june issue 2011
Interview: General Hamid Gul, Former DG ISI
“The Pakistan military and its agencies are in a state where
they cannot recognise their real enemy”
– General Hamid Gul, former DG ISI
Q: Terrorists are increasingly turning more deadly and hitting targets at will. The PNS Mehran attack speaks of the gravity of the situation. There is an impression that Pakistani forces are incompetent or unwilling to take on the terrorists head-on. What do you think?
A: Pakistan’s armed forces and security agencies are in a deterioration and disorientation phase that can lead to disgruntlement and mistrust in the performance of vital state institutions. The Abbottabad and Mehran attacks are examples of just such a deterioration. Operation Osama and Mehran were meant to fix the Pakistan military and ISI, and set them up for criticism and ridicule – the devisers of this scheme succeeded in their intent. The US has been involved in every attack on Pakistan’s strategic assets, aimed at creating the feeling among Pakistanis that their armed forces and secret agencies are incompetent and cannot protect their country.
Pervez Musharraf is solely responsible for creating this mess in Pakistan by allowing the US to use its bases and other facilities and establish its network through Raymond Davis-like agents to destabilise Pakistan. Musharraf allowed the US to intrigue against Pakistan and push its agenda of de-Islamisation, denuclearisation and de-linking China from Pakistan. The Pakistan military and its agencies are in a state where they cannot recognise their real enemy. A US-India sponsored group is involved in the Mehran attacks and its sole purpose was to hit the Pakistan navy’s navigation surveillance system and deprive Pakistan of its ability to detect any Abbottabad-like operation in its waters. After having succeeded in their mission, I forsee a big ‘game’ by anti-Pakistan forces. It may be a naval blockade or another Abbottabad-like operation in Karachi or some other part of Pakistan.
Q: Particularly since it came in the wake of another intelligence failure, i.e. the Osama mission, Mehran seemed to cap the huge embarrassment to our agencies and armed forces. Despite the huge and oft reiterated threat to Pakistan’s strategic assets from assorted terror groups, Pakistans’ security apparatus failed to secure a vitally important facility. How can anyone now feel secure about our nuclear installations?
A: I am convinced the war on terror is meant to destablise Pakistan, destroy it economically and then achieve the objective of giving India the role of regional superpower. Washington successfully managed to instal the rulers of its choice in Islamabad at a stage when Pakistan was at the crossroads. Asif Zardari and company are working for completing the US agenda at Pakistan’s cost. When Asif Zardari pronounces India is not Pakistan’s enemy, he actually furthers the US agenda of changing the Pakistani mindset, because Pakistanis have always believed India is their only enemy and they have never wanted their leaders to accept Indian hegemony.
Q: Some senior officials in Washington are accusing the ISI and the Pakistan military of complicity with ‘the world’s most wanted man.’ They contend sections of the military provided Osama and his family shelter in Pakistan. The military maintains that Pakistani security agencies, including the ISI, were ignorant of OBL’s presence in Pakistan until the US forces’ operation. What do you believe?
A: The US has been working on an anti-ISI agenda for a long time. I can recall many times that Washington has employed dirty tactics to malign Pakistan’s spy agency. However, in the past, such tactics failed because they did not get the support of the Pakistani leadership. But today, danger looms more visibly than ever before because Pakistani rulers themselves are a party to conspiracies hatched against the country. Osama’s surfacing in Abbottabad and killing is a part of the same Pakistan-specific US mission. This entire episode is a mystery and perhaps no one will ever know the truth.
Q: The US and ISI installed the mujahideen in Afghanistan to defeat the Soviet Union in the ’80s, and after winning the war, the US abandoned Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is widely believed that the ISI’s policy of controlling Afghanistan through the Taliban brought terrorism and insurgency to Pakistan. What do you say?
