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Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)

Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is the pioneer intelligence service of Pakistan. It is responsible for providing, managing, and coordinating Military Intelligence for the Pakistan Armed Forces.

ISI is Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, which gathers, processes, and analyzes global information relevant to national security for the country. It is one of the main agencies of Pakistan’s Intelligence Community and reports directly to its director-general. The ISI provides intelligence to the Pakistani government primarily.

Therefore, it is called “Inter-Services Intelligence” since most of the ISI’s personnel are seconded from the three branches of the Pakistani military, which include the army, navy, and air force. Despite this, many civilians are recruited by the agency as well.

Since 1971, the agency has been formally headed by a three-star general of the armed forces who has been appointed by the prime minister upon recommendation of the Chief of Army Staff, who proposes three candidates for that post. Lieutenant general Faiz Hameed is the current head of the ISI, appointed as its director-general on 17 June 2019. Both the prime minister and army chief report directly to the ISI director-general.

During the Soviet-Afghan War in the former Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, its support of the Afghan mujahideen brought the agency global recognition and fame. China, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Muslim nations provided training and funding to the mujahideen through the ISI’s Operation Cyclone during that war.

While the Afghan Civil War was raging in the 1990s, the ISI provided strategic support and intelligence to the Afghan Taliban with funding from Saudi Arabia following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

During their first-ever open acknowledgment in US Court in 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) manages and sponsors terrorism in Kashmir.

After an apparent intelligence failure in the Indian-Pakistani War of 1947, the ISI was established by Army Major-General R. Cawthome and Navy Commander S.M. Ahsan.

In a view to organizing Military Intelligence from each major service branch and providing an inter-service intelligence assessment.

ISI recruited intelligence operatives from each service, including civilians. ISI has become very influential and powerful. Because of its wide range of intelligence services and influence, the ISI was criticized internally and externally.

The Director-General is the head of the ISI, also the principal adviser to the Prime Minister and President of Pakistan. The DG ISI is responsible for giving critical national security and intelligence assessment to Pakistan’s Government.

The Directorate of Military Intelligence (MI) provides intelligence to the Army, while Naval Intelligence and Air Intelligence are the other main branches.

Check: Command Structure of Pak Army

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Each department’s intelligence services are tasked with providing intelligence on foreign operations, performing counterintelligence operations, and identifying and eliminating sleeper cells, foreign agents, and other anti-Pakistani elements within Pakistan.

Further functions include monitoring high-level Army and political leaders and safe-guarding critical military and non-military facilities.

The Director-Generals are usually Two-Star officers of each intelligence branch.

Traditionally, most intelligence work and services in Pakistan are carried out by the ISI, the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), and others in the Pakistani intelligence community.

The National Intelligence Directorate (NID) was established in 2014 to give better coordination and eliminate competition. The NID serves a related purpose as the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, providing statistical analysis and counter-insurgency instructions at all levels of control.

Also check: Military Intelligence (MI) Pakistan


ISI is headed by a Director-General in the Pakistani military, generally a lieutenant general. Each deputy director-general oversees three wings and reports directly to the Director General:

  • Internal Wing – Responsibilities include domestic intelligence, domestic counterintelligence, counterespionage, and counter-terrorism.
  • External Wing – It is responsible for foreign intelligence, foreign counter-intelligence, and espionage.
  • Foreign Relations Wing – Contains information about diplomacy and foreign relations.

The Gwadar wing is especially significant since its port is set to be a major trade artery connecting northwestern China with the Persian Gulf.

General staff members include military and civilian personnel from the armed forces, Federal Investigation Agency, Pakistan Customs, police, and judiciary. These professionals contribute to ISI’s professional competence by serving on deputations for three to four years. Officers with experience are frequently extended in service.

The ISI is one of the biggest intelligence agencies in the world in terms of its overall staff, according to some experts. Experts estimate that there are approximately 10,000 officers and staff, but do not include informants or assets, regardless of the total number.

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ISI Departments

Covert Action Division

Its responsibilities include covert operations and paramilitary operations. Its officers are trained by the CIA’s Special Activities Division and were active until the 1960s.

Joint Intelligence X

All other departments in the ISI are coordinated by this department. It is JIX that gathers and processes the information obtained from the other departments, and from which it prepares and presents reports.

Joint Intelligence Bureau

This is responsible for assembling anti-state intelligence, counterfeit drugs, and counterfeit currency.

Joint Counterintelligence Bureau

Investigates foreign intelligence agencies.

Joint Intelligence North

The Northern Areas and Jammu & Kashmir region all fall under its jurisdiction.

Joint Intelligence Miscellaneous

Conducting espionage, such as offensive intelligence missions, in other countries.

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Joint Signal Intelligence Bureau

Operates a border intelligence collection network between India and Pakistan. A JSIB is a component of the ELINT, COMINT, and SIGINT directorates in the US Army that is responsible for deflecting attacks from external electromagnetic radiations that do not emanate from nuclear detonations or radioactive sources.

Joint Intelligence Technical

The program aims to advance Pakistani intelligence gathering through the development of science and technology. The directorate has been given the task of countering electronic warfare attacks in Pakistan.

Generally, officers from this division are engineers or military scientists whose duties include promoting science and technology within the Armed Forces. Other sections of the division handle explosives and chemicals.

SS Directorate

This group consists of Special Service Group officers. They monitor the activities of terrorist groups attempting to harm Pakistan. The SS Directorate is similar to the National Clandestine Service (NCS) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), responsible for counterterrorism operations.

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Political Internal Division

The left-wing political science circles were watching the funding for the right-wing political science circles. In 1965, 1977, 1985, 1988, and 1990, these funds were provided to anti-left wing forces by this department. Since the new Director-General took over operational control of the ISI in March of 2012, the department has been inactive.

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