Why involve intel?

July 11, 2019

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CONVENER of the subcommittee of the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, PTI MNA Noor Alam Khan, has proposed that the Military Intelligence and Inter-Services Intelligence clear all applications for CNICs and passports prior to their issuance. His rationale is that fake passports and CNICs are being issued to foreign nationals in a grand conspiracy to tarnish our country’s reputation. Surely, there are more unremarkable explanations for the kinds of things that might be giving Pakistan a bad name in the international community, and not all of them can be externalised by attributing them to ‘fake Pakistanis’. Such sweeping, grandiose statements also have the unintended consequence of doing the opposite of what was intended: casting vital institutions like Nadra, which for the most part perform very well, in a poor light that is not commensurate with the issue at hand.

But the more important issue is: why does a member of this government feel that it is necessary to draw either military or civil intelligence into the day-to-day operations of these institutions? Surely, the services of the intelligence agencies can be sought on a case-by-case basis when additional vetting is required. On a practical level, creating parallel streams of processes will only inject dysfunction into the system and waste resources in the bargain. Moreover, diffusing responsibility to various institutions will not only make accountability against mismanagement and corruption that much harder, it will, in fact, make such processes much more prone to exploitation and misuse. This is particularly dangerous for an issue as important as deciding the eligibility of a person for Pakistani citizenship. And, as the interior secretary pointed out during the meeting of the subcommittee, we ought to have faith in the institutions responsible for this matter. Institutions have to be able to function independently — in keeping with their constitutional mandates. That means not exposing military organs to controversy and criticism by inserting them into political and administrative affairs, and allowing civilian organs the autonomy necessary to function normally.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2019