Opposition leader Imran Khan waves to supporters at a celebration rally after the Pakistani Supreme Court disqualified prime minister Nawaz Sharif from office, in Islamabad on July 30, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Faisal Mahmood

Whenever I attempt to understand the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence and the civilian Intelligence Bureau, whose purpose is to collect crucial information on the security of the state, I am left with biting questions about their true roles in internal and external matters.

It is a fact that such countries as India and Pakistan have always suffered from the lack of limits on the role of their intelligence agencies and respect for international law and human rights, including the privacy of individuals within the concept and context of global peace and fundamental freedoms.

The ISI, driven by the Pakistan Armed Forces, ignores the supreme constitutional rule of a democratic  head of the state, under which even the Armed Forces themselves fall. This is not only a violation of the constitution, but also a rejection of the civilian leadership. This can be interpreted as Pakistan being a country where the servant rules its leader and patron.

It is this bitter reality that leads toward the collapse of all systems of society, which the Pakistani nation has faced since the first introduction of martial law by General Ayub Khan in 1958, and such conduct has continued to exist ever since, whether visibly or invisibly.

One cannot ignore, avoid or deny that Pakistan has maintained its physical independence for 70 years. However, its real freedom as conceptualized upon the nation’s creation has been only a dream, and abused by its so-called defenders and its own power-mongers. Unfortunately, such figures control the ISI and lead it in a wrong direction, beyond the constitutional limits to its power.

Consequently, the ISI plays the role of a gang that disrupts the stability of the main political parties and promotes tiny, unpopular parties to gain power for itself. There thus can be no doubt that the ISI has failed its responsibility to support constitutional rule, and to secure and defend the state and its people.

The failure of the democratic system in the country, directly or indirectly, reflects the harassment practiced by both intelligence agencies, without proof or legal process, even interfering with other institutions. The consequences are the collapse of the justice system and the imposition of foreign policy that damages international  relationships. The result is a lack of trust of these agencies, and their isolation.

In a civilized century, it is a tragedy that one dare not express one’s feelings that may abuse God, prophets, or sacred figures. But more than that, one cannot speak a word against the wrongdoing of a handful of army generals or ISI officials. In Pakistan, veteran journalists, top judges, and other key figures draw breath under the spying eyes of the ISI; even higher and minister-level personalities are the victims of such conduct. One has to live in such surroundings.

Pakistan needs a major cleanup, and reorganization of the present awkward role of the ISI, for the sake of international relations and standards, and of the peace, including privacy of and respect for the notable figures of the society, according to the law.

Ehsan Sehgal

Ehsan Sehgal is a Dutch-Pakistani poet, author, journalist, and founding chairman of the Muslim United Nations. He served in the Pakistan Army and received War Medal from the Pakistan Army. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in literature, and also a Bachelor of Law degree from Karachi University. He has published poetry, quotes books in Urdu and English and Dutch as well.

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