Military Wiki
Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence
Agency overview
Formed 1948 by General Robert Cawthome
Jurisdiction Government of Pakistan
Headquarters Islamabad, Pakistan
Agency executive

The Directorate General for Inter-Services Intelligence (Urdu: بین الخدماتی مخابرات) or Inter-Services Intelligence (abbreviated ISI, Urdu: آئی ایس آئی) is the premier intelligence service of Pakistan, operationally responsible for providing critical national security and intelligence assessment to the Government of Pakistan. The ISI is the largest of the five intelligence services of Pakistan, the others being the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Military Intelligence (MI), Naval Intelligence (NI) and Air Intelligence (AI). In the late 20th century, the ISI's work and activities in relation to Afghan mujahideen against the Soviet Union during the Soviet–Afghan War in then-communist Afghanistan became quite famous. During this war, ISI worked in close coordination with the Central Intelligence Agency. The later provided strategic and intelligence support to the Afghan Taliban against the Northern Alliance in the civil war in Afghanistan in the 1990s.[1] The ISI was established as an independent intelligence service in 1948 in order to strengthen the sharing of military intelligence between the three branches of Pakistan Armed Forces in the aftermath of the Indo-Pak War of 1947, which had exposed weaknesses in intelligence gathering, sharing and coordination between the Army, Air Force and Navy. After the 1971 Indo Pak war, the agency has been headed by a Gen officer three-star general officer of Pakistan Army, being the biggest segment of Pakistan armed forces. The agency includes officers from all three branches of the Pakistan Armed Forces; Pak Army, Pak Air force, Pak Navy and large number of Civilians officers.

The Chief of Army Staff recommends three names of general officers to Prime minister for selection and confirmation of Director General ISI. On 22 Sep 2014, Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar was appointed new DG ISI by PM of Pakistan as per set procedure.[2] The ISI has headquarters in Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Venue, and is currently headed by Lieutenant-General Rizwan Akhter, who succeeded Zaheerul Islam in October 2014.[3][4]


General Ayub Khan, arriving to take command of the Pakistan Army in 1951

After independence in 1947, two new intelligence agencies were created in Pakistan: the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Military Intelligence (MI). However, the weak performance of the MI in sharing intelligence between the Army, Naval and Air Force during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 also known as first Kashmir War, led to the creation of the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in 1948.[5] The ISI was structured to be manned by officers from the three main military services, and to specialize in the collection, analysis and assessment of external intelligence, either military or non-military.[5] The ISI was the brainchild of Australian-born ex-Indian Army officer, Major General Sir Walter Joseph Cawthorn, then Deputy Chief of Staff in the Pakistan Army. He selected Colonel Shahid Hamid to set up this new formation and command it. Cawthorn left Pakistan in 1951. Initially, the ISI had no role in the collection of internal intelligence, with the exception of the N.W.F.P and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.[5] The recruitment and expansion of the ISI was managed and undertaken by then-Navy's Commander Syed Mohammad Ahsan who was tenuring as Deputy Director of the Naval Intelligence. The Navy's Commander Syed Mohammad Ahsan played a pivotal role in formulating the procedures of the ISI. .

In the late 1950s, when Ayub Khan became the President of Pakistan, he expanded the role of ISI and MI in monitoring opposition politicians, and sustaining military rule in Pakistan.[6] The ISI was reorganized in 1966 after intelligence failures in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965,[7] and expanded in 1969.

The ISI lost its importance during the regime of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was very critical of its rôle during the 1970 general elections, which triggered off the events leading to the division of Pakistan and emergence of Bangladesh.[7] After Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq seized power on 5 July 1977 and became the Chief Martial Law Administrator of the country, the ISI was expanded by making it responsible for the collection of intelligence about the Pakistan Communist Party and various political parties such as the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).[7]

The Soviet war in Afghanistan of the 1980s saw the enhancement of the covert action capabilities of the ISI by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). A special Afghan Section, the SS Directorate, was created under the command of Brigadier Mohammed Yousaf to oversee the coordination of the war. A number of officers from the ISI's Covert Action Division (Special Activities Division) received training in the United States and many covert action experts of the CIA were attached to the ISI to guide it in its operations against the Soviet troops by using the Afghan Mujahideen.[citation needed] In September 2001, Parvaiz Musharraf appointed a new Director General for ISI, Lieutenant General Ehsanul Haq who was later on replaced by the Lieut. Gen. Shuja Pasha.[citation needed]

Some analysts believe that the ISI provides support to militant groups, though according to other analyst, these allegations remain unsubstantiated with evidence.[8][9] National Intelligence Directorate (NID) is formed in 2014 in order to pool and share intelligence gathered by over 30 Pakistan's intelligence agencies to combat terrorism in Pakistan effectively.[10]

In September 2015, former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief A. S. Dulat said - "The most powerful intelligence agency is either KGB which no more exists or ISI, because they are very anonymous".[11]


ISI's headquarters are located in Islamabad, and currently the head of the ISI is called the Director General- who has to be a serving Lieutenant General in the Pakistan Army.[citation needed] Under the Director General, three Deputy Directors General report directly to him and are in charge in three separate fields of the ISI which are Internal wing – dealing with counter-intelligence and political issues inside Pakistan, External wing – handling external issues, and Analysis and Foreign Relations wing.[12]

