Despite more than eight years of continued civilian power, Pakistan can be labeled as a transitional democracy at best. True, the country has experienced two successive and relatively democratic elections in February 2008 and May 2013, and the mainstream political parties--essentially the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz faction (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)--are no longer willing to let themselves be played off the other by the military, thereby limiting the margin of maneuver of the security establishment. Yet despite these limited successes, there has been little structural change in civil-military relations. The army, to a large extent, remains the dominant actor in Pakistan’s political life.

Frederic Grare
Frédéric Grare is a nonresident senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where his research focuses on Indo-Pacific dynamics, the search for a security architecture, and South Asia Security issues.
More >

The political role of the intelligence agencies, which has always been controversial, has become even more crucial for the military despite (or, perhaps, because of) Pakistan’s democratic progresses in recent years. Today, as much as in the past, “operations against dissenting politicians, objective intellectuals, and other activists, are still carried out through systematic harassment, disinformation campaigns, fictitious trials, kidnap, torture, and assassinations”, as demonstrated by the de facto genocide in Balochistan or the ongoing political crisis, in which the government is being challenged by fringe political and religious movements (Malik 1997: 104). Such tactics, however, are not intended to protect the military regime, but instead to preserve and increase military power in a more constrained domestic and international environment which, for the time being, precludes a return to direct military rule. As a result, the impact of the agencies’ exploits extends beyond the tension inherent to any struggle for political power--it further damages the perceptions of democracy in a country where democratic institutions are already fragile and flawed.

The previous and current civilian governments, which are (or have been) the victim of the intelligence agencies’ manipulations, have thus far been able to stay in power, but often at the cost of the renunciation of their own prerogatives. Yet since the end of Musharraf’s dictatorship and the return of civilian power in 2008, little or nothing has been done to tame the intelligence agencies, which have taken an increasingly active role in undermining the civilian government.

Reasserting civilian control over the intelligence agencies is a complex process, one that involves constitutional, legal, and organizational issues. The relationship between intelligence agencies and democratic institutions is almost by definition uneasy due to the nature of their activities. Consequently, any efforts made to ensure the compliance of the intelligence agencies’ behavior with the constitutional framework are complicated by the lack of transparency regarding their objectives and actual operations, especially since objectives are often only understood retroactively through the outcome of the actual operations.

Ultimately, making the intelligence agencies accountable amounts to a broader reevaluation of the larger framework of civil-military relations. As a result, not only is intelligence reform an almost intractable political issue, but it also requires a complete change of mentality for the actors involved. Reigning in the intelligence agencies is a problem of a deeper political culture, one that requires a systemic change in the psychology of the organizations.

Yet Pakistan is not the only nation that has faced these issues. Other erstwhile dictatorships have, not long ago, been able to establish democratic oversight of their own intelligence agencies. In these countries, asserting civilian control over the favorite instrument of the dictatorship was an integral part of the democratization process. However, reform was often the consequence of improvements in governance—not a driver of it.

This chapter addresses the possibilities for establishing democratic oversight of intelligence agencies in Pakistan today. I look at the role of intelligence agencies in Pakistan’s transitional democracy and, more specifically, at the ways the agencies have interfered with Pakistan’s democratic process. Drawing on comparable international precedents, I also examine the possible constitutional, legal, and political means to make the intelligence agencies accountable to representative authorities. I argue, however, that the lack of civilian oversight of intelligence agencies is a byproduct of the political imbalance between civilian and military actors, a power structure that favors the latter. Therefore, I conclude that the deepening of democratization of Pakistan, while necessary for creating an environment conducive to accountability (which, in turn, would be further reinforced by any steps to establish oversight of the intelligence communities), is likely insufficient for any meaningful progress in supervision, both today and in the foreseeable future. The role of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies will not be examined in this article. Whatever one may think of the function of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies (or, more broadly, about Pakistan’s foreign policy), secret intelligence services are an instrument of foreign policy throughout the world. Although the foreign excursions of the intelligence agencies may occasionally have domestic motivations, this chapter will focus on the impact of their actions on the social and political fabric of Pakistan, the country they are tasked with protecting.

