PM okays creation of liaison body for spy agencies

Published November 24, 2020
Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved the setting up of the National Intelligence Coordination Committee (NICC). — APP/File
Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved the setting up of the National Intelligence Coordination Committee (NICC). — APP/File

• ISI chief to head new organisation
• Absence of such a committee was seen as a hurdle to collective strategising

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved the setting up of the National Intelligence Coordination Committee (NICC), a senior security source said on Monday.

The new body would be led by the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), who would function as its chairman.

The intelligence agencies have had at least two rounds of discussions on the issue after which the proposal was submitted to the prime minister for approval. It is expected that the first meeting of the coordination body could be held as early as next week.

“Although there have been discussions about the establishment of the coordination forum, its terms of reference and modus operandi would be decided once it formally takes shape,” the source said, while speaking on the background.

The NICC would serve as a mechanism to coordinate the over two dozen intelligence organisations in the country. National Counter Terrorism Authority would also be part of the new structure.

The move is part of the long-awaited reform of the intelligence apparatus, which aims at clarifying the role of respective agencies, improving their coordination, and optimising their capabilities.

One of the lessons learnt by the country during the fight against terrorism was that effective intel coordination was the weakest link in the entire effort. It importantly resulted in loss of critical time and in some cases, the agencies even could not piece together the information available to them. It was, moreover, a major hurdle to collective strategising.

A leaked version of the Abbottabad Commission’s report had revealed that the commission, while noting the absence of civil-military intelligence coordination mechanism, too had proposed establishment of an agency on the lines of the US Department of Homeland Security to synergise the working of main spy agencies in the country.

Abbottabad Commission was set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the killing of Osama bin Laden in a US raid on a compound in Abbottabad in 2011. Although, the report has not been officially declassified, it reportedly made 32 wide-ranging recommendations to address the issues identified during the course of its investigation on the basis of testimonies by key civilian and military functionaries; intel coordination was one of them.

There have in the past been multiple attempts at developing this coordination, but little progress could be made because of differences over the leadership of the new body, which has now been settled.

On July 26, 2008, the then Peoples Party government even notified the placement of ISI and IB under the “administrative, financial, and operational control” of the Interior Ministry. But, the decision was reversed within 24 hours due to strong reservations of one of the organisations.

Similar efforts were made during the PML-N government, when Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan headed the interior ministry.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2020

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