Editorial
There is finally some space available to discuss an important aspect of politics in this country -- the role of intelligence agencies. A little amount of history is inevitable; because these agencies shaped the history and hence the politics. But the purpose of this debate is largely to discuss the possibility of reform.

overview  
Shadows of State
Understanding civil-military relations is a prerequisite to understanding both the political functions of intelligence agencies and the mechanisms through which these functions are performed
By Adnan Rehmat
There is something primal about intelligence agencies. The raison d'etre of intelligence agencies is collective security. Hence, wherever there are states and governments, there are intelligence agencies. However, while governments come and go, intelligence agencies stay forever -- a fact that determines the sense of superiority by the latter over the former. And, in countries where the military is more organised than the political class, such as in Pakistan, intelligence agencies assume an even larger role over the fate of the state's subjects, making and breaking governments and manufacturing mandates that serve its interests.

Operating in vacuum
It's time to bring them under civilian control and legal framework
By Asad Jamal
It is now a known fact that one of the greatest threats to democracies, more especially democracies in transition, comes not from foreign military invasion, but from intelligence agencies working without civilian control and democratic oversight. Even in the developed democracies, it is widely acknowledged that the way intelligence is handled by governments and the mechanisms to hold intelligence agencies accountable by democratic institutions need to be reviewed and improved. What is required is greater democratic oversight, openness and access to information.

Lack of coordination
Agencies are overstretched because of the "active war" on terror
By Waqar Gillani
The quest for improved coordination between the intelligence agencies and secret services of Pakistan is a matter that remains unrealised. The general assumption is that there is a lack of political will, commitment, strategy and a competent system. Experts put it down to a lack of a "repository body". They believe that the intelligence agencies are overstretched regionally and globally because of the "active war" on terror.

reforms
License to dominate
Civilian governments have been aware of the need to reform the agencies since the 1970s -- and with greater force since the 1990s
By Kamila Hyat
The presence of a shadow that follows the path of politicians, of military men, of nationalist leaders, of journalists and others is something all of us are aware of.
There has been so much discussion as to the role of Pakistan's secret agencies -- especially the ISI, the IB and, to a lesser extent, the MI in the rise and fall of governments -- that many are convinced there can be no real democracy in the country until these agencies, notably the powerful ISI, are reformed. The repeated insinuations, most notably since 1997, that they have in fact acted to determine the results of balloting means that while they exist in their present form there will always be doubts as to the authenticity of electoral results. Evidence, such as that from the American-Pakistani militant David Headley, who has alleged the ISI had a hand in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, also raises questions as to whether any major policy change can take place when these agencies, rather than Parliament, determine so much of what happens.

"It takes an Afghanistan to make an ISI"
-- Lt Gen (r) Hameed Gul, former ISI chief
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
The News on Sunday: How important are intelligence agencies to our country's security and what are the roles they are supposed to play?
Hameed Gul: There is no question about the importance of intelligence agencies to a country's security. Pakistan's intelligence agencies have guarded the country's interests and comprise highly motivated individuals. The ISI -- our premier intelligence agency -- earned worldwide recognition during the Afghan jihad. In my first meeting with late Benazir Bhutto, I told her that it takes an Afghanistan to make an ISI. I told her there would be no repeat of this and requested her to dissolve the political wing of the ISI, formed by her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. She did not accede to this request and the agencies' involvement in political affairs continued.

A bagful of stories
Somehow the interests of a section of media and intelligence agencies converged. Just how…
By Farah Zia
In an interview with this newspaper last year, Brig (retd) Imtiaz Ahmed said the role of intelligence agencies in a democratic polity was "to draw a distinction between politics and subversive politics." Subversive politics, he said, meant political activities of politicians which are in conflict with national security. He admitted in the course of the interview that the military and its intelligence agencies were the true custodians and ultimate arbiters of national interest.

 

 

 

 

Editorial

There is finally some space available to discuss an important aspect of politics in this country -- the role of intelligence agencies. A little amount of history is inevitable; because these agencies shaped the history and hence the politics. But the purpose of this debate is largely to discuss the possibility of reform.

Our case is not unique. It is akin to countries where military has primacy over political affairs and civilian governments are an aberration. Therefore, like all such countries, the military dominated intelligence agencies control the affairs of the state. At times they have done that brutally and mostly without being held accountable for.

Intelligence agencies may be operating in a sort of legal vacuum but they have the protection of a broad military framework and in the context of Pakistan it would be incorrect to assume that they function at variance with the military itself.

Shall we then assume that in a military-dominated setup, the reform of intelligence agencies is a utopian dream?

A Carnegie Endowment Report released in 2009 gives the examples of Chile and Indonesia, both transitional democracies like Pakistan, that have achieved reform.