Political Role of Intelligence Agencies in Pakistan

This section makes four claims. First it shows how political interference of the intelligence agencies is a function of civil-military relations in Pakistan. Second it examines how the political system in the country has been subverted by a powerful military. Third, it shows the manipulation of the media. Finally, it discusses the use of political violence by the major intelligence agencies.

Political interference is a function of civil-military relations

Since the departure of Pervez Musharraf in 2008, the military has pledged its commitment to protecting democracy. Yet it has consistently undermined the civilian government to maintain military prerogatives and, if not establish direct control of the state. It has also attempted to secure a power-sharing arrangement guarantying military authority over key sectors such as defense, foreign affairs, or internal security. As a result, most analysts regard the Pakistani army as the true center of power in those matters.

Following the 2008 elections, the Pakistani military has successfully inserted itself into the political sphere during the post-Musharraf administrations. This is evident in military’s consolidation of power during the civilian regimes of Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. Pervez Kayani, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) during the presidency of Asif Zardari, “was very much part of Pakistan’s political machinery even while cultivating meticulously the impression at home and abroad that he [was] a professional officer waiting for the civilian to lead” (Fair 2011: 580). He never ceased to manipulate the system, shrewdly using the judiciary to pressure the president and make him more amenable to the army’s desires. A similar game is currently in play against the administration of Nawaz Sharif.

In both cases, the military’s resentment of the mainstream political establishment stems from the attempts of the civilian government to assert its control over foreign policy and, more specifically, over Pakistan’s policy vis-à-vis India and Afghanistan. Relations with India in particular are viewed as an existential issue by the security establishment, and constitute a clear divide between the civilian and military authorities. The military has previously taken dramatic action to establish its autonomy over Pakistan’s policy toward India. The 1999 coup against Nawaz Sharif was prompted by the Prime Minister’s signing of the Lahore declaration, made at a time when the military was preparing for the Kargil incursion. Asif Zardari had made significant overtures to New Delhi before the Mumbai terrorist attack of November 2008, perpetrated by the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) with the established support of the intelligence agencies. The subsequent fallout froze Indo-Pakistan relations until the end of 2011, when Zardari was able to resume relations and re-establish dialogue with India. The dialogue, being limited in scope, was a positive development in an otherwise disastrous year for Pakistan marked by an open confrontation between Pakistan and US interests.

During the 2013 electoral campaign, Nawaz Sharif made clear that he intended to restore relations with India and develop Pakistan’s abnormally limited economic exchanges with its neighbor. Immediately after the election, however, the military leadership warned against making rapid concessions to India. The prospective economic relations with India consequently fell victim to the battle between the new government and the military leadership, though this was largely obscured by the concerns of smaller enterprises, which feared the domestic market would be overwhelmed by cheaper Indian products, and the Jihadist organizations, which naturally opposed any improvements in relations with New Delhi.

These examples are highlighted not simply to illustrate a dividing line between the military establishment and the civilian government. The intelligence agencies under both Zardari and Sharif supplemented the military’s political warnings against concessions to India with covert operations in India (whether in Kashmir or other parts of the country), effectively blocking any possibility for dialogue with New Delhi (Sethi 2013).

As long as the military can get its way through seemingly constitutional means, the importance of the intelligence agencies will remain relatively limited. Their role, however, becomes essential whenever the military meets some resistance, as has been the case since the 2008 elections. Thanks to the agreement between the mainstream political parties, the military’s power has been restrained to some extent. For instance, army chief Pervez Kayani pressured Zardari to forgo some of his presidential powers but was unable to coerce the president into stepping down. It is in this political environment, characterized by increased tension between civilian and military authorities, that the role of the intelligence agencies becomes more pronounced (Grare 2013: 989).

