Pakistan has a terrorist problem, as many of the countryâ€™s leaders acknowledge. But Pakistan also has an ISI problem. And civilian leaders there have been too hesitant to challenge it. Indiaâ€™s foreign secretary asserted last week that the Pakistani military intelligence agency was behind Novemberâ€™s terrorist atrocities in Mumbai.
The ISI operates under its own definition of Pakistanâ€™s national interest â€” and has shown a particular obsession with India. The agency has a history of incubating extremists, such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba. It would be best for Pakistanâ€™s relations with its neighbours and for its own internal stability if ISI gets out of the business of using fanaticised jihadists to advance the militaryâ€™s strategic aims.
In the mid-1990s, the ISI sponsored the Taliban. The aim was to have an allied force in control of Afghanistan, and to provide the ISI with training camps outside Pakistan for groups conducting operations in Indian-ruled Kashmir. Today, some of those terrorist groups are turning their fury against the established order in Pakistan. Apart from Indiaâ€™s public attempts to hold the ISI guilty for the Mumbai crimes, Pakistan needs to recognise its own interest in remoulding and redirecting the agency, so it can extinguish a terrorist fire that may otherwise consume Pakistan itself.