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Senators want civilian control over agencies

June 18, 2013
Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan. — File Photo
Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Senators from both treasury and opposition benches called on Monday for bringing the security apparatus and intelligence agencies under civilian and parliamentary control to improve the law and order situation in the country.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan triggered a debate on the issue of civil-military relationship when he admitted in the Senate that Saturday’s terrorist attacks on Ziarat Residency and Bolan Medical Complex in Quetta were result of “serious security lapse” and “lack of coordination” between security and law enforcement agencies.

The house was shocked to see the minister admitting that terrorists had managed to transport a huge quantity of explosives and arms in vehicles passing through a number of check-posts manned by the police, FC and even army personnel both in Ziarat and Quetta.

Chaudhry Nisar said that no-one could enter or leave hilly Ziarat without being checked by security personnel at limited entry and exit points.

He said there could be no heavier security presence in Quetta where checkposts had been set up every 100 yards and it was surprising how the terrorists managed to carry weapons and tonnes of explosive through these posts.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar welcomed the remarks of Chaudhry Nisar that the Balochistan issue was a manifestation of lack of coordination between civil and military authorities as a correct diagnosis and said the civil-military disconnect was indeed the root of the problem. He said parliament would support the interior minister in his efforts to address the issue.

Mr Babar informed the house that the previous PPP-led government had made numerous attempts to bring the country’s security agencies under the ambit of law.

Showing scepticism, the PPP senator said that he doubted that the PML-N government would succeed in doing so. But he offered complete cooperation to the interior minister and said that he was ready to tell Chaudhry Nisar why his party’s government had failed to make any progress and why its efforts remained fruitless.

Mr Babar said enforced disappearances, a core issue in Balochistan, had become complicated because of historical disconnect between civil and security establishment.

“To address the issue of missing persons, we need to bring the operation of state agencies under the ambit of legislation,” he said.

He said the National Assembly, the Senate, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and the Commission on Enforced Disappearances all had strongly pleaded for legislative oversight of the agencies. During hearing in the missing persons’ cases, the Supreme Court had also observed that there was a need for such legislation, he said.

PPP’s parliamentary leader Raza Rabbani said it appeared that the interior minister had apprehensions that terrorists were being “helped and abetted by some elements within the security apparatus”. He said the situation would not improve until the security apparatus was brought under the parliamentary and civil control.

PML-Q’s Mushahid Hussain said there were islands within the security system. “All (intelligence) agencies are islands itself. There is a need for coordination between intelligence agencies, be it the ISI, MI or the IB,” he added.

The PML-Q senator took exception to a recent reported statement of Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani that the armed forces were prepared to thwart any aggression from India.

He said India didn’t need to show aggression as the country was facing a serious internal security threats resulting in the deaths of over 50,000 people.

He advised the interior minister to visit Sri Lanka to see how a country without having nuclear arms, without a big army and without the US support had crushed the most “ferocious” terrorism merely through the political will of the leadership.

Hafiz Hamdullah of the JUI-F questioned huge budgetary allocations for intelligence and security agencies after their repeated failure in preventing terrorism incidents in the country.

“Are we paying security agencies only to shower bullets in Fata and to create target killers?”

Kalsoom Parveen of the Balochistan National Party (A) said there were a number of reports in media hinting at the “involvement of agencies” in various terrorism-related incidents.