The general staff of the ISI mainly come from armed forces. According to some experts the ISI is the largest intelligence agency in the world in terms of number of staff. While the total number has never been made public, experts estimate about 10,000 officers and staff members, which does not include informants and assets.[6]


  • Covert Action Division
Responsible for paramilitary and covert operations as well as special activities.[citation needed] Its roles are akin to Special Activities Division of CIA and a handful numbers of officers are trained by the CIA's SAD and active since the 1960s.[13]
  • Joint Intelligence X
coordinates all the other departments in the ISI.[6] Intelligence and information gathered from the other departments are sent to JIX which prepares and processes the information and from which prepares reports which are presented.
  • Joint Intelligence Bureau
responsible for gathering political intelligence.[6]
  • Joint Counterintelligence Bureau
responsible for surveillance of Pakistan's diplomats and diplomatic agents abroad, along with intelligence operations in the Middle East, South Asia, China, Afghanistan and the Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union.[6]
  • Joint Intelligence North
exclusively responsible for the Jammu and Kashmir region and Northern Areas.[6]
  • Joint Intelligence Miscellaneous
responsible for espionage, including offensive intelligence operations, in other countries.[6]
  • Joint Signal Intelligence Bureau
operates intelligence collections along the India-Pakistan border.[6] The JSIB is the ELINT, COMINT, and SIGINT directorate that is charged to divert the attacks from the foreign non-communications electromagnetic radiations emanating from other than nuclear detonations or radioactive sources.[6]
  • Joint Intelligence Technical
deals with development of science and technology to advance the Pakistan intelligence gathering. The directorate is charged to take steps against the electronic warfare attacks in Pakistan.[6] Without any exception, officers from this divisions are reported to be engineer officers and military scientists who deal with the military promotion of science and technology.[6] In addition, there are also separate explosives and a chemical and biological warfare sections.[6]
  • SS Directorate
which monitors the terrorist group activities that operates in Pakistan against the state of Pakistan. The SS Directorate is comparable to that of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) National Clandestine Service (NCS), and responsible for the covert political action and paramilitary special operations.
Monitored the financial funding of the right-wing political science sphere against the left-wing political science circles. This department was involved in providing funds to the anti-left wing forces during the general elections of 1965, 1977, 1985, 1988, and 1990.[14] The department is now "inactive" since March 2012 with the new director taking the operational charge of the ISI.[15]

Director Generals

  1. 1950 - 1959 Major General Robert Cawthome
  2. 1959–1966: Brig Gen Riaz Hussain[16]
  3. 1966–1971: Maj Gen (then Brig Gen) Mohammad Akbar Khan[17]
  4. 1971–1978: Lt Gen (then Maj Gen) Ghulam Jilani Khan
  5. 1978–1980: Lt Gen Muhammad Riaz
  6. 1980 – March 1987: Lt Gen Akhtar Abdur Rahman
  7. March 1987 – May 1989: Lt Gen Hameed Gul
  8. May 1989 – August 1990: Lt Gen (retd) Shamsur Rahman Kallu
  9. August 1990 – March 1992: Lt Gen Asad Durrani
  10. March 1992 – May 1993: Lt Gen Javed Nasir
  11. May 1993 – 1995: Lt Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi
  12. 1995 – October 1998: LtGen (then Maj Gen) Naseem Rana
  13. October 1998 – October 1999: Lt Gen Ziauddin Butt
  14. October 1999 – October 2001: Lt Gen Mahmud Ahmed
  15. October 2001 – October 2004: Lt Gen Ehsan ul Haq
  16. October 2004 – October 2007: Lt Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
  17. October 2007 – October 2008: Lt Gen Nadeem Taj
  18. October 2008 – March 2012: Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha
  19. March 2012 – September 2014: Zaheer-ul-Islam
  20. September 2014 – Present: Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar [18]


The ISI headquarter is in Islamabad. The complex consists of various adobe buildings separated by lawns and fountains. The entrance to the complex is next to a private hospital. Declan Walsh of The Guardian said that the entrance is "suitably discreet: no sign, just a plainclothes officer packing a pistol who direct visitors through a chicane of barriers, soldiers and sniffer dogs".[19] Walsh said that the complex "resembles a well-funded private university" and that the buildings are "neatly tended," the lawns are "smooth," and the fountains are "tinkling." He described the central building, which houses the director general's office on the top floor, as "a modern structure with a round, echoing lobby."[19]

Recruitment and training

Both civilians and members of the armed forces can join the ISI. For civilians, recruitment is advertised and is jointly handled by the Federal Public Services Commission (FPSC) and civilian ISI agents are considered employees of the Ministry of Defence. The FPSC conducts various examinations testing the candidate's knowledge of current affairs, English and various analytical abilities. Based on the results, the FPSC shortlists the candidates and sends the list to the ISI who conduct the initial background checks. The selected candidates are then invited for an interview which is conducted by a joint committee comprising both ISI and FPSC officials.[5]

Major operations


  • Collection of information and extraction of intelligence from information
ISI obtains information critical to Pakistan's strategic interests. Both overt and covert means are adopted.[5]
  • Classification of intelligence
Data is sifted through, classified as appropriate, and filed with the assistance of the computer network in ISI's headquarters in Islamabad.[5]
  • Aggressive intelligence
The primary mission of ISI includes aggressive intelligence which comprises espionage, psychological warfare, subversion, sabotage.[5]
  • Counterintelligence
ISI has a dedicated section which spies against enemy's intelligence collection.[5]


