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Bill seeking ISI’s accountability submitted to Senate

Published Jul 08, 2012 08:03pm


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A session of the Senate in progress. — Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD, July 8: The presidential camp plans a serious effort to tame the country’s premier intelligence agency — Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) — through parliamentary legislation and make it fully ‘answerable’ to parliament and the government.

A 19-page draft of a bill was submitted in the Senate by president’s spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar a few days ago and may be taken up during the session commencing on Monday.

Sources in the PPP told Dawn that the important legislation regarding the ISI had been discussed with coalition partners.

But leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, Awami National Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement said they had not studied the draft and, therefore, could not comment on it.

“It is a private member’s bill submitted by a parliamentarian in his individual capacity and such bills are not shared with the coalition partners before they are tabled in the house,” PML-Q spokesman Kamil Ali Agha said.

The proposed Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (Functions, Powers and Regulation) Act, 2012 (a copy of the draft is available with Dawn), suggests that the ISI should be answerable to parliament and the prime minister. It recommends internal accountability and a better discipline system within the agency to put an end to enforced disappearances and victimisation of political parties.

It is for the first time that a serious effort is being made to streamline the affairs of the agency which has always remained under criticism.

The legal fraternity praised the effort to make the ISI subservient to parliament and address the ‘missing persons’ issue.

“If this serious effort has been made by a parliamentarian it should be backed by all political parties, including opposition parties like the PML-N,” Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood said.

Giving the background of the proposed legislation, the bill says: “The absence of appropriate legislation regulating the functioning, duties, powers and responsibilities of the agency is not consistent with the principles of natural justice and accountability of authority and power and has given rise to resentment against the premier national agency.”

PM’S CONTROL: The bill provides for a director general of the agency who shall be a serving or retired civil servant in BS-22 or of an equivalent rank in the armed forces to be appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister and shall hold the office for four years. “The agency shall be directly under the prime minister and not under any ministry.”

PARLIAMENT’S SUPERVISION: The bill envisages an Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament comprising nine members drawn from both houses of parliament, none of whom shall be a minister or minister of state, to examine matters relating to expenditure, administration and policy of the agency. The committee will not be allowed to go into the intelligence sources of the agency.

The prime minister shall lay before each house of parliament a copy of the annual report of the committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from it and why.

DETENTION: In the case of missing persons, the government formally stated before the Supreme Court on April 27, 2007, that the operations of the intelligence agencies were beyond the control of the federal government, the draft says.

It suggests that the director general may issue written orders for taking into preventive custody any person who in his opinion is acting or has acted in furtherance of a terrorist act or in a manner prejudicial to the security of Pakistan, or has aided or abetted any such act.

The director general shall fix the period of custody, not exceeding 30 days, in the order of preventive detention of any such person and this period can be extended up to 90 days on special grounds.

If a person is required to be detained for more than 90 days, the director general shall place the matter before a review board set up for the purpose under Article 10 of the Constitution.

An officer of the agency not below the rank of BS-18 should be authorised in writing by the director general to enter any premises which may contain information of substantial importance to the agency.

ACCOUNTABILITY AND DISCIPLINE: Under the proposed act, any employee of the agency found in any way working for the enemy, any terrorist or terrorist organisation, or for any criminal or organised criminal group, shall, on conviction, for every such offence be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 25 years and with fine. The employees of the ISI shall not be regarded as civil servants and a separate mode of taking disciplinary action against them for misconduct has been prescribed in the draft of the bill.

It also proposes penalties for certain types of misconduct by any member of the agency who is guilty of any wilful breach or neglect of any provision of this act or is guilty of any violation of duty.

A member who without lawful authority enters or searches any building, vessel or place or inflicts torture or violence to any person in his custody shall, on conviction, for every such offence be punished with imprisonment for up to seven years and with fine.

OMBUDSMAN: The bill recommends the appointment of an ombudsman by the president under Article 212 from amongst persons having special knowledge in the field of intelligence, law and administration, on such terms and conditions as the president may determine, to independently and impartially address service complaints of the employees of the ISI and any complaints of misuse of authority by the agency.

TRIALS AND APPEALS: The accused can be tried by a specially constituted tribunal comprising a serving member to be nominated by the director general and a retired member to be nominated by the ombudsman and headed by a serving judge of high court to be nominated by the chief justice.


