No Country for Old Professionals

By Khaled Hossain

Pakistan’s treatment of Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the under-pressure DG of the Inter Services Intelligence agency/directorate, reflects how Pakistani heroes are usually vilified while dubious characters are celebrated as assets to society

“The fear that we cannot live without America has taken away our self respect. Are we to live in humiliation out of US fear forever?”

– Gen Pasha to the in-camera session of Parliament

Pakistan is a country with no shortage of heroes. But Pakistan is also a country with no shortage of divisions. Islam, a unifying religion, has become a divisive issue with sects and practice systems causing violent tussles within society. Politics is also divisive – rather than letting people come together on different issues, it perpetuates the social divides between various groups just so that the powers-that-be can continue to benefit and dupe the poor, ignorant and angry masses. So, one man’s hero is another man’s villain. Nobody exemplifies this case more evidently than Mumtaz Qadri, the Elite Force security guard who murdered Governor Salmaan Taseer (instead of performing his professional obligation and religious duty in protecting him) – he has been berated by progressive and liberal segments of society, while the religious elements, the right wing, and even lawyers have come out in support of this heinous murderer, who is being compared to a colonial hero “Ghazi Ilm-ud-Din Shaheed”.

The very same dichotomy is witnessed in the aftermath of Osama’s death: some people are relieved that the Al Qaeda leader is dead, but worry about the consequences for Pakistan; others are absolutely livid at the breach of Pakistani sovereignty by the US – an occupier of Afghanistan and Iraq – to kill a Muslim jihadi ‘hero’. Many funeral prayers were offered for OBL in absentia all over Pakistan – no wonder he found safe haven in Pakistan. Why? Osama’s specific brand of Takfiri Wahabbi Islam has taken hold in Pakistan – thanks to clandestine Saudi funding of mosques and madrassas by the billions – and has eradicated any peaceful characteristic in society that resulted from a thousand-year-old history of Sufiism, open-ness, multi-faith harmony and syncreticism in Pakistan.

From “strategic depth” and funding the religious extremists in South Asia (be they Taliban or terror proxies in Pakistan) to forced disappearances and torture, the ISI is blamed for everything under the sun. When at one time, the ISI was everpresent and all-respected as an institution which is the first line of defence against any aggression, now ISI has become the public’s enemy number one, something that General Pasha himself told the parliament during the in-camera briefing. While targeting Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar – who was revealed to be a favor-seeking kleptocrat – the DG said that CIA chief Panetta asked him how he could be trusted when his parliament’s opposition leader does not trust him. Such a question put the ISI DG in an untenable position, and internal political squabbling led to Chaudhry Nisar putting personal politics before the country, which in turn caused irreparable damage to Pakistan, its intelligence activities, its reputation, and later on, its sovereignty as well.

Of course, Pakistan’s inept politicians who are enjoying their CIA-authorized tenure in parliament will not like to take the blame that is due to them for the breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty – that blame must be squarely put on the ISI and on the Pakistan Army, whose chiefs are trying tooth and nail to save Pakistan from foreign enemies (states as well as terrorists) and domestic threats (which we now know to be Pakistan’s corrupt and inefficient politicians, its religious leaders with vested interests, and the phenomena of religious extremism, intolerance, inequality among the sexes and marginalization of the deprived sections of society). However, the politicians that the Army and ISI are subservient to have themselves been listed as a domestic threat that is far worse than any problem Pakistan is facing.

Can anyone go to the 2001-2007 period in which Pakistan was still facing problems and troubles, but not as much as it is currently facing? Can one relate to how a military autocracy made Pakistani’s feel better off, while a civilian democracy is ruining the lives, stability, progress and psychological sanity of Pakistani’s? That happens because votes can be bought and sold, and elections can be rigged. Do we blame politicians who vested interests, dirty backgrounds, embedded heirarchical power, and a motive to steal a parliamentary seat? Or do we blame the ISI because it has the capacity to not only alter the electoral outcome of Pakistan, but of many other countries as well? (Yes, please wait another thirty years for THOSE archives to be declassified into the public domain).

In the in-camera session of Parliament, DG ISI General Ahmad Shuja Pasha said that he surrendered himself before Parliament, and that he breathed a sigh of relief after accepting responsibility for the ‘intelligence failure’ on May 2 that led to a breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty by the US in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. General Pasha also offered his resignation, and amid a roar from parliamentarians who wanted the resignation accepted, the COAS had already dissuaded the ISI chief and the PM – the commanding authority of the ISI – refused to accept General Pasha’s resignation. Many wonder whether this was just a symbol or not; was he resigning his post as DG ISI, or was he resigning his commission as a Lt General of the Pakistan Army along with his post?

But why would General Pasha, a highly decorated three-star general of the Frontier Force Regiment who was also coveted for leading many UN missions, offer his resignation from the powerful post of DG ISI, who is considered as powerful as the Army Chief (especially when it comes to national and international politics)? The answer is simple: you can ridicule a man, you can ridicule an institution, but when you unjustly berate a person who has served his country without wanting anything in return, then that person has all the right to absolve himself of his duty and tender his resignation because ‘enough is enough’.

