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Islamic terrorists, not India, No.1 threat: ISI

world Updated: Aug 18, 2010 09:32 IST
Imitiaz Ahmed

For the first time since it was created in 1948, the dreaded Inter-services Intelligence of Pakistan, known better as the ISI, has downgraded India from its enemy number 1 position.

The ISI, which has been blamed by India for virtually every terror attack on its soil — the most recent being the Mumbai's 26/11 horror — now considers homegrown Islamist militants as its biggest enemy and threat.

In a recent internal assessment of security, the agency said it expected a majority of threats in the immediate future to come from Islamist militants, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Tuesday, quoting a senior ISI officer. The assessment, WSJ said, allocated a two-thirds likelihood of a major threat to Pakistan coming from militants rather from India or elsewhere.

The WSJ report, however, added it was unclear whether this fresh assessment of the ISI, largely staffed by active military officers, was fully endorsed by Pakistan's military and civilian government.

Analysts in Pakistan have agreed with the report. “I am not surprised that the ISI has changed its strategic thinking,” commented Talat Masood, a retired general and analyst on defence and security issues.

Masood said that the report that appeared in the WSJ “is based on a widely held belief in the ISI that there has been a change of roles,” and that there was awareness in the ISI that some of its previous friends are now its sworn enemies. Another analyst Imtiaz Gul said that it had to do with ground realities.

“The ground realities have changed and have forced allies into becoming enemies,” he said. “Many of the militant groups that the Pakistani military worked with in the past have now turned against them. But others, especially those who are involved in activities in Indian

Kashmir remain within the ISI's area of influence.”

Analysts also added it was one thing to recognise that there was a change in ground realities and quite another to act on this awareness. So far, the ISI seemed to have a soft spot for religious militant organisations, even those which have been involved in attacks against the military.

“There are games within games,” said analyst Ayesha Siddiqa.