Government of Pakistan
1948 by General Robert Cawthome
Naveed Mukhtar, Director-General
Pakistan Army, Mossad, Pakistan Armed Forces, Secret Intelligence Service, Pakistan Air Force
The Directorate General for Inter-Services Intelligence or Inter-Services Intelligence (abbreviated ISI, Urdu: بین الخدماتی مخابرات) is the premier intelligence service of Pakistan, operationally responsible for providing critical national security and intelligence assessment to the Government of Pakistan. The ISI is the largest of the five intelligence services of Pakistan, the others being the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Military Intelligence (MI), Naval Intelligence (NI) and Air Intelligence (AI). In the late 20th century, the ISI's work and activities in relation to Afghan mujahideen against the Soviet Union during the Soviet–Afghan War in then-communist Afghanistan became quite famous. During this war, ISI worked in close coordination with the Central Intelligence Agency; the latter providing strategic support and intelligence to the Afghan Taliban against the Northern Alliance in the civil war in Afghanistan in the 1990s.
- Director Generals
- Recruitment and training
- Soviet Union and Post Soviet states
- United States
- Al Qaeda and Taliban militants captured
- US government
- Indian government
- Support for militants
- Hizbul Mujahideen
- Al Badr
- Al Qaeda
- Harkat ul Mujahideen
- Jammu and Kashmir
- Haqqani network
- Attacks on journalists
The ISI was established as an independent intelligence service in 1948 in order to strengthen the sharing of military intelligence between the three branches of Pakistan Armed Forces in the aftermath of the Indo-Pak War of 1947, which had exposed weaknesses in intelligence gathering, sharing and coordination between the Army, Air Force, and Navy. Since the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the agency has been headed by a three-star general officer of the Pakistan Army, being the biggest segment of Pakistan armed forces. The agency includes officers from all three branches of the Pakistan Armed Forces; Pak Army, Pak Air force, Pak Navy and a large number of civilian officers.
The Chief of Army Staff recommends three names of general officers to the prime minister for selection and confirmation of Director General ISI. On 12 December 2016, Lieutenant General Mukhtar was appointed to the post of Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence by the Prime Minister of Pakistan as per set procedure. Mukhtar possesses vast experience in the field of intelligence. Earlier, he had also headed the counterterrorism wing of the ISI in Islamabad. The ISI has headquarters in Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Venue. It was ranked as the top intelligence agency in the world in 2011 by the International Business Times.
After independence in 1947, two new intelligence agencies were created in Pakistan: the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Military Intelligence (MI). However, the weak performance of the MI in sharing intelligence between the Army, Naval Intelligence, and Air Force during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 also known as first Kashmir War, led to the creation of the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in 1948. The ISI was structured to be manned by officers from the three main military services, and to specialize in the collection, analysis, and assessment of external intelligence, either military or non-military. The ISI was the brainchild of Australian-born ex-Indian Army officer, Major General Sir Walter Joseph Cawthorn, then Deputy Chief of Staff in the Pakistan Army. He selected Colonel Shahid Hamid to set up this new formation and command it. Cawthorn left Pakistan in 1951. Initially, the ISI had no role in the collection of internal intelligence, with the exception of the N.W.F.P and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The recruitment and expansion of the ISI was managed and undertaken by then-Navy Commander Syed Mohammad Ahsan who was tenuring as Deputy Director of the Naval Intelligence. The Navy's Commander Syed Mohammad Ahsan played a pivotal role in formulating the procedures of the ISI.
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 ISI was reorganized in 1966 after intelligence failures in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, and expanded in 1969.
The ISI lost its importance during the regime of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was very critical of its rôle during the 1970 general elections, which triggered off the events leading to the division of Pakistan and emergence of Bangladesh. After Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq seized power on 5 July 1977 and became the Chief Martial Law Administrator of the country, the ISI was expanded by making it responsible for the collection of intelligence about the Pakistan Communist Party and various political parties such as the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
The Soviet war in Afghanistan of the 1980s saw the enhancement of the covert action capabilities of the ISI by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). A special Afghan Section, the SS Directorate, was created under the command of Brigadier Mohammed Yousaf to oversee the coordination of the war. A number of officers from the ISI's Covert Action Division (Special Activities Division) received training in the United States and many covert action experts of the CIA were attached to the ISI to guide it in its operations against the Soviet troops by using the Afghan Mujahideen. In September 2001, Parvaiz Musharraf appointed a new Director General for ISI, Lieutenant General Ehsanul Haq who was later on replaced by the Lieut. Gen. Shuja Pasha.
