A Letter from Former ISI DG Javed Qazi (and comments from Dr Hussain)

What follows is Dr Hamid Hussain’s comments regarding General Javed Ashraf Qazi’s long letter about the role of the army in creating the current Jihadi mess. Hamid sahib’s comments are in red.
The original is on Major Amin’s website.

Dear Sir;

Thanks for forwarding Lt. General Javed Ashraf Qazi’s bird’s eye view of ‘witch’s brew’ that is perfected over three decades of fermentation. My two cent worth in respected officer’s main text in red.  In private conversations, I’m more candid with officers who had/have front row seat to the ‘horror show’ and obviously that limits what I can say in an open forum.  I’m just finishing excellent biography of Auckinleck by John Connell and most quotes are from that book.

For the un-initiated, few housekeeping rules;

–      As expected, respected officer can only talk about certain aspects and his professional oath prohibits him from discussing other aspects of his job.  He is a patriotic Pakistani and army officer so it is natural that he will give that perspective defending certain policies which is his right.
–      Every nation has its narrative and we may agree or disagree with that narrative.  I have the chance of interacting with non-Pakistanis therefore I’ll interject that view to give some perspective. I found a great similarity in opinion of Pakistanis regarding Americans and Afghans view about Pakistanis.
–      Every narrative blames the ‘other’.  Fact is that this is too big a shit hole to be the job of one actor.  Everybody (locals, regional and international) has generously contributed towards this. Similarly, no one player holds the key to nirvana but a collective effort will be needed to clean it up.
–      In general, everybody agrees with Pakistan’s genuine security concerns regarding Afghanistan and that includes me. However, disagreement is about careful and cautious handling of an explosive situation to safeguard one’s interests versus repeatedly thrusting hand in the snake pit and coming openly in favor of one or other party in a civil war thus multiplying one’s adversaries exponentially.
–      Discussion is limited to practical aspects and not any ideological or moral ground as ‘Saur’ revolution of Afghanistan was as legitimate or illegitimate as General Zia’s coup in Pakistan.
–      Every perspective is limited and mine is no exception.  My opinion is based on my own limited work and subject to correction, critique etc.

“Wisdom after the event is the privilege and the peril of the historian”.  John Connell

Warm Regards,


In case you haven’t seen. Would be interested in any comments you may have.

From: Javed Ashraf Qazi
Date: Fri, Sep 4, 2015 at 11:11 AM
Subject: Debate: Army Vs. Civilians
I do not remember if I clarified it earlier but I shall do it once again so that at least you should be clear in your mind and do not mix up various groups and terminologies. What I am going to tell you is the absolute truth.
I am in a position to do so since I was as DGMI in indirect contact with Mujahideen in 1990-91 and was the DGISI in 1993-95 when the Taliban appeared and captured Afghanistan less Panjshir valley.(It is correct statement by the respected officer but only to a certain extent.  Head of an organization is an informed person but he also has significant limitations.  Modern intelligence agencies are large bureaucracies with personality, organizational and turf battles. This is especially true for intelligence organizations.  I’ll give some explanation about MI and ISI but this applies in general to any other organization.  In almost 90 percent of cases, head of MI and ISI has no previous experience with intelligence and in general never served with the organization which he is leading.  This means that it takes a while before he is briefed about wide ranging areas in which his organization is involved.  As he is dependent on his subordinates for information therefore in general he is given more optimistic or neutral pictures.  It is highly unlikely that his subordinates will give him any honest opinion about botched operations. On another plane, if his subordinates disagree with the policy of the high command they have some room from maneuverability.  This applied to individual handlers (usually Colonel rank officers) in the field dealing with Afghan commanders.  I may provide some more details on this subject in my forthcoming obituary of Colonel ® Shuja Khanzada as he was involved in one such game.  In summary, if handler disagrees with the policy, he can slow or stop the flow of information going upwards and continue to give his own line to the ‘proxies’ as later don’t have any other channel upwards. Another important factor to remember is ‘compartmentalization’. In every organization, all eggs are never put in one basket.  When General Zia was uncomfortable with increasing power of then DGISI General Akhtar Abdur Rahman, he gave some tasks to MI.  Similarly inside the organization, different departments don’t know the details of working of another department in the same building.  This is norm and nothing unusual.  This is exacerbated when there is mistrust among senior officers or friction.  Case in point, when juniors came to know that DGISI Lt. General Ziauddin had lost the confidence of army Chief, his subordinates (then Major General Ghulam Ahmad and Jamshed Gulzar Kayani) passed information directly to Chief bypassing their own boss and in due time rewarded with promotions and coveted appointments to reward their loyalty.)
Mujahideen were first organized as a resistance group by Gen Babar on the orders of Mr Bhutto. (this is correct.  I have done quite an extensive piece on this early time period before Zia’s coup based on interviews with first hand witnesses including several hours long sessions with late Major General Naseerullah Khan Babar). These were mostly students from Kabul and other cities. The Russians had not yet marched in but there was hostility against Pakistan. When the Russians marched into Afghanistan, gen Zia decided to organize a resistance movement against them and keep them away from our borders. ISI was given this task and the groups called Mujahideen came into existence. Later The U.S., Saudis and others joined in when they saw the mujahideen as an effective resistance. Yes the ISI organized, trained and armed these Mujahideen groups and successfully kept the Russians engaged until they were forced to withdraw. The Army itself was not involved except some officers like Col Imam who were serving in ISI. The prominent leaders of the time were Hikmatyar, Haqqani, Ahmed Shah Masud, Gilani, Yunus Khalis etc.

After the Russian withdrawal these groups got into a power struggle. Hikmatyar had been elected (I’ll not be that charitable to call this process as election.  In fact, around $5 million provided by Saudi Arabia resulted in this arrangement of a fractious lot) as Prime Minister and Rabbani as the President. Masud who was the Defence Minister captured Kabul and did not allow Hikmatyar to enter Kabul. (and Hikmatyar earned the distinction of being the Prime Minister who decided to bomb his own capital rather than go there and take charge.  Even atheist Soviets were considerate enough to avoid destruction of mosques but the ‘pious lot’ where every resistance party had the word ‘Islam’ inserted in its name turned Kabul into rubble destroying countless mosques.  Pakistanis don’t know the animosity between Masud and Hikmatyar.  In fact they hated each other more than their hatred for Soviets. This goes back to days when both were ‘milk faced boys’. In 1973, when Pakistan’s efforts were in infancy to bring Afghans to Pakistan for training, both chaps were undermining each other. There were casualties and at one time Babar got furious and summoned Hikmatyar and threatened him that if he didn’t stop then may be one day his corpse will be floating in Kunar River.  It is very important to understand internal Afghan dynamics as in my view Pakistanis were seriously handicapped in judging Afghan character. They thought they can brush everything under the carpet of Jihad.  No wonder that one day ISI handlers called their Afghan clients as great warriors of Islam and next day called them ‘jokers’. Some really lost the path and ended up ‘reverse indoctrinated’.) A civil war ensued with lot of killing and total anarchy in Afghanistan. (Just like Pakistanis blame Americans for most of their ills, an overwhelmingly majority of Afghans blame Pakistan squarely for all the bloodshed stating that how can Pakistan wash its hands when it trained, armed and launched these folks even when they were turning Kabul into rubbles long after the last Soviet had left Afghanistan. Pakistanis can disagree with this notion.)
It was now 1993 and I was appointed DGISI. I took a decision to disengage ISI from Afghanistan since we did not want to take sides. U.S. And others had pulled out and no help was available. I called back all ISI reps back except liaison officers in the Embassy and Consulates. I was heavily criticized by Hameed Gul for doing so. (this was the right decision taken by General Abdul Waheed Kakar and efficiently carried by Qazi.  However, many Pakistanis including some ISI officers called it an American move to cleanse ISI stables; in my view a wrong impression.  It was in Pakistan’s interest although Washington used the stick of threatening to label Pakistan ‘sponsor of terrorism’ to get everybody’s attention.)
In 1994, the ex mujahideen and a group of students from Madrassas rose in revolt against the Mujahideen commanders. People of Afghanistan welcomed them. The leader was Mulla Umar who was head of Madrassas where it all started. They did not encounter any resistance and the troops of Mujahideen commanders fed up with atrocities surrenders and came over to them. They became known as Taliban because the bulk came from Madrassas. We did not create them or armed them since a lot of them were ex fighters and there were plenty of weapons in Afghanistan. (This is the dilemma when a country gets too much involved in another country. They can claim that when a fighter changes his cap badge, it absolves them of all responsibility but those on the other end will keep blaming them based on old associations.  Same is true even today.  If Pakistan brings Taliban on the table everybody says look they are Pakistan’s proxies and if Taliban go on their own way ignoring Pakistan’s advice, no one believes. Afghan clients can be very slippery. For every Afghan eating from Pakistan’s hand, there are ten Afghans who are eating from someone else’s hand.)
Our first contact with Taliban was after they had rescued our convoy to Uzbekistan being held by a commander. They had by this time taken Kandahar and Herat and were marching on Kabul. They neither asked for military help nor we gave them any. They sent a delegation to me requesting that we remain neutral in this struggle. Kabul surrendered without a fight just as all other cities did and they did restore peace in Afghanistan. We recognized them as the de facto Govt in Afghanistan (Afghans have a simple question that how come that Pakistani generals who enjoy their gin and soda and send their daughters to convent of Jesus and Mary to get educated want the most retrogressive gentlemen of Afghanistan to rule them.  If a Talib is good for Afghanistan then why he is bad for Pakistan? This dilemma is the root cause of confusion.) and they did not allow India to do any hostile activities against us. We had only liaison officers in Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar Sharif. Col Imam was one of them located in Kandhar. These Taliban after 9/11 and the U.S. Assault had to leave Kabul and became the resistance in Afghanistan. A lot of them came to Pakistan and took refuge in our refugee camps or the tribal area. Haqqani who is such a thorn in American side came to N Waziristan. Subsequently he managed to establish his writ in three southern provinces of Afghanistan.(Correct to a certain extent but it also begs the question as who established writ in Pakistan’s tribal territories and how?) His fighters were now in Afghanistan but their families stayed on in Waziristan until Operation Zarb e Azab of Pak Army against TTP. Haqqani and his group have never attacked any place in Pakistan. They also did not launch their operations against Kabul from Pakistan since they control Paktia and Khost in Afghanistan. Their families however were  in N Waziristan but we did not attack their camp (this is correct and Pakistan saw in its own interest that Mr. Haqqani is not bothering them therefore if he is beheading Afghan soldiers or bombing the shit out of civilians in Afghanistan, they don’t care.  If we accept Pakistan’s point of view then how about Afghan’s point of view.  Afghans can claim that Mr. Fazlullah is not bothering them and it is not their business what he does in Pakistan. Each party can make others life miserable if they choose.  However, both countries need to come out of their present mind set and understand each other’s limitations.) despite pressure from Americans who would not send their own troops to fight them in Khost but instead wanted us to attack their base camp/ families.
After the U.S. Came in lot of foreign fighters specially Uzbeks who had taken refuge in Afghanistan now came to our tribal areas. They bought or rented property and teamed up with criminals to push the Malik’s out of tribal belt. Some inmates of Guantanamo Prison like Abdullah Mehsud were let out and came back to form a group called Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. It has nothing to do with Taliban of Afghanistan. (This needs correction.  Muhammad Alam aka Abdullah Mahsud had been fighting in Afghan Taliban ranks since 1996.  In fact, he lost one leg in 1996 in a fight against Northern Alliance.  In 2001, he was in Taliban ranks and fighting in northern Afghanistan and surrendered to Dostum. After a vacation at Guantanamo Bay where U.S. tax payers paid for his prosthetic leg, he came back to the theatre.  He was active in Af-Pak theatre until finally his luck ran out and Pakistanis dispatched him to his maker in Zhob.)   Sectarian killers and other criminals like ransom seekers and car thieves etc. all joined and they started their atrocities on the people of Pakistan. The Army or the ISI had nothing to do with their rise. (Sectarian killers rotate through various organizations for survival as described above.  Everyone knows about the ideology of Lashkar-e-Taiba; a group primarily trained for operations in Kashmir. They are pretty candid about what they think about Shia and other Sunni groups i.e. Barelvis. Their leaders may not openly advocate violence against ‘deviants’ but they prepare a very fertile ground and others are free to pick from this nursery.  