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Carnegie: Reforming the Intelligence Agencies in Pakistan’s Transitional Democracy

Author: Frédéric Grare
March 18, 2009

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This report analyzes the role of intelligence agencies in Pakistan's political life through exploring the agencies' objectives and mechanisms.

Excerpt: The purpose of the present report is to analyze the intelligence agencies' role in Pakistan's political life through a better understanding of the agencies' objectives and mechanisms. Because Pakistan's civilian governments have been victims of the agencies' manipulation in the past, the new and very fragile government cannot ignore the decisive role of the intelligence agencies in Pakistani politics if it wants to counter the direct and more subtle manifestations of military control. The domestic political role of intelligence agencies is always a combination of three elements: militarization, comprehensive political surveillance, and state terror. The intensity and relative importance of each component varies over time and according to the specific situations in each country, but all three are always present. Terror as it applies to individuals or groups can be carried out by proxies and is intermittent, but it remains an essential element of the system. An intelligence agency's reputation for ruthlessness is often as important as its actual efficiency.

The reform of the intelligence agencies is therefore imperative, and the depoliticization of the intelligence process is as much an element of national reconciliation as of consolidation of power. To achieve its objectives, this report draws on interviews conducted in Pakistan as well as on related literature. It also examines similar attempts at reasserting civilian control over intelligence agencies in two democratizing military dictatorships, Indonesia and Chile. In all three countries, intelligence agencies were-and in the case of Pakistan still are-trying to achieve a similar set of objectives regarding social control, the need to protect the regime against all sources of disturbance, and promoting the passive acceptance of regime policies by the population. Neither Indonesia nor Chile has been completely successful in bringing its intelligence agencies under democratic control but both were forced to reform their intelligence services and simultaneously reduce the scope of military autonomy vis-à-vis elected officials. This is what Pakistan will have to do in order to consolidate its nascent democracy.

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