  • Diplomatic missions
Diplomatic missions provide an ideal cover and ISI centres in a target country are generally located on the embassy premises.[5]
  • Multinationals
ISI operatives find good covers in multinational organisations. Non-governmental organizations and cultural programmes are also popular screens to shield ISI activities.[5]
  • Media
International media centres can easily absorb ISI operatives and provide freedom of movement.[5]
  • Collaboration with other agencies
ISI maintains active collaboration with other secret services in various countries. Its contacts with Saudi Arabian Intelligence Services, Chinese Intelligence, the American CIA and British MI6 have been well known.[citation needed]
  • Third Country Technique
ISI has been active in obtaining information and operating through third countries like Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iran, Turkey and China.[citation needed]

By country


  • 1982
ISI, CIA and Mossad carried out a covert transfer of Soviet-made weapons and Lebanese weapons captured by the Israelis during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982 and their subsequent transfer to Pakistan and then into Afghanistan. All knowledge of this weapon transfer was kept secret and was only made public[citation needed] recently.[when?]
  • 1982–1997
ISI are believed to have access to Osama bin Laden in the past.[20] ISI played a central role in the U.S.-backed guerrilla war to oust the Soviet Army from Afghanistan in the 1980s. That Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-backed effort flooded Pakistan with weapons and with Afghan, Pakistani and Arab "mujahideen". The CIA relied on the ISI to train fighters, distribute arms, and channel money. The ISI trained about 83,000 Afghan mujahideen between 1983 and 1997, and dispatched them to Afghanistan.[citation needed] B. Raman of the South Asia Analysis Group, an Indian think-tank, claims that the Central Intelligence Agency through the ISI promoted the smuggling of heroin into Afghanistan in order to turn the Soviet troops into heroin addicts and thus greatly reducing their fighting potential.[21] The factions that were backed by the ISI were Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i Islami, and the forces fighting for Jalaluddin Haqqani.
  • 1986
Worrying that among the large influx of Afghan refugees that had come into Pakistan due to the Soviet-Afghan war were members of KHAD (Afghan Intelligence), the ISI successfully convinced Mansoor Ahmed who was the Charge-de-Affairs of the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad to turn his back on the Soviet backed Afghan government. He and his family were secretly escorted out of their residence and were given safe passage on a London bound British Airways flight in exchange for classified information in regard to Afghan agents in Pakistan. The Soviet and Afghan diplomats tried their best to find the family but were unsuccessful.[22]
  • 1994
The Taliban regime is widely accepted[by whom?] to have been supported by the ISI and Pakistani military from 1994 to 2001, which Pakistan officially denied during that time, although then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf now admits to supporting the Taliban until 9/11.[23] According to Pakistani Afghanistan expert Ahmed Rashid, "between 1994 and 1999, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis trained and fought in Afghanistan" on the side of the Taliban.[24] Following the 9/11 attack on the United States by Al-Qaeda, Pakistan says it felt it necessary to cooperate with the US. Others, however, maintain Pakistan continues to support the Afghan Taliban, which Pakistan rejects.
  • 2008
The Indian Consulate General in Jalalabad was attacked by terrorists in 2007. According to Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, individuals arrested by the Afghan government stated that the ISI was behind this attack and had given them Rs 120,000 for the operation.[25]
  • 2001 onwards
American officials believe members of the Pakistani intelligence service are alerting militants to imminent American missile strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas.[citation needed] In October 2009, Davood Moradian, a senior policy adviser to foreign minister Spanta, said the British and American governments were fully aware of the ISI's role but lacked the courage to confront Islamabad. He claimed that the Afghan government had given British and American intelligence agents evidence that proved ISI involvement in bombings.[26]
  • 2010
A new report by the London School of Economics (LSE) claimed to provide the most concrete evidence yet that the ISI is providing funding, training and sanctuary to the Taliban insurgency on a scale much larger than previously thought. The report's author Matt Waldman spoke to nine Taliban field commanders in Afghanistan and concluded that Pakistan's relationship with the insurgents ran far deeper than previously realised. Some of those interviewed suggested that the organization even attended meetings of the Taliban's supreme council, the Quetta Shura.[27][28][29] A spokesman for the Pakistani military dismissed the report, describing it as "malicious".[30][31][32] General David Petraeus, commander of the US Central Command, refused to endorse this report in US congressional hearing and suggested that any contacts between ISI and extremists are for legitimate intelligence purposes, in his words "you have to have contact with bad guys to get intelligence on bad guys".[33]
  • 2015
On 6 July 2015 following a Taliban-led offensive, currently unverified news from various credible sources stated that a Pakistani ISI officer's body had been found following a battle between the government and the Taliban in Faryab province. The province's governor, Abdul Sator Borez went on to mention that said officer had led the offensive.[34]


  • 1993
The ISI was involved in supplying arms to the warring parties in Bosnia-Herzegovina to protect themselves from Serbian attacks.[35]


Indian intelligence agencies have claimed they have proof of ISI involvement with the Naxalites. A classified report accessed by the newspaper Asian Age said "the ISI in particular wants Naxals to cause largescale damage to infrastructure projects and industrial units operating in the interior parts of the country where ISI’s own terror network is non-existent".[36] In 2010, police in Bangalore claimed to have found evidence that the ISI were using local mafia types, Chhota Shakeel and Dawood Ibrahim, to establish links with the Naxalites.[37]

  • 1965
The 1965 war in Kashmir provoked a major crisis in intelligence. When the war started, there was a complete collapse of the operations of all the intelligence agencies, after the commencement of the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war, was apparently unable to locate an Indian armored division due to its preoccupation with political affairs. Ayub Khan set up a committee headed by General Yahya Khan to examine the working of the agencies.[38]
  • 1969–1974
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and ISI worked in tandem with the Nixon Administration in assisting the Khalistan movement in Punjab.[39]
  • 1980
The PAF Field Intelligence Unit at their base in Karachi in July 1980 captured an Indian agent.[citation needed] He was interrogated and revealed that a large network of Indian spies were functioning in Karachi. The agent claimed that these spies, in addition to espionage, had also assassinated a few armed personnel.[citation needed] He also said the leader of the spy ring was being headed by the food and beverages manager at the Intercontinental Hotel in Karachi and a number of serving Air Force officers and ratings were on his payroll. The ISI decided to survey the manager to see who he was in contact with, but then President of Pakistan Zia-ul Haq superseded and wanted the manager and anyone else involved in the case arrested immediately. It was later proven that the manager was completely innocent.[22]
  • 1983
Ilam Din also known as Ilmo was an infamous Indian spy working from Pakistan. He had eluded being captured many times but on 23 March at 3 a.m., Ilmo and two other Indian spies were apprehended by Pakistani Rangers as they were illegally crossing into Pakistan from India. Their mission was to spy and report back on the new military equipment that Pakistan will be showing in their annual 23 March Pakistan day parade. Ilmo after being thoroughly interrogated was then forced by the ISI to send false information to his R&AW handlers in India. This process continued and many more Indian spies in Pakistan were flushed out, such as Roop Lal.[22]
  • 1984
ISI uncovered a secret deal in which naval base facilities were granted by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to the USSR in Vizag and the Andaman & Nicobar Island and the alleged attachment of KGB advisers to the then Lieutenant General Sunderji who was the commander of Operation Blue Star in the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June 1984.[21]
  • 1984
ISI failed to perform a proper background check on the British company which supplied the Pakistan Army with its Arctic-weather gear. When Pakistan attempted to secure the top of the Siachen Glacier in 1984, it placed a large order for Arctic-weather gear with the same company that also supplied the Indian Army with its gear. Indians were easily alerted to the large Pakistani purchase and deduced that this large purchase could be used to equip troops to capture the glacier.[40] India quickly mounted a military operation (Operation Meghdoot) and captured entire glacier.
  • 1988
ISI implemented Operation Tupac a three part action plan for covertly supporting the Kashmiri freedom fighters in their fight against the Indian authorities in Kashmir, initiated by President Zia Ul Haq in 1988 [41] After success of Operation Tupac, support to Kashmiri freedom fighters became Pakistan's state policy.[42] ISI is widely believed to train and support freedom movement in Kashmir region.[43][44][45]
  • 2014
In Feb 2014, as the British paper "Daily Mail" disclosed in Mar 2015,[46] the then Indian chief of army staff General Bikram Singh issued orders to deploy troops along the borders with Pakistan in Rajasthan and Jammu-Kashmir region, but ISI got the information in few hours and as a reaction Pakistan Army deployed its troops near the Indian borders which rung the bells among Indian authorities.
  • 2016
Home Minister Balochistan, Pakistan, Sarfraz Bugti informed on 26 Mar 2016 that a serving Indian Naval officer, Kulbhushan Yadav, working for Indian spy agency RAW was arrested in Balochistan, by ISI.[47]


The ISI was also accused to be involved in a scandal the Mehran bank scandal dubbed "Mehrangate", in which top ISI and Army brass were allegedly given large sums of money by Yunus Habib (the owner of Mehran Bank) to deposit ISI's foreign exchange reserves in Mehran Bank.[48]

  • 1980
ISI became aware of a plot to assassinate the President of Pakistan, Zia-ul-Haq and then launch a bloody coup to depose the current government and install an Islamic government in its place. The attempted assassination and coup was to occur on 23 March 1980 during the annual 23 March Pakistan Day Parade. The masterminds behind the coup were high-ranking Military and Intelligence officers and were led by Major General Tajammal Hussain Malik, his son, Captain Naveed and his nephew Major Riaz, a former Military Intelligence officer. ISI decided against arresting these men outright because they did not know how deep this conspiracy went and kept these men under strict surveillance. As the date of the annual parade approached, ISI was satisfied that it had identified the major players in this conspiracy and then arrested these men along with quite a few high-ranking military officers.[22]
  • 1985
ISI's Internal Political Division has been accused by various members of the Pakistan People's Party in assassinating Shahnawaz Bhutto, one of the two brothers of Benazir Bhutto, through poisoning in the French Riviera in the middle of 1985 in an attempt to intimidate her into not returning to Pakistan for directing the movement against Zia's Military government, but no proof has been found implicating the ISI.[21]
  • 1987
ISI failed to prevent the KHAD/KGB terror campaign in Pakistan which in 1987 led to the deaths of about 324 Pakistanis in separate terror incidents.[49]
  • 1988
ISI failed to prevent the mysterious assassination of the President of Pakistan, Zia-ul-Haq in the crash of his C-130 Hercules aircraft near Bahawalpur which was possibly orchestrated by the KGB and KHAD and most likely supported by Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)[50]
  • 1990
The ISI has been deeply involved in domestic politics of Pakistan since the late 1950s. The 1990 elections for example were widely believed to have been rigged by the ISI in favor of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) party, a conglomerate of nine mainly rightist parties by the ISI under Lt. General Hameed Gul, to ensure the defeat of Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the polls.[51]
  • 2000–present
ISI is actively engaged with the Pakistan armed forces in the War in North-West Pakistan against Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, and so far is reported to have lost 78 ISI personnel,[52] most notably Khalid Khawaja and Colonel Imam.
  • 2000s
ISI has been actively involved in suppressing a bloody separatist insurgency in Balochistan. Recently the Militants have been accused of targeting people of non-Balochi ethnic groups and Balouchi who do not agree with separatism .[53][54] Over two hundred bodies with signs of extreme torture and a shotgun wound to the head have been found in the region during the period of July 2010 to July 2011, and Human Rights Watch says evidence points to complete ISI responsibility. Whilst the Provincial Government says it is doing its best to improve law and order and end target killing which it blames on rival factional fighting. As many as 985 people have been sentenced so far while the cases of 875 accused in various crimes were in the courts."Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed in a Capture Operation Launched by the Pakistan against his private militia, ISI provided key intelligence during the operation."[55]
  • 2011
Five Pakistanis who worked as informant for CIA to pass information leading to the Death of Osama bin Laden had been arrested by the ISI.[56] In particular the US was trying to seek the release of Dr Shakil Afridi,[citation needed] a Pakistani who worked for the CIA, passing intelligence leading to the death of Bin Laden.[57] Since then Dr Afridi has been sentenced to 33 years in prison.[citation needed]


  • 1978
ISI decided to spy on the residence of Colonel Hussain Imam Mabruk who was a Military Attaché to the Embassy of Libya in Islamabad as he had made some inflammatory statements towards the military regime of Zia-ul-Haq. The spying paid off as he was seen talking with two Pakistani gentlemen who entered and left the compound suspiciously. The ISI monitored the two men and were later identified as Pakistani exiles that hated the current military regime and were Bhutto loyalists. They had received terrorist training in Libya and were ready to embark on a terrorist campaign in Pakistan to force the Army to step down from power. All members of the conspiracy were apprehended before any damage could be done.[22]
  • 1981
In 1981, a Libyan Security company called Al Murtaza Associates sent recruiters to Pakistan to entice former soldiers and servicemen for high paying security jobs in Libya. In reality, Libya was recruiting mercenaries to fight with Chad and Egypt as it had border disputes with both nations. ISI became aware of the plot and the whole scheme was stopped.[22] [See also CIA drug trafficking#Soviet Afghanistan, CIA transnational anti-crime and anti-drug activities#Southwest Asia, Operation Cyclone, Badaber Uprising].


  • 1979
After the failure of Operation Eagle Claw, the U.S. media outlets such as Newsweek and Time reported that CIA agents stationed in Tehran had obtained information in regard to the location of the hostages, in-house information from a Pakistani cook who used to work for the U.S. Embassy. ISI successfully gathered evidence, and intercepted communication documents and showed it to the Iranian Chief of J-2 which cleared the cook. The Iranian chief of intelligence said, "We know, the Big Satan is a big liar."[22]


  • 1979
ISI discovered a surveillance mission to Kahuta Research Laboratories nuclear complex on 26 June 1979 by the French Ambassador to Pakistan, Le Gourrierec and his First Secretary, Jean Forlot. Both were arrested and their cameras and other sensitive equipment were confiscated. Intercepted documents later on showed that the two were recruited by the CIA.[22]

Soviet Union and Post-Soviet states

  • 1980
ISI had placed a mole in the Soviet Union's embassy in Islamabad. The mole reported that the Third Secretary in the Soviet Embassy was after information in regard to the Karakurum Highway and was obtaining it from a middle level employee, Mr. Ejaz, of the Northern Motor Transport Company. ISI contacted Mr. Ejaz who then confessed that a few months ago the Soviet diplomat approached him and threatened his family unless he divulged sensitive information in regard to the highway such as alignment of the road, location of bridges, the number of Chinese personnel working on the Highway, etc. The ISI instead of confronting the Soviet diplomat chose to feed him with false information. This continued until the Soviet diplomat was satisfied that Mr. Ejaz had been bled white of all the information and then dropped him as a source.[22]
  • 1991–1993
Major General Sultan Habib who was an operative of the ISI's Joint Intelligence Miscellaneous department successfully procured nuclear material while being posted as the Defence Attaché in the Pakistani Embassy in Moscow from 1991 to 1993 and concurrently obtaining other materials from Central Asian Republics, Poland and the former Czechoslovakia. After Moscow, Major General Habib then coordinated shipping of missiles from North Korea and the training of Pakistani experts in the missile production. These two acts greatly enhanced Pakistan's Nuclear weapons program and their missile delivery systems.[58]

United Kingdom

United States

  • 1980s
ISI successfully intercepted two American private weapons dealers during the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s. One American diplomat (his name has not been de-classified) who lived in the F-7/4 sector of Islamabad was spotted by an ISI agent in a seedy part of Rawalpindi by his automobile's diplomatic plates. He was bugged and trailed and was found to be in contact with various tribal groups supplying them with weapons for their fight with the Soviet Army in Afghanistan. Another was Eugene Clegg, a teacher in the American International School who also indulged in weapons trade. One American International School employee and under cover agent Mr. Naeem was arrested while waiting to clear shippment from Islamabad custom. All of them were put out of business.[22]
  • 2000s
ISI is suspicious about CIA attempted penetration of Pakistan nuclear assets, and CIA intelligence gathering in the Pakistani law-less tribal areas. Based on these suspicion, it is speculated that ISI is pursuing a counter-intelligence against CIA operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan.[59] ISI former DG Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is also reported to have said, "real aim of U.S. [war] strategy is to denuclearize Pakistan."[60]
  • 2011
In the aftermath of a shooting involving American CIA agent Raymond Davis, the ISI had become more alert and suspicious about CIA spy network in Pakistan, which had disrupted the ISI-CIA cooperation.[61] At least 30 suspected covert American operatives have suspended their activities in Pakistan and 12 have already left the country.[62]
  • 2011
A Chinese woman believed to be an ISI agent, who headed the Chinese unit of a US manufacturer was charged with illegally exporting high-performance coatings for Pakistan's nuclear power plants. Xun Wang, a former managing director of PPG Paints Trading in Shanghai, a Chinese subsidiary of United States-based PPG Industries, Inc, was indicted on a charge of conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and related offences. Wang is accused of conspiring to export and re-export, and exporting and re-exporting specially designed, high-performance epoxy coatings to the Chashma 2 Nuclear Power Plant in Pakistan. Wang and her co-conspirators agreed upon a scheme to export and re-export the high-performance epoxy coatings from the United States to Pakistan's Chashma II plant, via a third-party distributor in People's Republic of China.[63]
  • 2011
ISI operative Mohammed Tasleem, an attache in the New York consulate, was found by the FBI in 2010 to be issuing threats against Pakistanis living in the United States, to prevent them from speaking openly about Pakistan's government. US officials and Pakistani journalists and scholars say the ISI has a systematic campaign to threaten those who speak critically of the Pakistan military.[64]

Al Qaeda and Taliban militants captured

Ramzi Yousef, one of the planners of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as well as the Bojinka plot. Pakistani intelligence, and the Department of State – U.S. Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Special Agents, captured Yousef in Islamabad, Pakistan. On 7 February 1995, they raided room #16 in the Su-Casa Guest House in Islamabad, Pakistan, and captured Yousef before he could move to Peshawar.[65]
In November 2001, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a Libyan paramilitary trainer for Al-Qaeda attempted to flee Afghanistan following the collapse of the Taliban precipitating the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan but was captured by Pakistani Forces.[66]
  • Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh
Sheikh Omar Saeed, a British-born terrorist of Pakistani descent was arrested by Pakistani police on 12 February 2002, in Lahore, in conjunction with the Pearl kidnapping. Pearl had been kidnapped, had his throat slit, and then been beheaded and Sheikh Omar Saeed was named the chief suspect.[67] Sheikh told the Pakistani court, however, that he had surrendered to the ISI a week earlier.[68]
Abu Zubaydah, an Al-Qaeda terrorist responsible for hatching multiple terrorist plots including sending Ahmed Ressam to blow up the Los Angeles airport in 2000.[69] He was captured on 28 March 2002, by ISI, CIA and FBI agents after they had raided several safe houses in Faisalabad, Pakistan.[70][71][72][73]
Ramzi bin al-Shibh, an Al-Qaeda terrorist responsible for planning the 9/11 terrorist attacks as well as the attack on 2000 USS Cole bombing, and the 2002 Ghriba synagogue bombing in Tunisia.[74] On 11 September 2002, the ISI successfully captured Ramzi bin al-Shibh during a raid in Karachi.[75]
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks as well as other significant terrorist plots over the last twenty years, including the World Trade Center 1993 bombings, the Operation Bojinka plot, an aborted 2002 attack on the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles, the Bali nightclub bombings, the failed bombing of American Airlines Flight 63, the Millennium Plot, and the murder of Daniel Pearl. On 1 March 2003, the ISI successfully captured KSM in a joint raid with the CIA's Special Activities Division paramilitary operatives and the Diplomatic Security Service Special Agents in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.[76]
  • Abu Faraj Farj a
Pakistani intelligence agencies and security forces arrested Abu Faraj Farj al-Liby, mastermind of two failed attempts on President Pervez Musharraf's life, in May 2005.[77]
  • Maulvi Omar
Senior aid to Baitullah Mehsud captured by ISI in August 2009.
Taliban's deputy commander, Abdul Ghani Baradar was captured by U.S. and Pakistani forces in Pakistan on 8 February 2010, in a morning raid.[78]


Critics of the ISI say that it has become a state within a state and not accountable enough. Some analysts say that this is because of the fact that intelligence work agencies around the world remain secretive. Critics argue the institution should be more accountable to the President or the Prime Minister.[79] After discovering it, the Pakistani Government disbanded the ISI 'Political Wing' in 2008.[80]

U.S. government

During the Cold War the ISI and CIA worked together to send spy planes into the Soviet Union.[81] The ISI and CIA also worked closely during the Soviet-Afghan War supporting groups such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i Islami and Jalaluddin Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani network.[82]

Some report the ISI and CIA stepped up cooperation in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks to kill and capture senior Al Qaeda leaders such as Sheikh Younis Al Mauritan and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (the planner of the 9/11 attacks who was residing in Pakistan). Pakistan claims that in total around 100 top level al-Qaeda leaders/operators were killed/arrested by ISI.[83] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Pakistan is paying a "big price for supporting the U.S. war against terror groups. ... I think it is important to note that as they have made these adjustments in their own assessment of their national interests, they're paying a big price for it".[84]

