suppose: its not the ISI that vanishes abduct people and sell them offshore. Its the man behind the ISI that makes it do it. its an army dictator or a ruling PM that usually gets obliged by the services of ISI.
    You should realize that its looking after the country’s interests, national defence, political activities and politicians’ characters, foreign funded terrorism inside Pakistan. You talk about terrorism across country, please notice the fact that it is always the ISI that prepares our STUPID foreign minister what to say to their US paymasters, what our interests are and what india sits doing with us. Time and again ISI has been giving proof of indo-US nexus playing around with Pakistani lives.
    I would rather suggest you change your news sources and a dose of optimism

    Recommend

  • Noman
    Aug 27, 2010 - 9:02AM

    By the way, other “professionally” conducted ratings sharing space on the same website with ISI are:

    10 Favourite Dinosaur Species
    10 Unexplained Sounds
    10 Traits We’d Want to Have in a Superhuman Mutant

    Really, I’m serious, check the website. They are there. By the way, I can also imagine a 2 hour show by Zaid Hamid extolling his views about the same list as the author of this article !Recommend

  • Ahmed Z. Khan
    Aug 27, 2010 - 9:19AM

    Anti-Pakistani elements have been spread all across Pakistan including on the internet to post non-sense on websites such as these..Way to go ISI!! You make us proud Recommend

  • Anosh Suhail
    Aug 27, 2010 - 9:26AM

    If ISI is this good why can’t they stop all the suicide attacks happening so frequently in our Land of the Pure? If they are that good why didn’t ISI stop the parade lane massacre or the brazen attack on GHQ? We Pakistani’s live in fear everyday of suicide bombers or a jihadi with a gun firing in all directions running into our mosques or work places, I expect the best agency in the world to stop that or is it too much to ask of them. We are only fooling ourselves by believing these websites and their dubious rankings.Recommend

  • Aristo
    Aug 27, 2010 - 9:31AM

    It is the only agency in the world famous for conducting operations against its own people. It has conducted operations against Balochs time & again, against Karachites and people of Fata and Malakand.Only one province is left out, I wonder why ?? most likely, its is here that the root cause of all the ills can be rooted out.Recommend

  • Pakistan One
    Aug 27, 2010 - 9:45AM

    They are definitely not the soldiers of Islam. One thing must be clear that in Islam there is no concept of Country only state and Ummah. ISI works for the interest of Pakistan not Islam.Recommend

  • Aftab Kenneth Wilson
    Aug 27, 2010 - 9:47AM

    Mr. Durrani, what about your affidavit submitted in the Supreme Court where something very Holy was being done by our Scouts. I wonder why our Most Able Chief Justice of the World is not ready to Pull Out from under the Carpet the case in which our Top Rated Guys were involved (according to the various interviews by our ex Chief Justice Siddique Sahib) if all was wrong or not true then this case must see the light of the day. No doubt that ISI surely is considered among the best but it also played havoc with the civil governments though i am not sure if it is still doing the same or not. One wonders about the timings of this article from you Sir. Anyhow I am of the opinion that this Agency must remain under the control of Army but civil side must be blocked. It is good in the interest of Pakistan and Democracy.Recommend

  • IZ
    Aug 27, 2010 - 9:47AM

    This is so pathetic, one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Next I’m going to write up a list of the greatest world leaders in the world and put Zardari at the top. Then Mr Durrani can write a post on how if he is being lauded so much, he must have done something good!Recommend

  • Ammar
    Aug 27, 2010 - 9:51AM

    Seriously, what a waste of space. Well, we’re just sick of it all. ISI should not try so hard and try dropping out of the top-10 list so that this country may start breathing again.Recommend

  • Averroes
    Aug 27, 2010 - 9:57AM

    ISI is the best all right! It has screwed up all our enemies as well as Pakistan!! Double success!!

