In the evolving security paradigm across the world, intelligence arm has assumed the role of an important component in statecraft. Their tasking however vary in accordance with the political system in place. In mature democracies the input of these organizations is considered with utmost seriousness especially in matters relating to national security. With nuclear weapons on their inventory, the belligerent countries now mostly resort to soft power to subdue the opponents and further their national interests. Soft power application in the fourth generation war primarily by the intelligence organizations is now considered as the main effort in executing state policies. It will not be out of place to say that in the current environment the intelligence arm forms truly the first line of defense.

Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, ISI, rose to prominence as a consequence of international response against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979. Becoming a front line state, courtesy its geography, Pakistan found itself in the eye of a storm and the next in line of Soviet expansionist designs. Financially supported by the US and gulf countries the entire resistance movement was operationalized and managed by ISI that ultimately led to the defeat and subsequent break up of Soviet Union in 1989. Thence onwards this agency remained close to the hearts and minds of both its enemies and friends alike. With Kashmir still remaining as unfinished agenda of Partition, Pakistan perpetually remains under constant Indian covert and overt threat. The very recent open overtures by Indian National Security Advisor Mr. Ajit Doval to unleash its fourth generation offensive against Pakistan compels the country to remain prepared and alert on all fronts keeping its intelligence capability at all times ready. With turmoil in Afghanistan in its 16th year and hardly any hope for improvement in situation visible, Pakistan continues to suffer its direct fallout especially on internal front, fracturing its society giving birth to TTP like entities duly supported by forces inimical to Pakistan`s security.

The successful conduct of Operation Rah-e-Rast in Swat and Rah-e-Nijat in South Waziristan in 2009-2010 during which hundreds and thousands of civilians were first moved out of combat zone and then the enemy comprehensively defeated were no mean achievements. Hardcore professionals clearly understand that successful kinetic operations of the magnitude conducted by Pakistani Armed Forces are always preceded by laborious and risky covert operations ranging from negotiations, persuasion, dividing, assessing, eliminating and gathering pinpointed intelligence for subsequent application of hard power. The precision with which Operation Zarb-e-Azb was conducted in North Waziristan had months of intelligence input in softening the targets besides accurately pinpointing the potential targets for ground and air operations.

In Pakistan's context while the common masses have an unflinching faith and confidence in the intelligence institutions, the political elite looks at these with mixed feelings and suspicion. Much of this has to do with their faulty perception of security and the political roles assigned to the institutions by successive Chief Executives in the past. Even so, the institution has been able to maintain a high state of operational readiness and succeeded in maintaining its reputation as a world class intelligence outfit defeating all enemy efforts to destabilize Pakistan over the past 15 years.

With the new DG now almost settled, there is a need to clearly take stock of the challenges at hand and develop measured response to overcome these while capitalizing on the opportunities. First, the Afghan peace process almost at its all times lowest, the institution is expected to put new life into the process. Regardless of the diminishing leverage over the stakeholders Pakistan is still strongly positioned to play meaningful role in any Afghan peace process. Pakistan must therefore, remain positively relevant in all endeavors leading towards peaceful resolution of Afghan crisis. Second, US–Pakistan relations have generally been Afghan and terrorism centric which are again at its lowest. With a more pragmatic and rather blunt administration in Washington, mutually acceptable and more practical options would find more credence to break the ice putting bilateral relations on long term sustainable trajectory. Three, for our deteriorating relations with India, the institution is expected to play meaningful role in assisting the government to reduce bilateral tension. On their part the political leadership need to fully assimilate the threat posed by India that is not only potent but real as well. Positive development in relations, however, will remain contingent on the attitude demonstrated from across the border, which has unfortunately been so far negative to say the least. Four, a formidable challenge, yet a life time opportunity, for the entire nation will be the successful execution of CPEC against well-known potent threats. The national intelligence apparatus has the world`s intelligence agencies arrayed against it endeavoring that CPEC does not succeed. Thwarting and defeating these challenges, especially created on the inner front will undoubtedly be a great achievement for the entire intelligence arm indeed the whole nation. Five, corresponding to the challenges at hand, there is a greater need for the intelligence apparatus to undertake periodic evaluation of its hard and soft power. This is extremely essential to keep it efficient and responsive to the dynamic challenges. Lean and responsive organizational structure staffed by young motivated and talented work force equipped by state of the art hardware will promise better dividends.

Regardless of the lens with which the intelligence institutions are viewed by the political elite, the enormity of the challenges confronting Pakistan warrants a one nation approach. While successfully overcoming the challenges promise greater hope and rewards, the consequences of failure would be horrendous hence not worth an option. The present generation faces the greatest challenge of its life span while the younger generation watches and expects an era filled with hope and prosperity. Let`s pray and endeavor that our generation succeeds to live up to the expectations.