The subversion of the political system

The manipulation of the political system is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan. It has been the rule any time a civilian government has been in power, and civilian leaders themselves have occasionally abetted these efforts when it suited their needs of the moment. However, after the Supreme Court of Pakistan condemned the main protagonists of the Mehran affair in October 2012, one could have expected more discretion and less frequency in the manipulation of the political system.1 But it did not take long after the 2008 elections for old habits to resume.

Prominent Pakistani political scientist Hasan Askari Rizvi notes that part of the military’s domestic political power “has always derived from [its] ability to mediate confrontations among feuding political leaders, parties or state institutions, invariably presented as threats to the political order and stability. The military [is] of course the only institution empowered to judge whether such threats existed based on the assumption that a polity in turmoil cannot sustain a professional military” (Rizvi 1998: 100). Yet whenever necessary, the military has not hesitated to generate problems itself if it believes its institutional interests would be better served by a weak and divided polity. This is where the intelligence agencies come into play.

The so-called “Qadri episodes” are viewed by many in Pakistan as illustrative of the relationship between the army and the intelligence services. Tahirul Qadri is a Canadian cleric of Pakistani origin who, in December 2012, returned to Pakistan and initiated a political campaign “calling for a democratic revolution through electoral reforms aimed at preventing corrupt candidates from participating in the forthcoming elections” (Grare 2013: 989). Qadri, who also had apparently unlimited access to resources of vague and unclear origin, called for the resignation of Asif Zardari, the dissolution of the parliament, and the participation of the military in the caretaker government. Many Pakistani observers interpreted Qadri’s anti-corruption campaign as an attempt by the security establishment to create the conditions of an indefinite postponement of the elections, thereby facilitating the replacement of the existing government by a body composed of technocrats and military leaders. Such was the case in the 1990s, when the army repeatedly felt the need to get rid of the Prime Minister of the moment, alternately Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

The 2013 Qadri plot ultimately proved to be a failure. The government made no concession, and although Tahirul Qadri was allowed to save face, he had to back off, only to consequently reemerge with Imran Khan, leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and a favorite of the security establishment. The two initiated a campaign against the Nawaz Sharif government, which began in the summer of 2014. Starting in August 2014, Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city, was paralyzed by tens of thousands of protesters led by Imran Khan and Qadri, who not only called for the resignation of the Prime Minister on the allegation that he had rigged the May 2013 general elections, but also repeatedly threatened him and his ministers with violence (Siddiqi 2014). Soon the military intervened, playing the role of mediator between the government and opposition figures (Hashim 2014). Pakistani observers, not without evidence, privately pointed out the role of the intelligence agencies in the political turmoil as well.2

Unlike in 2013, the impact of the 2014 anti-government movement is much more difficult to assess. Depending on whether the objective of the military was to simply weaken or to completely topple the government, the venture can be read as either a success or a failure. There is no doubt, however, that the military managed to reassert control over the foreign policy of Pakistan in the aftermath of the crisis.

The manipulation of the Pakistani media

The media, of course, remains the main instrument for the political manipulation of public opinion. The so-called “liberation” of the media through the emergence of new electronic media during the Musharraf administration has not fundamentally changed this situation. To the contrary, it has enabled a vast range of extremists to infiltrate into the public space, some of whom almost openly work for the security establishment. The fiction of a free media has, moreover, benefited the interests of the military by providing it with a “certificate” of good democratic practices and, therefore, greater international acceptance.

Pakistan’s three most powerful intelligence outfits–the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), the Military Intelligence (MI), and the Intelligence Bureau (IB)—are known to recruit informants among journalists (Grare 2008: 24). But the link between journalists and the intelligence agencies is a complex one, and cannot be reduced to a simple power dynamic in which the journalists are merely the victim. Journalists need information, and thus have an interest in maintaining a good relationship with intelligence agencies. In return, journalists are often asked to provide information themselves to intelligence agencies. This connivance sometimes results in a collusion that extends beyond appropriate journalistic conduct. Pakistani journalists are a diverse lot with a vast range of opinions--some of which are closer to the security establishment than others--but in Pakistan, like everywhere else in the world, proximity to power is an efficient way to climb the social ladder. But whatever the motivations may be for the close cooperation of some journalists with the intelligence agencies, the proximity of the two enables the military establishment to influence and pressure the press (and, consequently, shape public opinion in the process), while remaining free from any direct responsibility to manipulate the media.

This relationship becomes more complicated when journalists refuse to toe the line or probe areas considered sensitive by the intelligence agencies or if they previously enjoyed close access to the agencies before releasing damaging information. Intimidation by what the Urdu press calls “sensitive institutions” has been a constant fixture of the state-press relations for years (Grare 2008: 24).

Journalists have been arrested, brutalized, and, in some cases, have even died under mysterious circumstances over the years. One case in particular stands out, as it exposed the methods of the intelligence agencies and their broader relation to the press, thereby directly illustrating the state of civil-military relations in Pakistan.

On April 19, 2014, Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan’s most famous journalists, survived an assassination attempt. Soon after, his employer, the Geo TV news channel, blamed the ISI for the attack. While in the hospital, Mir received a visit from the Prime Minister. The next day, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, visited the ISI headquarters to demonstrate solidarity with the intelligence boss, Zahirul Islam. The Defense Ministry soon recommended that Geo TV be shut down for “bringing a national institution into disrepute” (Hanif 2014).

In the process, the ISI divided the press. The Jhang, Dawn, and a few other newspapers supported Geo TV. But a number of Geo TV’s competitors joined the military chorus, asking for the private television channel to be closed down. Extremist organizations such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba or the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, while officially banned, organized public demonstrations in support of the ISI and his chief. The news channel remained shut down for a few weeks before being allowed to resume its activities. Even so, many refused to air its programs. Officially, freedom of expression was restored. In reality, the military and its agencies had made a spectacular demonstration of strength.

Not all cases are as dramatic as the Hamid Mir case is, but direct and indirect pressures on journalists and editors remain widespread. Neeha Ansari, a Pakistani journalist and visiting researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC, recently recounted the collusion between Pakistan’s military and the country’s media outlets during the 2014 protests of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri in a candid narrative of her own experiences in the Pakistani media. Describing how the owners of Pakistani media powerhouses received instructions from the military establishment to support the dissenting leaders and their sit-ins, she portrays the military’s use of the media in the anti-government movement as “an attempt to cut Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif down to size”.3 In the process, the military ensured that its role in the political crisis would be glorified, and that nothing negative about the institution would go to print. The consequence of this relationship between the media and the military, according to Ansari, is that the dominant narrative introduces “a structural bias against democratic institutions and elected officials in Pakistan […] such a discourse has the non-unintentional effect of making the military seen as a better alternative” (Ansari 2014). Such a narrative, reproduced and amplified through a vast array of media outlets in Pakistan, not only serves as a tool to manipulate domestic popular opinion, but as a crucial way to influence perceptions abroad as well.

Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and the use of political violence

The use of political violence by the Pakistani intelligence agencies, through their support to terrorist groups as a means of conducting foreign policy (and also for the purpose of domestic political objectives), has been well documented (HRW 2012). Much less well-known, however, is the systematic use of political violence against the Pakistani society. The ongoing conflict in Balochistan, the largest but least populated province of Pakistan, is one such example. Violence erupted in 2005 after months of tensions over the price of natural gas produced in the southwest province, the development of the port of Gwadar (which locals felt primarily benefited people from other provinces), and the construction of additional military cantonment. The conflict also pointed to deep-seated nationalist sentiments, as the restive province had clashed with the central government occasionally in the past. Nine years later, the conflict continues, albeit at a lower intensity.

Irrespective of any individual judgment over the value of the conflicting parties’ arguments--considering every state, including Pakistan, opposes separatists tendencies--questions can and should be raised about the management of the conflict. Military operations have been stopped, but “kill-and-dump” operations remain in use across the province. Citizens are captured, tortured, and ultimately killed, with their bodies often abandoned many miles away from the place where they were abducted. There seems to be little doubt that most of the disappearances have been perpetrated by Pakistan’s main intelligence agencies and the Frontier Corps, which often act in conjunction with the local law enforcement agencies (HRW 2011: 26). The Pakistani press has also reported on the use of death squads by the intelligence agencies, on the model of the Al Shams and Al Badr militias employed by the Pakistani military during the Bangladesh war.

Insurgents are not the only victims; sympathizers of militant groups, suspected nationalists, students, teachers, lawyers, journalists, and, more generally, all educated citizens are systematically targeted in what increasingly resembles a genocide aimed at eradicating ethnic identities and preventing any possible resurgence of Baloch nationalism. Even the many professionals who have fled Balochistan to other parts of Pakistan–journalists in particular—no longer feel safe, even outside the province.

During elections, this policy of violence is systematically accompanied by the rigging of polls (including, apparently, in 2013) to exclude the most reasonable elements of the Baloch opposition from the political process, eliminating any possibility of a compromise within the limits of the constitutional framework. Instead, the Baloch dissidence is, in effect, represented only by the most radical organizations whose methods are sometimes as unacceptable as the ones employed by the intelligence agencies.

Balochistan is but one extreme example of the way the security establishment addresses political issues, often against the will of the government. But the issue goes far beyond human rights violations. By systematically resorting to political violence, the intelligence agencies legitimize it as a way of solving political problems. Moreover, the use of proxies undermines the role of the state as the sole legitimate user of political violence, corroding the foundation of state authority and therefore the very stability of Pakistan.

Democratic oversight of Pakistani intelligence agencies is therefore a necessity but faces a structural problem: Their political activities precisely aim at undermining the institutions which should be in charge and capable of controlling these activities. The result is a situation where the democratic oversight exists but is ineffective, weakening in the process the authority of the state in a larger set of unrelated issues.

The legal and constitutional control of the intelligence agencies in Pakistan


Intelligence agencies in Pakistan do not have any specific authority granting them extraordinary powers. They are supposed to operate within the general ambit of the federal government’s executive powers, as defined by Article 90 of the Constitution. Two legal channels are outlined to control intelligence agencies in Pakistan:

  • The Constitution. The Supreme Court must, on a case by case basis, determine whether the power exercised by the agencies is within their sphere of authorization;
  • Statutory remedies. This can consist of ordinary judicial review by processes in existing code or legislation that creates a specialized law enforcement body along with information-gathering machinery, and automatically includes an appellate process to the superior courts (Grare 2008: 38).

Neither the constitution of Pakistan nor any specific laws provide exemptions or exceptional jurisdiction to the intelligence agencies to undertake unlawful action against Pakistani citizens or those on Pakistan’s territory. Intelligence agencies “can only get a suspect arrested through the police and that too with an arrest warrant from a magistrate. Under the law, the agencies can neither monitor telephones nor restrict the movement of any citizen, except with special leave” (PILDAT 2012: 8). All agencies remain theoretically under the jurisdiction of regular courts and the general law of the land.

The activities of intelligence agencies, as government entities, must in theory respect the law of the country. The Supreme Court, moreover, has the power to make an order if it is convinced that the enforcement of fundamental constitutional rights is involved.

… and practice

In practice, the activity of the intelligence agencies pays little heed to written law. The agencies are known to have arrested people without authorization and used torture to extract information, while some that it detains have died in mysterious circumstances. Pakistan’s intelligence agencies constantly demonstrate complete contempt for the state institutions, including the Supreme Court.

Once again, Balochistan exemplifies the complete lack of respect of the intelligence agencies for state regulations and institutions. Since the beginning of the conflict, the Supreme Court has held more than 70 hearings on the situation in Balochistan and issued orders for the implementation of law and the Constitution in the province, supposedly as a response to government inefficiency. None of its orders, however, have produced any tangible results. The court has, in the process, exposed its own inefficiency and further highlighted the total absence of accountability of the security establishment.4

Establishing Democratic Control over Pakistan’s Intelligence Agencies

Any attempt to establish democratic control over Pakistan’s intelligence agencies has failed. Both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif tried to nominate ISI chiefs of their own liking, Shamshur Rahman Kallue in 1989 and Ziauddin Butt in 1998, respectively, only to see them marginalized by the armed forces. Most administrations have had a hands-off approach to the issue for fear of alienating the military.

However, the question of democratic oversight of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies has become a recurrent issue and is regularly raised when the military is no longer in power. Civil society in particular has been active in the search for solutions. Policy inspiration can be found in similar instances around the world, as other countries have successfully reigned in their intelligence agencies and demonstrated potential best practices in doing so. Such international precedents offer useful models of what objectives should be pursued, which institutions can be created, or what procedures must be established to reform the intelligence establishment (PILDAT 2012: 17-20). But they often offer little help in the short term, as the problem is as much about defining a legal and regulatory framework as it is an issue of ensuring compliance of the intelligence agencies, and by extension of their military patrons, with the existing legal and constitutional orders. Reform is therefore as much an outcome of democratization as it is a pre-condition for democracy.

More interesting perhaps is the process by which a number of former military dictators have managed to establish democratic oversight. In the 1990s, the collapse of a number of autocratic and dictatorial regimes led to the reorganization of the security apparatus in a number of countries, allowing the new democracies to address oversight of the intelligence agencies. Oversight, however, proved to be a long process. For instance, it took years for successive democratic governments in Chile to reestablish full control over its intelligence agencies after the military handed over power following the lost referendum of 1990. Indonesia and other comparable countries experienced a similar fate. In many respects, the process remained incomplete for a long time and only crystallized as a result of democratic consolidation and often thanks to the patient work of a few individuals who played the go-between government and military, using their personal connections to both sides to gradually establish confidence between the parties.

Given the current shrinking of the political space in Pakistan due to political pressures orchestrated by the security establishment and terrorist activities across the country, there are reasons to doubt the possibility of establishing any degree of democratic control of the intelligence agencies in the foreseeable future. Nor is there any evidence that intelligence reform is among the priorities of the Nawaz Sharif government.

Yet attempts to establish some form of effective democratic oversight of Pakistani intelligence agencies would be a logical consequence of the current political dynamic and a necessary condition to change the domestic power equilibrium in favor of the civilian. Even if the military remains the dominant political force in Pakistan, it is no longer omnipotent, thanks to the 2008 consensus among the mainstream political parties, which aimed to guard against any manipulation by the army. As stated before, instances of the weakening power of the military have appeared as a result. Kayani failed to coerce Zardari into stepping down, while the present security establishment’s patronization of political protests by Imran Khan and Tahir Qadri have produced no tangible progress in collapsing the Sharif regime. The existing but relative political consensus over the non-interference of the military and intelligence apparatus in political matters could be enlarged to all political forces, in particular in the parliament. Positive steps in this direction have been taken.

The Supreme Court could also be a useful ally of any government attempt to seriously control its intelligence agencies, as it is the highest authority charged with monitoring the constitutionality of state policies. Even if the Supreme Court cannot ensure the respect of the law, it can publicize and advertise the law and expose its violations. Though the Supreme Court failed to stop the “enforced disappearances” in Balochistan, it nonetheless gave considerable exposure to the intelligence agencies’ policies and wrongdoings in the area and thus heightened public awareness beyond the limits of the province.

These would be only preliminary steps toward reforming the intelligence agencies, and democratic oversight will ultimately have to be established through further legislation. Yet despite the relatively limited nature of these steps, they are still necessary. Because the intelligence agencies in Pakistan derive their power and autonomy from the considerable domestic political power of the military, particularly the army, civilian control can be established only if democracy is consolidated within the country. This is unlikely to be a smooth and linear process. Ultimately, however, successful oversight of the intelligence community can only be established alongside a push toward deeper democratization.


This chapter analyzes the challenges of intelligence reform in Pakistan’s transitional democracy. It argues that Pakistan held two free and fair elections in 2008 and 2013. Despite that the civilian governments of Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have had considerable challenges to constrain the power of the military and to bring the country’s military intelligence outfits—ISI and MI—into full civilian control. Despite the constitutional and statutory limits, Pakistan has failed to curb the political interference of intelligence agencies. This is evident in media manipulation, subversion of the political system, and systematic use of political violence against ethnic and secessionist movements. Reforming the intelligence agencies would require legislative changes, judicial activism, and deepening of Pakistan’s democracy.


