After independence in 1947, two new intelligence agencies were created in Pakistan: the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Military Intelligence (MI). However, the weak performance of the MI in sharing intelligence between the Army, Navy and Air Force during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 led to the creation of the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in 1948.
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The ISI was structured to be manned by officers from the three main military services, and to specialize in the collection, analysis and assessment of external intelligence, either military or non-military.The ISI was the brainchild of Australian-born British Army officer, Major General R. Cawthome, then Deputy Chief of Staff in the Pakistan Army. Initially, the ISI had no role in the collection of internal intelligence, with the exception of the North-West Frontier Province and Azad Kashmir.
In the late 1950s, when Ayub Khan became the President of Pakistan, he expanded the role of ISI in monitoring opposition politicians, and sustaining military rule in Pakistan. The ISI was reorganised in 1966 after intelligence failures in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, and expanded in 1969. Khan entrusted the ISI with the responsibility for the collection of internal political intelligence in East Pakistan. Later on, during the Baloch nationalist revolt in Balochistan in the mid-1970s, the ISI was tasked with performing a similar intelligence gathering operation.
The ISI lost its importance during the regime of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was very critical of its role during the 1970 general elections, which triggered off the events leading to the partition of Pakistan and emergence of Bangladesh.
After General Zia ul-Haq seized power in July 1977, the ISI was expanded by making it responsible for the collection of intelligence about the Sindh-based Pakistan Communist Party and various political parties such as the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
The Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s saw the enhancement of the covert action capabilities of the ISI by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). A special Afghan Section was created under the command of colonel Mohammed Yousaf to oversee the coordination of the war. A number of officers from the ISI’s Covert Action Division received training in the US and many covert action experts of the CIA were attached to the ISI to guide it in its operations against the Soviet troops by using the Afghan Mujahideen.
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