Meanwhile, we live amid a set of conflicting views. One side believes the role of intelligence agencies has considerably minimised ever since the elections of 2008. The professional soldier in the person of COAS Kayani decided to stay neutral and let this country have the flavour of a free election. To attract goodwill, this side holds, he withdrew military personnel from various civilian institutions and directed the ISI to stay away from politicians. Currently, then the intelligence agencies are not involved in destabilising the civilian setup in any way.

But what about the foreign affairs, the other side says. What about the military effectively running the country's foreign policy and openly contradicting the government's view as in the Kerry Lugar Bill and relations with India? What about the crackdown on the nationalists in Balochistan and NWFP and Sindh that continues to this day? What about the security state mindset that overrules the welfare state mindset? What about citizen rights that are being violated in the shape of wire-tapping and cyber space manipulation? What about the United Nations Commision Report on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and its indictment of Pakistan's establishment? And finally what about the professional soldier seeking a three years extension for himself?

It is these contradictions that are thrown open in today's Special Report, hoping against hope that this imbalance in the polity is removed somehow and there is a realisation in this unelected state organ to reform itself and democratise the system.

 

 

overview

Shadows of State

Understanding civil-military relations is a prerequisite to understanding both the political functions of intelligence agencies and the mechanisms through which these functions are performed

By Adnan Rehmat

There is something primal about intelligence agencies. The raison d'etre of intelligence agencies is collective security. Hence, wherever there are states and governments, there are intelligence agencies. However, while governments come and go, intelligence agencies stay forever -- a fact that determines the sense of superiority by the latter over the former. And, in countries where the military is more organised than the political class, such as in Pakistan, intelligence agencies assume an even larger role over the fate of the state's subjects, making and breaking governments and manufacturing mandates that serve its interests.

Because Pakistan's intelligence agencies are instruments of the state, their political role can only be appreciated in relation to the nature of the regime, says a Carnegie Endowment report released in 2009. Understanding civil-military relations is therefore a prerequisite to understanding both their political functions and the mechanisms through which these functions are performed.

 

Cycle of domination

Since 1958, Pakistan has endured four military dictatorships, with only brief intervals of civilian regimes between 1971 and 1977, in 1988, in 1999 and, more recently, since the 2008 elections. Overt military rule characterises Pakistan. Still, even the military regimes have felt the need to civilianise themselves by co-opting politicians. Such was the case under Generals Ayub Khan, Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf. Civil-military relations have, therefore, always alternated between direct and sometimes brutal domination by the military and power-sharing agreements. Power sharing has, at times, points out the Frederic Grare report, occurred under both civilian and military regimes, the primary difference being the degree of autonomy enjoyed by the civilians.

Says security analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi, Pakistan's power-sharing arrangement means that the military has important influence over foreign, security and key domestic issues, and mediates confrontations among feuding political leaders, parties or state institutions -- if such confrontations are deemed threatening to the political order and stability. The military is obviously the only institution empowered to judge whether such threats exist.

 

ISI: king among spies

Among the plethora of intelligence agencies in Pakistan, the ISI has enjoyed dominance. It was created in 1948 to focus essentially on India. It originally had no active role in conducting domestic intelligence activities except in Azad Kashmir and the current Gilgit-Baltistan region. The ISI's political role was a direct result of the coup d'état of General Ayub Khan in 1958. The agency at that time became responsible for monitoring Pakistani politicians. Monitoring the media and politically active segments of society such as trade unions and student groups also became part of the ISI mission. The agencies thus became instruments of consolidation for Ayub's regime, which saw any criticism as a threat to national security.

The intelligence agencies became even more deeply involved in domestic politics under General Yahya Khan. ISI activities at that time were directed more specifically at ethnic separatists, who were to become a nightmare for successive Pakistani regimes. East Pakistani politicians, according to the Carnegie report, were among the ISI's first victims, and several were assassinated.

 

Civilian dictatorship

ISI was also employed by Pakistan's first elected civilian leader Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto against Baloch nationalists and was on occasion no less ruthless than it had been under Ayub and Yahya. But in order to counterbalance the ISI, Bhutto also created the Federal Security Force (FSF), a group parallel to the regular police, which operated as a private army to force his opponents and former allies into submission. Significantly, in 1975, Bhutto created the Political Cell of the ISI, which he used unnecessarily to rig the 1977 elections with disastrous consequences culminating in his hanging by Zia.

The FSF was disbanded by Zia who further expanded the ISI's powers to collect domestic intelligence on political and religious organisations that opposed his regime. The ISI was responsible for collecting intelligence about Sindhi nationalist activities and monitoring the leadership of the Pakistan People's Party, including Benazir Bhutto, which had launched the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy in the early 1980s. Dissident political leaders were constantly monitored and harassed by the intelligence agencies.

