It was a report that wasn’t really supposed to be about the ISI, and yet it was. Like many investigative reports, the most important piece of information was floating accidentally in the middle of a sea of unrelated facts. It was a few mere words contained in a statement by a jihadi terrorist that, while seemingly innocent, contained they key.
Aziz appears as a mild-mannered young man of medium height and build, with a trimmed beard. He makes a little joke about how he can instantly tell which law enforcement or intelligence agency the person asking him questions belongs to. “The first thing the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] want to know is whether there are any links with RAW [the Indian intelligence agency]; CID is interested in the funding aspect; and the police keep hammering on about what other wardaat (hits) we’ve been involved in.”
This statement is unsurprising, slightly humourous in fact. But let us pause and think more about it. This is a statement given by Saad Aziz, the notorious jihadi terrorist responsible for coldly murdering a bus filled with innocent Ismailis. The gunman who killed Sabeen Mahmud because “she was generally promoting liberal, secular values”. A heartless terrorist who tells his interrogators calmly that “it is perfectly acceptable to take the lives of women and children”.
This terrorist killer’s radicalization began in Saudi Arabia, continued when he joined Tableeghi Jamaat, and then became fully formed as he was recruited by al Qaeda. His contacts were graduates of National University of Sciences and Technology, Rawalpindi. They were students of Lahore University. They were educated Muslims. They were Pakistanis.
After each major terrorist attack, questions begin to circulate: How did the world’s number one intelligence agency miss it again? Why can’t they stop these attacks before they happen? Is ISI incompetent or has it been infiltrated and is actually part of the conspiracy?But what if these questions are missing the point completely. What if ISI is neither incompetent nor complicit but is simply looking for the wrong suspect?
Let us get back to Saad Aziz’s statement. Here is the important part:
“The first thing the ISI want to know is whether there are any links with RAW.”
Attack after attack are carried out by jihadi terrorists, and each time ISI’s first question is whether there are any links with RAW. I am not suggesting that RAW is innocent lambs, but after decades of suffering and losing tens of thousands at the hands of jihadi terrorists, shouldn’t the first question be about links to jihadi groups? If the attacks are sectarian in nature, shouldn’t we ask first whether there are any links to Iran or Saudi Arabia?
We do not have to pretend that RAW has no hand in anything to understand that our paranoid obsession with India is actually making us less safe by distracting us from the enemy within our own borders. The sad irony is that if our worst fears are true and RAW is supporting jihadi terrorist groups, the easiest way to defeat their nefarious plans is to shut down the jihadi terrorist groups. Instead, we’re blinded by our obsession with RAW and as a result, we can’t see what is right before our eyes.