A: Our western border has always been a shield for Pakistan and this fact was established by Pakistan’s early decision to demilitarise the Pak-Afghanistan border in 1948. By defeating the Soviets, the ISI protected Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan and made our western border safer, but what we miscalculated is the US thinking on Pakistan. Today the US wants Pakistan to shift its military from the eastern border to the western border to provide India relief and allow it to acquire an even greater role in the region. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s rulers are preparing the Pakistani nation so that they accept India’s new role.
Q: You have been a staunch supporter of jihad to protect Pakistan’s interest globally, whereas the world community takes Pakistan’s jihadi culture as a threat. Incidents like 9/11 and the Mumbai attacks are being used to prove Pakistan is a rogue state. Do you still believe jihad can benefit the country?
A: My concept of jihad has always been taken in the wrong sense. By jihad I mean protecting the national interest through fighting if other means are exhausted. We need to advocate jihad in its real spirit. How can one be denied his right to fight for what is lawful? It is a right given to individuals and nations in the United Nations charter. As far as 9/11 is concerned, it was a home-made US plan to unleash a war on innocent Muslims to push America’s agenda across the globe. .
Q: Do you subscribe to the view that in the current situation there is a danger that Pakistan’s nuclear assets could fall into Al-Qaeda or Taliban hands and be used to catastrophic ends, or do you think a consensus is being built around the world on the issue, so that that our nukes can be taken out?
A: The US is after Pakistan’s nuclear assets. It is bent on creating a hell-like situation in Pakistan so that it can, in the final round, deprive the county of its nuclear assets. But let me tell you, the US is not going to achieve its ultimate goal. I am pretty convinced that the custodians of Pakistan’s nuclear assets are fully aware of the US conspiracy and will not let it succeed.
Q: In the in-camera briefing to parliament on OBL’s killing, ISI Chief Shuja Pasha stated that some Islamic countries were funding JUI and other religious parties to carry out their respective agendas. Is there any truth to this and did it happen when you were at the helm of the ISI?
A: Yes we had information that some religious parties were getting dollars from an Islamic country. But having said that, the ISI also had information and evidence that some politicians loudly demanding democracy in Pakistan were also being funded by foreign countries. I have many secrets about popular political leaders, which, if disclosed will stun the nation. But my oath not to disclose state secrets prevents me from doing so.
Q: Do you think Pakistan’s military and political leadership are on the same page vis-Ã -vis Pak-US, Pak-India and Pak-Afghan relations?
A: I do not think so, but I cannot say anything for sure. I have very little knowledge about what the military leadership is thinking. But one thing I can say for sure: Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador in the US, and many others in Islamabad are directly serving CIA interests.
Q: With the dubious agendas of both agencies — clearly not always in consonance with one another — can the ISI and CIA actually work together even for a limited common cause?
A: The ISI and CIA have no common purpose. The CIA is working against Pakistan and the ISI is trying in every possible way to counter this.
Q: It has been tacitly recognised by successive political governments and the public that the ISI operates as a completely independent body answerable to no one, and Pakistan’s foreign policy has long been held hostage by the agency in pursuit of its own agendas, which are often in conflict with the government’s. Do you concede this?
A: It is Pakistan’s great tragedy that the PPP has always aimed at bringing the ISI under its control. Whether it was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto or now Zardari and his party — every one of them has wanted to use the ISI for its own purposes. The PPP actually has always seemed to believe that if the ISI is not directly responsible to it, it will weaken the government. So the current PPP leaders are once again trying to bring the ISI under civilian rule. Basically the PPP wants to weaken the ISI as an institution and in the process, serve others’ aims.
Q: Do you subscribe to Nawaz Sharif’s demand for a judicial probe into the Abbottabad and Mehran Naval Base incidents?
A: I believe in transparency and the rule of law. I think an independent inquiry into the Abbottabad and Mehran incidents will make everything crystal clear. However, I believe justice (Retd) Rana Baghwandas should have headed the commission to make it credible and acceptable to the international community.