While their leader Mr. Hafiz Saeed can be given a ‘golden handshake’ and a lucrative ‘severance package’ as state feels it is the right policy but what about the rank and file?  A large number is not physically involved against the state but everyone knows where their sympathies are.  Those who disagree with their own leadership have already found greener pastures in other organizations.  This is no secret that Pakistan’s sectarian killers were at camps in Afghanistan during Taliban time and none other than then DGISI Ziauddin and interior minister Lt. General Moinuddin Haider went to Afghanistan pleading with Taliban to do something about them.  More important point to ponder is that a youth of 17 & 18 who attained the power of having the authority of life and death and basking in glory.  Now we expect that he will just go back to his tea stall and taking the abuse from ordinary folks.  I think de-radicalization programs started by the army are maturing and in the long run will be helpful in containing the fires.)  They are the worst liabilities and no one ever considered this lot as assets. Some religious parties and zealots including some ex ISI officers tried to support them in the name of Islam but met the fate as that of Col Imam. These criminals are now on the run and this TTP remains the greatest threat to our security. Haqqani has remained a friend and is now totally in Afghanistan. We need to remain out of any conflict between the Afghan groups and keep friendly relations with all. (This is the sane course but temptations are hard to control.  In addition, too much blood has passed under the bridge and it will take a long time for everybody to forget what happened.)
Irrespective of what lies have been told and some books by our Pakistani authors this is the truth. They had to sell their books and invented fake stories behind the rise of Taliban with the help by ISI. This is the real truth which you may or may not believe but at least you have been told.  (This may be true, but what about ISI officers who proudly claim that they are legitimate or illegitimate fathers of Taliban and on every forum defend them?)
The groups who murdered Pakistanis were never created or nurtured by the Army or the ISI. This TTP is a bunch of criminals masquerading as Taliban. ( I disagree with the respected officer in strongest terms.  I think it was great ancient Chinese strategist Tao Te Ching who said that “No disaster is greater than slighting the enemy; for slighting the enemy borders on the loss of one’s treasures”.  My own work in this area and interaction with a number of officers with front row seat to the show gives me pause.  If we accept respected officer’s view that these are simply thugs then how we explain that they gave Pakistan army run for their money.  No doubt, they are a dangerous and blood thirsty enemy responsible for so much grief for Pakistan but let’s pause for a minute.  I’ll not go into more details but only highlight few things. Look at the events from 2003- 10; TTP organization: rise among leadership based on performance, earning respect and loyalty from following, training, motivation, use of skills (using workers with experience of mining in Baluchistan to create extensive underground infrastructure in Swat and other tribal areas), thorough planning, operational excellence, audacity, hitting center of gravity i.e. Pakistan army installations repeatedly with success, slick propaganda and sending the general public morale in nose dive.  Sir this is not the performance of a bunch of criminals but a determined foe.  There is a method in his madness.  A thorough understanding of adversary is must to meet the challenge.  This is the true test of professionalism. Reminds me a sentence which Auk wrote to his Corps Commander about adversary in Western desert ‘I have no doubt that they will be vigorous, clever and dangerous’. Alas there was no Auk at GHQ who could see clearly and prepare accordingly.  Too many years wasted before the right course finally adopted.)

