KARACHI, Jan 13 A growing number of middle-ranking officers working for the Intelligence Bureau (IB) are desperate to leave the spy agency seeking other options, well-placed sources have told Dawn.

There is a growing feeling within the agency that it stands today “no more than a sarkari akhbaar with its officers collecting reports from TV and friends in journalism”, said an Islamabad-based assistant director at the IB.

“We simply collect these IR (information reports), put them together in the form of a DSR (daily situation report) and forward it to the prime minister,” he said, adding that “journalists are quicker and tend to know more than us anyway”.

A grade-17 IB officer told Dawn that one of the reasons why many of the BPS 17 and 18 officials felt disgruntled was because “the actual work we do nowhere matches our expectations in terms of the nature of the work. I'd rather quit and join the ISI if I get the opportunity”.

The officer claimed that many of his colleagues were desperate to switch over to other institutions. He narrated the story of two assistant directors on an advanced promotional course at the IB's Islamabad Academy who are now facing disciplinary action.

According to him, the two ADs had sought a no-objection certificate (NOC) from their seniors to be able to appear in an examination for a post at the provincial level. “When they were denied permission, they felt they had to take the risk and go ahead with the exam. They will now face the music.”

A newly-appointed assistant director told Dawn that while he agreed that his actual work nowhere matched what he had expected before joining, he could not ignore the monetary factor.

“On average a grade-17 IB officer gets around Rs18,000 basic salary. There is a tiny house allowance which effectively works out to be around Rs5,000. In contrast, the ISI offers lucrative packages even to civilian recruits. Risk allowance, displacement allowance, impressive house allowance and a car just to name a few things they (ISI) offer.”

He cited the case of a fellow assistant director who resigned from the agency a few days ago citing major housing issues in the city he was transferred to. The officer also claimed that currently four assistant directors appointed from Sindh are living in the new office block at Punjab Provincial HQ in Lahore.

“They have arranged their own mattresses and there is no official arrangement for food,” he said, adding “I dont wish to sound arrogant but you cant just dump officers like that. After all we have worked really hard to get here.”

“I cannot disclose the exact funding as it is a classified matter, but I do believe that all that money could be better channelled to the ISI instead as they are doing a brilliant job,” said a senior official posted at the PPHQ in Lahore. He acknowledged that his officers were facing housing problems but attributed that to “limited funding”.

A deputy director at the IB claimed that to an extent the agency had become redundant because of the overlapping of operational domains with the Special Branch and the ISI. “There is a lot of overlapping of work between us and the SB. But we do have a technical edge over the other agencies as our domestic surveillance capabilities are unmatched,” he said. But he added that he was in favour of a “national security force that could be a merger between the IB, SB and possibly even the FIA. I think that could eliminate the lack of coordination problem and bring all the skills together under one hat. ”

But not all officials consider overlapping as a negative factor. “While you may argue that overlapping means spending double the money on the same task, equally you can also argue that such overlapping in intelligence business means more credible intelligence,” argued one senior IB official. He acknowledged that many men were quitting the agency, but added that “many of our officers are keen to quit because they have repeatedly sought arrest powers and the DG has categorically rejected that request. The men who want to quit are simply power hungry and want to be able to pick up whoever they want”.

Dawn called IB's Director General Dr Shoaib Suddle for his comments but he said that there was an official policy that prohibited serving intelligence chiefs from being quoted in the media.