By Sajjad Shaukat
At this critical juncture, while Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is countering the sinister designs of secret agencies like American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad which have continuously been supporting suicide attacks, target-killings, abductions, bomb blasts etc. in Pakistan, it is most regrettable that without knowing the ground realities and services of this agency, just like the foreign enemies and their media, some political leaders, human rights activists and media anchors of the country have been distorting the image of Pak Army—particularly ISI in one way or the other.
Apart from media propaganda against ISI, Pakistan’s internal elements have also started, filing writ petitions in the Supreme Court of Pakistan in order to malign this superior agency and to tarnish its image. Sometimes, it is memogate issue and sometimes, it is the case of missing persons which are being manipulated by our political parties and so-called human rights organisations by taking the same to the Supreme Court.
Now-a-days, Supreme Court of Pakistan has been hearing a decade old petition, filed by Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan, pleading to the court to punish all those political leaders who received money from ISI in connection with the Mehran Bank Scandal. The Supreme Court has fixed 29 February 2012 as the next date of hearing, while the main respondents of the case, former Chief of Army Staff General Mirza Aslam Beg, former DG ISI Lt. General (retd) Asad Durrani and former Chief of Mehran Bank Younis Habib had already committed (statements made by Gen. Aslam Beg and affidavit by Gen. Asad Durrani) before the court that Rs.140 millions arranged through Mehran Bank (insolvent) were distributed among different politicians. Therefore, the case cannot be dismissed without court trial and verdict.
According to reliable sources, as regards Mehran Bank money scandal, the orders for distribution of money to political leaders and parties came from a civilian head of state through his Election Cell, headed by a senior bureaucrat Mr. Roedad Khan. Pak Army or ISI simply obeyed the orders of the Election Cell of the time; otherwise, defiance on any grounds would have led these security agencies to take unconstitutional course. So, Pak Army and ISI opted to obey the lawful command. On the other hand, the amount distributed has been denied by all the recipients, while few claims have been acquitted by the court for lack of evidence. Hence, manipulation by lawyers is likely to turn the table against Army and ISI, distorting their image.
It is notable that researchers and writers always pay attention to reality, while describing factual position of any development. But on the other hand, learned advocates in most of the cases produce fake evidence in order to win the case, even then the reality of the event exists. While giving arguments in the court, no lawyer will agree with his rival, otherwise, he will lose the case. In these terms, question arises as to why action is not being taken by the Supreme Court against those heads of the political parties, who received the money. As they have denied the receipt of amount, the case will continue on the fake evidence of their lawyers.
It is mentionable that those political leaders especially President of Pakistan Muslim League (N) Nawaz Sharif and those of the Jamat-i-Islami who got the money are not only refusing any such receipt, but are also criticising Pak Army and ISI in order to increase their vote bank in the coming elections as foreign enemies of Pakistan have created a phenomena in our country through a perennial propaganda campaign against these security institutions. Same is also true in case of some journalists who have always implicated our Army and ISI.
In this context, what the difference one can note between our political leaders and media commentators including so-called human rights groups who speak in tone of Pakistan’s external enemies in maligning Pak Army and ISI. It seems that some of our politicians and journalists are either on the payroll of US-led anti-Pakistan entities or they want to get good coverage in the western media by targeting especially Pakistan’s superior intelligence agency. No doubt, their such acts are benefiting the US and India which want to create a division between Pakistan’s security agencies on the one side and general masses led by political parties on the other so as to cause further anarchy in the country.
While the political wing of ISI had been closed when Ahmed Shuja Pasha was appointed its director-general, but it could again be the subject of discussion as the court again may give a judgment to close such a wing. Supreme Court may also order ISI to trace back the record and put up evidence that political leaders nominated in the case had received the money. ISI may also be directed by the Court to recover the amount and deposit it in the State Bank of Pakistan. But it will be a good sign for Pakistan’s external elements, creating wrong impression for the ISI about its role in the intervention in the elections.
In this respect, bank records of the recipients may be traced back and exploratory investigation should be initiated to collect evidence that money was actually distributed amongst the recipients. Former COAS and former DG ISI should be provided full support to prove their case in the court. Defence ministry’s lawyers and ISI must work out all possible dimensions of the case for counter arguments. But here question again arises that the case will be weakened when the rival advocates of the related-political leaders will deny the receipt of the money. As already stated, reality of the scandal may exists, but court always pay attention to evidence which is always fake as the rival lawyers try to save their clients. So ISI must be alert in this context.
However, negative approach of our political parties, media anchors and human rights organisations can be judged from the fact that on June 15, 2011, hundreds of journalists and human rights activists from across the country had marched in Islamabad, while accusing ISI for the murder of Journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad. Some political leaders also joined their camps in Islamabad. Human rights activist Asma Jehangir who is pro-American had also filed a case in the Supreme Court of Pakistan in this connection, openly blaming this intelligence agency regarding Saleem’s assassination. Some American high officials had also expressed similar thoughts. But the report of a high-level judicial commission which was released on January 12, 2012 to probe the killing of Saleem Shahzad found no proof about ISI in this matter.
There is another example of the case about the missing persons, which is now-a-days, being heard by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. In this regard, recently, the court had ordered Raja Muhammad Irshad, the council for ISI and Military Intelligence (MI) to produce the 11 missing persons. Intelligence agencies on February 13, 2012, produced seven men. In this respect, Raja Irshad had told the Supreme Court on January 30 that four of the 11 persons of Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, who were picked up by intelligence personnel in 2010 for investigation into their role in the October 2009 attacks on the GHQ and ISI Hamza Camp in Rawalpindi, had died. According to press reports, four of them have expired in the custody of agencies, but Raja Irshad pointed out that they died in Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar. Nevertheless, best treatment was provided to the four suspected terrorists in CMH and Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar, but they died natural deaths due to some serious diseases. Notably, families of the militants were asked for autopsy, but the same was refused by them. Nonetheless, at no stage, it was indicated that they died owing to torture or poisoning as accused in the writ petition and highlighted in the media campaign. Even death certificates of the doctors clearly proved that they were not tortured or poisoned during the detention period.
Regarding the cases of missing persons, the situation of Balochistan is of particular attention, where target killings, forced abductions, ethnic and sectarian violence have become every day occurrence. Everyone knows that Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and another group, Jundollah (God’s soldiers) which have been fighting for secession of the province gets logistic support from CIA and RAW. These militant groups kidnapped and killed many innocent people and the security personnel in the province. Besides, since 2001, a majority of Pakistanis also left for Afghanistan for Jehad purposes, without informing their families. But media and so-called NGOs not only exaggerate the figures of the missing persons, but also accuse Pak Army and ISI for extra-judicial killings. These entities have failed to provide details about the missing persons, spreading sensationalism and conducting press conferences without obtaining real facts.
Nonetheless, being the first pillar of the country in defending the national security of the country, ISI has become special target of foreign enemies which are tarnishing its image, while some of Pakistan’s internal elements have been speaking in the tone of foreign conspirators in misguiding the general masses through ‘stereotypes’ so as to exploit the present drastic phenomena for their selfish interests by setting aside the sacrifices of ISI including Pak Army during war on terror.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations