Pakistan: ISI rigged elections -by Inam R Sehri

On 2nd May 2011 evening, PPP ultimately joined hands with PML(Q) and offered them 18 slots in executive allocating them different assignments, mostly carrying ministreal perks. The young generation knows them little from days of Gen Musharraf when they remained in shared power with a military ruler but more after assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto who had nominated them as her ‘killers’.

However, PML(Q) has its own history; who brought them in power and how were they favoured, is altogether a different scanario. What has been the role of ISI in that political maneuverring can be understood from an archived essay reproduced below. It is for the education of our younger lots.

This essay was written by someone else, but the reference pointing towards (mis)deeds of ISI was published on 24th February 2008, in SUN of India, under the title ‘Major General who rigged Pakistan 2002 polls, spills the beans’ written by Sahil Nagpal.

Inam R Sehri (

It is generally perceived that the PM Z A Bhutto dragged the ISI in the politics. It is widely spread that it was Bhutto who had first time assigned political tasks to the ISI in Pakistan. It is not the whole truth. Actually it was the Field Marshal Ayub Khan who had used ISI to seek political motives during his presidential rule in the backdrop of his growing distrust in the Intelligence Bureau due to the presence of Bengali officers. When war broke out in Kashmir in mid 1965, Ayub Khan had started feeling a collapse of the operations of all the intelligence agencies including ISI because the agencies were concentrating on the surveillance of possible domestic political activities against him.

In the words of wajid Shamsul Hassan, ‘the covert infiltration plan in the Indian-occupied Kashmir, codenamed Operation Gibraltar –a brainchild of GHQ and ISI turned out to be an intelligence fiasco.

According to analysts ISI had overestimated so-called “local support” to Pakistani commandos in Kashmir and underestimated the Indian response to the plan. The ISI’s colossal failure got exposed when Operation Gibraltar met reverses and the Indians—in order to teach Ayub a lesson—broadened the theatre of war beyond Kashmir into
Pakistani territory. What added insult to Ayub’s injury was the failure of ISI to locate the Indian armored division that had sneaked into a position when Lahore could have fallen to the Indian Army it without much ado.’

In a top brass meeting, Ayub Khan pulled up the then ISI chief Brigadier Riaz making him responsible for ISI’s failure to locate a whole Indian armoured division that caused loss of hundreds of commandos in the Operation Gibraltar. Brig Riaz flatly told that ‘it was busy keeping surveillance on his political opponents’.

Wajid Shamsul Hassan adds that ‘this was a slap on Ayub’s face and he appointed a committee headed by General Yahya Khan to examine the working of the ISI and other intelligence agencies. The Committee found that ISI had been deeply involved in domestic politics and, had been devoting its time and energy in monitoring the activities of
Ayub’s political opponents’.

Since its first day of independence, the army intelligence units including ISI used to report to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army (C-in-C) as it was natural. After 1958’s Martial Law all the intelligence agencies including Intelligence Bureau were made answerable to the President and Chief Martial Law Administrator. The intelligence agencies then started competing to demonstrate their loyalty to Ayub Khan. All the agencies tried to over take each other in giving Ayub Khan a rosy picture of the country. They kept him in the dark about the freedom movement in former East Pakistan which
ultimately disembarked. The ISI, however, lost its political importance when Z A BHutto assumed power in 1972. He was very critical of its role during the 1970/71 general elections, which triggered off the events leading to the break up of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh.

In early seventies ISI’s Chief General Jilani gained confidence of Z A Bhutto by divulging to him the conspiracy by General Gul Hasan to overthrow him. This information, true or false, brought Gen Jilani nearer to Z A Bhutto and he ensured that his confidante General Ziaul Haq succeeds Tkika Khan as army chief. Zia ul Haq was given rapid and
unprecedented promotions by Bhutto thus had himself signed his death warrants. Gen Zia ul Haq ‘instead of remaining loyal to his benefactor decided to bite the hand that had fed him fat. He used his ISI to conjure an alliance of different political parties; got PNA formed and ignited a fake movement that looked real to topple Bhutto’.

