ISLAMABAD, July 26: The government on Saturday placed the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) under the direct control of the interior division.

The landmark decision was notified by the cabinet division after the approval of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The notification, issued the day the prime minister left Islamabad for Washington, said: “In terms of Rule 3(3) of the Rules of Business of 1973, the prime minister has approved the placement of the Intelligence Bureau and the Inter-Services Intelligence under the administrative, financial and operational control of the Interior Division with immediate effect.”

The country’s three main intelligence agencies have been working under various authorities. The ISI and the IB were working directly under the prime minister, while the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was being overseen by the interior minister.

Following the latest decision, all the three main spy agencies will work under the interior ministry.

In theory both the agencies would now be answerable to Rehman Malik, the prime minister’s adviser on interior.

It was not clear why the agencies were being put under the interior division’s control and whether lack of coordination was the cause. Both the agencies have apparently been running smoothly under the prime minister.

The ISI -– described as a ‘state within state’ -– has over the years taken flak domestically as well as abroad for its policies. Although it was earlier answerable to the prime minister, there was an impression that the agency was acting autonomously, and not under the orders of the prime minister.

A senior security official told Dawn that were the decision implemented in “letter and spirit, it would enhance coordination between the agencies”. However, he expressed doubts that the ISI would work under the interior division, saying it would continue to work in its “previous capacity and framework”.

“When the agency was under the control of the prime minister, it did not comply with any orders. How is it possible that it will now work unquestioningly under the interior minister?”

He said a debate had been going on for several years that all intelligence agencies, including the ISI, should work under the civilian set-up so that they could be held accountable to the people.The official, however, hoped that the decision to bring the ISI and the IB under a single authority would help win the “war on terror”.

“As far as the IB is concerned, the agency is already sharing information with the interior ministry. Therefore, there will be no problem in this regard,” he said.

A former caretaker interior minister, Lt-Gen (retd) Hamid Nawaz, said the decision would not bring about any “qualitative change” in the performance of the agencies, but it would definitely improve coordination between different agencies.

He said the arrangement was not a new one as all agencies previously used to work under the president and there was a time when all agencies were answerable to the ISI.

In his opinion, all intelligence agencies should work as separate entities. In that case, he contended, there would be a “diversity of information” that could be correlated and utilised by a higher authority.

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