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.

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