The Double Mirror
How Pakistan’s intelligence service plays both sides
By DAVID IGNATIUS
(...) I found that I couldn’t capture ISI’s nuances in newspaper columns. So my eighth novel, Bloodmoney, is set largely in Pakistan; it centers on a fictional ISI and a CIA whose operations inside Pakistan have spun out of control. I describe the director general of my imaginary ISI this way: ―To say that the Pakistani was playing a double game did not do him justice; his strategy was far more complicated than that.‖
This Janus-like quality is true of all intelligence services, I suppose, but I have never seen an organization quite like the ISI. It is at once very secretive and very open, yet ISI officials get especially peeved at the charge of duplicity: ―I can not go on defending myself forever, even when I am not doing what I am blamed for,‖ wrote one of my ISI contacts, after I had written a column noting the organization’s ―double game‖ with the U.S. ―I shall do what I think is good for PAKISTAN, my country. I am sure you will do the same for US.‖
What this official wanted me to understand was that Pakistan was suffering under its own onslaught of terrorism. An ISI briefer almost shouted at me in 2010: ―Mr. David Ignatius! Look at the casualties we have suffered fighting terrorism!‖ We’re in alongside the U.S., ISI officials insist. Yet they are caught in the backwash of an anti-American rhetoric they help create. The ISI’s press cell feeds Pakistani newspapers constantly; presumably, it thinks its U.S.-bashing leaks will hide the reality of the ISI’s cooperation. But the puppeteer has gotten caught in the strings. Anti-Americanism has taken a virulent form that threatens the ISI too.
ISI = Inter-Services Intelligence
Time, May 23, 2011 Essay
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