The Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad


For two years I had the privilege to work as a Research Fellow for "The Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad", a research institute based in Pakistan's capital city Islamabad.

This Institute is one of Pakistan's leading government-owned policy think tanks which is doing a tremendous job in thematisizing diverse topical issues of national and international importance for Pakistan, and providing this country's policy makers with information and policy guidance. To visit its official website click here.








Frontal view of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Click on photo to enlarge.

The Institute's History

The necessity of having a public policy research institute focusing on national strategy was felt strongly in Pakistan early in the 1970s. Pakistan's nemesis India had already established such an institute in November 1965 - the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) - an autonomous body affiliated with the Indian Ministry of Defence. The IDSA apparently played an important role in formulating official policy with regard to the East Pakistan secessionist movement, and subsequent insurgency and Indo-Pakistan war, culminating in Pakistan's defeat and disintegration in December 1971.

The Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, was created on 16. June 1973 under an administrative directive by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was Pakistan's Prime Minister at the time. Initially housed in a room at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it subsequently moved to rented premises in the federal capital before shifting to its own building (see photo above) in the mid-1980s. The Institute's affairs are managed by its Board of Governors, headed by the Institute's Chairman, and which consists of representatives from universities, institutes and professional organisations. The Institute's executive functions are performed by its Director General, who is also the Secretary of the Board of Governors. He/she supervises on-going research projects, is responsible for the day to day running of the Institute, heads its Crisis and Conflict Analysis Team and is the Chief Editor of its research publications. 

The Institute's Objectives & Governance Structure  

The Institute is a non-profit, autonomous research and analysis centre which, broadly speaking, was created with a view towards promoting a public understanding of issues of international peace and security deemed as being of crucial interest and concern to Pakistan.

Research can be area and issue-oriented. One of a researcher's quintessential tasks is to identify and critically appraise problem issues and accordingly propose various recommendations for consideration by policy-makers. The Institute's research field is quite encompassing, focusing on - and apart from issues concerning Pakistan at the national level - mainly on the western Asia-Pacific Region (especially Central, South and South-West Asia), the Commonwealth of Independent States, Europe and the United States of America, the Islamic World, Arms Control and Nuclear Non-proliferation Issues and the New World Order.  

The Institute is one of only a few of its kind in the Islamic world dealing with strategy and allied disciplines. Strategy is thought of as the sum-total of a nation’s efforts and policies for security and survival in a crisis and conflict-ridden environment. All the elements that constitute national power, constitute strategy: history, geography, demography, social psychology, economics, administrative competence, national politics, international relations, military, and science and technology. Strategy has an interfacing of all these disciplines; it provides a multidisciplinary approach to problems of peace and security in the present and the foreseeable future. 

The Institute's multidimensional objectives are indicative of its privileged position as one of Pakistan’s leading policy think tanks concerned with national and international issues:  


to initiate research on and discuss and analyze issues concerning development, peace and security in both a national and global context with a view to developing and promoting an informed public understanding of these issues


to provide scholars and writers with a forum to study and analyze the multifaceted issues pertaining to national and international development, peace and security


to periodically host national and international conferences, seminars, symposia, talks and workshops on issues of current national and global interest and concern, and to participate in these fora in Pakistan and overseas


to maintain a visiting fellowship programme in collaboration with similar Pakistani and foreign research institutes for the exchange of scholars, to initiate networking arrangements with other institutes as well as consolidate existing networking arrangements


to assist other institutes and organizations in undertaking specific studies on issues of strategic interest and importance


to publish and distribute journals, monographs and books


The Institute's Location, Layout and Staff

Hardly five minutes driving time from downtown Islamabad, the Institute stands adjacent to the Foreign Service Academy of Pakistan and Federal Ministers Colony, and is a stones throw from the majestic Margalla hills which dominate the skyline of Pakistan's federal capital.

The Institute's ground floor houses the public reception area, the administrative wing, the archive room, the telephone switchboard center and the offices of the Chairman and Director-General. The first floor houses the Research Wing, the Conference Room and the Naval Maritime Section. The top floor houses the library and the offices of the Librarian, the Documentation Officer and the Archivist. 

The Institute publishes the quarterly journal "Strategic Studies", the periodic monograph series "Islamabad Papers", situational papers and area briefs. Much of the published information can be downloaded directly from the Institute's website.

