ISPR’s Expanded Role Leads to Comical Defence of the Indefensible

Discretion they say is the better part of valor. But maybe that is not taught in the Pakistani military or the ISI. That is perhaps why DG ISPR Maj Gen Ghafoor persists in tweeting and making statements that only create problems and force him to defend the indefensible.

In the context of the Senate chairman elections while responding to head of National Party, Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo’s remarks that this was one of the darkest days in Pakistan’s democracy, DG ISPR insinuated that Mr Bizenjo was bringing disrepute to the “head of national premier institution.”

One would like to ask him when the ISI, an intelligence service, became ‘the national premier institution.’

This is the institution that has over the years interfered in politics, spent money to rig elections, responsible for the disappearance and torture of Pakistani journalists, politicians and civil society activists.

Here is a timeline of some recent stories about the ISI …

In 2008  “the new government shut the political wing of the country’s internal spy agency. A Pakistani intelligence official said closing the unit, which was suspected of manipulating electoral results and keeping tabs on the personal lives of politicians, using their embarrassing misdemeanours to ensure they toe the line, gave “fuller authority to the government to lead from the front”

In 2012 the Supreme Court of Pakistan agreed to hear two separate cases pertaining to ISI.

In the first case the Supreme Court ordered the ISI to produce in court seven suspected militants it has been holding since 2010 — and to explain how four other detainees from the same group died in mysterious circumstances over the past six months.

The second challenge revived a long-dormant vote-rigging scandal, which focused on illegal donations of $6.5 million as part of a covert, and ultimately successful, operation to influence the 1990 election. This petition referred to the Asghar Khan case emanates from the letter written in 1996 Air Marshal (r) Asghar Khan “to then chief justice Nasim Hasan Shah seeking action against former army chief Mirza Aslam Baig, former ISI chief Lt-General (r) Asad Durrani and Younis Habib of Habib and Mehran banks over the alleged disbursement of public money and its misuse for political purposes. He blamed the ISI for distributing money among various politicians. The allegation against the intelligence agency is that it used a slush fund to pay various amounts of taxpayers’ money to politicians to cobble together an alliance by the name of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad. The petition alleges that this was done in 1990, in an attempt to deny the PPP victory in general elections that year.”

In this case later that year in 2012, former head of ISI Asad Durrani admitted “to spending millions of military dollars to influence an election during a humiliating court hearing that is being seen as a remarkable display of power from the country’s top judges. In extraordinary scenes at the supreme court a visibly embarrassed Asad Durrani said that in 1990 he was ordered by then army chief Mirza Aslam Beg to distribute millions of dollars to politicians and parties to help defeat the Pakistan Peoples party (PPP) government of Benazir Bhutto.”

In 2014 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif “accused a former intelligence chief of asking him to resign during opposition protests in 2014, comments likely to further fray tense civil-military relations ahead of general elections.” Sharif stated “Those days, a message was sent to me from the chief of an intelligence agency that I should resign, and if that is not possible, I should go on a long leave,” Sharif said, without identifying either. “The demand for my resignation or going on long leave was based on this impression that if Nawaz Sharif was removed from the way it wouldn’t be difficult to wrap up the case against Musharraf.”

In 2018 the military openly and blatantly rigged elections in favor of Imran Khan. According to Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission the elections were “defined by “blatant, aggressive and unabashed attempts to manipulate” the result.” “The country’s top brass has a long history of intervening in Pakistani democracy. Pakistan’s generals have run the nation several times over the past seven decades; when not openly in power, they have exerted outsize control over foreign policy, the economy and local politics. The ISI, the military’s shadowy and influential intelligence wing, continues to maintain ties with militants abroad while stifling civil society at home. And though this election will mark the third consecutive transition of power from one civilian government to another — a success story by Pakistani standards — it has the fingerprints of military meddling all over it.”

One would have thought that the head of an institution like this would believe that keeping quiet was more suitable.

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