Unity, faith, discipline – The ISI of Pakistan


ISI was established by Australian army commander Major-General Walter Cawthorne, then Deputy Chief of Staff of the Pakistan Army, in the aftermath of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947-8. Later, he became the chief of Australia’s Secret Intelligence Service. Cawthrone based ISI’s design on the British intelligence service MI-6 and the United States’ CIA.

Author Hein G. Kiessling’s book “Faith, Unity, Discipline – The ISI of Pakistan” gives readers a fascinating historical look into the secret world of one of the most admired and dreaded secret services of the modern age.

Kiessling explains ISI’s start and how it was first charged with carrying out foreign operations. He also goes into great detail on the pivotal events that changed the path of history and made ISI what it is today.

The author reflects on the ISI’s early failures, like Operation Gibraltar, which used irregulars to incite an uprising in Kashmir. Although General Ayub Khan approved the ideas, they did not pay off for Pakistan.

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The writer explores the role of the ISI in East Pakistan. Its first attempt to inject religion into politics, which ended in failure, was to get enough support for Jammat-e-Islami in Bangladesh. While the Indian RAW, on the other hand, not only completed its core objective of dismembering Pakistan but also posed a threat to the ISI’s emergence as a secret organization.

For years, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was an underdeveloped and unknown organization. It became well-known in 1979 when Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in support of their communist ally’s government. To defend the mujahideen against the Soviets, the organization collaborated with the CIA, an American intelligence agency by providing weapons and funding.

Since then, the ISI has expanded its sphere of influence throughout the region. The directorate’s support in Indian-held Kashmir, assistance to the Afghan Taliban, and potential ties to Al-Qaeda are all fiercely debated topics. It also puts the spotlight on the ISI’s participation in the country’s nuclear program and its covert role in the Dr. A.Q. Khan case.

This book provides an excellent overview of the ISI’s participation in internal politics and foreign counter-intelligence operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan, and North East India, among other places. It details the events of the 1990s when Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto established an information-sharing network between the ISI and Pakistan’s foreign office for policy research and other purposes.

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The author further claims that ISI wields diplomatic power through the appointment of former military generals as ambassadors.

One of the book’s most intriguing parts is its debunking of the misconception that ISI is a rogue organization. The author argues that such an idea does not exist and ISI is a well-established organization with a robust command structure overseeing the directorate’s operations.

Because there is little public discussion about ISI’s actions, the author’s attempt to dispel some of the agency’s clouds is pushed back.

The material in the book comes from the author’s personal networking with ISI professionals, as well as secondary source data, particularly from Indian academics that view ISI through a RAW lens. This book, on the other hand, succeeds in explaining the workings of intelligence as well as Pakistan’s politics and overall policies.


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