Pubdate: Wed, 26 Sep 2001
Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: 2001 Telegraph Group Limited
Author: Rahul Bedi


PAKISTAN'S shadowy intelligence service, one of the main sources of 
information for the US-led alliance against the Taliban regime, is widely 
associated with political assassinations, narcotics and the smuggling of 
nuclear and missile components - and backing fundamentalist Islamic movements.

Locally referred to as Pakistan's "secret army" and the "invisible 
government", the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) was founded soon after 
independence in 1948. Today it dominates the country's domestic and foreign 
policies. It is also responsible for manipulating the volatile religious 
elements, ethnic groups and political parties that are disliked by the army.

Modelled on Savak, the Iranian security agency and, like it, trained by the 
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the SDECE, France's external 
intelligence service, the ISI "ran" the mujahideen in their decade-long 
fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

According to Brig Mohammad Yousaf, who headed the ISI's Afghan Bureau for 
four years until 1987, the counter-intelligence agency funnelled US money 
and weapons to the mujahideen to minister the "time-honoured guerrilla 
tactic of death by a thousand cuts" on the Soviet "Bear" that collapsed 
soon after it was driven from Afghanistan in 1989.

The brigadier said: "It was the only way to defeat a superpower on the 
battlefield with ill-disciplined, ill-trained tribesmen whose only asset 
was an unconquerable fighting spirit welded to a warrior tradition."

Brig Yousef was writing in The Bear Trap, the book that succeeding 
Pakistani administrations have tried to ban because it detailed the ISI's 

In the early 1990s the ISI provided logistic and military support for the 
Taliban, which emerged from Pakistani madrassahs (Muslim seminaries), and 
helped it to seize power in Kabul five years ago.

Thereafter, it maintained a "formidable" presence across Afghanistan, 
helping the Taliban, who are mostly Pathans, to consolidate their hold over 
the country. The tactics used included bribery and raids that wiped out 
entire villages of different ethnic tribes.

It is the knowledge gained of the Taliban into which the US is tapping 
before it launches punitive raids against Kabul, military officials said.

Intelligence sources said that the ISI-CIA collaboration in the 1980s 
assisted Osama bin Laden, as well as Mir Aimal Kansi, who assassinated two 
CIA officers outside their office in Langley, Virginia, in 1993, and Ramzi 

Yousef and his accomplices were involved in the failed bomb attack on the 
World Trade Centre in New York five years later. The intelligence link-up 
also helped powerful international drug smugglers.

Opium cultivation and heroin production in Pakistan's northern tribal belt 
and adjoining Afghanistan was a vital offshoot of the ISI-CIA co-operation. 
It succeeded in turning some of the Soviet troops into addicts.

Heroin sales in Europe and the US, carried out through an elaborate web of 
deception, transport networks, couriers and pay-offs, offset the cost of 
the decade-long "unholy war" in Afghanistan.

An intelligence officer said: "The heroin dollars contributed largely to 
bolstering the Pakistani economy and its nuclear programme, and enabled the 
ISI to sponsor its covert operations in Afghanistan and northern India's 
disputed Kashmir state."

In the 1970s the ISI established a division to procure nuclear and missile 
technology for the military from abroad, especially China and North Korea. 
They also smuggled in crucial nuclear components and know-how from Europe.

A director general, always an army officer of the rank of lieutenant 
general, heads the ISI. Its current head, Lt Gen Mahmood Ahmed, is assisted 
by three major generals heading the agency's political, external and 
administrative divisions.

At the behest of Gen Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, the ISI's internal political 
division is believed to have assassinated Shah Nawaz Bhutto, a brother of 
former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. He was poisoned on the 
French Riviera in 1985.

The ISI reportedly wanted to intimidate Ms Bhutto so that she would not 
return to Pakistan to direct the multi-party movement for the restoration 
of democracy. She returned home, only to be toppled by a political movement 
fostered by the ISI soon after she became prime minister in 1988.

The main concern for Gen Pervaiz Musharraf, the current leader of Pakistan, 
is that the ISI's loyalties may still lie more with the Taliban than with 
its own government and its new American "partner".
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens