Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Pataudis Cousin Tipped As Next ISI Chief

Pakistan's beleaguered military-intelligence complex is reeling from the embarrassment USA inflicted when they annihilated Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad, speculation is rife that ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha may have to step down.

Pasha, who is in the direct line of criticism for the failure to detect the presence of bin Laden and the American operation, is already on an extension and the estimate here is that Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani may have to sacrifice him to appease the popular anger.

Front runners among those tipped to take over from Pasha is Major General Isfandiyar Ali Pataudi, first cousin of cricketing legend, former India skipper Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, and an uncle to film stars, Saif and Soha.


Isfandiyar's father, Major General Nawabzada Mohammad Ali Pataudi, was the younger brother of Mansur Ali Khan's father Iftikhar Ali Khan. Major General Nawabzada Mohammad preferred to opt for the Pakistan army at the time of partition, while his elder brother stayed back to pursue a diplomatic career.

Sources here said Maj Gen Isfandiyar Ali Pataudi, who was appointed a deputy director-general of ISI a few weeks ago, stands a good chance if a major churning happens at the higher echelons of the Pakistan army. His liberal moorings and aristocratic background may work to his advantage at a time when Rawalpindi is required to allay US's fears of a fundamentalist takeover of the intelligence agency. An armoured corps officer, General Isfandiyar has another India connection: he was a classmate of the chief of the Indian Army, General V K Singh, at the Army War College in the US a few years ago.

Isfandiyar Pataudi was among the first officers sent by the Pakistan army to US military institutions after the restoration of bilateral military ties that had soured after the 1998 nuclear tests and 1999 military coup. Indian military had then read the selection of the first batch of officers including Pataudi for American courses as a deliberate Pak strategy to project a liberal face.

But now the liberal face happens to be at the senior level of a notoriously secretive ISI that is dominated by sympathizers of al-Qaida and handles many terror groups. And he is on the brink of emerging as possible DG of the all powerful intelligence agency. All his royal ancestry and liberal values may not be enough to reign in the intelligence organization, which is rated a semi-criminal enterprise by many Indian spies and rated among the world's best by many others.

General Isfandiyar is an accomplished polo player, and is the chairman of the Pakistan Polo Association.

Incidentally, Mansur Ali Khan's father, Iftikhar Ali Khan, captained the Indian cricket team like his son. In fact, he played for England as well, thus earning the unique distinction of turning out for two countries.