The art of intelligence

It is interesting to find out the way Pakistan’s intelligence agencies perform the task of spying. They use public funds to spy on local politicians, especially the detractors.

Whereas willing participation in the Cold War (1945-1991) made Pakistan’s intelligence agencies capable of phone tapping, the post-2018 fifth-generation (hybrid) warfare has enabled the agencies to leak to the public the recorded conversation (or videos) sporadically. This is how Pakistan has successfully transformed its static intelligence into applied intelligence, thereby perfecting the art of intelligence. What a feat!

Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan must have annoyed the country’s political custodians who resorted to tapping his phone conversations with this or that person. The purpose was not to dig into the chat to figure out if there was any threat to Pakistan’s security, but the objective was to blackmail the conversers. Nevertheless, the whole exercise of leaks is done on the presumption that military cantonments are free of debauchery and that there is no practice of roving prostitution there. The bar of moral standards is meant for application equally.

How to hone the skill of blackmailing is an added faculty which Pakistan has added to its arsenal. Blackmailing has been in use to manipulate the system. In 2007, the Pakistanis learnt that Pakistan’s prime intelligence agency was instrumental in spying on the judges of the Supreme Court. The agency was active in recording videos of the judges in compromised positions. The judges saw the threat of moral corruption detrimental to their career and fame, and hence they remained amenable to submission consequentially. This was how the function of the country was carried out. The pretext of spying must be national security. Nevertheless, the pretext of blackmailing the judges must also be national security. Certainly, nothing falls out of the ambit of national security.

Regarding Khan, it is known that he is not a politician. He has now outgrown the hybrid regime formula. It is now too late to reverse the tide. Drop cheap ways of taking revenge. Audio-video leaks are an expression of weakness. No spy agency needs to be a morality police

The current spate of making public the recorded videos and audios mean that spying is back in business and this time in the garb of blackmailing, which is now a means to manipulate politics. The target is Khan, who annoyed the army’s top leadership with his statements brimming with allegations. Retired army chief Gen (retd)  Qamar Javed Bajwa’s admission that the Army had been involved in politics till February 2021 added fuel to fire. The point is simple: when the Army poked its nose into politics, it could not stay clear of political filth.

Woefully, Pakistan’s spy model relies on using less brain and more equipment. The model remains anxious about internal defying situations and has left external threats to their own devices. Eastern border is calm with the fencing of the Line of Control finished in September 2004. Only some troubles are coming from across the Durand Line (north-western border) which is almost fenced. The border with Iran is still not hostile. The north is calm, so is the south.

Now, internal to these lines, Pakistan invites attention, which is judiciously being given by upping the ante of spying focusing mostly on the talk abutting promiscuity. What a priority!

Within the realm of intelligence, the debate between brain and brawn has been trying to address the question whether or not intelligence be improved by solving puzzles published by book depots of Urdu Bazar, Lahore. The overwhelming answer is in the negative. The principle is simple: if the answer to a given intelligence puzzle is known (or given in the book), the challenge of the unknown is absent and hence faculties of the brain cannot be enhanced. Such exercises may help one get inducted into a spy agency, but the exercises cannot make one intelligent. If a problem is known and its answer is also known, the practice of solving it again and again can make one a parrot but not an intelligent creature. To reiterate, the cramming practice may help one to be enrolled in the army or a spy agency but it cannot make one intelligent.

Intelligence is about dealing with unknown problems (or puzzles), the answer to which are unknown. For instance, how can Siachen Heights be taken back? How can India be persuaded (or coerced) to revert to the pre-August 2019 situation in Kashmir? In these instances, at least problems are known, but not their solutions. Any mind which is not imaginative and innovative is not intelligent. It is a parrot. When parrots run intelligence agencies, they rely on instruments and not on the brains. This is where intelligence is hobbled.

After the dreadful incident of 9/11, the United States (US) transformed its intelligence agencies and employed imaginative and innovative individuals in top positions. The objective was to employ the brains which could foresee threats and devise new strategies to counter the (unforeseen) dangers. Such brains had not to rely on equipment which can be deceived by counter-equipment and counter-strategies, as happened on 9/11.

Taking a leaf from that event, on 2 May 2011, Pakistan’s spy masters could not foresee that the US helicopters could cross western border to reach Abbottabad to snuff out Osama bin Laden. Pakistan was stunned to find itself in such an embarrassing situation that it had not countered before. Pakistan’s spy agencies failed to detect movement from across the border. Pakistan had technology to detect the movement, but Pakistan had no brain power to foresee or imagine. Textbook intelligence mortified and botched Pakistan then and there.

Even earlier, post-2001, Pakistan’s spy agencies failed to imagine that bin Laden could take refuge in the mainland. Similarly, in mid-2015, when Pakistan was hosting peace talks in Murree as a parallel development to the Doha talks, much to the consternation of the Chinese guests, Pakistan’s spy agencies did not know that Mullah Umar had died two years before. The talks ended abruptly with this discomfiture.

Regarding Khan, it is known that he is not a politician. He has now outgrown the hybrid regime formula. It is now too late to reverse the tide. Drop cheap ways of taking revenge. Audio-video leaks are an expression of weakness. No spy agency needs to be a morality police.

Dr Qaisar Rashid
Dr Qaisar Rashid
The writer is a freelance journalist and can be reached at [email protected]


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