Some analysts believe that the ISI provides support to militant groups, though according to other analysts, these allegations remain unsubstantiated with evidence. Under General Javed Nasir's leadership the ISI was involved in supporting Chinese Muslims in Xinjiang Province, rebel Muslim groups in the Philippines, and some religious groups in Central Asia. Nasir also confessed to assisting the besieged Bosnian Muslims despite the UN arms embargo. National Intelligence Directorate (NID) is formed in 2014 in order to pool and share intelligence gathered by over 30 Pakistan's intelligence agencies to combat terrorism in Pakistan effectively.
ISI's headquarters are located in Islamabad, and the head of the ISI is called the Director General, who has to be a serving Lieutenant General in the Pakistan Army. Under the Director General, three Deputy Director Generals report directly to him and are in charge in three separate fields of the ISI which are Internal wing – dealing with counter-intelligence and counter terrorism issues inside Pakistan, External wing – handling external issues, and Analysis and Foreign Relations wing. Reportedly CPEC wing has also been added to monitor anti-project forces in collaboration with the Chinese The project is particularly significant because the port at Gwadar is slated to be a linchpin for a major trade corridor linking northwestern China to the Gulf.
The general staff of the ISI mainly come from armed forces. However, a large number of officers from various civilians’ government departments i.e. FBR, Customs, Police, Judiciary and FIA join ISI on deputations for 3–4 years and enhance ISI professional competence. Experienced army officers who have the knack of intelligence-related jobs also keep serving in ISI and given repeated extensions in their service.According to some experts the ISI is the largest intelligence agency in the world in terms of the number of staff. While the total number has never been made public, experts estimate about 10,000 officers and staff members, which does not include informants and assets.
Mostly comprises officers from Special services group [ SSG]. It monitors the terrorist groups activities that operate against the state of Pakistan. The SS Directorate is comparable to that of The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Clandestine Service (NCS), and responsible for special operations against terrorists.
- 1950 - 1959 Major General Robert Cawthome
- 1959–1966: Brig Gen Riaz Hussain
- 1966–1971: Maj Gen (then Brig Gen) Mohammad Akbar Khan
- 1971–1978: Lt Gen (then Maj Gen) Ghulam Jilani Khan
- 1978–1980: Lt Gen Muhammad Riaz
- 1980 – March 1987: Lt Gen Akhtar Abdur Rahman
- March 1987 – May 1989: Lt Gen Hameed Gul
- May 1989 – August 1990: Lt Gen (retd) Shamsur Rahman Kallu
- August 1990 – March 1992: Lt Gen Asad Durrani
- March 1992 – May 1993: Lt Gen Javed Nasir
- May 1993 – 1995: Lt Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi
- 1995 – October 1998: LtGen (then Maj Gen) Naseem Rana
- October 1998 – October 1999: Lt Gen Ziauddin Butt
- October 1999 – October 2001: Lt Gen Mahmud Ahmed
- October 2001 – October 2004: Lt Gen Ehsan ul Haq
- October 2004 – October 2007: Lt Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
- October 2007 – October 2008: Lt Gen Nadeem Taj
- October 2008 – March 2012: Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha
- March 2012 – September 2014: Zaheer-ul-Islam
- September 2014 – December 11, 2016: Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar
- December 11, 2016 – Present: Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar
The ISI headquarter is in Islamabad. The complex consists of various adobe buildings separated by lawns and fountains. The entrance to the complex is next to a private hospital. Declan Walsh of The Guardian said that the entrance is "suitably discreet: no sign, just a plainclothes officer packing a pistol who direct visitors through a chicane of barriers, soldiers and sniffer dogs". Walsh said that the complex "resembles a well-funded private university" and that the buildings are "neatly tended," the lawns are "smooth," and the fountains are "tinkling." He described the central building, which houses the director general's office on the top floor, as "a modern structure with a round, echoing lobby."
Recruitment and training
Both civilians and members of the armed forces can join the ISI. For civilians, recruitment is advertised and is jointly handled by the Federal Public Services Commission (FPSC) and civilian ISI agents are considered employees of the Ministry of Defence. The FPSC conducts various examinations testing the candidate's knowledge of current affairs, English and various analytical abilities. Based on the results, the FPSC shortlists the candidates and sends the list to the ISI who conduct the initial background checks. The selected candidates are then invited for an interview which is conducted by a joint committee comprising both ISI and FPSC officials, then the selected persons are sent to Defence Services intelligence Academy (DSIA) for further training of 06 months. Later these officers are transferred to different Sections for open source information where they serve for five years. Officers after five years of basic service are entrusted with sensitive jobs and declared the core team of ISI.
Indian intelligence agencies have claimed they have proof of ISI involvement with the Naxalites. A classified report accessed by the newspaper Asian Age said "the ISI in particular wants Naxals to cause largescale damage to infrastructure projects and industrial units operating in the interior parts of the country where ISI's own terror network is non-existent". In 2010, police in Bangalore claimed to have found evidence that the ISI were using local mafia types, Chhota Shakeel and Dawood Ibrahim, to establish links with the Naxalites.