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Comments (20) Closed

Kamran Jul 09, 2012 07:15pm
I am not sure if we can trust our military leadership either, with none of them resigning even after the Abottabad saga (including Mr Pasha under whose nose such a fatal lapse happened). If not all, most of our Generals are as corrupt as politicians, and the unfortunate thing is that anyone with responsibility in this country is not trustworthy. So in this situation, I think it's better to put the intelligence agency under civilian leadership, as we can't trust anyone (politicians or military), but at leàst from principled view it's the right thing to do. Last but not least, I salute our soldiers and young officers for their courage and sacrifices, it's only the men at top brass who have their vested interests which regrettable don't often align with national interests.
Fajar Jul 09, 2012 01:21pm
I appreciate the efforts of Senator. He is wonderful senator and I missed him a lot in the past when he was not awarded the senate ticket. All the political parties should support the bill to make it an Act. What about the fate of accountability bill, I do hope Senator will also contribute
abdulrashid01 Jul 09, 2012 05:02am
If the bill is passed and becomes law, it would be a red letter day for the federation.
Yasser Jul 09, 2012 02:49pm
In order to appreciate the contents of the proposed ISI Bill, a deep and conceptual understanding of the Big Picture of our system is required.I request to all readers to have a close look of the language and the missing things in the Bill before commenting on it.
Masserbeu Jul 09, 2012 04:54pm
Allah does not save a nation which is bent upon destroying itself. God bless Pakistan. It no more needs enemies.
Munir Zia Jul 09, 2012 05:25am
I appreciate this legislation that would have been done since long.
Feroz Jul 09, 2012 05:27am
Excellent Bill, it should be debated and passed expeditiously. It must be ensured that the supremacy of Parliament is not the subject of debate.
mukhtar Jul 09, 2012 04:27pm
MY QUESTION ; Are these polititions and parlimentarians are capable to handle the internal / external security affairs of the country ? Plz comment religiously , NO biased approach
MIR Jul 09, 2012 05:59am
We have a similar sounding law here in the United States called the " Patriot Act" with the similar language used for its citizens instead and we have atleast a dozen security agencies with the unprecedented and unquestionable powers over the people. Wonder what the motive is behind this bill that is being introduced in Pakistan and who actually is pushing for it. May we learn to look at the bigger picture.
Aziz Jul 09, 2012 06:01am
Excellent bill! Now also introduce a bill for the accountability of politicians (in and out of power), bureaucrats, judges, journalists, senior teachers, doctors and eventually the common man on the street. Only then we can progress or development. No accountability no progress ! should be the slogan
Muhammad Fraz Jul 09, 2012 06:07am
When CIA, MI6, KGB, RAW and other intelligence agencies of the world are not so answerable to the parliament, why ISI? PMs of countries like the UK regularly answer "it is a policy not to comment on intelligence matters", why does Pakistan have answer on ISI matters?
KhanChangezKhan Jul 09, 2012 06:10am
Every organization, public, private/non-public, or individual should bring for accountability and justice whoever may be. No organizations or individuals are above the law. Decision or any law should not be passed in the parliament before the approval of general public because the parliamentarians themselves takes the decision and passed the laws whatever makes beneficial for them presenting them representative of the citizens. Who are they who took the decision and approved a third time Prime minister applicable without the consultation and approval of the nation of Pakistan? In addition, there must be fixed retirement age limit for every individual whoever may be likewise the other individuals of public and private organizations. The parliamentarians or politicians are enjoying having no restrictions on their age limit of services. Above the age of 60 everyone knows that the human strength driven falling down side to the level of new bourns loosing the strength of decision maker. Let above 60 ages to be retired and go for rest and give chances to the younger who can take better decisions for the country and the nation.
Ahmad Sohail. Jul 09, 2012 06:11am
this will be a great contribution to future of Pakistan.
Honest Jul 09, 2012 06:33am
Every Pakistani has serious doubts over the loyalty of our law makers (parliamentarians), we need to look at the bigger picture.
Pakistani Jul 09, 2012 06:56am
i see that the present ruling (all members) want to help the leading party to get kicked out of their job and again in a few years come back with the HAI HUM BICHARA HAAN card ... as it is they know only to well they are the most unpopular party in IRP at the moment (AS PER EVERY POSSIBLE POLL). This can dream & desire can only be FULFILLED by them being forcefully removed either by the boys n boots or the boys in black coats..... they are desperate for this move ....and if thy had any courage they would have asked for it directly.
Qudratullah Mohsin Jul 09, 2012 07:58am
The problem with us is that we always show a slave mentality in every field, may it be social, economic, national, military or whatsover that relates to us. When someone blows his flute we see just how to dance. Now when we see that we have a deterrent we are trying our best to sabotage it ourself because enemy cann't do this now. We have chosen such hollow heads who will think but vain and shallow. Their sight has proven myopic time and again. THIS IS ALSO ANOTHER EFFORT OF US TO SHARE OUR PART.
Adeel Jul 09, 2012 08:03am
An excellent bill only if the people in the parliament are competent and responsible enough to use the proposed authorities in the best interest of the country. May God help us all if ISI is put under the direct command of Raja Sb & Co.
alone Jul 09, 2012 09:19am
I don't know if we can trust the Politicians. All the previous setbacks were the making of politicians glorious failure. I don't know if we are compromising our national interest by doing this. Yes all should be subject to accountability but i don't see why a civilian should be allowed to head a military institution. A civilian heading a military institution will be the worst command ever. This position should always be given to a serving officer.
Aamir Khalil Jul 10, 2012 09:54am
I think its not a good decision because only ISI is such a department who have controll the country and every person has fear that if i do wrong things or i participated in terrorism acts i will be captured by agencies so because of these agencies and they knew that they are not responsible to any one so they do not participation in these kinds of things now if they knew that Agencies are responsible to the parliament then i think its over. and a second draw back is that how a civilian can command over the military institution he knows even he knows nothing about their polices.
pakistani Jul 11, 2012 07:27am
people..........plzz wake up.........u all want that our corrupt politicians should take control of ISI, the only agency of which whole world is afraid of....wat else do we have????a nuclear bomb...whose safety is not possible without the efforts of ISI....plzz wake up....see where we are living and wat kinda leaders we are have........if this is passed rest assure ISI would start working just like our police....and then we all will go for strikes, different anti govt slogans and poor will die.......