Everyone has a limit, but the way the Pakistani media and a healthy constituency of Western-educated NGO-funded desi liberals (who have also been called ‘liberal fascists’ by the same inept Pakistani media which was promoting fake Osama death photos as the real deal) has continued to defame, distract and demoralize the ISI really brings tears to the eyes of any nationalist in this country.

Is the ISI or its DG really to blame for all the terrorism in the country? Do you think that out of one or two attacks that happen every day, there were tens or hundreds of others which were stopped or foiled? And who did that – the media and/or the bourgeoisie liberals – or the ISI and other law enforcement agencies? Who is responsible for the situation in Balochistan – rebels stationed in Afghanistan and funded by India, Iran and the UAE – or the ISI? Who is responsible for missing persons and kidnappings for ransom – terrorists and foreign agencies who want to malign Pakistan and paint a picture of insecurity – or the ISI? Who is responsible for the political isolation of the PML-N – Nawaz’s and Shahbaz’s stupid exclusionist policies – or the ISI? Who is responsible for Imran Khan’s increasing popularity – the fact that most Pakistani people want to do something to stop drone attacks (which is the duty of the incumbent government to authorize, as the PAF Vice Chief said in the in-camera session) – or is it the ISI propping him up?

One needs to revisit all these conspiracy theories and realize that allegations – yes, rumours and allegations – against General Pasha, the ISI, the Pakistan Armed Forces, and Pakistan, are all designed for one main purpose: to destroy any credibility in these institutions, their government, and their country; to demoralize any morale in its security forces by making the general public suspicious of those who protect them; to drive a wedge between the civilian leadership and military leadership of Pakistan – one who is inept and inefficient, the other who is helpless and bound by dubious international obligations to not initiate a fifth coup, no matter how necessary it becomes.

General Pasha, being a soldier, has every right to offer his resignation, and to even stop serving as the DG ISI. After being berated and ridiculed for so long, it is his right to stop facing such unwarranted attacks from all quarters and let another, possibly ‘better’ replacement take charge (maybe under Gilani and Rehman Malik, not Kayani) and try to deal with the public and media pressure.

The Pakistani people – with all their hypocrisies and failure to study their own misgivings before allocating blame on others – do not deserve a DG ISI the likes of General Pasha, who gave up a coveted posting as Military Adviser to Secretary-General of United Nations to continue as Pakistan Army’s Director-General Military Operations (DGMO) and later DG ISI. To those working in/with the security establishment, it is clear that despite the admonishments and lack of appreciation from all sides, General Pasha has done a commendable job in maintaining Pakistan’s freedom, independence and sovereignty. General Pasha accurately projected Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan, while tackling the TTP and other Al Qaeda proxies in the settled and tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He also dealt with terror threats posed by various local elements and proxies to Pakistan’s homeland. General Pasha also identified the Indian ‘hand’ in Balochistan, Swat, Bajaur and Lyari, while uncovering strategic interests that Russia, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are pursuing in Pakistan – from Gwadar to Karachi. General Pasha also dealt with the severe blowback and credibility crisis that the ISI faced – from a preconcieved lack of trust between the CIA and ISI (not that the CIA has always been truthful with the ISI, or trustworthy in general) to the blame on it for the Indian embassy attacks in Kabul as well as the so-called 26/11 LeT attacks in Mumbai.

General Pasha has, however, not concerned himself fully with the fourth-generation psyops that are being deployed against Pakistan – while General Pasha remains a dutiful and traditionalist soldier, he has avoided conspiracies and ignored rumours while focusing on verifiable and actionable intelligence that can be utilized by the ISI and/or Pakistan. Because of this, General Pasha seems to have become victim to the psywar being conducted against Pakistan, its heroes, its institutions and its assets.

The wishes of this scribe are similar to those of the PM; General Pasha should continue serving Pakistan with the same vigour and vitality as he did before. But seeing as how that will be difficult, and how this old professional will (rightfully) think that Pakistan does not deserve a patriot like him, it is also apparent that future ridicule and undue attacks on his person and professional duties might lead to another resignation attempt by the DG ISI – or even the Army Chief, who was reportedly threatened by the US if there was any attempt to engage US Navy choppers in sovereign Pakistani territory. Of course, if civilian leaders can’t support and back up their military counterparts, then there is no point to wearing the khaki uniform no matter how many stars you have. Military leaders – despite the prevalent notion in Pakistan – indeed look to their civilian heads of guidance, advice, and even for orders. Just like Nawaz Sharif might have ordered the Kargil operation, thinking it to be a masterstroke, but blaming his Army Chief when everything went awry. Currently, Pakistan’s civilian leaders are the most corrupt of any period in history – they are not only engaged in financial malfeasance, but are actively selling out their country and its assets, while doing and saying anything that their foreign masters want. General Pasha, being an intelligent man, knows this, and has stated that the ISI has a record of how international powers are using and manipulating important Pakistani’s to achieve their own ends and cause damage to Pakistan; the real question is how far can you push his selflessness and patriotism in the pursuit of correcting a country whose very people are beyond hope and repair?


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