Other senior international officials, however, maintain that senior Al Qaeda leaders such as Osama Bin Laden have been hidden by the ISI in major settled areas of Pakistan with the full knowledge of the Pakistani military leadership.[85] A December 2011 analysis report by the Jamestown Foundation came to the conclusion that "in spite of denials by the Pakistani military, evidence is emerging that elements within the Pakistani military harbored Osama bin Laden with the knowledge of former army chief General Pervez Musharraf and possibly current Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Former Pakistani General Ziauddin Butt (a.k.a. General Ziauddin Khawaja) revealed at a conference on Pakistani–U.S. relations in October 2011 that according to his knowledge the then former Director-General of Intelligence Bureau of Pakistan (2004–2008), Brigadier Ijaz Shah (retd.), had kept Osama bin Laden in an Intelligence Bureau safe house in Abbottabad."[86] Pakistani General Ziauddin Butt said Bin Laden had been hidden in Abbottabad by the ISI "with the full knowledge" of Pervez Musharraf[86] but later denied making any such statement, saying his words were altered by the media, he said: "It is the hobby of the Western media to distort the facts for their own purposes."[87] U.S. military officials have increasingly said, they do not notify Pakistani officials before conducting operations against the Afghan Taliban or Al Qaeda, because they fear Pakistani officials may tip them off.[88]

International officials have accused the ISI of continuing to support and even lead the Taliban today in the War in Afghanistan (2001-present). As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen stated:

The fact remains that the Quetta Shura [Taliban] and the Haqqani Network operate from Pakistan with impunity ... Extremist organizations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as US soldiers. ... For example, we believe the Haqqani Network—which has long enjoyed the support and protection of the Pakistani government ... is, in many ways, a strategic arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.


The Associated Press reported that "the president said Mullen's statement 'expressed frustration' over the insurgent safe havens in Pakistan. But Obama said 'the intelligence is not as clear as we might like in terms of what exactly that relationship is.' Obama added that whether Pakistan's ties with the Haqqani network are active or passive, Pakistan has to deal with it."[90][91]

The Guantanamo Bay files leak, however, showed that the US authorities unofficially consider the ISI as a terrorist organization equally dangerous as Al Qaeda and Taliban, and many allegations of its supporting terrorist activities have been made.[92][93]

Indian government

India has accused ISI of plotting the Mumbai terror attack in March 1993[94] and November 2008.[citation needed] According to the United States diplomatic cables leak the ISI had previously shared intelligence information with Israel regarding possible terrorist attacks against Jewish and Israeli sites in India in late 2008.[95] ISI is also accused of supporting pro independence militias in Jammu and Kashmir[96] while Pakistan denies all such claims.[97][98][99]

India accuses ISI of supporting separatist militants in Jammu and Kashmir while Pakistan claims to give them moral support only.[100]

Allegations of support for terrorism

The ISI has long been accused of using designated terrorist groups and militants to conduct proxy wars against its neighbors.[101][102][103] According to Grant Holt and David H. Gray "The agency specializes in utilizing terrorist organizations as proxies for Pakistani foreign policy, covert action abroad, and controlling domestic politics."[104] James Forest says there has been increasing proof from counter-terrorism organizations that militants and the Taliban continue to receive assistance from the ISI, as well as the establishment of camps to train terrorists on Pakistani territory.[105] All external operations are carried out under the supervision of the S Wing of the ISI.[106] The agency is divided into Eight divisions.[107] Joint Intelligence/North(JIN) is responsible for conducting operations in Jammu and Kashmir and Afghanistan.[108] The Joint Signal Intelligence Bureau(JSIB) provide support with communications to groups in Kashmir.[108] According to Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, both former members of the National Security Council, the ISI acted as a "kind of terrorist conveyor belt" radicalizing young men in the Madrassas in Pakistan and delivering them to training camps affiliated with or run by Al-Qaeda and from there moving them into Jammu and Kashmir to launch attacks.[109]

Support for militants

From the 1990s, the ISI began to court the Jihadists who had emerged from the conflict against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and by 2000 the majority of militant groups operating in Kashmir were either based in Pakistan or were pro Pakistan. These groups are used to conduct a low intensity conflict against India.[110] According to Stephen P. Cohen and Wilson John, the ISI's aid to and creation of designated terrorist groups and religious extremist groups is well documented.[111][112] The ISI have been accused of having close ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba who carried out the attacks in Mumbai in 2008.[113] The ISI have also given aid to Hizbul Mujahideen.[114] Terrorism expert Gus Martin has said the ISI has a long history of supporting designated terrorist groups and pro Independence groups operating in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir which fight against Indian interests.[100][115] The ISI also helped with the founding of the group Jaish-e-Mohammed.[116]

Hizbul Mujahideen

Hizbul Mujahideen were created as the Kashmiri branch of Jamaat-i-Islami.[117] It has been reported that JI founded Hizbul Mujahideen at the request of the ISI to counter the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front(JKLF) who are advocates for the independence of Kashmir.[118] Although the failure of 1987 elections in Kashmir and afterwards arrest of Muhammad Yusuf a.k.a Syed Salahuddin led to the events that created arm struggle in the valley.


