In a sign that the days of military interference in political affairs may indeed be over, Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) has had its domestic political wing disbanded. The enormously independent ISI has been accused of using the wing to undermine previous civilian governments and to meddle in the nation’s political affairs.
The Pakistani civilian government has attempted to rein in the ISI in the past, with Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani issued a decree in late July bringing the ISI under direct control of the Interior Ministry. The move was reversed less than 24 hours later, however, at the behest of the military. The ISI thus remains under military control, to the extent it is controlled at all.
Pakistan’s military has a long and sordid history of interfering in political affairs, and the nation has spent much of its history under military dictatorships of one form or another. Pakistan’s current Chief of Army Staff General Parvez Kayani seems intent on breaking that cycle, prohibiting soldiers from meeting with politicians and ordering all active officers to resign from any civilian posts they hold. It is unclear what role Gen. Kayani had in the ISI move, but he was the head of the ISI before replacing former military chief and ruler Pervez Musharraf a year ago.