April 6, 2011 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 682

Pakistan's Blackwater – Recruitment of 'Mercenaries' for Deployment in Bahrain

April 6, 2011 | By Yigal Carmon and Tufail Ahmad*
Pakistan | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 682

Lt.-Gen. Hamid Gul is the most visible face of 'The Ex-Servicemen Society'


During the uprisings in Bahrain, it emerged that there are organizations of former Pakistani soldiers, which recruit former and current Pakistani soldiers as well as youth to work in security-related jobs in the Middle East, similar to a role played by Blackwater and other private security firms.[1] These organizations are known as ex-servicemen societies. The information about the activities of these organizations was revealed when several Pakistanis were killed by Shia protesters in Bahrain for serving in the Bahraini security forces and supporting the Sunni regime there.[2] Also, Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa recently held meetings in Islamabad, where the two sides agreed to augment defense cooperation.[3]

While the expression "Ex-Servicemen Society" may refer to many organizations of former Pakistani soldiers, it is mainly used by the Pakistani media to refer to the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association (PESA), one of the leading organizations of former Pakistani soldiers.[4] Some other leading ex-servicemen societies are the Fauji Foundation and Bahria Foundation.

PESA's most visible face in Pakistan is Lt.-Gen. Hamid Gul, who is known to have nurtured the Taliban when he was the chief of the Pakistani military's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the 1980s. In 2008, senior Pakistani journalist Ansar Abbasi reported that the U.S. handed over a list of four former ISI officials, including Lt.-Gen. Hamid Gul, to the UN Security Council to put them on the list of international terrorists under UN Security Council Resolution 1267.[5]

Pakistani Ex-Servicemen Society Accused of Advocating Jihad

The Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association (PESA) claims to have more than 2,000 members. Established in January 2008 under the chairmanship of Lt.-Gen. (retired) Faiz Ali Chishti, it has spearheaded a public campaign against the U.S. as well as against the pro-U.S. policies of General Pervez Musharraf over his decision to support the war against terror.[6]

During the recent controversy over the arrest of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, PESA sent an email to all of its members in which it underlined the need to use "interrogation techniques such as waterboarding" against CIA agents, stating: "Raymond Davis is seen as a saboteur operating as a mercenary for the destabilization of Pakistan, under the protection of the U.S. government…"[7]

Although PESA was formed as a voice against the emergency rule imposed by General Musharraf, it is controlled by mainly right-wing leaders like Hamid Gul and Asad Durrani, who is also, like Gul, a former chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Over the years, the organization has been hijacked by Gul and his supporters. Pakistani politicians have accused PESA of advocating jihad. At a meeting in Islamabad in February 2009, some Pakistani politicians criticized PESA leaders, stating that they "were still living in the 80s, and had no idea of the present-day threats and… challenges facing Pakistan. Required in the present situation... [the politicians] stressed, was peace and dialogue with international powers, not jihad, as they were propagating."[8]

Reports: Fauji Foundation, Bahria Foundation Recruiting Mercenaries

Both PESA and the Fauji Foundation, like other ex-servicemen societies, are believed to be working in close cooperation with the Pakistani military, especially its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Generally, a top serving officer heads an ex-servicemen society. An individual can be a member of several ex-servicemen societies simultaneously.

While there are no media reports of PESA directly recruiting Pakistani mercenaries, the Fauji Foundation and the Bahria Foundation have been accused of recruiting mercenaries to fight against protesters in Bahrain. According to a readers' discussion on the website of a Pakistani newspaper, the Bahria Foundation, a charitable trust set up in 1982 for the welfare of former naval employees under the chairmanship of the Pakistan Navy chief, is engaged in recruiting Pakistani youth and ex-servicemen for deployment in Bahrain. [9]

Such a role of recruiting mercenaries from Pakistan has also been played over the years by the Fauji Foundation, which was set up in 1954. According to a Pakistani media report, the foundation "serves as a trust for ex-servicemen and their families. It is believed to be among the largest industrial conglomerates in the country." Recently, it has been involved, though not for the first time, in recruitment for Bahrain's security services.

