Appointment of new ISI chief

Fact remains that simply appointing a new head is unlikely to have much of an impact on ISI's activities, performance.

Editorial March 10, 2012

There will be a temptation to think that the appointment of Lieutenant-General Zahirul Islam, as the new director-general of the ISI, will bring about a sea change at the premier spy agency. While it is entirely possible that General Islam will be less combative and more conciliatory than his predecessor Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the fact remains that simply appointing a new head is unlikely to have too much of an impact on the agency’s activities and performance of duties. As such, the most likely scenario is that the ISI under the new chief will continue on its path of trying to have it both ways — at least in the eyes of some — on the issue of militancy.

The most important challenge facing the new ISI chief is trying to repair the steadily-worsening relations with the US. Last year in September, Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman joint chiefs of staff, claimed that the Haqqani Network was a “veritable arm” of the ISI. The US has also been suspicious of the ISI’s role in the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad. Furthermore, relations with the US soured when the agency failed to find the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, however, one hopes that an attempt will be made to examine this under the new chief. General Islam is likely to be a familiar figure to the US, since he had previously served as a senior official in the ISI, before he took over as a corps commander in Karachi. But in the case of the US and the ISI, familiarity largely seems to breed contempt. The mutual suspicion between the two sides is so intense that one should not expect a complete change of tide especially since the newly-appointed chief is an established military figure.

Rebuilding the credibility of the ISI will be the general’s toughest task. The intelligence agency’s political activities are currently under scrutiny in the Supreme Court after the judiciary decided to take up Air Marshal (retd)Asghar Khan’s petition against the ISI’s funding of politicians in the 1990s. The US, while sure to breathe a sigh of relief that Pasha was not granted a second extension, will remain wary. Thus, the best start that can be made given the current situation is for the military to ensure that there is no such interference by the agency in the country’s political process.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2012.


Milyu | 9 years ago | Reply

@Danish ali ahmad: I definitely will tell you what you deserve and what you don't when you bash your own army and agency based on nothing but hot air, especially when that's the thanks they get for protecting your life day and night.

You are the one who has mindset issues.

1) Yes I know that Pasha freed Ray Davis, but don't you tell me Zarfari didn't want it, of course he did!) 2) Exactly what part of it do you have a problem with? The drone attacks take place with Pakistan's permission there are only a handful of unauthorized ones but now Pakistan is clamping down on all of them. After Salala, Pakistan's sovereignty was violated so our country logically responded by implementing the resolution its parliament passed after the May 2nd operation. This is not a civilian/soldier thing so don't try to make it look like it is. 3) So what's your point? 4) Zia-ul-Haq hailed from the lower middle class and look where that got this country. Also, this is a completely irrelevant point. If you expect any military in the world to enact an affirmative action program to promote a particular social class then you can keep on dreaming. 5) Yes that is true, and this is a very GOOD thing for Pakistan. You are cursing a wondrous blessing, it's a GOOD thing that the army is in business, it's helping an otherwise destitute economy that cannot provide sustained means of sustenance for retired officers. Lots of armies around the world do business and this never detracts from their ability to defend their country so stop your silly rants. 6) You say "retired army personnel, which is accused of supplying bomb making materials" - note your own use of the word "accused." The US has provided ZERO evidence in this matter. Pakistani fertilizer producers even offered to have the Americans mark and track their products so that it could be confirmed where it goes and how it's used. The US rejected that offer, so don't you go peddling more nonsense by citing nothing but empty allegations.

Next time give me some real, informed arguments instead of posting this rubbish that only someone completely in the dark could write.

Naega | 9 years ago | Reply

@Danish Ali Ahmad: Just so you know, I have posted answers to all of your bullet points, if you cannot see them then it means the Express Tribune refused to publish them. Rest very well assured, your outbursts are nothing more than ramblings of someone who has no information.

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