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Pak parliament moves to bring ISI under civilian control

November 04, 2013 15:37 IST

In a bid to bring Pakistan's powerful Inter Services Intelligence under civilian control, the Senate has recommended an effective role of Parliament in monitoring it while giving the spy agency power to arrest and detain.

A report unanimously adopted by the Standing Committee on Human Rights was presented in the house last Wednesday and was endorsed by the Senate. The committee had taken note of enforced disappearances a year ago and had formed a sub-committee to look into it.

"In the light of the situation, we had recommended half a dozen steps. The main one being that the security agencies should be given the power to arrest and detain and at the same time they be put under parliamentary oversight," PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, convener of the three-member committee which prepared the report, told PTI.

He added, "Currently when the agencies pick up men, they do not know what to do. The report was accepted by the 15 member Standing Committee on Human Rights after modifications and was placed in Senate on Wednesday. It was endorsed by the Senate."

As per the policy, the government will have to within about 60 days will have to take steps to implement the recommendations with or without modifications.

Giving further details, the Dawn daily reported the recommendations call for setting up a bicameral intelligence and security committee to suggest ways of addressing the issue of enforced disappearance of citizens.

The report is a follow-up of resolutions unanimously endorsed by the Senate on March 7 and National Assembly on March 12 last year on the issue of enforced disappearances.

A parliamentary oversight of the ISI will be possible if the committee's recommendations are included in a proposed Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (Functions, Powers and Regulation) Bill. These recommendations need approval of the parliament.

Although on paper the ISI operates under the administrative control of the prime minister, civilian governments have in the past struggled to bring the agency under their control, but without success.

In 2008, the PPP government notified the Interior Ministry as the line department for the Intelligence Bureau and ISI, but had to backtrack within 24 hours when the military establishment expressed its displeasure.

The report calls for formation of a nine-member committee of parliament to examine matters relating to expenditure, administration and policy of the ISI.

None of the members of the committee will be a minister.

The prime minister will appoint members of the intelligence and security committee in consultation with the leaders of the opposition in both houses of parliament, the report suggests.

The committee will submit its annual report to the prime minister. It may also report to him at any time on any mater relating to its functions.

The prime minister will present to each house of parliament a copy of the report along with his observation whether a matter has been excluded form it.

Keeping in view the ISI's role as a secrete agency, the Senate committee has also suggested that the prime minister, in consultation with the committee, may exclude from the report any matter prejudicial to national security, Dawn said.

The committee will not go into the intelligence sources of the agency, but through policy decisions will guide it in carrying out its work.

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