That the recently sworn in prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif has allotted a whopping Rs 600 million to the notorious Inter-Services Agency of Pakistan for a ‘special assignment’ does not bode well for either the country, or the Indian subcontinent as a whole. Pakistan has hiked its defence budget by a significant 15 per cent in the new budget session and the particular sum was released to the Director General if the ISI under the dubious head of ‘Supplementary Demands for Grants and Appropriations 2012-13.’ Although the acknowledgement of the hefty defence allocation to the ISI comes across as a rare example of an attempt to instill an inkling of transparency into the murky dealings of the infamous organisation, the fact that virtually no details of the grant were furnished, leaving the operational costs under the wraps, indicate that Pakistan is in no mood to bring the rogue body under governmental leash, or even to have its expenditures overseen and audited by a neutral or state authority. The ISI has long faced accusations of meddling n the affairs of its neighbours, particularly India, which has been at the receiving end of the endless machinations perpetrated by the organisation that considers the elected government in the country nothing but a joke. Time and again, a range of officials within and outside Pakistan have leveled allegations, often substantiated, against the body, accusing it of sponsoring terrorism and terrorist groups, such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, among others. The 26/11 Mumbai attacks were a glaring example of how this intelligence agency can wreak havoc on its eastern neighbour, and doubles up as a parallel centre of power, propagating reprehensible ideologies of global jihad and mindless violence.
That Sharif’s newly instituted government, despite great expectations from the country’s beleaguered citizens who are hankering for some peace and stability after years of ISI-driven bloodshed, would allocate such an enormous amount for something as vague and misleading as a ‘special assignment’, makes it evident that despite drumming up the cause of democracy, the leaders have a long way ahead before they can claim to be above and beyond the opprobrious clutches of the spy agency. Despite its talks of peace, Sharif’s cabinet division would be spending Rs 300 million on the operational requirements of the Intelligence Bureau, and would direct a humongous Rs 900 million on the ‘internal expenses’ of the spy agency. It is obvious that bringing the body under control and overseeing its activities are not the immediate priorities of the government, which has increased its defence budget even though the country is plagued by major energy and fiscal crises. ISI’s role is fanning insurgency within India is an open secret and India must be vigilant of the latest developments in Pakistan, which shows no signs of change when it comes to dealing with this blatantly militant organisation. Sharif needs to understand that drying up financial resources and making the transactions open to public knowledge are the surest ways of curbing the influence of this questionable agency.