1 On March 24, 1994, Yunus Habib, president of the Mehran Bank, was arrested for siphoning money from the bank. On April 20, the issue was brought to the floor of the National Assembly by Interior Minister Nasrullah Babar. In 1997, retired air marshal Asghar Khan, former chief of the Pakistan Air Force, filed a Supreme Court petition challenging the legality of a 1990 “donation” by the Mehran Bank, a nationalized institution, of some $ 6.5 million to the then COAS, General Mirza Aslam Beg. The Chief Justice, Sajjad Ali Shah, consequently called a hearing on ISI’s role in domestic politics. During the hearing, General Aslam Beg admitted he had put the money at the disposal of the ISI and MI for duly “authorized purposes”. The money, which was partly used for covert operations, also went to the Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) a coalition of conservative and religious political parties. Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N was one of the beneficiaries. The former COAS had earlier declared that “it was a practice with the ISI to support candidates during the elections under the direction of the chief executives.” The case was left pending for years, and resumed only after civilian came back to power in 2008. The verdict was rendered only in October 2012. See, Grare (2008: 21-22).

2 For example, Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) cars were the only ones allowed and capable of moving in the blocked areas without any difficulties while the rest of traffic was entirely blocked.

3 Interestingly, Javed Hashmi, then President of Imran Khan’s PTI, also reported how the Khan had declared that he had settled the anti-government protest with the security establishment. See, Ansari (2014).

4 In October 2007, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry threatened to summon the head of the intelligence agencies in the case of the “missing persons” in Balochistan. But a few days later, he allowed them to regularize the disappearances, although he reiterated that the Supreme Court had substantial evidence that the missing were in the custody of the intelligence agencies. The Chief Justice could ultimately do little more than make a public noise about the missing persons. Dawn, 12 October 2007.


Ansari, Neeha. 2014. “Not Fit to Print: An Insider Account of Pakistani Censorship.” Foreign Policy. 20 November.

Fair, C. Christine. 2011. “Why the Pakistan army is here to stay: prospects for civilian governance.” International Affairs 87.3: 571-588.

Grare, Frederic. 2008. Reforming the Intelligence Agencies in Pakistan’s Transitional Democracy. Washington D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Grare, Frederic. 2013. “Pakistan’s foreign and security policies after the 2013 general elections: The judge, the politician and the military.” International Affairs 89.4: 987-1001.

Hanif, Mohammed. 2014. “The Hamid Mir Case: ‘In Pakistan, they used to censor journalists – now they shoot us’.” The Guardian, 23 April.

Hashim, Asad. 2014. “Pakistan army intervenes in political crisis.” Aljazeera, 29 August.

HRW. 2012. “Pakistan: UPR Submission April 2012.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 2011. We can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years: Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan Security Forces in Balochistan. July.

Malik, Ifthikar H. 1997. State and Civil Society in Pakistan: Politics of Authority, Ideology and Ethnicity. London: Macmillan Press LTD.

PILDAT. 2012. Democratic Control of Intelligence Services in Pakistan: Civil Military Relations. Islamabad: Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency. September. /DemocraticControlofIntelligenceServicesinPakistan_PILDATIssuePaper.pdf

Rizvi, Hasan Askari. 1998. “Civil Military Relations in Contemporary Pakistan.” Survival 40.2.

Sethi, Najam. 2013. “From Blunderland to Plunderland and Back - Pakistan under Nawaz Sharif.” The Friday Times. editorials/book7-2013-Continue.htm

Siddiqi, Taha. 2014. “Pakistan faces a major political crisis: 6 things to know.” The Christian Science Monitor, 27 August.

This piece was originally published as a chapter in the book Intelligence, National Security and Foreign Policy: A South Asian Narrative, edited by A.S.M. Ali Ashraf.