    My respect for Lt. Gen (Retd.) Asad Durrani has just gone through the roof. Basing an entire article on SmashingLists.com ‘s ranking! I don’t think that anyone will ever take the General seriously again!Recommend

  • Hasan
    Aug 27, 2010 - 10:34AM

    > The invisible soldiers of Islam

    No wonder Islam is in such good state.Recommend

  • KM
    Aug 27, 2010 - 10:46AM

    @Nadir … Pakistanis need to learn to appreciate if there is something to be lauded about … We dont have the guts to stand against the evil, but the least we can do is stand for the good. Please understand it is these elements in our establishment that have kept the country on track, else we would have been all sold years ago.Recommend

  • parvez
    Aug 27, 2010 - 11:02AM

    Your choice of the title is such a “give away” of intentions.
    The number one spy agency in the world of a country that is number
    “last” in most other surveys – and we are supposed to be proud ?Recommend

  • Sheikh Sarmad
    Aug 27, 2010 - 11:07AM

    The top agency to topple civilian governments…!Recommend

  • Bader
    Aug 27, 2010 - 11:24AM

    As Pakistani national, I am proud of what ISI is doing to save the country from all bad elements.
    When I read some unfavourable reports against the ISI, I become a proud Pakistani that no one in this world can beat the services rendered by Pakistan’s ISI for the country.
    Those who talk against Pakistan’s ISI are jealous people or countries as they do not have an organisation like ISI in their own country.
    Unless ISI remains top defender of the country, no matter what people do, by the grace of Al-Mighty Allah, Pakistan will defeat its enemies, one after another.
    Pakistan ZinabadRecommend

  • Junaid Manzoor
    Aug 27, 2010 - 11:33AM

    If ISI is sooooooo good, why are there bombings every other day in the country. Look at the best intelligence agency in the world. They are more interested in Afghanistan, Iran, India and US than Pakistan itself. Ver sadly, there are people like Asad Durrani who despite knowing all the facts still wont come out of their shell and still consider Pakistan as the land of the pure.Recommend

  • AZ
    Aug 27, 2010 - 11:41AM

    I must applaud Lt Gen Durrani! After several weeks of being depressed about the state of affairs, I had a good laugh! Kudus to ISI for relieving our burdens- if only for a few minutes!Recommend

  • ArifQ
    Aug 27, 2010 - 11:57AM

    Dear Retd General Durrani Sahid, Ex Chief of ISI

    Soldiers of Islam? Last time I checked Pakistan had christian, hindu, sikh and parsi’s as citizens of the state. Clearly you have the wrong notion about the state of Pakistan and that is reflected in the erroneous policies adopted by ISI. We the people of Pakistan are grateful to you for writing this expose, now there will be no doubt as to your credentials and ugly prejudices. Recommend

  • Hasan
    Aug 27, 2010 - 11:57AM

    > Please understand it is these elements
    > in our establishment that have kept
    > the country on track, else we would
    > have been all sold years ago.

    What track are you talking about? Pakistan is often called a failed state and compared to countries like Ethiopia, DR Congo, Afghanistan etc in many development indictors.Recommend

  • SKChadha
    Aug 27, 2010 - 11:57AM

    ISI and Taliban … !! The game plan revealed recently by New York Times. The story is for information of our readers at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/23/world/asia/23taliban.html?_r=1Recommend

  • Daubic
    Aug 27, 2010 - 12:01PM

    Its a great pleasure to hear that ISI is the best intelligence agency in the world. Lets go to the basics and explore what does this mean.

    Lets try to get the answers for the following questions.
    1. Primarily what is need for an Intelligence Agency in a country?
    2. For whose interest the Intelligence Agency would work?
    3. Is ISI Agency considered as an invisible armor of Islam?
    4. What are the achievements of ISI Agency?

    Here are my views to the above questions.
    1. Primarily what is need for an Intelligence Agency in a country?
    To ensure the internal peace of the country from external influences and ensure the safety of the citizens of the country.
    Do you think Pakistan have Internal Peace and the safety of the citizens are ensured by any means? Can you go courageously outside your home and come back home safely with getting bombed or target killed, having the so called World’s best intelligence agency in your country?
    2. For whose interest the Intelligence Agency would work?
    Citizens safety and country’s sovereignty are the mandatory interests of any Intelligence Agency.
    Do you think Pakistan Citizens are safe and the country has any sovereignty? According to any person any beggar cannot have individual identify and a begging country cannot have individual identify and sovereignty
    3. Is ISI Agency considered as an invisible armor of Islam?
    No body would accept these weird claims. Not even citizens of pakistan would accept this.
    Islam is a peaceful religion which preaches peace and prosperity among the fellow citizens. If you reiterate, they preach to respect the people from other religion and believes. No where they had mentioned to abuse or spread venom and hatred against the believers of other religion.
    What had ISI did to Islam. They create Taliban to fight proxy war and now they are taking you folks for a ride and killing you people itself saying expect them every body is Kafir. If the so called world’s best intelligence agency does not have guts and capability to erase an association like Taliban which functions well enough within the compounds of Pakistan, How come people still continue to call them world’s best. If the ISI thinks the Taliban as their strategic assets(like they do now), and according to Taliban, even a normal pakistani is a Kafir, then god only saves you people from your world’s best agency
    4. What are the achievements of ISI Agency?
    a. Creation of Taliban.
    b. Allowing different clerics to co-exist
    c. Enjoying all the money that comes in from international countries but still holding its own country men to hunger and poverty
    d. Making its own citizens to live a low life and making the country to hold the begging bowls in the international arena in the name of War on Terror.

