The Rise of the Intelligence Officer and his Friends
August 28, 2000
On August 15, 2000, President Tarrar administered oath of office to four new cabinet ministers. The cabinet reshuffle came less than one year after General Musharaf seized power through a coup de tat.
The cabinet reshuffle showed the rise of the intelligence officer in the politics of Pakistan. This rise began under the last military dictator.
The Afghan occupation by a foreign power in 1979–two years after General Zia seized power–changed the dynamics of politics in Pakistan.
It led to the revival of the dying dictatorship, then a pariah for savagely hanging the elected Prime Minister and brutally whipping thousands of young men opposing dictatorship.
With the foreign occupation of Afghanistan, Pakistan became a front line state in the battle faced by the Free World. This brought the intelligence operatives of many countries, including that of the United States, to Pakistani soil.
Books have been written about how the American Central Intelligence Agency, (CIA), funneled billions of dollars in suitcases into the country. The CIA made its own generous donations, encouraged rich Muslim countries to do the same along with their rich families and turned a blind eye to the incomes flowing from the drug trade and the sale of ammunition. There were more important tasks to tackle.
One book alleges that the CIA chief regularly arrived in Pakistan with a briefcase of dollars to keep General Zia in a sweet mood.
It was certainly a sweet time for General Zia and his clique of intelligence officers. The progeny of some have now become super rich. The money came in cash. The cash was free of audit. Bundles would be handed out wherever necessary–and even where unnecessary.
The role of the army gradually decreased as the municipal corporations looked after local affairs and the intelligence looked after security. The Afghan War, and the over four billion dollars of aid that officially came in–excluding the cash payments– constituted the foreign, defense and internal policy of the country.
It is rumored that the intelligence knew that Zia would die in August. That it reported so to the General–that he would die on 8.8.8. Having survived August 8, 1988, General Zia boasted to the newspaper Nation in an interview that he had survived the dreaded date.
Nine days later, on 17 August 1988 (8.8.8.) Zia was dead. And when his body was found after his funeral, the intelligence ordered that it be buried secretly without postmortem. All in the name of national interest, the country having just held a state funeral at Islamabad.
Once General Zia died in a plane crash, the intelligence became even more active. In a hurriedly called Corp Commanders meeting the intelligence gave the briefing proposing that the Chairman of the Senate be made the President in line with the Constitution. It was the intelligence which drew up the cabinet for the then President, formed a political party of the pro-Zia forces and tampered with about ten percent of the parliamentary seats to ensure a hung parliament.
When the PPP won a majority despite the tampering, the intelligence went into over gear. It offered PPP leaders who could break ten votes from their group the prime ministership. None in the PPP obliged.
To the dismay of the intelligence officers, the PPP chose to pick a retired General as the head of the powerful Inter Services Intelligence. A retired general was free of threats that could otherwise be made to serving officers into reporting to the General Head Quarters.
A way was soon found around it. The military intelligence under the army chief was re-designated into a larger outfit to serve the purpose.
And the outfit has certainly grown. In 1971 when Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took over the country, the Inter Services Intelligence was headed by a Brigadier. The head of military intelligence was a Colonel. Soon thereafter, the head of ISI became a Major General and the head of MI became a Brigadier.
By 1990, when the PPP government was ousted, interim Prime Minister Jatoi sanctioned an entire Corp for intelligence work. Now the ISI was headed by a Lieutenant General and the MI by a major general.
Even more drastic was the logistical spread of intelligence. Whereas the intelligence had previously been confined to the divisions, they now spread down to the districts and the sub districts known as tehsils. Soon other intelligence began cropping up. Corp intelligence under the corps commanders became larger and more influential. Field intelligence Units and Field Intelligence Teams were constituted. At last count, there were some seven different intelligence organizations right down to the sub district level.
All this meant more pay, more administrative costs, more maintenance–and more influence.
It also meant that the intelligence now formed the thinking of the armed forces and through it of large parts of the country.
In 1990, the intelligence corps backed the first Nawaz regime. However, Nawaz Sharif and the intelligence fell out when Nawaz failed to make the prince of intelligence, the General Hameed Gul, the Chief of Army Staff. Nawaz paid for it with the loss of his first regime.
Since that fateful day, the intelligence loyal to the Zia dream, more extended than the past, has been in search of a new political leader.
They thought they found it in President Leghari. After all, he had studied at Oxford, came from a tribal family bordering Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh and had connections to Ichra the seat of the Muslim Brotherhood. He attended meetings by the religious organization called the Tableeghi Jamaat, was quite docile and prepared to play ball.
