Only Spies Can Stop the Chaos: Pakistan's Intelligence Service Used to Sponsor the Islamists. Now It Is Trying to Prevent Them Taking over the Country

By Barnes, Hugh | New Statesman (1996), May 8, 2006 | Go to article overview

Only Spies Can Stop the Chaos: Pakistan's Intelligence Service Used to Sponsor the Islamists. Now It Is Trying to Prevent Them Taking over the Country


Barnes, Hugh, New Statesman (1996)


The headquarters of the Pakistani secret services lie hidden behind towering, beige-coloured walls in the old British cantonment of Rawalpindi. Sweeping, arched roofs and sprawling verandas evoke memories of the Raj, as do the street urchins playing cricket outside the gate.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The languid appearance is deceptive. I have come behind the lines in the so-called "war on terror". One of the world's most sinister organisations, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is often seen as Pakistan's invisible government. It has long operated out of the public gaze. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan it funnelled CIA funds to the mujahedin fighters; in the 1990s it bankrolled the Taliban into power. Its links to Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda are a matter of record. Yet ISI chiefs now find themselves cast in an unlikely role as the west's policemen, hunting down jihadists in the lawless tribal areas of northern Pakistan.

The only modern nation founded on Islam, Pakistan is a homeland that has failed to work. Now it is teetering on the brink of chaos. The ISI is largely to blame. Late last month, Islamist militants in North Waziristan ambushed a convoy of ISI-led troops, killing seven soldiers and wounding 22. The attack was a reprisal for the killing in a nearby village of seven Qaeda suspects, including Mohsin Musa Matawalli Atwah, an Egyptian on the FBI's list of most-wanted terrorists for his alleged involvement in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

The figures at the top of the ISI are almost pathologically averse to the glare of the media, so it was with some trepidation that I accepted an invitation from Brigadier A--, head of the counter-terrorism section, to discuss a secret operation to stem the "two-way traffic" of terrorists between Pakistan and Britain in the wake of last July's bombings in London. Once, the only civilians permitted to enter this building were suspects, and not all of them made it out alive.

A dapper man in his late fifties, dressed in an immaculately tailored business suit in spite of the heat, the brigadier greeted me with sandwiches, cakes and tea. A bearer wearing a white waistcoat and black wool Jinnah cap served us from a table piled high with documents and newspaper cuttings, plus a stack of empty notepads and other pieces of stationery. (I am ashamed to say I took one of the ISI pencils as a trophy.) A laptop computer flickered with a PowerPoint slide show of images of the World Trade Center engulfed in flames on 11 September 2001.

The brigadier appeared troubled. Hours earlier, a suicide bomber had set off an explosion at a parade in Karachi, killing at least 57 people. The blast happened not far from the site of another bombing in March, in which a US diplomat was killed. Roughly 45 Islamist groups operate in Pakistan. The best-known are Harkat-e-Jihad-e-Islami (Movement for Islamic Jihad), Jaish-e-Mohammad (Army of Muhammad) and Jundullah (Army of God), but with ever-changing names, splits and overlapping ideologies, it is difficult to differentiate between them, let alone keep track of their attempts to replace Pakistan's leadership with a fundamentalist regime.

"There's a lot of work to be done in defeating al-Qaeda," said my host, slumping in his chair. As if to underline the point, helicopter gunships were busy strafing the village, a hundred miles away in North Waziristan, where several Qaeda members, possibly including Bin Laden, are said to be hiding out. Twenty years have passed since Bin Laden led a group of a few dozen men--Saudis, Egyptians, Algerians and Pakistanis, whom he had recruited and trained--out of a cluster of caves in the mountains on the Pakistani frontier. These were the men who would fight the Soviet infidel in Afghanistan.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The brigadier knew every ridge and mountain pass, every CIA trail. He gossiped about these mysterious strangers who have returned to North Waziristan, using a portfolio of disguises and pseudonyms. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Only Spies Can Stop the Chaos: Pakistan's Intelligence Service Used to Sponsor the Islamists. Now It Is Trying to Prevent Them Taking over the Country
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.