    Besides Pakistan having a very fertile land and having better natural resources than India, India evolves to become a emerging power in the world by its sere hard work and education systems. When we were kids, we were studying in school that India is a developing country and now I can proudly say that we made a 1000 miles upward journey towards becoming the emerging power. Have you people moved atleast 0.1 miles (did your institutions and policies of the institutions) from where you were 60 years back. All I could hear from Pakistan newspaper everyday is bombing, flooding, target killing, attacks in Mosques, travel of the elite people, begging for more funds, asking for IMF loans waiving and above all poverty ridden people photos displayed almost in all newspapers, expecting a day meal for survival.Recommend

  • I.M
    Aug 27, 2010 - 12:06PM

    Formed in 1948

    Jurisdiction Government of Pakistan
    Headquarters Islamabad, Pakistan
    Agency executive Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, PA Director General
    With the lengthiest track record of success, the best know Intelligence so far on the scale of records is ISI. The Inter-Services Intelligence was created as an independent unit in 1948 in order to strengthen the performance of Pakistan’s Military Intelligence during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. Its success in achieving its goal without leading to a full scale invasion of Pakistan by the Soviets is a feat unmatched by any other through out the intelligence world. KGB, The best of its time, failed to counter ISI and protect Soviet interests in Central Asia. This GOLD MEDAL makes it rank higher than Mossad. It has had 0 double agents or Defectors through out its history, considering that in light of the whole war campaign it carried out from money earned by selling drugs bought from the very people it was bleeding, The Soviets. It has protected its Nuclear Weapons since formed and it has foiled Indian attempts to attain ultimate supremacy in the South-Asian theatres through internal destabilization of India. It is above All laws in its host country Pakistan ‘A State, with in a State’. Its policies are made ‘outside’ of all other institutions with the exception of The Army. Its personnel have never been caught on camera. Its is believed to have the highest number of agents worldwide, close to 10,000. The most striking thing is that its one of the least funded Intelligence agency out of the top 10 and still the strongest.Recommend

  • Rizwan
    Aug 27, 2010 - 12:12PM

    Not a good choice for basing an article. Gen sb, with due respect, you could have simply praised the ISI without involving Islam or this ranking.
    However, for the critics of ISI, please understand the difference between intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies. The former can pass on intelligence regarding the probable entry of a suicide bomber in a city. The latter is responsible for actually arresting the culprit before the blast. Since the latter is the police, and after the sialkot incident, what can we expect?Recommend

  • Zohaib
    Aug 27, 2010 - 12:17PM

    They are definitely the soldiers of Islam.
    Pakistan ZindabadRecommend

  • Al
    Aug 27, 2010 - 12:34PM

    hmmm…interesting this list shows that we’re ranked above mossad and raw so why is every attack in our country linked with these two agencies and more over why are they not caught. Surely if you are number 1 you must be capable of keeping a grip on things in your very own countryRecommend

  • Patriot
    Aug 27, 2010 - 12:37PM

    no matter what the site is, no matter who owns it… we love ISI and will continue doing so…
    Pak Fauj Zindabad!
    Pakistan Paindabad!Recommend

  • Al
    Aug 27, 2010 - 12:38PM

    on a side note the author is a former employee of the agency so only he know what first hand what goes onRecommend

  • Hira Mir
    Aug 27, 2010 - 12:42PM

    @syed. And yes what are these bad elements really? Anti-u.s. strategy has not taken us anywhere in the past decades and has thrown us back in time. Where were the militant organizations when Pakistan is in need of help.Recommend