However, the Leghari light began to dim when Leghari had qualms about postponing the elections of 1997. Stung by criticism that he was another General Zia–Farooq ul Haq–Leghari sealed his fate by insisting to hold the elections.
One does not insist with the intelligence. One does what they say–or pays.
With a repentant Nawaz ready to make amends, and the Opposition Pakistan Peoples Party refusing to boycott the elections, the mantle of hope once again fell on Nawaz Sharif.
However, Nawaz Sharif never trusted the intelligence and sought to make his own base. In so seeking, he lost their support and found himself out of office.
The new ministers that were sworn in during August all had intelligence links. Dr. Attiya Inayatullah, an otherwise fine lady, had worked with General Zia and was familiar to his apparatus. Dr.Ghazi, again an otherwise fine man, could be trusted because of his links to the Zia era. General Javed Asraff Qazi was an old school boy having headed the ISI itself. Colonel Tressler was another good old boy from the Zia days when he served in the Foreign Service.
If the cabinet was dominated by the intelligence, so were the ambassadorial postings. General Asad Durrani, Ambassador designate to a Gulf country had been head of ISI. General Shujaat, planned for a North African posting, also had ISI background as the head of ISI internal as did other Ambassadors.
Zia’s ghost continued to echo in the corridors of power that Musharaf now sought to walk. Its a difficult walk between a ghost that fought a jihad and a general who dreams of the Turkish Reformer Ataturk.
Surrounding the Pakistani Attaturk, to make sure he takes the right steps, are other Zia favorites. Sharifuddin Pirzada, Zia’s law minister is back. Zia’s Attorney General Aziz Munshi is back as Attorney General Munshi. A Captain made sure one Chief Justice stayed at home to pave the way for a new Chief Justice. By coincidence, Zia’s law secretary is now the new Chief Justice. He is an intelligent man widely liked in the country.
To make sure that all works well in the frontier province, home to many of the madrassas and bordering Afghanistan, another ISI officer has been made the Governor. He is the likeable General Ifthikar from Kohat.
An old Nawaz favourite, another ISI chief, General Javed Nasir now heads the lucrative Property Trust. Discreetly handled, this could bring in big sums for extra state activities. Additionally, Musharaf has asked him to look after the Sikh places of worship in Pakistan. Anyone who thinks that the God fearing General Javed Nasir could use Sikh contacts to hotten up yet another Indian border with Pakistan, is a traitor working for India’s RAW.
Other intelligence officers have risen to key positions too. General Gulzar, Corps Commander Tenth Corp, bit his teeth in the ISI. Governments rise and fall on the Brigade sent out by the Tenth Corp to take, or protect, a government. The Chief of General Staff has double credentials. He served as a staff officer to General Zia and served in the ISI. General Ghulam Ahmad, Chief of Staff controlling access to General Musharaf, has an intelligence background.
Other old hands of the Zia era have been re-inducted, some at plush salaries. One now controls all governmental postings and transfers. Other intelligence officers man the National Accountability Bureau or the Investigative cell in the ISI. They determine who shall be prosecuted and who shall be let off.
And in case the civilian bureaucracy feels in need of the tender ministrations of ISI officers, more intelligence officers are on hand. Even the Inspector General Prisons in Sindh, who has the arduous task of looking after the former Prime Minister’s spouse, is an ISI officer. There are many others who have been posted in the police, administration and monitoring jobs.
And if anyone thinks that all these ISI appointees owe a greater allegiance to the pro Zia Generals who fought the Afghan War and now form an undeclared king maker party, we know they are “traitors” on the pay roll “of foreign masters”.
Following the debacle that came with the victory of the Pakistan Peoples Party in 1988, the pro Zia ISI officers are finally in command. Martial Law has been declared once again. They can change any rule, which is inconvenient. They can go back to the drawing boards to build another political party and find another “Nawaz Sharif”. Achieving power is only one aspect of governance. Exercising power is another aspect.
The exercise of power, for many who fought the Afghan Jihad, is too sacred a duty to be left to the people. In their outlook, power needs exercising by a Muslim leader with the rest swearing allegiance. It also means that Jihad, or the Holy War, takes precedent over economic emancipation.
The last time the pro Zia intelligence officers fought a jihad, in Afghanistan against the infidels, Uncle Sam picked up the bill.
The question now is: who is going to pick up the bill. And, if the bill remains unpaid, will the people acquiesce. Or will the people rise up as they did in the past against previous military interventions.
On that answer depends the fate and future of the pro Zia officers that romanticized the notion of Jihad. They won half the battle in demolishing the two party nature of Pakistan’s post Zia decade. They won it even though the price paid was the collapse of democracy, economy and governance in Pakistan.
But they still have to win the other half.