Gen Zia became all powerful following his coup against Bhutto in July 1977. He expanded its role and made this agency responsible for collection of intelligence about the PPP, with a special focus on organizing ethnic and religious groups in order to divide Sindh’s political power. A golden opportunity then cropped up for both Gen Zia and ISI to become the sole arbiter of power in the region following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He had Washington and London on
their toes to help him to carry out their jihad. However, with the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan his utility was over but leaving behind a new class of ‘wealthy politicians’ like Humayun Akhter and Ejaz ul Haq whose fathers had minted billions of dollars from American ammunition received for operations against Russians in

Another ISI chief Gen Hameed Gul — according to his confession –formed IJI to deny Benazir Bhutto an absolute majority in elections after air–crashed death of Gen Zia ul Haq, to avert what he called ‘democratic dictatorship’. Two sons of a pseudo industrialist Mian Sharif were selected to rule over Punjab. His accomplice, of course, was his boss Gen Aslam Beg who had conceded later before the Supreme Court of Pakistan on 16th June 1997, that he had distributed 140 million Rupees, secretly amongst the Bhutto’s opponents to help PPP’s defeat in elections.

Referring to an interview published on 24th February 2008 in The News, a daily English newspaper of Pakistan, Maj Gen Ehtesham Zamir, the head of the ISI’s political cell in 2002, admitted manipulating the last elections at the behest of President Musharraf and termed the defeat of the King’s party, the PML-Q, this time ‘a reaction of the unnatural dispensation (installed in 2002).’ He categorically emphasized that the ISI together with the NAB was instrumental in
pressing the lawmakers to join the pro-Musharraf camp to form the government to support his stay in power. Looking down back into the memory lane and recalling his blunders which, he admitted, had pushed the country back instead of taking it forward, Zamir felt ashamed of his role and conduct. He was massively embarrassed because he was the
one who negotiated, coerced and did all the dirty work for PML(Q) on orders of Gen Musharraf.

Gen Zamir confirmed that corruption cases were used as pressure tactics to change the loyalties of the lawmakers but: “This tool was used not only by the ISI. The NAB was also involved in this exercise.”

[General elections held on 10th October 2002 were stolen in favour of PML-Q on the orders of Gen Musharraf. The history would remember that Gen Musharraf’s principal secretary Tariq Aziz was given the assignment to deliver a pro-Musharraf parliament. To fulfil this assignment, Tariq Aziz made indiscriminate use of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Gen Musharraf’s aides, as well as PMLQ leaders, termed the opposition
leaders’ statements as baseless and a lame excuse not to admit their defeat. Despite the ‘riggings’ in the 2002 elections, PMLQ could bag only 69 out of 272 general seats. Therefore, Gen Musharraf had suspended for three days the constitutional clause pertaining to floor-crossing with the result that PMLQ was able to form the government in the centre with Mir Zafrullah Jamali as prime minister of Pakistan.]

The fact remains that the intensity of anti-Musharraf vote did not give the government machinery and the Chaudhrys of Gujrat enough space to carry out massive rigging, however, the ISI managed to do it selectively to give some respectability to PML(Q).

Earlier Gen Jamshed Gulzar Kiyani had also disclosed that majority of the corps commanders, in several meetings, had opposed Musharraf’s decision of patronising the Chaudhrys. Gen Musharraf was repeatedly told that the PML(Q) leaders are the worst politicians who remained involved in co-operative scandals and writing off loans but he never heard their advice. One of Gen Musharraf’s colleagues, who was Chief of the NAB at that time, had even sought permission to put dog collar around the necks of Chaudhrys but he was always refused permission to proceed against them.

The disclosures made by Gulzar Kiyani and Ehtesham Zamir should serve as eye openers for the nation and future planners of the Army rule in Pakistan. Though the recent elections are being described as fairer than 2002, Gen Zamir does not rule out the possibility of 2008 polls being rigged. According to a generally held view, COAS General Ashfaq
Kiyani had ensured army’s non-interference in polls that is why there was comparatively less institutional interference of intelligence agencies this time as compared to the last time.

Major General ® Ehtesham Zamir’s confession should be treated as the last nail in ISI’s coffin if democracy is to be saved, served and strengthened in Pakistan.



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