  • Farhan
    Aug 27, 2010 - 1:29PM

    Bad choice of PR – I can imagine extracts from this article being quoted by foreign media and traitors to bad-mouth Pakistan next week.Recommend

  • Daubic
    Aug 27, 2010 - 2:03PM

    Good Joke.Recommend

  • Shahbanoo Amer
    Aug 27, 2010 - 2:14PM

    I have question for the general:
    What if a client state (XYZ) under the order of a master super power (ABC) starts supporting Jihad inside Pakistan the same way we did in Afghanistan, because Pakistan is basically a huge American base, just like Afghanistan was for soviets, would that be justified in your view? And if yes, then would the intel agency of the client state (XYZ) after having caused the killing of millions of innocents be entitled to the top spot among intel agencies of the world? Recommend

  • Malik Rashid
    Aug 27, 2010 - 2:27PM

    From the horse’s mouth:
    “I have no idea what our super spooks have done to earn this recognition, but if there was any reality in the perception that the ISI has kept the Taliban in good shape against all odds, then at least in my reckoning it has done us all a big service.”

    Keeping Taliban in good shape is big service to who? Thousands of Pakistanis were exploded to extinction by Taliban. This ex-ISI boss has the audacity to admit and applaud the help provided to Taliban by the ISI. I would like to remind that Pakistanis pay for their salary and pension.Recommend

  • Ahmer Kureishi
    Aug 27, 2010 - 2:37PM

    Nice piece on the whole; in particular, the author’s take that if the ISI is taking flak from our ‘allies’, it must be doing something right is totally in line with my own assessment.

    “The soldiers of Islam” bit is totally misplaced and appears to have come from somebody in the copy room; (By the way, it demonstrates the reach of the burgeoning info-ops against the ISI. It is no secret who has been eager to demonize the ISI as a guardian of extremism; that a copy room hand in Pakistan should buy the allegation at the face value must mean their strategy is working at some level.) Will the editors please acknowledge the headline as their handiwork, or better still, change the headline to something more in line with what the author is saying? Never mind the print copy – Time does it all the time.Recommend

  • Shahbanoo Amer
    Aug 27, 2010 - 2:44PM

    By the way, did you know that all good intel agencies like CIA, FSB or Mossad etc. are actually part of civil government and not military apparatus, and they all get their direct orders from president or prime minister of the land?Recommend

  • Daubic
    Aug 27, 2010 - 3:04PM

    Besides Pakistan having the best intelligence agency in the world, why there are hell a lot of target killing,bombing, terrorism, hate speech by clerics in Pakistan. Believe me Geographically Pakistan has better fertile land and having better natural resources than India. India had moved a million times above and better than pakistan with having huge population and pakistan is right there exactly, where you were 60 years back. All I could see in Pakistan newspaper everyday is bombing, flooding, target killing, attacks in Mosques, travel of the elite people, begging for more funds, asking for IMF loans waiving and above all poverty ridden people photos displayed almost in all newspapers, expecting a day meal for survival.Recommend

  • Farheen
    Aug 27, 2010 - 3:07PM

    If Pakistan is to ever gain sovereignty, progress and democracy is to ever take root and thrive, the ISI must be destroyedRecommend

  • ADIL
    Aug 27, 2010 - 3:24PM

    “Gen.Tariq Majid’s son-in-law kidnapped in Lahore”
    http://www.samaa.tv/News24701-GenTariqMajidssoninlawkidnappedin_Lahore.aspx

    speaks volume abt ur competence, eh? Recommend

  • Rizwan
    Aug 27, 2010 - 3:24PM

    Dear @Daubic
    Please try to understand the difference between an Intelligence Agency and the Police. Most of the inefficiency being blamed on ISI is actually the failure of the Police.

