The Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (more commonly known as Inter-Services Intelligence or simply by its initials ISI), is the premier Intelligence service of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, operationally responsible for providing critical national security and intelligence assessment to the Government of Pakistan. The ISI is the largest of the three intelligence services of Pakistan, the others being the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Military Intelligence (MI).
Previously in the 20th century, the ISI's work and activities have included the support of the Afghan mujahideen in then-communist Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in their war against the mujahideen (in conjunction with the Central Intelligence Agency) and later provided strategic and intelligence support to the Taliban against the Indo-Iranian backing the Northern Alliance in the civil war in Afghanistan in 1990s.
The ISI is the successor of the IB and MI formed after the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 to co-ordinate and operate espionage activities for the three branches of the Pakistan Armed Forces. 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's armed forces in the aftermath of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, which had exposed weaknesses in intelligence gathering, sharing and coordination between the Army, Air Force and Navy.
From its inception, the agency has been headed by an appointed three-star general officer in the Pakistan Army, despite officers from all three branches of the Pakistan Armed Forces being served and hired by the ISI. However, after the intelligence gathering and coordination failure during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee was created with a mandate to co-ordinate and supervise all military exercises and operations of the Pakistan Armed Forces.
The Chief of Army Staff recommends the names of the Director General, but official confirmation and appointment is needed from the Prime minister. The ISI is headquartered in Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Venue, and is currently headed by Lieutenant-General Zaheerul Islam who replaced Ahmed Shuja Pasha in March 2012
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 and Air Force during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 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 British Army officer, Major General Robert Cawthome, then Deputy Chief of Staff in the Pakistan Army. Initially, the ISI had no role in the collection of internal intelligence, with the exception of the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The recruitment and expansion of the ISI was managed and undertaken by then-Navy's Commander Syed Mohammad Ahsan who was tenuring as Deputy Director of the Naval Intelligence. The Navy's Commander Syed Mohammad Ahsan played an integral and major role in formulating the policies of the ISI. At the end of December 1952, Major-General Robert Cawthome, Director-General of the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), sent a priority report to the Commander Ahsan, and asked for a detailed reactions of Pakistan Armed Forces personnel for the Basic principles for the ISI.
In the late 1950s, when Ayub Khan became the President of Pakistan, he expanded the rôle of ISI and MI in monitoring opposition politicians, and sustaining military rule in Pakistan.
The ISI was reorganised in 1966 after intelligence failures in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, and expanded in 1969. Khan entrusted the ISI with the responsibility for the collection of internal political intelligence in East Pakistan. Later on, during the Baloch nationalist revolt in Balochistan in the mid-1970s, the ISI was tasked with performing a similar intelligence gathering operation.
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 partition 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.
On September 2001, Parvaiz Musharraf appointed a new Director General for ISI, Lieutenant General Ehsanul Haq who was later on replaced by the Let. Gen. Shuja Pasha.
ISI's headquarters are located in Islamabad, and currently 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 Directors General report directly to him and are in charge in three separate fields of the ISI which are Internal wing – dealing with counter-intelligence and political issues inside Pakistan, External wing – handling external issues, and Analysis and Foreign Relations wing.
The general staff of the ISI mainly come from paramilitary forces and some specialised units from the Pakistan Army such as the some chosen people from SS Group (SSG), SSG(N), and the SS Wing. According to some experts the ISI is the largest intelligence agency in the world in terms of 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.
- Accountability aspects
Recently, a bill introduced by a private member in the Senate to make the agency more accountable to the Parliament and Government, was withdrawn as it reportedly did not have the concurrence of the special committee of the ruling PPP.
- Covert Action Division
- Joint Intelligence X
- coordinates all the other departments in the ISI. Intelligence and information gathered from the other departments are sent to JIX which prepares and processes the information and from which prepares reports which are presented.
- Joint Intelligence Bureau
- Joint Counterintelligence Bureau
- Joint Intelligence North
- Joint Intelligence Miscellaneous
- responsible for espionage, including offensive intelligence operations, in other countries.
- Joint Signal Intelligence Bureau
- Joint Intelligence Technical
- deals with development of science and technology to advance the Pakistan intelligence gathering. The directorate is charged to take steps against the electronic warfare attacks in Pakistan. Without any exception, officers from this divisions are reported to be engineer officers and military scientists who deal with the military promotion of science and technology. In addition, there are also separate explosives and a chemical and biological warfare sections.
- SS Directorate
- which monitors the terrorist group activities that operates in Pakistan against the state of Pakistan. The SS Directorate is comparable to that of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) National Clandestine Service (NCS), and responsible for the covert political action and paramilitary special operations.
- Political Internal Division
- Monitored the financial funding of the right-wing political science sphere against the left-wing political science circles. This department was involved in providing funds to the anti-left wing forces during the general elections of 1965, 1977, 1985, 1988, and 1990. The department is now "inactive" since March 2012 with the new director taking the operational charge of the ISI.
Director Generals of the ISI
- 1978–1980: LGen Muhammad Riaz
- 1980 – March 1987: LGen Akhtar Abdur Rahman
- March 1987 – May 1989: LGen Hameed Gul
- May 1989 – August 1990: LGen (retd) Shamsur Rahman Kallu
- August 1990 – March 1992: LGen Asad Durrani
- March 1992 – May 1993: LGen Javed Nasir
- May 1993 – 1995: LGen Javed Ashraf Qazi
- 1995 – October 1998: LGen (then Maj Gen) Naseem Rana
- October 1998 – October 1999: LGen Ziauddin Butt
- October 1999 – October 2001: LGen Mahmud Ahmed
- October 2001 – October 2004: LGen Ehsan ul Haq
- October 2004 – October 2007: LGen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
- October 2007 – October 2008: LGen Nadeem Taj
- October 2008 – 19 March 2012: LGen Ahmad Shuja Pasha
The ISI headquarters are in Islamabad. The complex consists of various adobe building 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.
- Collection of information and extraction of intelligence from information
- ISI obtains information critical to Pakistan's strategic interests. Both overt and covert means are adopted.
- Classification of intelligence
- Data is sifted through, classified as appropriate, and filed with the assistance of the computer network in ISI's headquarters in Islamabad.
- Aggressive intelligence
- ISI has a dedicated section which spies against enemy's intelligence collection.
- Diplomatic missions provide an ideal cover and ISI centres in a target country are generally located on the embassy premises.
- International media centres can easily absorb ISI operatives and provide freedom of movement.
- Collaboration with other agencies
- Third Country Technique