A very well placed friend in Islamabad who is rarely wrong told me yesterday that Deputy Director General ISI Major General Asfandyar Pataudi personally went to tell the Supreme Court judge to deny Husain Haqqani’s application for video link. Before the proceedings began he told the judge in no uncertain terms that Husain Haqqani must be brought back to Pakistan. Pataudi even ordered service provider, the same company that provisioned video hook-up for Mansoor Ijaz’s testimony to lie to the court and say it was not technically possible to do it again.
By interfering and influencing the honorable judges (in a closed room meeting prior to the proceeding started), ISI continues to undermine democracy, civilian rule and dispensation of justice. No wonder ISI has lost all credibility within and outside Pakistan. A visible feature of the ISI’s history that has done great damage to its reputation is the continued exploitation of civilian institutions.
Blatant power abuses, like Patudi’s interference in the court proceeding, among others, should put intelligence reform at the top of the agenda for change in Pakistan. Before country can continue its democratic transition, these changes must be addressed. Indonesia and Chile have both undergone transformations in the intelligence arena and have plenty to offer Pakistan by way of example.
PPP government has entered the final stretch of it’s tenure and if they want to be victors in next elections they will have to take some courageous steps. PPP government should reinforce the separation between civilian and military intelligence agencies. The integration of former ISI agents into other civilian bodies, particularly the IB, should be limited or stopped. Cross-recruitment prevents organizations from becoming independent.
Pakistan also needs to strengthen the police force. A better-trained and better-equipped police force can do a better job of counterterrorism, which work is currently exploited by the intelligence agencies to legitimize their control over politics in Pakistan.
The international community continues to blame Pakistan’s problems on the ISI, but still maintains working relations with the agency. Often, these relations undermine the democratic government and vindicate the very intelligence actors that need to be controlled. This double standard can be avoided by direct involvement with the Pakistani government, rather than going through intelligence services.
Ignoring the urgent need to establish supremacy over the intelligence community would be a grave mistake on the part of Pakistan’s civilian government. Reducing the role of the military in the intelligence sector will allow the government to consolidate itself domestically, and go back to voters with tangible results. In addition, government control over military and intelligence will cast a positive light on the state of Pakistan’s emerging democracy, and will improve international opinions of Pakistan.
I know Pataudi is one heck of a polo player with 3-goal handicap and understands concept of ‘line of the ball,’ – an imaginary line created by the ball as it travels down the field. The line of the ball defines rules for players to approach the ball safely. These rules are created and enforced to ensure the welfare of players and their horses. Patudi knows it well that Husain Haqqani should have right of way. And his safety should be of utmost importance. He should be extended the same playing field as Mansoor Ijaz- by that I mean Haqqani should have the video link as well.
I won’t speculate as to why Pataudi wants Husain Haqqani to come back so badly. But I don’t see a game of Polo in Haqqani’s future anytime soon.