|Balochistan: challenges to the ISI
Daily: Daily Times
Much has been written on the challenges to the newly appointed DG ISI Lieutenant General
Zaheer-ul Islam but little has been written on the challenges to the perception and the
consequent role of the ISI. This write-up tries to address the latter.
The first challenge to the ISI is to comprehend the grounds on which the fidelity of a
national can be questioned – and the grounds on which it cannot be. The ancillary
challenge is the modus operandi that is supposed to be adopted to bring an alleged person
to a court of law to be arraigned for his deeds. The ISI may be following the old manual
written perhaps for the Cold War era – how to label a national as a foe to win the war at all
costs. Contrarily, the post-Cold War era is quite different. It is tolerant to numerous human
aberrations. It is lenient to several human anomalies. It dampens political ultra-nationalism.
It discourages religious fanaticism. It values an independent human thinking. The
readjustments actuated by the absence of the Cold War are still affecting one area or
another of society. The ISI needs to keep itself abreast of those changes to appreciate the
flexible boundaries of loyalty of citizens, including the Baloch, to their country.
Secondly, the post-Cold War era has redefined the boundaries of human rights and
readjusted the margins of dissent. In all societies, both human rights and dissent have now
acquired more space to thrive than ever before. Human rights are considered absolute and
dissent is regarded as a way of life – and not a matter to be condemned and dispatching a
dissenter to the death cell. The ISI needs to understand the concept of human rights afresh
and the definition of violation of human rights anew. It will be pathetic if the ISI seeks refuge
in the comparison how many people rendered missing by intelligence agencies of other
countries with its own performance in doing so. There is no need of any such contest. The
comparison is absurd and the justification is abominable. Further, a malevolent act carried
out by a country does not permit another country to ape the same. The US has already
been reviled both at home and abroad for its Guantanamo Bay policy. There is no room for
any Guantanamo Bay in Pakistan. To muffle the dissenting voice of Pakistanis, including
the Baloch, was not the objective of the constitution of the ISI. To compare the role of the
ISI with foreign intelligence agencies, there are available other better areas of performance
which need not be mentioned here.
Thirdly, the post-Cold War era has brought forth a phenomenon (which enfolds a paradox)
the understanding of which is another challenge to the ISI. On the one hand, there is
happening a trans-continental migratory movement of people while, on the other hand,
there is emerging an ethnic nationalism at home. The ISI needs to study the similarities and
differences (which are numerous) between both parts of the phenomenon. The ISI should
also conduct a study what role grievances and deprivation play in necessitating both
sections of the phenomenon. It is a shame that the military gave a guard of honour to
General Pervaiz Musharraf, who abrogated the Constitution of Pakistan on November 03,
2007, but has been dealing with human beings living in Balochistan as if they were animals.
Apparently, the abrogation of the constitution is a lesser evil but raising voice for one’s
rights is a bigger evil. Not ethnic nationalism and its manifestations but the appearance of
mutilated dead bodies in Balochistan is an antithesis to the theme of oneness of Pakistan.
Fourthly, the ISI is surrounded by sycophants existing in the domain of politics. They are
there with an axe to grind. How come Sheikh Rashid of Awami Muslim League knows the
way the military or the ISI works? Is he briefed on that? He seems hell bent on becoming a
blue-eyed chap of the Corps Commanders Rawalpindi. Ironically, on any TV talk show, he
can speak on Balochistan at length to defend the military and the ISI but he shies away
from speaking on the problems of and solutions for the railways as its ex-minister. He does
all that obsequiousness not for any altruistic cause but to meet his selfish motive: to
persuade the ISI to rig the next elections for him to bring him into power. These sycophants
engender more harm than benefit to the ISI and need to be kept at arm’s length.
Fifthly, the ISI seems to have fallen prey to certain defence analysts who now are in
abundance around. The other day, one such defence analyst was found proclaiming that
the idea of the Dubai model was spawning unrest in Balochistan and unless this idea fizzled
out no peace could be introduced in Balochistan. The answer is very simple, if Balochistan
has the potential to become Dubai, Pakistan should take an initiative and make this dream
come true. Why is Pakistan faltering on that account? Another defence analyst has been
trying to find the path of making another martial law possible. The pathfinder is determined
to justify abrogation of the constitution under the trite excuse of ‘national interests’.
Perceivably, the worth of a defence analyst is to grasp the seat of a director at some
defence institute, deliver lectures at some war college, secure a position in some
government-owned organization including the state-run TV or acquire a piece of land at a
nominal price at a DHA. These defence analysts feed on the vulnerabilities of the ISI and
promote their own interests.
In fact, the glass of the media is also half-full of ISI’s toadies. It is understandable that in
Pakistan to comment as a sycophant on the perceived challenges to the ISI is one thing but
to comment on the ISI as a critic is a different ball game, called a risky business – the cost
of which may be a critic’s scalp.
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