In March 2011, the Overseas Employment Services (OES) of the Fauji Foundation placed advertisements in Urdu-language Pakistani newspapers to "immediately" recruit Pakistani youth for the Bahrain National Guard.[10] One such advertisement specified recruitments for the following job categories: "officers (majors), Pakistan Military Academy drill instructors, anti-riot instructors, security guards, and military police as well as cooks and mess waiters…"[11] A Pakistani newspaper report noted: "The requirement for anti-riot instructors was NCOs (non-commissioned officers) from the Sindh Rangers or officers of an equivalent rank from the Elite Police Force."[12]

From Pakistani media reports, it emerges that the Fauji Foundation is playing the lead role of recruiting securitymen from Pakistan to confront the protesters in Bahrain.

Editorial in Pakistani Daily: "By Allowing Mercenaries to Serve the Bahraini Monarchy, Pakistan has Dangerously Taken Sides"

In an editorial titled "Neutrality on Bahrain," the leading Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune noted recently: "Even before the uprising broke out, many Pakistanis were serving in the Bahraini police force. Since the troubles began, Bahrain has been recruiting mercenaries from Pakistan to bolster its police and armed forces. We have allowed them to do so unhindered. Bahrainis are understandably enraged…"[13]

The editorial added: "By allowing mercenaries to serve the Bahraini monarchy, Pakistan has dangerously taken sides in what may turn out to be a geopolitical, ethnic nightmare. The population of Bahrain is overwhelmingly Shia while the ruling family is Sunni. Iran is naturally supporting the protesters while Saudi Arabia is on the side of the king. Thanks to the mercenaries, the impression will now stick that Pakistan is on the anti-Iran side…"[14]

In the past, Pakistani military officers have directly engaged in supporting Arab regimes. Brigadier Ziaul Haq, who later became the military ruler of Pakistan, headed a division of the Jordanian army that "massacred scores of Palestinians," straining Pakistan's relations with Palestinians.[15] Even now, recruitment of mercenaries from Pakistan cannot be facilitated without the Pakistani military.

* Y. Carmon is President of Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI); Tufail Ahmad is Director ofMEMRI's South Asia Studies Project (


[1]In recent years, Pakistani clerics and political leaders have accused the CIA and private U.S. security firm Blackwater of carrying out terror attacks and suicide bombings across Pakistan. Such criticisms are not limited to common people. Former Pakistan Army Chief General Aslam Beg recently alleged that CIA contractor Raymond Davis was working as an agent of four foreign intelligence services in order to carry out terror attacks in Pakistan. See: Former Pakistan Army Chief General Aslam Beg: Raymond Davis was 'Working as a Coordinator of Four Important Foreign Secret Agencies in Our Country', MEMRI Special Dispatches Series No. 3706, March 27, 2011.

[2] According to a report in the Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune of March 21, 2011, at least four Pakistani nationals, some of them in Bahraini police service, were lynched by protesters in Bahrain.

[3] Dawn (Pakistan), March 30, 2011.

[4] The expression "Ex-Servicemen Society" is also an informal reference to organizations set up for the welfare of former Pakistani security. Such organizations include groups like the Fauji Foundation, Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association, Defense Society (which promotes residential needs of former soldiers) and Pensioners' Association. Many of these organizations are headed by serving Pakistani officers in ex-officio positions.

[5] The News (Pakistan), December 4, 2008.

[6] (Pakistan), accessed April 1, 2011. According to the official website, PESA, which also sometimes referred as the Ex-Servicemen Society of Pakistan, was formed as a movement against General Pervez Musharraf's decision to sack the higher judiciary and impose emergency rule in 2007.

[7] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), March 15, 2011.

[8] The News (Pakistan), February 9, 2009.

[9] For a discussion of the role of mercenaries recruited by the Bahria Foundation and Fauzi Foundation, describing them as Pakistani Blackwater, see this link:

[10] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), March 11, 2011.

[11] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), March 11, 2011.

[12] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), March 11, 2011.

[13] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), March 24, 2011.

[14] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), March 24, 2011.

[15] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), March 17, 2011.

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