Government or Gang: Inter-Service Intelligence

Founded in 1947, Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) is one of the oldest and most efficient intelligence agency in the world. With at least 25,000 employees and 30,000 informants, ISI gathers and shares intelligence between the three major sections of the armed forces in Pakistan: the army, navy and air force. This strong military background of this organization makes it the most influential power in the country, which is often described by the critics as “A State within the State“. Pakistanis often see this behind-the-scenes influence as “the invisible government“. Although ISI is functioning withint the government and has an organised structure and operation system, the abuse of its power in supporting illegal activities such as terrorism makes it fall in the gang category.

A government should use its power to protect the country through executing laws, not acting outside the bound of laws. Because of ISI’s overextension of power, it doesn’t have to follow the rules all the time. Despite an intention of maintaining the well being of the whole country, ISI puts more effort into centralizing the power to the military branches. ISI not only mounted surveillance on parties and politicians, but also coerced them into supporting the army’s centralizing agenda. In June 2019, Pakistan removed ISI spy agency head, only eight months after the assignment, replacing him with Lieutenant-General Faiz Hammed, a hardliner who reports directly to the Army Chief. This change further increases the military’s influence, which reinforces the army’s position as the most influential institution in Pakistan. It becomes a tool for the military to rule the country. The strong power of ISI allows it to make decisions regardless of the Prime Minister’s opinion, which is a sign indicating that it could be getting out of control. In a way, this organization is strong enough to control the fate of Pakistan without any restriction.

As a result of this overextension of power, ISI invested in numeral illegal activities. Corruption, substance abuse and a huge flow of funds within the agency further complicate the situation. The income that comes from the smuggling of drugs is not only used to support the war in Afghanistan, but also the ongoing Kashmir conflicts with India. Although ISI’s standpoint on terrorism varies, Western critics generally agree on the constant connection it has with the terrorist groups. In the 1980s, ISI provided help to the Afghani activists, fighting against the invasion of the Soviet Union along with the United States. However, once the Soviet troops retreated, the Pakistan-American relationship dropped off sharply. Soon after, in 1996 ISI supported the formation of the Taliban during its beginning stage, with delivered weapons and ammunition. Because of this connection, ISI is still suspected of secretly supporting the Taliban even when it helps the West in a terrorism investigation. After 9.11, ISI has been active in helping the Western in counterterrorism operations. It provided information helping to arrest the three major figures of the terror attack. However, it is also accused of still having connections with the Taliban. ISI is suspected of providing shelter for Osama Bin Laden. 

ISI does have an intention of protecting the country, but in reality it is acting regardless of the law, supporting terrorist groups in various regions of the world. Thus, it should be seen more of a gang than a government, for it failed to act like a government to maintain order within the bound of laws.


North Korea, officially called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is a country in East Asia constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.  North Korea’s population of 25.49 million people are governed by their supreme leader and totalitarian dictator, Kim Jong Un. Kim’s regime is all-powerful and unavoidable. But does this regime act more like a government or a gang? 

A gang can be “a group or society of associates, friends or members of a family with a defined leadership and internal organization that identifies with or claims control over territory in a community and engages, either individually or collectively, in illegal, and possibly violent, behavior”. North Korea parallels these gang ideals in a large-scale, organized way. 

The Korean government is strongly governed by the KWP, the Polibureau and the Politburo’’s Central Committee. These committees oversee the armed forces. North Korea has a very strong “military first” policy that was put into place under the rule of Kim Jong-il. Because of this policy, the Korean People’s Army, or KPA have a great reach of influence.”Political leaders play a dominant role in all aspects of North Korean life, and the change in the top leadership, even if it is a succession from father to son, is an important political change”. Now that Kim Jong Il has been in power for nearly a decade, it is possible to identify some of the distinguishing characteristics of his governance. A prominent one is the rise of the military in politics. Kim Jong Il has replaced the party with the military to govern the country by instituting “military-first” politics. Signs of the rise of the military are everywhere, and the military presence can be felt in all aspects of political and social life. ” The Kim family has evolved into gang leaders who have promoted the military as their gang members to enforce their power. 

North Korea prioritizes loyalty to the regime. They go so far as to have a caste system that treats people who are loyal to Kim Jong Un and his military to a luxurious standard of living. The implementation of this Songbun system  in the mid-1990s increased the role of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in daily life. The army began to participate even more in social and economic decision-making. Although military personnel are required to serve for ten years, they spend most of their service participating in different areas of the country’s socio-economic life. That way, the army is now not as heavy economic burden, and serves as an important resource and catalyst for developing the national economy. This philosophy of the Songbun not only prioritises the military, but it creates a great divide.  Kim created three groups of people in Songbun- the “core,” “wavering,” and “hostile” classes. Each of these contains a number of subcategories. The people closest to Kim, their relatives, military and anti-Japanese resistance fighters became North Korea’s core. “Peasants, laborers, and workers were lifted up from the bottom of the social order, their lowly position filled by those who had opposed Kim’s ascent to power or collaborated with South Korea or Japan. “This new lower stratum—the hostile class—also contained North Koreans who had enjoyed high status under Japanese rule, from landowners and intellectuals to religious leaders and aristocrats.” These people in the “hostile” classes also live a hostile life. They are banished to almost uninhabitable mountains and are left to fend for themselves. Like gangs the North Korean government has created a divide in their people and prioritized loyalty. Those who aren’t loyal or are not part of the military, you aren’t part of the gang.