 

MI gets into the act

After the success of the Islamic revolution in Iran, the ISI also took on the responsibility of controlling the activities of Pakistan's Shia organisations. It was also during Zia's reign that the Military Intelligence (MI), although focused on military and security-related affairs, became involved in domestic political activities. The MI later played an important role in implementing orders to dismiss the two Bhutto-led governments in August 1990 and November 1996.

Two years after he took over, Musharraf attempted reforms in the intelligence apparatus, applying them into the Afghan theatre of conflict albeit these did not reduce too much the agencies' involvement in domestic politics. All through the campaign leading up to the October 2002 elections, Bhutto complained about pre-election rigging by the ISI and coercion against PPP.

The ISI openly twisted politicians' arms to join the freshly mid-wifed 'King's party' of PML-Q. It played an open role in cobbling together first the government of Zafarullah Jamali in 2002 and then replacing him about two years later with Shaukat Aziz. The role of ISI was an open secret in convincing the leaders of religious grouping Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal to accept General Musharraf as president in uniform. All this made it clear that ISI remained central to the implementation of the general's political agenda.

 

Status quo prevails

In the 2008 elections, General Musharraf and his cronies were spectacularly rejected and civilians stormed back in power in the centre and the four provinces, qualifying Pakistan as a transitional democracy even though the future of the civilian dispensation still remains uncertain. Grare points out that while the civilians have conquered a political space that has been out of bounds for several years, they do not fully control the state apparatus and the influence of the intelligence agencies remains intact.

However, while the 2008 political victory over military dispensation was an expression of popular aspirations to democracy after nine years of military dictatorship, it was possible in large part because Musharraf's successor General Ashfaq Kayani made a deliberate decision to remain neutral in the election, in effect departing from his predecessor. And yet, despite this progress, there has been little structural change in civil-military relations. The army remains the dominant actor in Pakistan's political life and the intelligence agencies remain its principal tool of dominance.

Thus little has changed: even with a relatively new army chief who does not seem to harbour overt political ambitions, the role of intelligence agencies remains as controversial as ever, if not more. Not only has there been a surge over the last two years in a crackdown on nationalists in Balochistan, the usual suspects being the intelligence agencies, the spy agencies also seem to have gotten away materially unscathed on the issue of missing citizens, many of them from Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, whose number runs into hundreds. This, despite an independent judiciary, for a change, in place.

The elected civilian dispensation ignores at its peril the need to decisively establish its supremacy over the intelligence apparatus. Reducing the role of the military in intelligence should be a priority not only because it will help the government consolidate itself domestically but also because the perception abroad of Pakistan's emerging democracy and consequent foreign support will be shaped by its capacity to impose its authority on the intelligence agencies' activities on issues ranging from domestic terrorism to foreign policy.

 

Just in case

Asghar Khan's case awaits the attention of the apex court

The petition filed by Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan in 1996 alleging the ISI dished out Mehran Bank's Rs140 million to politicians before the 1990 elections to manipulate results is gathering dust. Khan wrote a letter to the then chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah on June 16, 1996, requesting him to take action on the then interior minister Naseerullah Babar's statement on the floor of the house alleging that the ISI had collected Rs140 million from the Mehran Bank Ltd and distributed among some politicians before the 1990 elections. That was, according to him, a conspiracy to manipulate the results in favour of Islami Jamhoori Ittehad. Khan's letter was later converted into a constitutional petition by the chief justice under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

According to a news report, the then Chief of Army Staff, Mirza Aslam Beg, had stated in his written reply to the Supreme Court that in early September of 1990, Younis Habib, then serving in Mehran Bank as Zonal Chief, had called on him (Beg) and informed him that he had instructions from the President of Pakistan Ghulam Ishaq Khan's election cell to make available Rs140 million for supporting the elections of 1990.

The case has not been taken up yet despite the politicians and civil society crying hoarse over the last about fourteen years that it should be taken up by the court. Asghar Khan, an octogenarian, does not seem to have lost all hope as he believes, and many others like him, that the case is of immense importance having political implications, especially in the context of the present scenario. Hence Khan's demand that the chief justice of Pakistan should re-open it and take it to its logical end.

There are questions about the case that will remain unanswered unless it is re-opened. Why was the case ignored by the earlier courts in the first place? Why it has not caught the eye of the present pro-active judiciary? Will the opening up of the case amount to challenging the well-entrenched establishment? Will the curtain ever rise on the protagonists of the case, including the then Director General of the ISI, General (retd) Asad Durrani, Chief of Army Staff Aslam Beg, and Nawaz Sharif, who ended up benefiting from the whole affair? Only time will tell.

 

-- By Ather Naqvi

 

Operating in vacuum

It's time to bring them under civilian control and legal framework

By Asad Jamal

It is now a known fact that one of the greatest threats to democracies, more especially democracies in transition, comes not from foreign military invasion, but from intelligence agencies working without civilian control and democratic oversight. Even in the developed democracies, it is widely acknowledged that the way intelligence is handled by governments and the mechanisms to hold intelligence agencies accountable by democratic institutions need to be reviewed and improved. What is required is greater democratic oversight, openness and access to information.