There have been three incarnations of the group Al-Badr. According to Peter Tomsen, the ISI in conjunction with Jamaat-e-Islami formed the first Al-Badr who resisted the Indian trained influx of Mukti Bahini in Bangladesh in the 1970s.[119][120] The third Al-Badr (India)


The ISI supported Al-Qaeda during the war along with CIA against the soviet regime, through the Taliban, and it is believed by some that there are still contact between Al-Qaeda and the ISI.[121] An assessment by British Intelligence in 2000 into Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan showed the ISI were playing an active role in some of them.[122] The leak in 2012 of e-mails from Stratfor claimed that papers captured during the raid in Abbotabad on Osama Bin Laden's compound showed up to 12 ISI officials knew where he was and that Bin Laden had been in regular contact with the ISI.[123]


Harkat-ul-Mujahideen were founded in the 1980s by the ISI to fight against Indian interests.[124]

Jammu and Kashmir

Under the orders of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, in 1984 the ISI prepared a plan which was to be set in motion in 1991.[125]

Haqqani network

The ISI have close links to the Haqqani network[126] and contribute heavily to their funding.[127] It is widely believed the suicide attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul was planned with the help of the ISI[128] A report in 2008 from the Director of National Intelligence stated that the ISI provides intelligence and funding to help with attacks against the International Security Assistance Force, the Afghan government and Indian targets.[129] However, on 5 November 2014, Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, a senior commander for US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, said in a Pentagon-hosted video briefing from Afghanistan that the Haqqani network is now "fractured" like the Taliban. "They are fractured. They are fractured like the Taliban is. That's based pretty much on the Pakistan's operations in North Waziristan this entire summer-fall," he said, acknowledging the effectiveness of Pakistan's military offensive in North Waziristan. "That has very much disrupted their efforts in Afghanistan and has caused them to be less effective in terms of their ability to pull off an attack in Kabul," Anderson added.[130]


The ISI is also active in Nepal. On 1 August 2007, Abdul Wahab, a Pakistani national and ISI agent was detained in Kathmandu with $252,000 worth of counterfeit Indian currency.[131]



Since Pakistan's launch of war on Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other jihadist groups, the country's armed forces, intelligence services (particularly ISI), military industrial complexes, paramilitary forces and police forces have come under intense attacks. ISI has played major role in targeting these groups, therefore it has faced retaliatory strikes as well. As of 2011, more than 300 ISI officials have been killed.[132] Below are some major incidents when attempts were made to target ISI.

  • A suicide bomber struck his vehicle into bus carrying officials killing at least 28 people on 28 November 2007 outside ISI office in Rawalpindi.[133]
  • 30 people including four officials of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and 14 policemen were killed and over 300 were injured when three people attacked ISI office on 27 May 2009 in Lahore. The attackers fired at ISI office and policemen present there. The guards at ISI building fought back. During the incident of firing explosive laden vehicle detonated[134][135]
  • At least 13 people among 10 military personnel were killed when suicide bomber blew up his van into agency’s Peshawar office on 13 November 2009. Around 400 kg of explosives were used which destroyed significant portion of building.[136]
  • Two attackers ambushed Multan office in which 8 people were killed and 45 were injured on 8 December 2009. Two army personnel were dead and seven while seven officials were injured. About 800–1000 kg of explosives were used.[137]
  • A car bomb exploded at CNG station in Faisalabad on 8 March 2011 killing 25 people and injuring more than 100. Taliban spokesman Mr. Ehsanullah Ehsan told that nearby located ISI office was the target. No losses of ISI personnel were reported except only 1 official was injured.[138]
  • Three intelligence officials were killed and one was wounded when vehicle carrying agency's personnel was ambushed in FR Bannu on 14 September 2011.[139]
  • Four people including ISI officials were killed and 35 were injured when local office of ISI was attacked by 5 suicide bombers in Sukkur on 24 July 2013.[citation needed] And in 2015 March our ex headquarter chief Muhammad razzaq and there family killed by Al Qaeda but there 1 son Ali razzaq still alive.

See also


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Further reading

  • Ayub, Muhammad (2005). An Army, Its Role and Rule: A History of the Pakistan Army from Independence to Kargil from 1947–1999. Pittsburgh: RoseDog Books. ISBN 0-8059-9594-3. 
  • Jan, Abid Ullah (2006). From BCCI to ISI: The Saga of Entrapment Continues. Ottawa: Pragmatic Publishing. ISBN 0-9733687-6-4. 
  • Yousaf, Mohammad; Adkin, Mark (2001). Afghanistan the Bear Trap: The Defeat of a Superpower. Barnsley: Leo Cooper. ISBN 0-85052-860-7. 
  • Coll, Steve (2004). Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to 10 September 2001. New York: Penguin Press. ISBN 1-59420-007-6. 
  • Henderson, Robert D'A (2003). Brassey's International Intelligence Yearbook. Dulles, VA: Brassey's. ISBN 1-57488-550-2. 
  • Schneider, Jerrold E.; Chari, P. R.; Cheema, Pervaiz Iqbal; Cohen, Stephen Phillip (2003). Perception, Politics and Security in South Asia: The Compound Crisis in 1990. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-30797-X. 
  • Crile, George (2003). Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-4124-2. 
  • Todd, Paul; Bloch, Jonathan (2003). Global Intelligence : The World's Secret Services Today. Dhaka: University Press. ISBN 1-84277-113-2. 
  • Bamford, James (2004). A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-50672-4. 

External links

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