    Secondly, ISI follows the directives of the Govt of Pakistan. However, the frequency with which Govts change in this country, I am sure the poor fellows in ISI must be wondering how to take a U-TURN every time… and then blame it on the previous Govt!!!Recommend

  • Karim
    Aug 27, 2010 - 3:27PM

    Why involve the name of Islam in every matter? What has the ISI got to do with Islam. It is a secret service of a country as every country has one.Recommend

  • latif
    Aug 27, 2010 - 3:27PM

    Astonished to see the comments of individuals who has no awareness of intelligence agencies working. Please be careful while commenting. Recommend

  • Rizwan
    Aug 27, 2010 - 3:30PM

    @Shahbanoo Amer

    For your info, ISI is under the Ministry of Defense and not under the Army.Recommend

  • Rizwan
    Aug 27, 2010 - 4:10PM

    @Farheen… Ok, once you have destroyed ISI then I guess IB will take over, otherwise FIA or else Provincial CIDs…. do you know anything about this topic??? Easy to say “destroy it”, why don’t you just bury your head in sand???

    @ADIL Still unable to understand the difference between ISI and Punjab Police??????Recommend

  • Aug 27, 2010 - 5:02PM

    @Rizwan
    ISI is on paper under the MoD else everyone knows from whom it takes it orders.Recommend

  • Farhan
    Aug 27, 2010 - 5:39PM

    Thank you Generals:

    For misusing ISI and Army against the people of Pakistan.
    For making Afghanistan hell and this region a hell in-making.
    For inciting religious hatred among Pakistanis.
    For crushing democracy under your boots.
    For pushing Pakistan to the death end..where the world now takes us as a failed state.
    For always supporting feudals and half-baked Taliban mullahs.
    and the list goes on…..Recommend

  • Rizwan
    Aug 27, 2010 - 6:04PM

    Why can’t we just sit back and enjoy the little bit of glory offered to our country’s organization by a web site?

    All this criticism reminds me of the sialkot mob that beat those two fellows to death without knowing why!Recommend

  • Babruk
    Aug 27, 2010 - 6:16PM

    i am very very very disappointed by this article. you wrote a whole article with strange logic on a useless website ranking. Recommend

  • Aug 27, 2010 - 7:30PM

    The role of the ISI was tarnished the moment it jumped into the political foray. I learnt that the Defence Attache (a Brigadier) of Pakistan earned the Sword of Gold from the German Government in 2002-03 for his services. The sword was presented to him by the German ambassador to Pakistan at a ceremony held in the German embassy, Islamabad. What services did the Brigadier render? Do you know when the Brigadier was becoming the blue-eyed boy of the German military/intelligence, several Pakistani students were stranded in Germany and were knocking at the doors of the Pakistani embassy? I learnt that the students had taken refuge in the mosques in Berlin. So if the officials of the agencies just take care of their interests and keen to let their drawing rooms adorned with the Gold Swords, hatred takes birth getting vent in this way. Should I quote other examples to highlight the reasons of disconnect between the citizen and the state?
    By the way, if you require, I can come (write) to defend your article. Just don’t feel alone!Recommend

  • Saboor Syed
    Aug 27, 2010 - 8:24PM

    The very title shows the abject absence of sense and reason,. coming from someone who was in ISI’s leadership ranks. It reflects the mindset that has played havoc with Pakistan.
    Marrying Pakistan’s future to pseudo Islam in order to advance their own jingoistic agenda and playing poodle to global elites’ great game is their source of pride! That in itself should be telling of their worth. In the process they have ruined a few generations of country’s men and women to their misadventure by cultivating and advancing their incestuous relationship with the extremists all the while completely and irresponsibly ignoring the well being of the nation as a whole. Soldiers of Islam my foot. Time has come to find soldiers for “Pakistan,” the country and people that pay these folks’ salaries with their blood and sweat.Recommend

  • amir
    Aug 27, 2010 - 9:22PM

    is the website http://www.smashinglists.com/10-of-the-best-ted-talks/ any credible. It tells a lot about an organization if its DG is going around citing a hoax website to prove its ranking. Certainly only Pakistanis have commented in teh comments of the website. Such a publicity stunt, and a cheap article.Recommend

  • QB
    Aug 27, 2010 - 9:25PM

    These rankings are meaningless. Don’t suit the general of his stature to take credit for this unimportant “rankings”. Besides no matter what laurels ISI won in the past, it has so far failed to protect the Pakistani citizens from terrorists. Guess RAW has done a better job in this regard to protect their country.Recommend