In my day (1997-98) approximately 50 persons worked for the Institute. About one-third were researchers (Senior Research Fellows, Research Fellows and Research Associates).










My former colleagues scanning the newspapers. Click on photo to enlarge

Ms. Nargis Naqvi, the Institute's veteran librarian. Click on photo to enlarge


The Institute's Information Resources

The library occupies the top floor of the Institute's building. Considered one of the finest research libraries in Pakistan's federal capital, it is used, apart from the Institute's research team, by diplomats, journalists, bureaucrats, military officers, external researchers and students. In addition to its function as a repository of knowledge and information, it serves as the venue for big public forums held at the Institute and has a maximum seating capacity of approximately 300 persons. 

The library's stock of books exceeds 12,000 and span three broad subject categories (general reference, issue-related, country/region-related). Books are catalogued according to the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules and classified by the Dewey Decimal Classification system and the Sears List of Subject Headings. The cataloguing cards are arranged alphabetically according to author, subject and title. In the meantime, the library's holding has been computerized.  

The library receives approximately 61 journals, periodicals, magazines and weekly newspapers from sources within Pakistan and overseas on an exchange, complimentary or subscription basis. It also receives most Pakistani English-language daily newspapers, a few Urdu language newspapers, and some foreign newspapers, all of which are scanned daily by the research team, the librarian and documentation officer who mark articles and items of interest. These are subsequently cut out and pasted in folders under various subject reference headings. 

The Institute's documentation section was established in the early 1980s to provide researchers with a comprehensive information database for their work. This section is responsible for handling and filing all written material apart from books and monographs - such as, booklets, brochures, copies of international pacts and treaties, information bulletins and briefs, loose-leafs, newspaper cutting folders, pamphlets and even video/audio cassettes. Newspapers, magazines and periodicals are first processed at the Documentation Section before they are presented to the library. All material in the documentation section was stored in 167 hardback (“Vertical”) files and 53 boxes spanning 111 subject titles. To assist researchers in quickly retrieving information, the documentation section has amassed approximately 150,000 index cards covering over 270 subject titles. The indexing system was developed internally and is based on observation of the systems which are in application at the British Library in London and at the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

The Institute's Event Activities

The Institute has organized numerous "events" in its history. These events come in many manifestations, such as the conferences, seminars and workshops which may be national or international in terms of their scope and participating scholars. There are bilateral dialogues which are undertaken periodically in collaboration with partner institutions in the US, Germany and China. The Institute frequently organizes public talks in the library where invited speakers speak on topical issues to a public audience, and in-house meetings in its first-floor conference room, where, for the reason of discretion, the audience is more select. Other occasional events include organized visits by delegations from foreign and Pakistani organizations, as well as scheduled visits to the Institute by individual foreign and Pakistani researchers and scholars. Among the vast number of foreign and Pakistani dignitaries who have visited, and/or had the opportunity to speak at the Institute, include Statesmen, Royalty, Politicians, Diplomats, Parliamentarians, Bureacrats, Military Officers, Academicians and Professionals. I had the opportunity to present a paper at a one-day seminar held at the Institute many years back, and I have attended many events held there over years.  

My Work at the Institute

As a Research Fellow, I had plenty of work to do at the Institute. My main responsibility there was to undertake research on economic interaction between Pakistan and its neighbours, both to the west and the east. Specifically, I examined the prospects for economic integration in the Economic Cooperation Organization which groups Pakistan together with Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and the Central Asian Republics. My other research priority area was to examine the opportunities for enhancing economic integration in the SAARC - or South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation - which groups together all South Asian countries, including Pakistan and its arch-rival India. Pretty hot theme as you can imagine! Those were interesting times indeed and my work was quite interesting and left much room for innovation. All my work was published in the Institute's journals and can be downloaded from the research section on my website.

Apart from my research, I was involved in several other activities at the Institute. I initiated a technical modernization project which culminated in the Institute getting a donation for the installation of several new computer systems and an electronically-controlled telephone switchboard system. I also got the Institute its first internet connection in those days when this marvellous medium of information collection and communication was in its infancy in Pakistan, and I designed the Institute's first website. 

Other activities of mine included assisting in organizing and attending some conferences, seminars and workshops, in briefing visitors to the Institute, and in collecting information for its database.



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