It is a relatively recent phenomenon that intelligence agencies even in the advanced democracies have been brought within the fold of democratic legislative framework. More recent exposes leading to demands for reform of intelligence frameworks include the US Congress-appointed 9/11 Commission in the USA; the Hutton Inquiry in the UK; the Arar Commission in Canada; the German special parliamentary inquest; and the Dutch Parliament's request to investigate the alleged torture practices of the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service in Iraq.

In Pakistan too, the role of intelligence agencies has recently come under limelight and it is being felt that secret agencies need to be brought under democratic control. The latest example of how the secret forces can subvert the rule of law has been presented in the UN Inquiry Commission Report in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case. The report notes that no aspect of the Commission's inquiry remained untouched by credible assertions of clandestine action by the ISI, the MI and the IB which played a pervasive role. It concludes that "this pervasive involvement of intelligence agencies in diverse spheres, which is an open secret, has undermined the rule of law, distorted civil-military relations and weakened some political and law-enforcement institutions. At the same time, it has contributed to widespread public distrust in those institutions and fed a generalised political culture that thrives on competing conspiracy theories."

In recent years, hundreds of missing persons are understood to have become victim of subversion of rule of law and constitutional guarantees by intelligence agencies. Articles 9 of the Constitution state that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty, except in accordance with law. Article 10 requires that no person is to be arrested or detained without being produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of such arrest or detention. Still, intelligence agencies can pick citizens up and detain them for long periods of time as documented in the missing persons' cases. Constitutional guarantees against arbitrary arrest mean nothing to the intelligence agencies.

In 1998, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and Washington based Centre for National Security Studies brought out a joint study titled as In the Public Interest: Security Services in a Constitutional Democracy.

The study prescribed that intelligence agencies should be established by statute, which should specify the limits of the agency's powers, its methods of operation and the means by which it will be held accountable. It further prescribes that "each operation or activity by a security agency shall be authorised by a specific individual, whose name shall appear on a written authorisation. There must be clear written rules governing the agencies' activities and the responsibilities of the heads of each agency."

No state agency may be exempted from public accountability because doing so closes the door on public debate about how the national security should be protected. Therefore, the role of the secret services must be openly debated. Intelligence agencies in Pakistan pose grave dangers to peoples' rights and democracy because of lack of accountability and openness in their affairs. It may be acknowledged that Pakistan faces real threats to national security and certain state actions necessary to protect the state security must be carried out in secret. This, however, must be subject to democratic and constitutional requirements.

Another study, titled Making Intelligence Accountable, done by (Born and Leigh, 2005) concludes that "intelligence services must be responsive to the needs of the people through their elected representatives, i.e. elected civilians in the cabinet and parliament who embody the primacy of political control over the security and intelligence services".

Pakistan has had a chequered democratic history. Long periods of authoritarian rules meant that the main task of internal security and intelligence agencies was to protect authoritarian regimes against its own people. The security and intelligence agencies have so far fulfilled a repressive function.

Reforming intelligence agencies to change them from a tool of repression into a modern tool of security policy requires close monitoring by the executive and parliament accompanied with transparency which requires the parliament to legislate in the public interest. The sooner it is done, the better.

 

 

 

Lack of coordination

Agencies are overstretched because of the "active war" on terror

By Waqar Gillani

The quest for improved coordination between the intelligence agencies and secret services of Pakistan is a matter that remains unrealised. The general assumption is that there is a lack of political will, commitment, strategy and a competent system. Experts put it down to a lack of a "repository body". They believe that the intelligence agencies are overstretched regionally and globally because of the "active war" on terror.

The resignation of the head of National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA), a toothless body set up in 2008 to integrate the coordination system between the agencies, is the latest example of this commitment to intelligence sharing and coordination system. The NACTA head Tariq Pervez -- known for his credible work on terrorism and skills -- resigned last week following the government's inattentiveness to run the authority in a proper way. The authority, supposed to be patronised by the prime minister of Pakistan, is under the shadow control of the Interior Ministry that is desperate to run all such affairs even if that means exceeding its boundaries, it is alleged. NACTA was formed after the federal government decided to have a body to perform, collate and coordinate the entire workings of intelligence agencies. NACTA, surprisingly, has been placed under the Ministry of Interior as yet another agency working to counter terrorism.

NACTA was formed as a repository of all information of institutional memories supposed to be under the control of the PM. But it has been rendered ineffective because the IB, the ISI and the MI have their own spheres and they cannot work under the Ministry of Interior. NACTA has not started functioning properly because of a lack of will.