                             They are totally different and have no relationship with Afghan Taliban. The only assets created by Pakistan were the Mujahideen who were used to push the Soviets out of Afghanistan. We did not create the Taliban which was an indigenous movement. Why is it so difficult to believe the truth? (This is a good example of simplicity of thought ignoring varying loyalties and blurring of boundaries.  Respected officer is correct in pointing the difference between rise of Taliban in Afghanistan and Taliban in Pakistan but totally oblivious to the fact how this thought process permeates across boundaries.  It also ignores how various groups use connections to their advantage. He wants to wish away the facts which are not disputed.  Few examples can refresh everybody’s memory.  Thousands of Pakistani religious seminary students led by clerics who had connections with Afghan clerics fought on front lines long before American B-52s showed up on skies.  When U.S. came to town thousands more went to Afghanistan to fight.  Those who are fighting sectarian wars have rotated through organizations active in Afghanistan, Kashmir etc.  Even today, when pressure comes on these organizations they move to a group not under attack.  Even proselytizing and non-political Tableeghi Jammat’s vast infrastructure is being used as ‘rat lines’.)  Why must you believe the anti-army lobby trying to throw all blame at army’s doorstep since it makes them heroes in the eyes of so called liberals sitting in U.S. (We have heard this before many times where army feels only it has the monopoly over patriotism. I don’t know many civilians but at least those well informed Pakistanis that I have the pleasure to know have also buried their loved ones and I find their view much more informed about some crucial issues.  They have a different view but they are no less patriotic.) I am sending you a complete rundown on all these groups and the misuse of terminologies to demonize the army and the ISI by your friends in U.S.
Your facts are totally incorrect. I have posted a detailed fact sheet on all these groups. You should believe me since I am in the full picture and was on the spot as against you depending on what others have written. TTP except the word Taliban has nothing to do with Taliban who are all Afghans. Haqqani is very much a part of Taliban but has nothing to do with TTP except that before the Army operation both coexisted in N Waziristan in their respective area. (A chap is abducted in Afghanistan and ends up in Waziristan, when TTP groups develop differences, then Haqqani’s emissaries come in to broker peace, when Commissioner of Malakand goes for negotiations, sometimes he leads the prayer while at other time Mullah Fazlullah, Corps Commander of Peshawar, Lt-Gen Safdar Hussain first garlands Nek Muhammad and then calls Nek’s successorBaitullah Mehsud “a soldier of peace,” a senior army officer telling a group of journalists “We have no big issues with the militants in FATA. We have only some misunderstandings with Baitullah Mehsud and Fazlullah. These misunderstandings could be removed through dialogue” and calling these two chaps patriots.  Entire Pakistan mourning the untimely death of late Hakimullah Mahsud and none other than interior minister wailing publicly and lamenting the death of a great peace maker. Is this all fairy tale or I’m delusional. Now things are clear but the time period under discussion was full of confusion, strategic myopia and incompetence at various levels. Pakistan lost a lot in this muddle. I have the pleasure and honor of knowing a large number of Pakistani officers; a good number first rate officers.  Many performed admirably no matter what their rank and when done professionally also delivered and completed their assigned task.  However, I’m a very strong critic when it comes to competence and professionalism and in private conversations I advocated as early as 2003-04 to start the business of sacking the ‘dead wood’ on the ship. I think it was Auk who said “It may not be in accordance with ‘usual practice’, but this is an ‘unusual’ war, and it will have an ‘unusual’ end if we do not get a move on and sweep aside cobwebs and precedents and ‘usual practices” and this was the cross road for Pakistan in 2003-4.  I think it was a fine Pakistani officer who said about the task at hand in those early days.  “I have come to the conclusion that we have to do it Sir and if we have to do it then better do it today than tomorrow”.)
TTP is Pakistan oriented wanting to capture the state. They are also barbaric killers more like the ISIS. (Should we believe that these chaps were raised and trained in Timbuktu and took chartered flights in C-130s to land in Waziristan, declare Emirate and gave Pakistani state an eviction notice which was accepted without a protest. Off course, army is not solely responsible for the royal mess but one cannot simply wash hands calling it the will of God. These demons are real and need to be exorcised.) If the operation by the army had not destroyed their bases in Waziristan, there would have been thousands more of our country men in graves. These killers were never an asset for anyone but themselves or our religious parties who tried to defend them. Surprise was Imran Khan who for a long time failed to differentiate and kept calling TTP as our people. (This is all history and good indulgence.  It is with purpose of understanding and not some silly exercise of blames or claims and counter claims.  Wars are not fought according to some manual and marking a checklist.  It is all uncertainty, fleeting moments of chance and test of will.  Now that the right decisions have been made, it is important to make sure that the momentum continues. The price of complacency will be more blood and tears.)

“Fools admire, but men of sense approve”.                  Alexander Pope

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