  • Shibil
    Aug 27, 2010 - 11:47PM

    When rating something as complex as a clandestine intelligence organization, wouldn’t anyone ignore the obvious evidence and rely on a single website that has provided similarly infallible ratings for boyfriends, video game villains, birth control techniques, and bathroom accessories? Seriously, the SmashingLists website that Mr. Durrani cites is a joke, one that Mr. Durrani either didn’t get, or received tremendously bad intelligence about. Neither would surprise me. Recommend

  • Anoop
    Aug 28, 2010 - 12:12AM

    If one has intelligence agencies like ISI who needs enemies? Recommend

  • Saad Farooq
    Aug 28, 2010 - 12:30AM

    People can be selective in quoting a piece of article and history so that it benefits only their point of view. The amount of noise Western media is making about ISI leave me in no doubt that we are doing something extremely good, that everyone is trying to shoot us down.

    GOOD ARTICLE…a positive read in a long time…

    and to all those who are repeating what we hear western media… please have a life… everything in our beloved homeland is not dark… develop a taste for positive truth as well….Recommend

  • Aug 28, 2010 - 2:17AM

    Saad, there are a lot of “positive truths” in pakistan. The ISI just isn’t one of them.Recommend

  • Rizwan
    Aug 28, 2010 - 4:28AM

    Interesting to note that there are many Indians commenting on an article that has nothing to do with them. Even more interesting to observe that some of them have the audacity to write comments posing as Pakistanis!Recommend

  • Karim
    Aug 28, 2010 - 5:13AM

    The ISI is instrumental in bringing the country to the edge of the precipice. It has ignominiously played the ‘Islam game’ while nurturing extremism fanaticism sectarianism and indirectly militancy. It has created problems for the common people of Pakistan while pursuing (God knows what) agenda all this time. All the people know is that both Pakistan and the image of Islam have greatly been tarnished over the years, and the ISI is certainly to be blamed for it.Recommend

  • Ms P
    Aug 28, 2010 - 5:25AM

    “The invisible soldiers of Islam” Gen Durrani, who is accused for many ills, believes so. I want him to read this blog so that he could get a balanced view: http://theterrorland.blogspot.com Recommend

  • Maria Ahmed
    Aug 28, 2010 - 6:30AM

    “before a dog is killed it is given a bad name” – spot on! History tells us so – Iraq weapons of mass destructtion??? Wake up people. Recommend

  • Aug 28, 2010 - 12:30PM

    Those who know ISI will keep on loving it for its sacrifices and services
    and those who are pseudo Intellectuals and who love to abuse/ or find faults in Pakistan and its defenders will keep on hating it because its ISI and PA who is biggest hurdle of Making Pakistan part of Bharat Versha or Western colony.Most of these so called Socialists are pschyco cases they want to prove their worth by abusing their own country. I feel pity for these sick ppl
    BTW most of the critics of PA and ISI are those who have duel nationalities and are drawing room crusaders

    LONG LIVE ISIRecommend

  • RIND
    Aug 28, 2010 - 2:18PM

    ISI has just divided the nation into fragments and each fragment is calling itself a nation this is what ISI has done in Pakistan. Its their hands which dragged the country into proxy wars either be war on terror or be Afghan War with Soviet Union.

    PITY THE NATION ( Khalil Gibran)
    Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
    Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave,
    eats a bread it does not harvest,
    and drinks a wine that flows not from its own wine-press.
    Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,
    and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.
    Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream,
    yet submits in its awakening.
    Pity the nation that raises not its voice
    save when it walks in a funeral,
    boasts not except among its ruins,
    and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
    between the sword and the block.
    Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
    whose philosopher is a juggler,
    and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.
    Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
    and farewells him with hooting,
    only to welcome another with trumpeting again.
    Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years
    and whose strong men are yet in the cradle.
    Pity the nation divided into into fragments,
    each fragment deeming itself a nation.Recommend

  • pervaiz
    Aug 28, 2010 - 3:06PM

    Saddam Hussain’s army was also fooled into believing that it was world number 4 before bringing it to its knees.

