A Deep State: ISI’s Omnipresence And Shadow Control In Pakistan

Pakistan’ Intelligence Agency Inter-Services Intelligence(ISI) probably an Intelligence organization in the world that enjoys limitless power or degree in every branch of state machinery i.e Pakistan. Pakistan is currently on the verge of crises and civil war thereats looming all around. In such scenario where Pakistan civilian leadership has failed the millitary is now coming in the prime focus to rescue Pakistan. Therefore an assessment of the deep state of Pakistan deserves merit to be discussed.

The Degree of Power of Intelligence Agency In A State Why Does a state need to establish an Intelligence Agency? The answer is to gather information in advance to eliminate the threat or an attack before it occurs thus, preserving the national security of a state effectively. Only the Military apparatus of the state is not enough to give all-round protection as States do not face threat not only at the borders but from various other domains as well which makes a subject of tackling multiple threats and with only one state apparatus these threats cannot be tackled and hence, Intelligence Agency of a state by giving on time, pieces of information/intel, Threat perceptions, and conducting operations can ensure a blanket from multiple threats(both conventional and unconventional). Every Intelligence Agency of a state does enjoy some degree of power to execute their duties but not a limitless hand of power. There are two domains in which a State Needs to be protected one from external threats and the other is internal threats for which the state establishes various Intelligence Agencies to look after external threats and internal threats there is always a demarcation of charters/ duties among Intelligence agencies that one agency will look after domestic security and one will look after the external security of the country. This division of power and sense accountability in the intelligence domain ensures effective working of intelligence agency and also ensures that no agency is indulging in abuse of power however this is not the case with Pakistan’s ISI.

The Omnipresence of ISI When We Closely pay attention to the working of ISI we will see that there is no other prime intelligence agency other than ISI in Pakistan. ISI is responsible for both external and internal security and hence getting a wide range of area to exercise its power both inside and outside the state which essentially gives to rise a sense of centralization of power to one authority and once a state’s authority or agency start to enjoy wide powers without any limiting hand over it then the chances of that agency or authority being omnipresent in the state affairs will increase and might try to override political leadership decisions and exercise considerable amount of influence for their benefits. The same notion of omnipresence applies in Pakistan. ISI as an omnipresent agency in Pakistan is a classic one as since decades ISI had a major role to play in Pakistan politics, a major chunk of politics in Pakistan was governed by military rulers and one such ruler Zia-Ul Haq had extensively contributed to strengthening the ISI’s grip on Pakistan’s Politics by suppressing the PPP(Political Party in Pakistan) and Benazir Bhutto(former PM of Pakistan) Zia Ul Haq made ISI his yardstick to fulfil his political interest to remain in power and neutralize those who seek power in Pakistan Politics and to continue this power venture Zia using ISI established a IJI Political Party consisting of opposition to defeat the PPP in Pakistan.

Political Color and Internal and External Posture of ISI

Political Color and Internal and External Posture of ISI

Gradually as politics in Pakistan progresses and being the yardstick of many leaders ISI transformed itself from an Intelligence Agency to a Political Machine Gun which can be used by various leaderships to capture the power and defeat any uprisings or possibility of counter capturing of power in Pakistan politics. All this has politically coloured the agency and created an unwritten charter for ISI to interfere or operate in politics and state affairs in the name of internal security and install friendly regimes in Pakistan on the other hand ISI’s external posture was mostly India centric with guerilla warfare against Soviets/Russians in Afghanistan. To establish ISI’s role in Pakistan Politics more concretely we need to look upon one prominent incident in Pakistan In the 1990s.

Mehran Bank Scandal

The Mehran Bank Scandal exposes the abuse of public funds by the military and intelligence agencies to manipulate political change in the country. The bank proved to be a hub for ISI and Foreign Intelligence Agencies and politicians collaborated illegally with each other against other elected leaders. The prime objective of ISI through the Mehran Bank was to destabilise the government that is hostile to them(ISI) and establish a friendly government to ISI or leaders who favoures ISI’s interests this further establishes the role of ISI in Domestic Politics/Affairs of Pakistan.

Why Intelligence Agency(ISI) Became Overpowerful or Jurisdiction Less?

State’s Perspective

When We talk about Intelligence Agencies becoming supreme or Limitless or discuss the cause behind the transformation of the intelligence agency to a supreme state authority then somewhere in the loop the state itself is responsible for making it or its failure to cap the Intelligence Agency powers and absenting the “Power from above” concept or any governing authority/ Demarcations of Duties which limits their power or limits them from going beyond their jurisdiction. Why not CIA MI6 or R&AW enjoys limitless authority in their respective states? The answer is straight there is a limit to their power and their duties are well defined through these Intel agencies also enjoys creamy powers when it comes to tackle the threat and exercise their powers in the national security domain but they always cautiously exercise power.

Intelligence Agency’s Perspective

The rationale behind an Intelligence Agency become overpowerful or limitless from an Agency’s perspective is to seek power/ hunger of power or wherever the Intelligence Agency feels that civilian government are incompetent to hold power. This kind of feeling generates when the democratic structure of a country start to fall even the Intelligence hardliners in ISI does not support the concept of democracy much or the bureaucracy and security of a country loses its faith in their political leaders. This is exactly the case with ISI. ISI feels that it is the competent power to rule the country or exercise its influence over political decisions because civilian leaders are incompetent to hold power and further ISI also believes in marginalizing other civilian authorities or Intel agencies which could become powerful with patronage from an elected government. One more reason why ISI is sticking like glue with the Internal Politics of Pakistan is the absence of a genuine external threat to Pakistan. Pakistan’ false propaganda and its India centric threat perception make the general population of Pakistan believe that there is an actual existence of a threat from India but in reality, India never exercised force unnecessary until unless provoked but this real notion is always in denial from Pakistan’s side to nurture a false notion that shows genuine external threat to Pakistan.


The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Brief Bulletin.


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