The ISI was also accused to be involved in a scandal the Mehran bank scandal dubbed "Mehrangate", in which top ISI and Army brass were allegedly given large sums of money by Yunus Habib (the owner of Mehran Bank) to deposit ISI's foreign exchange reserves in Mehran Bank.
ISI has been actively involved in suppressing a bloody separatist insurgency in Balochistan. Recently the Militants have been accused of targeting people of non-Balochi ethnic groups and Balouchi who do not agree with separatism . Over two hundred bodies with signs of extreme torture and a shotgun wound to the head have been found in the region during the period of July 2010 to July 2011, and Human Rights Watch says evidence points to complete ISI responsibility. Whilst the Provincial Government says it is doing its best to improve law and order and end target killing which it blames on rival factional fighting. As many as 985 people have been sentenced so far while the cases of 875 accused in various crimes were in the courts."Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed in a Capture Operation Launched by the Pakistan against his private militia, ISI provided key intelligence during the operation."
Soviet Union and Post-Soviet states
Al Qaeda and Taliban militants captured
Critics of the ISI say that it has become a state within a state and not accountable enough. Some analysts say that this is because of the fact that intelligence work agencies around the world remain secretive. Critics argue the institution should be more accountable to the President or the Prime Minister. After discovering it, the Pakistani Government disbanded the ISI 'Political Wing' in 2008.
During the Cold War, the ISI and the CIA worked together to send spy planes into the Soviet Union. The ISI and CIA also worked closely during the Soviet-Afghan War supporting groups such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i Islami and Jalaluddin Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani network.
Some report the ISI and CIA stepped up cooperation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to kill and capture senior Al Qaeda leaders such as Sheikh Younis Al Mauritan and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed,the planner of the 9/11 attacks who was residing in Pakistan. Pakistan claims that in total around 100 top level al-Qaeda leaders/operators were killed/arrested by ISI. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Pakistan is paying a "big price for supporting the U.S. war against terror groups. ... I think it is important to note that as they have made these adjustments in their own assessment of their national interests, they're paying a big price for it".
Other senior international officials, however, maintain that senior Al Qaeda leaders such as Osama Bin Laden have been hidden by the ISI in major settled areas of Pakistan with the full knowledge of the Pakistani military leadership. A December 2011 analysis report by the Jamestown Foundation came to the conclusion that "in spite of denials by the Pakistani military, evidence is emerging that elements within the Pakistani military harbored Osama bin Laden with the knowledge of former army chief General Pervez Musharraf and possibly former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Former Pakistani General Ziauddin Butt (a.k.a. General Ziauddin Khawaja) revealed at a conference on Pakistani–U.S. relations in October 2011 that according to his knowledge the then former Director-General of Intelligence Bureau of Pakistan (2004–2008), Brigadier Ijaz Shah (retd.), had kept Osama bin Laden in an Intelligence Bureau safe house in Abbottabad." Pakistani General Ziauddin Butt said Bin Laden had been hidden in Abbottabad by the ISI "with the full knowledge" of Pervez Musharraf but later denied making any such statement, saying his words were altered by the media, he said: "It is the hobby of the Western media to distort the facts for their own purposes." U.S. military officials have increasingly said, they do not notify Pakistani officials before conducting operations against the Afghan Taliban or Al Qaeda, because they fear Pakistani officials may tip them off.
International officials have accused the ISI of continuing to support and even lead the Taliban today in the War in Afghanistan (2001-present). As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen stated:
The fact remains that the Quetta Shura [Taliban] and the Haqqani Network operate from Pakistan with impunity ... Extremist organizations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as US soldiers. ... For example, we believe the Haqqani Network—which has long enjoyed the support and protection of the Pakistani government ... is, in many ways, a strategic arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.
The Associated Press reported that "the president said Mullen's statement 'expressed frustration' over the insurgent safe havens in Pakistan. But Obama said 'the intelligence is not as clear as we might like in terms of what exactly that relationship is.' Obama added that whether Pakistan's ties with the Haqqani network are active or passive, Pakistan has to deal with it."
The Guantanamo Bay files leak, however, showed that the US authorities unofficially consider the ISI as a terrorist organization equally dangerous as Al Qaeda and Taliban, and many allegations of its supporting terrorist activities have been made.
India has accused ISI of plotting the Mumbai terror attack in March 1993 and November 2008. According to the United States diplomatic cables leak the ISI had previously shared intelligence information with Israel regarding possible terrorist attacks against Jewish and Israeli sites in India in late 2008. ISI is also accused of supporting pro independence militias in Jammu and Kashmir while Pakistan denies all such claims.