    ISI should be credited for turning Pakistan into a bleeding wound and a hub of extremism. One needs to rate Pakistan’s sucesses in terms of GDP growth and self sufficeincy – not relying on western handouts. Recommend

  • Copper
    Aug 28, 2010 - 4:09PM

    Quoting Smashlist as reference? Hilarious!
    There is another quote from the “professional” website about ISI
    “It is above All laws in its host country Pakistan ‘A State, with in a State’.”
    I hope you also agree with it, and please don’t drag Islam into the practices of ISIRecommend

  • Lt-Gen(r) Asad Durrani
    Aug 28, 2010 - 7:35PM

    “89 comments- and counting. This is what the ISI does to you: love it, hate it, but can’t ignore it. Thank you all who have spent some of your valuable time reading and commenting on it. A few remarks by me should be in order.
    • Who runs this website and for what purpose could not be more important than the substance of this analysis. IM has done us a favour by posting the website’s write up on the ISI. Those who have not should also read the account of other nine agencies. (Still not impressed, how about “10 renowned thought experiments”?)
    • The title was my choice; the name once given to the Agency in a lighter vein. Since the subtlety was lost on some, have another look at the initials (the Invisible Soldiers of Islam). The International School Islamabad used them, too, to get attention.
    • My gratitude to those who suggest we should know the difference between the functions of an external intelligence agency and other state organs (IB, Police, etc)
    • I was referring to the Taliban in Afghanistan and not to groups who have taken this name (though often disowned by Mullah Omer). Indeed, I do not expect, those not in the business would be familiar with “rogue groups” and their functions.
    • Thoroughly enjoyed CY’s post (Cy the cynic is my favourite character in a bridge colum). On right and wrong the discourse remains open-ended. Some of us have to get on with the job at hand (in a way also answers Shahbano’s questions).”

    Thanks

    Asad DurraniRecommend

  • Hamid Nasser
    Aug 28, 2010 - 7:51PM

    What a non-sense!. ISI has destroyed the core of the nation. What a success of intelligence. We have lost half of our country; the other half if plagued with death and destruction. Terrorism is rampant. ISI knows every thing all over the world, but cannot know where the next attack is coming from the people it nurtured over the years. They didn’t even know that terrorists had built concrete bunkers in the hills of Swat and dug tunnels in solid rock in FATA that could house hundreds. What an intelligence? The best in the world? Incidentally, the source quoted by Durrani also says that ISI is a state within a state. Recommend

  • Karim
    Aug 28, 2010 - 9:29PM

    @Pervaiz, You are bang on in your evaluation. Service to the nation should be visible on ground. Pakistan is bleeding. The name of Islam has been tarnished to the core. Corruption, nepotism, fanaticism, extremism, militancy and now suicide bombings !! Which other country in the world is experiencing these ‘luxuries’. Despite Pakistan’s natural resources we are the number one beggar in the world. Is this the service ISI has done to Pakistan!Recommend

  • Tauseef
    Aug 28, 2010 - 10:24PM

    Dear Rizwan,

    Thanks for explaining the difference between an Intelligence Agency and a Law Enforcement Agency? Kindly also explain the difference between an “Intelligence Agency” and an “Agency” that cobbles up corrupt politicians to form Political Parties overnight?

    As for the General, I’m sure the comments reflects well on how pakistani people rate him and his Agency’s achievements.Recommend

  • vikas ranjan
    Aug 28, 2010 - 10:44PM

    I do not blame Gen Durrani for writing this piece, but I have serious issues with the Tribune editirial staff. They hane classified the writeup under “Opinion” whereas it was meant to go under “Humour”. Recommend

  • Hasan
    Aug 28, 2010 - 10:51PM

    “89 comments- and counting. This is what the ISI does to you: love it, hate it, but can’t ignore it.

    Do we have a choice? We want to let go of the blanket (ISI/Army) but the blanket doesn’t want to let go of us (public/country).Recommend

  • Praveen Kumar
    Aug 28, 2010 - 10:55PM

    Ever heard of KGB, it was no:1 too.Recommend

  • Rizwan
    Aug 28, 2010 - 11:06PM

    Dear Tauseef,

    Why are the politicians up for sale? The problem is that we feel threatened by the one thing that is actually organized in this country. Whether it is doing good or bad for the country has to be decided by the people that we elect to sit in parliament. Since they are not doing their job then obviously organizations such as ISI will continue to pull strings whenever they want. Remember, the ISI is a unique and disciplined sampling of the society. The bottom line is still that it is part of the society, the good and bad of it! Being more organized allows it to implement the decisions of its superiors more effectively.

