Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistans spy agency is afflicted by the same bungling and corruption as the rest of the Pakistani state, according to a new book.
The book called, "The Nine Lives of Pakistan", has been authored by Declan Walsh, the Cairo bureau chief of the New York Times. He covered Pakistan for nine years as an international correspondent for The Guardian first and then The Times, before he was expelled from the country.
Walsh says in the book that in recent decades, the ISI leadership has made a series of major miscalculations that have had grave consequences - not only for Pakistan, but for the spy agency itself.
The book points to the fact that ISI uses fear as a weapon but its abilities often overestimated. "The ISI does little to dispute its reputation as an omnipotent force. Fear is a powerful weapon. But talk of a 'rogue agency' is misplaced, and its abilities are frequently overestimated. While it is effective on street level, and seen by Western spy agencies as superior to its Indian rival, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the ISI is not a professional service in the mould of the CIA or Britain's MI6," according to the book excerpts.
The army officers who run the agency rotate out, every few years, to other branches of the military. "The organisation is afflicted by the same bungling and corruption as the rest of the Pakistani state. It has frequently lost control of its most dangerous assets - 'Puppetmasters who can't control their puppets,' as Robert Grenier, a former CIA station chief in Islamabad, put it," the book says.
"And when it comes to analysis, the ISI has a poor record. 'They saw everything through pre-determined ideological prisms, rather like the KBG during the Cold War,' a senior British official who worked with the ISI for decades told me. 'Frankly,' he added. 'None of their analysis was worth the paper it was written on'," it adds.
Walsh talks about the ISI tailing him and his associates and guests. There were heavy handed tactics used by ISI on Walsh's colleagues. "Of course, I was a foreign correspondent; different rules applied to Pakistanis. One reporter who worked with me was abducted by masked men and taken to a safe house, where he was interrogated, punched and had cigarettes stubbed out on his chest. When his assailants dumped him on a roadside the following morning, they warned that if he went public about his experience, they would rape his wife and post a video of the assault on YouTube. The reporter and his family now live in Switzerland," the book says.
Walsh recounts that members of Indian media were routinely followed. "On the evening I celebrated my thirty-sixth birthday, I counted three sets of intelligence operatives loitering outside the gate: one for an Indian reporter (members of the Indian media were tailed as a matter of course), another for a Pashtun guest (I later learned the Pakistanis suspected him of spying for the CIA), and the third set for a Pakistani journalist who worked with me," he adds.
( 534 Words)