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LAHORE: The country’s civilian spy agency which is at the centre of controversy for allegedly spying on the joint investigation team (JIT) probing “money laundering” by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children in the Panama Papers case says it will welcome any move to bring it under regulation through an act of parliament.

Finding itself in an awkward situation in the Supreme Court that recently questioned whether the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was working for an individual or the state, there has been a debate in the organisation that time has come that it should come under some legal cover.

A group in the IB believes that once it comes under some “legal cover through parliament”, it may not be embroiled in any such controversy in the future. At present, the IB is primarily following directives of the prime minister and directly reports to him.

“Parliament should bring about a legislation for providing a legal cover to the IB. I fully support it as I am willing to compose a proposed bill myself and send it to parliament for legislation,” IB Director General Aftab Sultan told Dawn here on Friday.

Denies hacking JIT members’ accounts

He said that since 1947 the IB had been working under directives issued by premiers and governed by a charter. “But let me tell you that the IB is working for the state and not for any individual,” he asserted.

The IB chief further said the bureau had “low-down” (surveillance) on the JIT members as it (Panama Papers case) was a “sensitive” matter. “However, the IB neither hacked the Facebook account of any JIT member or his family nor did it provide any information to Hussain Nawaz as I have investigated the matter (within the bureau) after these allegations were made against it,” he said.

There has also been a proposal that a legal wing should be evolved to represent the IB in court over different issues.

“Since the IB is on the forefront in combating terrorism, the legal wing must be set up along with some other initiatives. The IB’s contribution in fight against terrorism especially during the last four years is exceptionally good. It played a key role in nabbing the culprits involved in many terror attacks including Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park, Wagah Border and Quetta attack on lawyers,” Mr Sultan said and also talked about IB’s extensive role in the Karachi operation.

He said PM Nawaz Sharif had helped a lot in developing the capacity of the IB to combat terrorism. “The prime minister supported us a lot that is way today the IB is an important pillar combating terrorism in the country,” he said.

There are reports that since the IB directly comes under the prime minister, it is safeguarding his interests especially in the Panama Papers case and the gulf between the bureau and the Inter-Services Intelligence, the country’s premier spy agency, has further widened. The IB chief dispels the impression saying, “we (IB and ISI) have good coordination in cases related to terrorism.”

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2017