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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1916

ISI, the bad boy of Pakistan

By Sarla Handoo - Syndicate Features

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was cornered during his visit to the US and Sri Lanka over the ISI, the bad boy of Islamabad. In Washington he was confronted with “direct proof”, in the form of intercepted communications between the ISI officials and the militants who executed the attack on Indian Embassy in Kabul.

President Bush asked Gilani a straight question, "Who is in control of ISI in Pakistan", because he had ‘evidence’ that some elements in the ISI were leaking tactical information provided by the US (to Pakistan to beef up the war against terror) to the militants.

These ‘leaks’ enabled the militants to duck the US air attacks on their hideouts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, FATA. The CIA Chief Michel V Hayden handed over the ‘damning’ evidence to Gilani with and which had a clear message "rein in ISI". The way Pakistan reversed the notification bringing the ISI under civilian rule within a day, before Gilani left Islamabad for the US has left nothing to imagination.

In Colombo, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did quite a bit of plain speaking with Gilani to tell him that India had solid evidence that ISI was behind the July 7 Kabul attack. He minced no words to say that the peace process itself had come under a threat due to the attacks carried out by Pakistani militants on Indian targets in and outside India. He also voiced concern over recent cease fire violations along the LOC in Jammu and Kashmir and increasing infiltration into the state.

On his part, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who charged Pakistan, within an hour of the attack in Kabul, of having planned the attack, did not mince words. He bluntly told the SAARC summit that institutional backing had led to terrorists striking deep roots in Pakistan. He named ISI saying that in the past also, it had organised terrorist attacks in Afghanistan in collaboration with the Taliban.

In fact, it was the US and Afghanistan which spoke more forthrightly and that too publicly about the ISI’s involvement in militant attacks than India. New Delhi chose to give a bit of its mind to Gilani in private in a bid not to damage the peace process between India and Pakistan, already under stain.

Ironically, while every country knows about the nasty role of ISI, only Pakistan does not want to know it and keeps demanding evidence to support the charge. As the Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon put it, “to ask for evidence is a clever move”. That is because Islamabad knows that India cannot reveal the source of information.

Initially, Gilani rejected the allegation of collusion between the ISI and the militants as baseless. His foreign office spokesman Mohammad Sadiq went a step ahead and dismissed the allegations as “total rubbish”. Perhaps Pak government did not visualize that the allegation was not a flay on the wall but was backed by ‘solid’ proof with India, the US, Britain and Afghanistan But as reported by the Washington Post, the Information Minister Sherry Rehman was little more circumspect when she said ‘Probably there are individuals in the ISI working against the official policy. The authorities should identify these elements and weed them out’. Well, it is a tacit acknowledgment from PPP-led civilian coalition government that Taliban sympathizers are in the ISI agency.

In the circumstances Gilani was left with no choice except to assure both Bush and Manmohan Singh that the US and Indian concerns would be taken seriously. He promised an ‘independent’ enquiry in to the allegations though he remained vague on ‘how independent’ the probe is going to be.

A few days before Gilani had set out on his maiden official visit to the land of Uncle Sam, Deputy Director of the CIA Stephen.R. Kappes travelled to Islamabad with a mass of evidence about Kabul bombings, and to express his concern and annoyance at what was happening. It was pointed out to him that officials in the ISI were providing leads to the groups owing allegiance to Pashtun Taliban leader Maulvi Jallaudin Haqqani’s network. Though what kind of support the ISI has provided to the militants has not been revealed to the media, the statement that Pakistani officials were not renegades indicates that their actions might nave been approved by their superiors.

It is a tragedy that Pakistan, which is home to one of the earliest civilizations of the world, should be indulging in acts that threaten the very existence of humankind. Despite Gilani’s statements in Washington and Colombo condemning terrorism of all hues, the fact remains that Pakistan is yet to assure the world community that it can control the rogue ISI, known throughout the world as the “bad boy of Pakistan”.

For the moment the composite dialogue process between India and Pakistan is in a limbo. To make the dialogue process meaningful it is important that an environment of peace is created. Until that happens, the CBMs will remain no more than talking points. One has to wait and see how soon, if at all, Pakistan comes good on its promise to address the concerns expressed by the world community.

- Asian Tribune -

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