Last week the Pakistani government announced a new head of its premier intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Lt-General Faiz Hameed has taken over at the helm of affairs at a crucial time when many have argued that Pakistan has won its war on terror.

It was an appointment that was met with some fairly tired, utterly predictable criticism from certain commentators.

Unable to depict Faiz as the pantomime villain, they have reverted to playground taunts of bland incompetence; they could not be further from the truth.

The last two years have seen a significant drop in terrorist attacks in Pakistan. British Airways have resumed flights this summer after a ten year absence due to the security situation.

The United Nations have also just announced that Islamabad is a safe station again for its diplomatic family postings.

A lot of this is down to the work of Pakistan’s ISI, and the man running its internal security wing, so critical in delivering this peace dividend, is Gen Faiz.

“The west’s suspicion of the ISI is based on little and can smack of, if we are being kind, cultural arrogance,” says Robert Gallimore

The west’s suspicion of the ISI is based on little and can smack of, if we are being kind, cultural arrogance.

I am minded of the scene from the wonderful Blackadder Goes Forth where General Melchett describes British agents as “splendid fellows, brave heroes doing their bit for Blighty” and German agents as “filthy Hun weasels fighting their dirty underhand war.”

We accept Richard Grenier’s maxim that, “We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us,” for our western selves so must we for Pakistan.

Pakistani military culture could not be more similar to ours and General Faiz is the polar opposite of a rough man: Charming, principled and fiercely intelligent.

Of course we cannot be blind to some of the moral margins that the ISI exist in. They back some bad guys.

Not quite as many or as bad as the hysterical accusations that their neighbour suggests but, so do we.

It is apt to be writing about the importance of the Pakistan Army and its intelligence to the British Army and security.

Last week, British Defence Chief of Staff General Sir Nick Carter watched cricket with his Pakistani counterpart General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Britain’s premier defence think tank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in 2017 published an in-depth report on the historical and strategic nature of the British and Pakistan Army and why it matters.

The report also mentions Field Marshall Lord Guthrie who sat at the very apex of my Regiment, the Welsh Guards, when I joined as a young puppy in 1997.

Lord Guthrie formed an extremely close relationship and friendship with the Pakistan Army which continues to this day.

At the world’s most prestigious military college, the Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS), Lord Guthrie said that there was much to be learnt from his friend General Pervez Musharraf in how the Pakistan Army was countering the war on terror.

On my visits to the magical Khyber Rifles’, guardians of the pass, Mess, I was struck by the faces of the British Generals who beamed – or in the case of the great Sir Michael Jackson, scowled like a weathered gargoyle — down from the pictures on the walls.

They were the brilliant ones, the most respected ones, the ones who saw the importance of reaching out to Pakistan.

Both Guthrie and Musharraf were graduates of the RCDS, as indeed was another illustrious Pakistani General, Raheel Sharif.

Similarly, the incoming head of the powerful ISI is a graduate of the RCDS. It must be noted that the world’s best officers come to RCDS as a finishing school before they go on to become three and four stars around the globe.

General Faiz continues in this long line of tradition, and was the top Brig. of the Pakistan Army when he came to RCDS in 2015.

From what little I learnt from my own experience of Afghanistan, twice embedded within and fighting alongside the Afghan National Army, one thing was key: That for the British Army and security, the stability of Pakistan mattered as much, if not more, than Afghanistan.

This was something that the former Ambassador to Kabul, Sir Sherhad Cowper Coles also alluded to in his own Afghan memoir.

The British Pakistan security and intelligence partnership stops dozens of attacks every year and is acknowledged by martial polymath General Jonathon Shaw, former head of British special forces, who said, “UK -Pakistan military links are very close, most noticeably at RCDS where among its alumnae are four chiefs of Pakistan Defence.

The deep-rooted relationship is key to the cooperative management of our joint security challenges — an inevitable consequence of our shared history, populations and current challenges.”

The combined army training, doctrinal semblance and cultural understanding means the Pakistan Army is the only non-Western Army that has a platoon commander at RMAS Sandhurst.

We trust the future of British Officers with the Pakistan instructors here in our own country, so we should extend our trust to the ISI. Incoming General Faiz Hameed will further these ties.

 

–Courtesy Arab News

 

– Robert Gallimore is a former British war veteran and a security consultant with particular expertise in Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. He is currently finishing his book on the Pakistan Army to be published next year.