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Pakistan government clips ISI's wings

July 27, 2008 13:39 IST

Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), often described as a state within state, was placed under the direct control of the civilian authority, a move seen as an effort to clip the wings of the agency that has the reputation of acting 'autonomously'.

Pakistan's Cabinet Division issued a formal notification placing the ISI and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) under the interior minister.

"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," said a notification issued by the government.

The ISI, described as a state within state, has over the years been seen as acting 'autonomously', though in theory it was answerable to the civilian authority.

Till now, the ISI, the premier external counter-intelligence outfit, was working under the Defence Ministry but Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani relocated the agency by placing it under the Interior Ministry, headed by his adviser Rehman Malik, The News daily said.

According to the notification, the two spying networks have been 'administratively, financially and operationally' placed under Pakistan's Interior Ministry.

'The relocation of the ISI is misplaced, as it would increase the role of the ISI in internal political affairs,' a senior official was quoted as saying by the Pakistani daily.

A senior security official, however, expressed doubts whether the ISI would work under the interior division, saying it would continue to work in its 'previous capacity and framework'.

The Pakistani security official said when the ISI 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,' the official was quoted as saying in the media.

He said a debate had been going on for several years that all intelligence agencies, including the ISI, should work under Pakistan's civilian set-up so that they could be held accountable to the people.

A former caretaker interior minister, Lt-Gen (retd) Hamid Nawaz, said all agencies previously used to work under the president of the country and there was a time when all agencies were answerable to the ISI.

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