At the moment, a number of intelligence agencies are functioning in Pakistan that include Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), premier intelligence agency run by the army; Military Intelligence (MI) directly working under the army command; Intelligence Bureau (IB), officially reporting directly to the Prime Minister/Chief Executive to deal with independent political affairs and law and order situation. In police, there are two major agencies: Crime Investigation Department (CID) and Special Branch. Only police and the CID can submit challan and arrest any person. The Special Branch is sued for the protection of the VVIP (Very Very Important Person) movement. Also, there is Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), working under the Ministry of Interior that deals mainly with immigration and cyber crime.

There is a homeland security system in place in the USA since 9/11 and the information is shared at the immigration level. 9/11 gave a vital realisation to the US to improve its intelligence-sharing which is central to the war on terror. In other countries, there are intelligence coordination and supervisory committees in the parliament that review the performance and coordination among the intelligence agencies. In Pakistan, there is no such committee except National Security Committee, a body confined to the periodic meetings only.

Some top police officials, requesting not to be named, say that such gaps have also been noticed in the attacks on Rescue 15 and ISI office in 2007. Examples of prior intimation of the possibility of attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in March 2009 and the one on Pakistan Army's General Headquarters (GHQ) in October 2009 are other glaring examples of this lapse. The information of one intelligence agency was overlooked by the other law enforcement and intelligence agencies even though it had been provided beforetime.

"Such examples are not new," recalls Imtiaz Billa, former DG IB, who had informed the then-NWFP government that Lt Gen (r) Fazle Haq could be assassinated in a week's time, but no measures were taken and the person was killed. "What is needed is a first-rate and effective coordination system both in sharing of intelligence information and coordination of the joint interrogation," he suggests.

"There is no sharing system within Pakistan. We are taking up the issue in the national security committee, too. The role of the NACTA is also under purview," Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, former interior minister and sitting Member of Parliament, tells TNS.

Historically, General Yahya was the first to attempt the formation of a national intelligence commission but the plan never materialised. There were attempts also to set up intelligence academies at that time. A similar proposal was made in Air Martial (r) Zulfiqar Commission in 1989, during the first regime of Benazir Bhutto, but again it could not be implemented. Hameed Gul, former DG ISI, proposed an end to the political role of the ISI but he was rejected.

In 1996, Masood Sharif, former IB chief, proposed Intelligence and Crime Coordination Committee. The proposal was widely appreciated and discussed but, again, it was never implemented.

 

[email protected]

 

 

 

 

reforms

License to dominate

Civilian governments have been aware of the need to reform the agencies since the 1970s -- and with greater force since the 1990s

By Kamila Hyat

The presence of a shadow that follows the path of politicians, of military men, of nationalist leaders, of journalists and others is something all of us are aware of.

There has been so much discussion as to the role of Pakistan's secret agencies -- especially the ISI, the IB and, to a lesser extent, the MI in the rise and fall of governments -- that many are convinced there can be no real democracy in the country until these agencies, notably the powerful ISI, are reformed. The repeated insinuations, most notably since 1997, that they have in fact acted to determine the results of balloting means that while they exist in their present form there will always be doubts as to the authenticity of electoral results. Evidence, such as that from the American-Pakistani militant David Headley, who has alleged the ISI had a hand in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, also raises questions as to whether any major policy change can take place when these agencies, rather than Parliament, determine so much of what happens.

Civilian governments have been aware of the need to reform the agencies since the 1970s -- and with greater force since the 1990s. Small-scale attempts to do so took place under the second Benazir Bhutto government, which held office from 1993 to 1996. The efforts were timid, in part because of the fear of triggering a military coup. This fear has indeed been a constant one since 1988 -- with the power wielded by the military since the 1950s making it the most powerful player on the field of Pakistani politics and allowing it to place the ISI, in theory a semi-military agency, firmly under its control. The agency's role in the Afghan war after 1979 created between it and elements within the military the dangerous nexus that keeps alive the slogan of 'jihad' and shores up militancy -- using it at times as a weapon against government.

The efforts to tame the huge monster that the agencies, particularly the ISI, have grown into have consistently made civilian set-ups, the judiciary and, indeed on occasions, even military chiefs appear rather puny and inconsequential. The Supreme Court, in 2007, launched its most daring assault on the agencies in the missing persons case, threatening in August that year to summon agency heads to account for the thousands of persons who had 'disappeared' in the country. The case was preceded by hostility from the courts, which had ordered the government to initiate reform. The 'emergency' imposed by the then President Musharraf in November 2007 is linked by some to this particular case. In its run-up, agencies are alleged to have used familiar tools -- including hidden cameras and wire-taps -- against judges. It is perhaps not entirely a coincidence that after hearings in the case resumed in 2009, the courts have been more cautious when dealing with agencies.

The government has made its own attempts, notably in July 2008 when a notification was issued placing the ISI under the interior ministry. The order was withdrawn within 24 hours, signaling just how challenging the task of exerting civilian control over an entity that has come to control State can be.

