Dr A Q Khan
The Lahore High Court recently acquitted 11 people accused of involvement in an attack on Gen Musharraf and ordered their release from Adiala Jail. Before they could even taste their freedom they were, according to jail authorities, whisked away by agents of the intelligence agencies. To give it all a bizarre twist, the advocate general, Maulvi Anwar-ul-Haq, presented an affidavit from the intelligence agencies stating that these people were not in their custody. Then the bombshell came from the chief secretary of Punjab, who informed the Supreme Court that the men in question had indeed been taken away by ISI sleuths.
This is a very disturbing matter, as it more or less confirms the universal belief that our intelligence agencies are rogue agencies, and are above the law and the Constitution. Equally disturbing is the impression created that the army and the ISI still have Musharraf stooges who are willing to do anything for him, even if that means breaking the law. Only these organisations can tell us what the advantages of their actions are. It is an undeniable fact that such actions give a very bad name to our most august institution, the army.
Ever since Ayub Khan’s coup, our intelligence agencies have been used as servants for personal use and against political opponents. Their main task – gathering information for national security and safety – was superseded. It is said that our most expensive and extensive networks, like the ISI and the MI, are run by the army and take orders from the army chief, not from the civilian government. This has led to all the coups staged in this country.
When the Indians exploded their nuclear weapons on May 11, 1998, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) on the 13th to discuss options. The participants had varying views, but Foreign Minister Gauhar Ayub Khan, Mr Shamshad Ahmed Khan, the foreign secretary, and myself were quite vocal in favour of a response in kind. I voiced my criticism of the performance of our intelligence agencies. Despite their claims of having informants in almost every house in Pokhran, and their promises that they would inform us if India made any preparations for tests, we were caught unawares. If we had had as little as 10 days’ notice, we could have prepared a matching response and could have detonated our devices in as little as an hour.
If we look at the history of espionage and spies, we find that it is a very old business. The Indians and the Chinese were the original masters. Chanakya and Sun Tzu wrote treatises on the subject and the techniques recommended included murder, secret agents and paying foreigners for information. Similarly, the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans, all established intelligence networks on a scientific basis. The Mongols and the Japanese also used all kinds of tactics to get information about their adversaries. Western and communist countries strove hard to perfect this technology and turned it into a lethal war instrument.
It is said that Abul Fazl Sakzi, the adviser (prime minister) of Sultan Alp Arsalan, once asked the Sultan why he had not established an intelligence network and employed spies for collecting information against adversaries. The sultan replied: “I believe that there is a need for an intelligence network and spies, and that this is the responsibility of the government. This responsibility must be given to highly competent, honest, experienced people so that the government remains safe from dangers. This work is highly complicated and needs people of wisdom, knowledge and foresight, as there is a great danger in this work of fraud, cheating and double games. Hence the people working in this field must be free of all temptation and blackmail, as the security of the country will depend on their performance. They should be free from financial and family worries, which will enable them to fully concentrate on their important work and provide the government with correct and reliable information. It must ensure punishment to traitors and unpatriotic elements and reward and respect patriotic people and well-wishers of the state. The conditions within the country should be such that people automatically and willingly become good, law-abiding and patriotic citizens while at the same time respecting and fearing state laws. They should not dare to indulge in any anti-state activities. The establishment of an intelligence network and the deployment of spies is a state responsibility and it is a demonstration of courage and foresight. It is thus an essential duty of the state.” (Tusi Siasat-nama.)
Sultan Alp Arsalan gave important and practical advice. He not only mentioned the inherent dangers and possible undesirable activities of these institutions and their workers, but also the necessity of such organisations.
Unfortunately, in our country the performance of the intelligence agencies is anything but commendable and is not something to be proud of. They have been the extended arm of dictators and been widely branded as rogue organisations. They operate outside the law, are least bothered about the judiciary and totally ignore court orders. During Gen Musharraf’s time, a general, an ISI colonel and eight subordinates forcibly sent us to Bannigala and kept us there for 10 hours. During that time our house was totally ransacked, bedrooms, clothes, books, files, etc., searched and many things taken away – all this without any official warrant or court order to do so. To-date many of the things taken away have not been returned. During the process our house was also bugged with cameras and – how low can you get – listening devices placed behind our bed and in the bedroom of our granddaughter, as well as in the drawing room, dining room and other places. They totally ignored that fact that, with my background, I was not ignorant of such affairs. I immediately realised the mischief they had done, traced their devices but left them in place (until years later) to let them remain under the illusion that we were unaware. The courts did not take any action against this blatant violation of our fundamental rights and privacy. In any civilised society such despicable acts are totally unacceptable and are dealt with severely by the courts.
We saw how President Nixon was removed from office in disgrace over the bugging of Watergate by his staff. Our courts have wide powers and could, if they so desired, deal with such mischief effectively and immediately in one way or another. Unfortunately, such action is always lacking and the rogue agents of the rogue agencies are left to follow the law of the jungle. As long as they are allowed a free hand, we will be branded as a lawless, corrupt country.
It is my personal opinion that these activities are mostly carried out by retired and re-employed army personnel, who then try to be more loyal than the king and indulge in all kinds of mischief to justify their continuity in service. In doing so, they give a bad name to their agencies and to the government. The heads of the intelligence agencies would be better off not carrying such excess baggage and to utilise the services of young, educated, honest and capable people.