India-Pakistan: Intelligence Gone Mad


: August 7, 2008: Pakistan has a big problem, and it's not with the Taliban. Their intelligence agency, the ISI, has rebelled, and refused to take orders from the government. How can this be? Simple, the ISI has, over the last three decades, become the effective tool of the government in dealing with troublemakers, and keeping top politicians informed on who is doing what to who. But the ISI is part of the military, and is full of Islamic conservatives, and men who sympathize with the Taliban and al Qaeda. The ISI also has files on the misbehavior of politicians and senior military men. The free press in Pakistan loves to lap up leaks from ISI.

The recently elected government tried to bring ISI to heel, then backed off when reminded of just what kind of power this intelligence community had. But the government is caught in a worsening situation. The four years of peace negotiations with India are jeopardized by continued ISI interference. For example, the terror bombing of the India embassy in Afghanistan last month was traced back to ISI by the American CIA, and Indian intelligence. In this case, both went public with their findings, because in the past, private briefings with Pakistani leaders brought apologies, and no action. This time, there are denunciations (of the accusations), and promises to clean out the ISI. That won't be easy. The Pakistani military, including the ISI, is a wealthy organization that sees itself as separate from the rest of the country. A military caste, if you will, which is why the military has, since the country was founded in 1947, periodically denounced the corruption and ineptness of the elected politicians, and taken over the government. The generals have proved no more capable of dealing with the country's problems (mainly corruption and a distinct lack of civic virtue). The military looks after itself first, and is unwilling to let the ISI be destroyed.

While Islamic terrorists are acknowledged as a problem, the machinations of India, and its new ally America, are seen as a larger threat. Paranoia about what India is up to is a major activity in Pakistan, and has been for centuries. Before there was a Hindu India and Moslem Pakistan, there was (and still is) the Moslem minority wondering what the Hindu majority were up to. This is a big deal in Pakistan, but not so much in India (which is the regional superpower.) Moreover, Islamic terrorists are much admired by many Pakistanis, mainly because their attacks inflict damage on India, and kill Hindu soldiers (as well as Moslem, Christian and Sikh ones, a point lost on most Pakistanis). This is something the Pakistani military has been unable to do, losing every war they have fought with India (and likely to lose any future ones). Many Pakistanis feel more comfortable with the Taliban killing Afghans and NATO troops, because that's something else the Pakistani military can't do. So there's not a lot of incentive in Pakistan to actually do anything about the ISI's pro-Taliban and al Qaeda activities. Sure, stop the terrorists from attacking inside Pakistan, but otherwise, let the lads kill for Pakistani honor (a nebulous term in this case, but still accurate.)

This time around, the United States has made it clear that if the government does not get ISI under control, the Americans will become more aggressive operating in the tribal areas on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border. Pakistan has been told, in effect, that if they want to go to war with the United States, they will be hurt much more than anything the ISI can do to them. So the Pakistani government is going to try again to clean up the ISI.

Meanwhile, Pakistan will fight when the Taliban threatens the government. In the Swat valley, two weeks of fighting by pro-Taliban tribesmen have left over a hundred rebels, and several dozen security troops (soldiers and police) dead. About twenty percent of the Taliban commanders in this region have been killed, and the Islamic militants are taking a beating from the security forces (who have apparently been told to go in hard.)

The violence in the Pakistani tribal regions has long been the source of most of the terrorist deaths in the region. Pakistan wishes it would just go away, but it's been up there in the hills for thousands of years. It's a violent, primitive (less than ten percent literacy) and poor population, and now they are enthusiastic about Islamic terrorism.

August 2, 2008: In Pakistan's Swat valley, a roadside bomb killed six policemen. Two other police were wounded, and two others were kidnapped by the attackers.


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