What is obvious is that this control cannot be gained suddenly. Just as obvious is the fact that it needs to be acquired if civilian governments are to gain any balance on the see-saw that places them on the opposite end to the military, with the military end far more heavily weighed down.

To even things out, it is essential that the government gather forces that can offer it strength and power. This can, as a counter-weight to the military, be offered only by people. The agencies have consistently used the weaknesses of governments to render them still weaker, expertly using the media and other instruments for this. In Venezuela, a country with a tradition of military rule and US dominance as strong as that of Pakistan, President Hugo Chavez has been able to use his popular standing to reform agencies in a process begun in 2008. It is conceivable that had he not commanded the backing of people this would have been impossible. In his excellent study for the Carnegie Endowment, Frederic Grare cites the examples of Indonesia and Chile as two other nations which have achieved reform.

There are, of course, other factors. Pakistan's internal security issues and the fact that civilian bodies such as the police are despised by people add to the problems for government. So too does political instability which in turn is contributed to by terrorism. The kind of reform needed too requires more discussion -- so a formula can be worked out to determine the role of agencies, how many we need and the question of who should control them.

 

interviews

Public right

Information older than 30 years should be publicly released

The Official Secrets Act in this region was first implemented in 1923, under the British rule. It is still standing in India and Pakistan, and many other Commonwealth countries.

In Pakistan, it is a 17-page document that withholds the public right to sensitive information for "national security" and gives guidelines to media. The Act finds punishable the leaks of "munitions of war" to sketches or even undeveloped films of road plans, waterways, spying, approaching or inspecting a prohibited place etc.

Secrecy laws exist everywhere but there is a time frame after the information is released. For example, the CIA in the USA publicly released information on the American involvement in the military coup in Iran (1953, Mussadiq), Guatemala (1953, Arbenz), Chile (1973, Allende). The Pakistani intelligence reports regarding the Kashmir war 1947, war of '65. '71 and the first three military coups are unreleased.

Under this Act, illegal or malicious government activity can never be identified. Prosecutions under this law were also controversial, like those of Dr Qadeer Khan, M Farooq and General Aslam Beg for leaking Pakistan's nuclear secrets.

"The government has intentions to review laws like the Official Secrets Act, 1923, to do away with the colonial hangover of secretive and exclusive governance," said Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Sumsam Ali Bokhari in December 2009. Senator Mushahid Hussein said the same in 2006, on the "3rd International Right to Know Day" and appreciated the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002.

But lawyer Asad Jamal is more skeptical: "The Freedom of Information Ordinance is very narrow and applies only to federal bodies and not the majority of intelligence agencies. You need an enabling law, otherwise it depends on the judiciary how they interpret it." The Indian Rights to Information Act is a more enabling document.

"The 18th Amendment includes Article 19A making right to information a fundamental right of every citizen," states Jawad Hassan, Advocate General Punjab. "The Official Secrecy Act is standing, but the Constitution prevails over the law. Therefore, you can process information of 'public importance' and even file a writ in the high court if violated."

National Security is important, but so is our history. The official secrecy time limit should be included in a constitutional clause and information older than 30 years should be publicly released.

 

-- By Ammara Ahmad

 

"It takes an Afghanistan to make an ISI"

-- Lt Gen (r) Hameed Gul, former ISI chief

By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

The News on Sunday: How important are intelligence agencies to our country's security and what are the roles they are supposed to play?

Hameed Gul: There is no question about the importance of intelligence agencies to a country's security. Pakistan's intelligence agencies have guarded the country's interests and comprise highly motivated individuals. The ISI -- our premier intelligence agency -- earned worldwide recognition during the Afghan jihad. In my first meeting with late Benazir Bhutto, I told her that it takes an Afghanistan to make an ISI. I told her there would be no repeat of this and requested her to dissolve the political wing of the ISI, formed by her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. She did not accede to this request and the agencies' involvement in political affairs continued.

As regards the designated role of intelligence agencies, they are supposed to perform three major functions, in addition to keeping an eye on the enemy: they have to ensure security of information, security of personnel and security of buildings. By information we mean that mentioned in strategic plans, sensitive documents, maps etc. To secure personnel means that all attempts at subverting the minds of the people should be aborted whereas the buildings in this context are military establishments, nuclear installations, government buildings and so on.

TNS: Our intelligence agencies are criticised for their (alleged) human rights violations and overstepping their jurisdictional limits? Is that really so?