In any case, gangs are known for being violent, brutal, and merciless. To tie it all together, look no further than North Korea’s labor camps. Remember the hostile class? Those who disrespect the regime? Those sent to these camps are subject to a living hell. Torture and beatings are not to be unexpected in prison camps. Some of the torture includes pigeon torture. Persons’ hands are tied behind their backs and they’re hung from a wall for hours, forcing out their chest. Prisoners are forced to hold their arms out either to their side or in front of them for hours. They collapse before their arms are allowed to fall. The worst form of torture is catogorized as sweatboxes. They are forced into a box where they crouch with their butts to their heels, which cuts off circulation and leaves them with immense bruising if they do not die first. Women are repeatedly raped as punishment and forced to have abortions. Many of this abortions are carried out though beatings. If the baby isn’t aborted, it is usually killed in front of its mother- or they’ll make the mother kill it herself. This is most likely to happen is a baby is “impure” or suspected to have a Chinese father. The North Korean government has instatutionalized torture and a government that selects a class of society for brutilization and exclusion resembles a gang. 

 While the similarities are subtle, and one may easily overlook them to label Kim’s regime as simply a totalitarian dictatorship. There’s no denying it. Gangs exist when people feel lost or misrepresented- Kim Jong Un created a gang to redirect his people to his government all while enhancing his control. 

Potential Afghan Government For Sale (Old and Maybe Improved)

In 1994, the Taliban, an Afghanistan military group, formed under the leadership of Mullah Mohammad Omar in Afghanistan. It emerged from military forces that fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan from 1969 to 1989, called the mujahedeen. Fed up with their government’s inefficiency, these military forces formed an Islamist militant organization determined to establish a divinely ordered Islamic system in Afghanistan, with the belief that strict obedience to the leader of the group and a narrow concentration of power, was the most effective of control. The group successfully took over Afghanistan and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as the Afghan government in the late 1990s and controlled the country until 2001, after refusing to turn over Osama Bin Laden in the wake of 9/11. 

During its reign, the Taliban government of Afghanistan became well known for its abuse of human rights, especially towards women, and tyrannical control of the country. Since the Taliban government’s downfall, the Taliban were able to regroup and gain new followers and have grown significantly in the last years. Today the group controls a significant amount of the country and they are steadily growing. With the recent US decision to remove a significant number of troops from within the Afghanistan borders and the Afghan’s present government’s seemingly increasing lack of influence, the Taliban seem to be on the rise to take back control of the country.

Unlike their first hold on power, in the land that the Taliban has current control, they have shown considerable evidence of a less tyrannical form of governance, that benefits and considers the needs of more members of society. This new shift from a guerilla group to a shadow government has drastically helped the Taliban expand its influence and maintain control of the areas. Today the group completely controls about 4% of the country’s territory and is a physical presence in an additional 66% of it, although it is hard to estimate how much territory the Taliban influences or controls. Their new form of government also proves to be more fair and efficient to a majority of the citizens in some ways than the current Afghanistan government. One source found that a significant number of Afghans he met had very low expectations of any government and that some local police forces in Afghanistan send criminals to Taliban religious courts rather than the official court system because of corruption in the current government’s judicial system.

After the Taliban lost power in 2001, the group focused mostly on violence and military attacks to gain control and influence, as they attacked schools, clinics, aid workers, and civilians.  But as they gained more territory, the group began to focus on making a working government in order to keep control of the territories. In the most recent years, the group as an entire shadow government has not only has power in the areas that the Taliban control but their influence on services and everyday life extends far beyond into areas that the government claim to have dominion. Today the Taliban government has high-level commissions governing sectors such as health, finance, justice, education, taxation, and distinct chains of command in their territory. 

The Taliban’s new government system has also become more accepting of outside groups. In their old government system, the Taliban were completely against working with outside organizations and countries for public goods and services. But today in the areas that the Taliban control the health and education, the system has become a hybrid of NGO and state-provided services, operating according to Taliban rules. For example, in August 2007, the Taliban gave the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) permission to conduct polio campaigns in the territories that they control. The Taliban has also been active in peace processes and negotiations. In 2008, the Taliban opened a political commission to conduct international and domestic outreach, and by May 2015, informal peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan Officials took place. The talks ended shortly after though because the Taliban insisted that it would not end its fighting until all foreign troops have left the country. Today the United States plans to remove a significant number of US soldiers from Afghanistan, and the Taliban are partaking in peace talks with the United States to decide a new situation in Afghanistan. These peace talks could lead to the Taliban gaining complete control of all of Afghanistan or at least gain more power in the Afghan government. 

The Taliban’s political system has progressively grown and changed for the better as a more complex and flexible institution from their original government before 2001. The Taliban still does not allow a majority of the population basic human rights and the group’s foundation is still based on the ideals of strict obedience and enforcement of the Shariah Law. There is also a lot of uncertainty on whether the group will continue to show progress towards a more accepting and efficient government if they came back into power in Afghanistan.