Monday, Oct 03, 2022

Pakistan Government Formally Assigns Govt Officials' Screening To Spy Agency ISI: Report

The intelligence agencies' clearance is not only key to bureaucrats' promotions in Pakistan but it's also key to judges' appointment.

Shehbaz Sharif Facebook

Pakistan's premier spy agency ISI had always informally screened and verified the country's civil servants, but Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has now officially tasked the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) with the job, providing a legal cover and formalising a job that the agency had been doing for a long time, as per a media report.

The Dawn newspaper reported that Sharif has notified the DG ISI as the Special Vetting Agency (SVA) for verification and screening of all Public Office Holders (Officers Category), according to the Establishment Division notification in exercise of powers conferred on the Prime Minister 

The quoted laws empower the prime minister to amend or make rules for the civil bureaucracy. The direction was issued from the office of the Prime Minister on May 6.

By doing so, Sharif has given legal cover to a practice that had already been in place but had not been formalised as part of the protocol, as per the Dawn report.

A senior official from the Establishment Division told Dawn on the condition of anonymity that the ISI and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) both send their reports about civil servants before they are posted on important assignments. Reports are especially sent to the Central Selection Board (CSB) at the time of promotion of bureaucrats. 

According to the official, notwithstanding the notification, the IB will continue to send its reports as per routine. 

The official said that since the government has now given legal effect to reports issued by the ISI, these could henceforth be used in courts as valid legal documents, the newspaper said. However, a former Estab­lishment Division secretary disagreed. 

He noted that though the prime minister has the power to amend or make rules for the bureaucracy, it would have been better if the Establishment Division would have issued a Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) to amend the Appointments, Promotions and Transfer (APT) Rules governing the civil bureaucracy if it wanted to give the ISI formal charge of the vetting process.

"Unless the rules are amended, a mere notification will not legitimise the agency’s report and it cannot be used as a valid document during judicial scrutiny," he said.

The official said they did not believe that vetting by the ISI is required in the initial appointment of civil servants through the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC). He added that the agency may instead be asked to screen those officers inducted from the armed forces into the civil bureaucracy.

The clearance from intelligence agencies is not only an integral part of the promotion process for civil servants in Pakistan, but it also plays a key role in the appointment of judges to the superior judiciary, the Dawn reprot said.

The Judicial Commission of Pakistan, headed by the chief justice, considers intelligence reports at the time of the confirmation and elevation of a Supreme Court judge, it said.

(With PTI inputs)