By S. M. Hali

The government of Pakistan has decided to appoint Lieutenant General Zahirul Islam as the new Director General Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). According to media reports, both the President and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani were keen that the current DG ISI, Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha get another year’s extension. It made sense since the ISI has been the forerunner in the ongoing war against terrorism and one does not change horses midstream. General Pasha held his own in fighting multiple fronts keeping the enemy at bay. It was the ISI bashing campaign by arch rival and erstwhile ally CIA, which was unwittingly, abetted by certain politicians and section of Pakistani media that made General Pasha decline the offer of extension.

Directly after the Osama bin Laden affair on May 2nd l2011, while briefing the parliament, General Pasha had offered to resign but the parliamentarians urged him to stay on. The unfair bashing of Armed Forces/ISI through media by certain elements has been a source of concern for the soldiers as well as the patriotic people of Pakistan. This has not only shown the Armed Forces/ISI in bad light but has also proliferated divisive themes/messages among the domestic audience creating false perceptions of mistrust and unjust sense of conflict between the national institutions and the Government.  As media reports on Memo-gate scandal erupted like an endemic in the entire length and breadth of Pakistan, the intruding analysts left no stone unturned in propagating against Army/ISI. They clearly projected a case against Army/ISI for their alleged involvement in generating the political morass in Pakistan. Such hawkish analysts misperceiving the prevalent politico-social milieu misconstrued the real spirit/intention of Army/ISI and made cynically acrimonious anticipations like the Senate elections would never be allowed to take place. They cast aspersions that much before the Senate elections the political government would be dispatched. They conjectured that since Armed Forces and Government are not on the same page, therefore, the Army will resort to extra-constitutional measures and take over the control of the country. The effort was aimed at provocative coverage of events to create further mistrust between Army/ISI and Government.

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The ongoing trial of the Mehran Bank scandal clearly projects that the ISI was acting under the direct orders of then President. However, in order to hide their own moral turpitude, the politicians are hell bent upon shooting the messenger rather than heeding the message.

The politicians, using the media as an unwitting tool, created a wrong perception that Pak Army/ISI were responsible for the prevailing turmoil in the country and that the aim of Army/ISI was to dislodge the elected government. The events unfolded differently bringing shame and discredit to such analysts and opinion makers. Senate elections have been held peacefully. The civilian Government remains in power and Pak Army/ISI and Government are very much on the same page. Those who created misperceptions about Pak Army/ISI need to be exposed and non-involvement of Army/ISI in politics be projected assertively, suggesting that respect for Armed Forces is mandatory for all people of Pakistan including media and the politicians.     

Armed Forces are the custodians of Pakistan’s security ensuring timely measures to thwart any internal/external threats. They have always offered sacrifices to defend the ideological and geographical borders of the motherland. The nation is proud of their performance may it be war against terrorism, flood relief operations, earthquakes and natural calamities, social and economic uplift programs and/or provision of educational facilities.

Pakistan Army and ISI are key institutions of Pakistan. They stood like a rock in the way of foreign intrusion especially in dealing with CIA suggesting to Government to devise new rules of engagements and take hard decisions to safeguard national interests in the light of new geo-strategic environment with divergent regional Pak-US interests. Foreign propagandists obviously targeted Pak Army/ISI to achieve their nefarious designs. The entire nation including domestic media must support own Armed Forces/ISI and counter all negative propaganda against these institutions. Like the Mossad, CIA, RAW or MI-6, the ISI has been engaged in working for the government but one never observes hostile propaganda against the other institutions like that unleashed against the ISI. If external sources indulge in ISI bashing, they have their own agenda but we as a nation must avoid becoming their tools. Lieutenant General Zahirul Islam has his task cut out for him. Having served earlier as Pasha’s deputy, he brings in heaps of experience but will need guidance of the government to lead ISI successfully.