HG: The allegations are true to an extent, but I would say this phenomenon is quite recent as things changed dramatically when Gen (retd) Musharraf took over. The case was totally different when I was heading the ISI. At that time, intelligence agencies did not have the power to arrest anyone. In case we had to take action against somebody, we would inform the police which would arrest that person and bring his detention on record. But now people are being picked up in large numbers and thrown in dungeons and safe houses for indefinite periods. In fact, it was Gen (retd) Musharraf who acceded to every demand of the US and commissioned the dirty task of picking up terror suspects to intelligence agencies. Otherwise, our agencies are highly efficient and comprise committed workforce. He has made a confession in his book about handing over hundreds of people to the US. Today, we see people protesting for release of their relatives whose whereabouts are not known to them. However, I won't term the people who have disappeared from Balochistan as 'missing persons'. They have willfully gone across the border to acquire training in Afghanistan.

TNS: The superior courts of the country have questioned the powers of intelligence agencies in the recent past. Do you think this will make any difference?

HG: I don't think this will make any difference as the decisions of the judiciary are not being respected and executed properly. Our judiciary has earned its independence after a long struggle. The fact that its decisions are being defied makes me sad. My opinion is that if the superior courts -- which are meant to stop the state's excessive measures -- cannot get their decision against fake degree holders implemented, it will be next to impossible to make intelligence agencies answerable to them. Here again I would say that things were much better earlier. For example, the tenure of Gen Ziaul Haq, who was a powerful head of state, was much safer for civilians and the intelligence agencies were playing their true role. Despite his political flaws, Gen Ziaul Haq was a God-fearing person.

TNS: What measures do you suggest to keep intelligence agencies out of civil matters and to improve their efficiency?

HG: My point has always been that Pakistan's intelligence agencies, especially the ISI, are like a sharp instrument. It's their proper use that can produce best results. I mean just like a sharp instrument that can be used to slit a person's throat as well as carve a beautiful design, these agencies can be made to perform different tasks. My suggestion is that the government should revise the agreements made with the US during the Musharraf era and tackle terrorism not as a crime but a political phenomenon. Right now they are trying to tackle it as a crime and using force to curb it. My opinion is that it is a form of political expression and the militants are raising a voice of dissent. It is no secret that the number of suicide attacks increased manifold after the start of drone attacks and action against Lal Masjid. If the government succeeds in tackling the issue politically, the intelligence agencies will be in a better position to perform their true role.

 

 

 

"Agencies do what the

government wants them"

-- Shuja Nawaz, renowned political and strategic analyst, and the author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within

The News on Sunday: A great amount of ambiguity clouds the intelligence agencies in Pakistan regarding its structure, mandate, role etc. Why? Please explain.

Shuja Nawaz: There is no ambiguity regarding the various intelligence agencies. Their respective roles are well known. There is some overlapping that has grown between the military and civilian agencies, especially as a result of long periods of military or quasi-military rule, that has led to the stunting of civilian operations and enhancement of the orbit of the military agencies.

TNS: How effective are the intelligence agencies in terms of their analytical and investigation expertise?

SN: The ISI is best equipped and most effective, especially in penetrating target countries or recruiting agents, so much so that it is often blamed for things it may not have initiated. It is hard to measure analytical capacity, given the lack of information about methods etc. However, in the past it has not done as well on predicting political developments as it has in other areas. Forensics are often lacking in much of the investigative work. Cyber may also be an area that deserves greater attention. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) has suffered due to politicisation over the years.

TNS: Are the intelligence agencies effectively controlling the state apparatus in Pakistan?

SN: No. They do what the government wants them to do. But when there is a conflict between the organs of the state, say the military versus the civil, then military agencies tend to favour the military. At times, the ISI has been used by civilian governments too, sometimes against the military itself. The civilian agencies have neither the resources nor the volition to do anything but follow orders.

TNS: What is the link between the military and the intelligence agencies in Pakistan?

SN: The ISI has a close relationship with the military. The IB is largely under the civilian control.

TNS: Please comment on the connection between the media and the intelligence agencies.

SN: It is widely believed that various intelligence agencies try to penetrate the media or influence their actions. But with the growth of the media, this is becoming harder. As the media becomes more professional and financially independent, this relationship will change, making it harder for intelligence agencies to control what appears in print or in broadcast media. But attempts will no doubt continue to influence the media, as is the case worldwide.

TNS: Please give your views on the legal framework within which the agencies work.

SN: When the executive and the judiciary are weak, the agencies have a freer hand. With the civilian structure finding its feet and the judiciary taking on a more independent role, the work of the agencies no doubt will come under increasing scrutiny. This may limit their ability to act in an extra legal manner.

TNS: What should be the ideal role of the intelligence agencies in Pakistan? Who should they be accountable to?

SN: Agencies should report to the government of Pakistan, which should decide on how best to coordinate their functions to avoid redundancy and conflicts. Military agencies need to concentrate on their area of expertise. The civilian agencies should be improved to function as an adjunct to the military in fighting terrorism and militancy, and in counter-intelligence support of the ISI and Military Intelligence (MI).

TNS: Do you think the military would welcome reforms?