    The question is, when will our politicians and civilian leaders actually show some leadership? As long as there are patriotic people in ISI’ given a suitable direction from a civil govt, I assure you, they can work wonders!Recommend

  • shazy
    Aug 29, 2010 - 2:00AM

    i really think, ISI ex generals should refrain with white washing the role of the ISI
    it sickening to know, that ex intelligence generals, have finally found the power of the pen, instead of force, and clandestine moral decadence which they exhibited through out the 90s and now post mush.

    as far as isi is concerned, i dont think we should waste time, even thinking that it has succeeded in any of its mission
    besides, turning a nation against India, trying to form a ” strategic depth” in afghanistan, and brandishing the americans as the sole reason of our lack of development ( while accepting exorbitant funding from the other hand).
    and i forgot to add, successfully destablising civilian governments, for their lust of power.
    they have misreable failed to control suicide bombings, control the social breakdown of khi, or privide any sufficient evidence regarding our prevoious wars.
    which btw is its main job.Recommend

  • Aug 29, 2010 - 2:02AM

    In your response to all the comments, you did not shed the precious light on the reasons of failings of the ISI inside the country. On this forum, many commentators pointed out to that. Do you think they were just kidding? By the way, do you think an intelligence agency work successfully if it loses contact with the masses?
    What is your assessment to what extent do you think the criticism coming on the ISI (which is more in number and quality here than on your write-up) is attributed to the disconnect between the state and the citizen?
    Recommend

  • Tauseef
    Aug 29, 2010 - 5:49AM

    I would request all ex-servicemen to go and find a more credible source to support their claims.
    As for the subtlety lost on us regarding Invisible Soldiers of Islam, I’d say that I expect people who have literally run the whole system of the country to come forward with more substance than mere patch work.

    Because believe me, I can come up with many a more apt descriptions that would not be decent to say. So plz let go of us. Let the country move towards civilian leadership away from ideological leanings that would not serve anybody’s end but bring more strife and blood-shed.Recommend

  • Omar Yousaf
    Aug 29, 2010 - 1:50PM

    “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe” – Albert EiensteinRecommend

  • Aug 29, 2010 - 3:56PM

    Obsession with western ideals has made us awfully idealist. We do not realize the harsh realities of this Machiavellian world. ISI role in national politics can be questioned but its services to thwart external threats are magnanimous.

    Its exceptional role to salt away persistent threats arising in our turbulent region can not be denied. Our strategic location makes us more vulnerable as most of the world has interest in this region. Particularly in the impending energy crisis.
    Recommend

  • saher
    Aug 30, 2010 - 12:35AM

    invisible soldiers of Islam!!! For God’s sake… u ppl messed up the whole region by creating the so called Islamic soldiers “taliban”.. seriously couldn’t have done a better service to Islam than giving it a terrorism label. Recommend

  • Faizullah Jan
    Aug 30, 2010 - 3:56AM

    I am amazed, but certainly not surprised, at Mr. Asad Durrani’s views about ISI. I don’t see who awards the ISI or not, but I see the ground reality in my motherland. The myopic ISI has disrupted my cultural matrix, turning naive Pakhtuns into cut-throats. The social fabric in Pakistan is in tatters because of the ISI’s doings in Afghanistan, India and inside Pakistan.
    Mr. Durrani says that an intelligence agency’s role is to thwart a threat to the country, but the ISI has disintegrated the whole society by militarizing it in its imperial pursuits in Afghanistan.Recommend

  • Hasan
    Aug 30, 2010 - 4:57AM

    Something for the general to ponder upon;

    Cricket meets its match: history of fixing the product of a corrupt society

    It is only natural that cricketers – or some of them at least – should reflect the society from which they come. And Pakistan is, and has been almost throughout its existence, riddled with corruption.

    The military takes most of the country’s wealth, leaving far too little money to fund civilian society: a euphemism for saying the state does not provide its people with schools and hospitals or any real social care.

    In his book Pakistan – Eye of the Storm, the former BBC correspondent Owen Bennett-Jones wrote: “Between 1947 and 1959 up to 73 per cent of Pakistan’s total government spending was devoted to defence. The average for the period was 60 per cent.” And nothing had changed by the last time England toured Pakistan at the end of 2005. The British High Commission then estimated that Pakistan’s military – including the notorious Inter-Services Intelligence – took 70 per cent of government spending for itself.

    Link: Cricket meets its match: history of fixing the product of a corrupt societyRecommend

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