The ISI Role in Pakistan’s Politics

  • Citation: Bidanda M. Chengappa, “The ISI role in Pakistan’s politics,” Strategic Review 23:11 (2003): 1857-1878.
    • Topics:
    • Conflict and Security
    • Keywords:
    • South Asia
    • Pakistan
    • Inter-Services Intelligence
    • intelligence agency
    • national security

The aim of this paper is to examine the ISI role in Pakistani politics during the post-Zia period which begins from September 1988 till the late 1990s. It would be useful to provide a theoretical perspective for a better understanding of the subject. This would include a discussion on the various models of intelligence agencies and the nature of their operations. The major issues are: (a) the formation of the Islamic Jamouhri Ittehad (IJI) in September 1988 as a counter to the PPP (b) the taping of the private conversation between former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the late Rajiv Gandhi in Islamabad in July 1989, (c) an abortive attempt to topple Benazir Bhutto through a vote of no-confidence in October 1989 (d) Benazir’s ouster from premiership in August 1990 (e) the split in the MQM party during April 1992 (d) the death of General Asif Nawaz Janjua in January 1993.

To understand the ISI’s domestic intelligence activities in the 1990s it would be useful to review its internal role under earlier regimes. The paper therefore outlines the ISI internal role under leaders like Ayub Khan, Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto and Zia-ul Haq. Though the paper primarily deals with the ISI, it also discusses some instances of IB involvement in internal politics. The four main intelligence agencies in the country are the Intelligence Bureau, the ISI, the Military Intelligence (MI) and the state police Special Branch (which provides intelligence from the provinces).

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