India accuses ISI of supporting separatist militants in Jammu and Kashmir while Pakistan claims to give them moral support only.
The ISI has long been accused of using designated terrorist groups and militants to conduct proxy wars against its neighbors. According to Grant Holt and David H. Gray "The agency specializes in utilizing terrorist organizations as proxies for Pakistani foreign policy, covert action abroad, and controlling domestic politics." James Forest says there has been increasing proof from counter-terrorism organizations that militants and the Taliban continue to receive assistance from the ISI, as well as the establishment of camps to train terrorists on Pakistani territory. All external operations are carried out under the supervision of the S Wing of the ISI. The agency is divided into Eight divisions. Joint Intelligence/North(JIN) is responsible for conducting operations in Jammu and Kashmir and Afghanistan. The Joint Signal Intelligence Bureau(JSIB) provide support with communications to groups in Kashmir. According to Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, both former members of the National Security Council, the ISI acted as a "kind of terrorist conveyor belt" radicalizing young men in the Madrassas in Pakistan and delivering them to training camps affiliated with or run by Al-Qaeda and from there moving them into Jammu and Kashmir to launch attacks.
Support for militants
From the 1990s, the ISI began to court the Jihadists who had emerged from the conflict against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and by 2000 the majority of militant groups operating in Kashmir were either based in Pakistan or were pro Pakistan. These groups are used to conduct a low intensity conflict against India. According to Stephen P. Cohen and Wilson John, the ISI's aid to and creation of designated terrorist groups and religious extremist groups is well documented. The ISI have been accused of having close ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba who carried out the attacks in Mumbai in 2008. The ISI have also given aid to Hizbul Mujahideen. Terrorism expert Gus Martin has said the ISI has a long history of supporting designated terrorist groups and pro Independence groups operating in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir which fight against Indian interests. The ISI also helped with the founding of the group Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Hizbul Mujahideen were created as the Kashmiri branch of Jamaat-i-Islami. It has been reported that JI founded Hizbul Mujahideen at the request of the ISI to counter the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front(JKLF) who are advocates for the independence of Kashmir. Although the failure of 1987 elections in Kashmir and afterwards arrest of Muhammad Yusuf a.k.a. Syed Salahuddin led to the events that created arm struggle in the valley.
There have been three incarnations of the group Al-Badr. According to Peter Tomsen, the ISI in conjunction with Jamaat-e-Islami formed the first Al-Badr who resisted the Indian trained influx of Mukti Bahini in Bangladesh in the 1970s. The third Al-Badr (India)
The ISI supported Al-Qaeda during the war along with CIA against the soviet regime, through the Taliban, and it is believed by some that there are still contact between Al-Qaeda and the ISI. An assessment by British Intelligence in 2000 into Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan showed the ISI were playing an active role in some of them. The leak in 2012 of e-mails from Stratfor claimed that papers captured during the raid in Abbotabad on Osama Bin Laden's compound showed up to 12 ISI officials knew where he was and that Bin Laden had been in regular contact with the ISI.
Harkat-ul-Mujahideen were founded in the 1980s by the ISI to fight against Indian interests.
Jammu and Kashmir
Under the orders of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, in 1984 the ISI prepared a plan which was to be set in motion in 1991.
The ISI have close links to the Haqqani network and contribute heavily to their funding. It is widely believed the suicide attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul was planned with the help of the ISI A report in 2008 from the Director of National Intelligence stated that the ISI provides intelligence and funding to help with attacks against the International Security Assistance Force, the Afghan government and Indian targets. However, on 5 November 2014, Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, a senior commander for US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, said in a Pentagon-hosted video briefing from Afghanistan that the Haqqani network is now "fractured" like the Taliban. "They are fractured. They are fractured like the Taliban is. That's based pretty much on the Pakistan's operations in North Waziristan this entire summer-fall," he said, acknowledging the effectiveness of Pakistan's military offensive in North Waziristan. "That has very much disrupted their efforts in Afghanistan and has caused them to be less effective in terms of their ability to pull off an attack in Kabul," Anderson added.
The ISI is also active in Nepal. On 1 August 2007, Abdul Wahab, a Pakistani national and ISI agent was detained in Kathmandu with $252,000 worth of counterfeit Indian currency.
Attacks on journalists
Amnesty International published document over the investigation of ISI over murder case of Saleem Shahzad.
Since Pakistan's launch of war on Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other jihadist groups, the country's armed forces, intelligence services (particularly ISI), military industrial complexes, paramilitary forces and police forces have come under intense attacks. ISI has played major role in targeting these groups, therefore it has faced retaliatory strikes as well. As of 2011, more than 300 ISI officials have been killed. Below are some major incidents when attempts were made to target ISI.