SN: Yes, it would allow the military to concentrate on issues for which they have a comparative advantage.

The interview was conducted via email by Alefia T Hussain

 

A bagful of stories

Somehow the interests of a section of media and intelligence agencies converged. Just how…

By Farah Zia

In an interview with this newspaper last year, Brig (retd) Imtiaz Ahmed said the role of intelligence agencies in a democratic polity was "to draw a distinction between politics and subversive politics." Subversive politics, he said, meant political activities of politicians which are in conflict with national security. He admitted in the course of the interview that the military and its intelligence agencies were the true custodians and ultimate arbiters of national interest.

Essentially a political project, this role could not have been propagated without the help of the media. As a matter of fact, the security-oriented military mindset in our context has always been pitched against the welfare-oriented political mindset. The results of this conflict were there for all to see in the decade of 1990s. Four governments dismissed one after the other; the charge sheet filed against each one of them in the courts comprising nothing else except media reports. An inconclusive evidence, you might think but enough perhaps to unmake the politically elected governments. Media's interest somehow converged with the security-oriented mindset.

That was the age of print journalism and many of the reporters belonging to the classical school were left cursing their luck while some others shot to quick fame just because they were carrying a bagful of stories.

According to senior journalist Amir Mateen, in every era there have been journalists on the payroll of intelligence agencies; others do it on an assignment basis and get favours. "Before the Musharraf era, people who were known to be close to intelligence agencies were on the defensive while the clean journalists commanded respect, in say the parliament's press gallery. Now the situation has reversed. Now those who are connected with the agencies blatantly flaunt themselves and their connection."

Mateen points out these journalists are always included in the list of prime minister's and president's visits abroad. "They are the watchdogs of agencies and there job is to keep an eye on the prime minister and the president. They are on the forefront in press conferences both here and abroad." A former information minister told him "this list comes from above."

After the army chief's neutral role in the 2008 elections, Mateen thinks the connection between agencies and journalists has minimised because "there is no blatant or organised effort to destabilise the current civilian government."

Senior analyst and anchor Nusrat Javed could not agree more with Amir Mateen. The military's directive to ISI not to meet politicians may hold equally for journalists. "What has happened in the last two or so years is that a group of journalists has acquired a mujahidana conduct which is shaking the government. Because of our past experience, we see in this a role of intelligence agencies but it is actually only a display of the power of the press."

Javed explains why he thinks so. "Agencies play a very organised game. They launch a multi-pronged attack where the dissent starts coming from inside the assembly. Right now it's the media that picks up a cause. First, it was the removal of Asif Zaradari and now its fake degrees. Agencies don't drag an issue for such a long time. They finish their work in three to four months."

Today's new political actors are the media and the judiciary, says Javed, and "together if they decide to destabilise the government, the agencies cannot save it even if they want to."

Amir Mir, a Lahore-based senior reporter and author of two books on Jihad and Talibanisation in Pakistan, refuses to share Mateen and Javed's optimism. "It is difficult to believe that the media and the judiciary act on their own. There has been a constant smear campaign against the elected government ever since it assumed power which is hundred percent driven by agencies. It is sheer luck, the government's policy of forgiveness and Nawaz Sharif's reluctance to play in the hands of the establishment this time that it is still surviving."

Nusrat Javed agrees that Nawaz Sharif's principled position has helped matters from going out of hand. But thinks there is a general consensus that "the assemblies should be allowed to complete their tenure and let the people get fed up with them."

The intelligence agencies, Javed suggests, may be meeting journalists only to discuss the foreign affairs. For Suhail Warraich, a Lahore-based analyst and anchorperson, there lies the catch. "Nowhere else in the democratic world does a military express its stance as opposed to that of the civilian government. The military did so, here, on Kerry Lugar Bill. It has a different view on the US, Afghanistan and India and it openly says so."

For Warraich, the fundamental concern of a democracy is not the soil but the people of that country. Security should not be the overwhelming concern but the welfare of the people. "Somehow in our security-driven population, the intelligence agencies have found it easy to make inroads and create doubts."

No wonder the media and military's interests converged again, particularly after Mumbai attacks and regarding Kerry Lugar Bill.

A cynical Nusrat Javed blames it all on the politicians who have ceded their authority to the military. "You cannot blame the agencies for their role in Balochistan because the elected government has itself outsourced Balochistan to them. The government has not done anything to retrieve it. The elected democratic forces invited the COAs over to the parliament and in a press release granted all powers to the military to bring an end to terrorism in the country. Now who is going to tell the military that it should not pick up people in Balochistan? Our political leadership on both sides aggressively states that it is India which is creating trouble in Balochistan."

Warraich is ready to absolve the politicians because "they have been proved right in their stance that Pakistan should not interfere in Afghanistan and that we should not have a war with India. It is time to give them a chance."

 

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