Faizabad Dharna Commission report: Who will bell the cat?

Ansar Abbasi
Wednesday, Apr 17, 2024

ISLAMABAD: The Faizabad Dharna Commission has asked the government to bring all intelligence agencies into a statutory regime to regulate their working, but the question remains who will bell the cat.

In the past, there have been certain efforts and repeated demands made to make law for all the intelligence agencies of the country, including ISI and IB, to regulate their working. However, it never happened.

Now the Faizabad Dharna Commission has again come up with the same suggestion. While observing there is no statute to regulate the working of intelligence agencies, the commission recommended necessary legislation to this respect besides making rules and creating Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs).

Pakistan is among those few democratic countries where the intelligence agencies operate with impunity, as no laws exist to rein them in, and call into question their actions and performance.

The country’s premier agencies — ISI and IB — were formed through executive orders soon after the creation of Pakistan but left without any legislation to govern their actions. Presently, these agencies function through SOPs, which have no legal sanctity.

In the past on different occasions, the issue of regulating intelligence agencies through legislative means has been raised and discussed, but no law has been made to this respect.

During the last PPP regime, the then DG IB Dr Shoaib Suddle had taken this initiative with regard to the legislation. He had even drafted a proposed law and presented it to the then government. The draft law was prepared after examining the legislation for intelligence agencies in other countries. Dr Suddle volunteered parliamentary oversight of the Intelligence Bureau through a law.

It is said few democracies in the world have left the agencies to work without any legal framework. Even countries that were previously governed by authoritarian regimes have carried out intelligence reforms.

According to a story, authored by Umar Cheema and published by The News a few years back, well-functioning democracies are not without parliamentary oversight either. Prominent among them are the US, the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Norway, Luxembourg, Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands and others. The Netherlands even has subjected its military intelligence to parliamentary oversight.

Most of the legislation in this respect has been done in the last two decades, and the UK stands prominent among those countries that started this in 1989. It codified laws for MI5 in 1989 namely the Security Service Act and for MI6 the Intelligence Services Act in 1994.

Legality requires security forces act only within their powers in domestic law. Contrary to prevailing practices in other countries, the UK has framed a legal basis for its foreign intelligence operation conducted by MI6.

There are different institutional arrangements adopted by the states for intelligence requirements. Countries like Turkey, Spain, the Netherlands and Bosnia and Herzegovina have a single agency for security and intelligence, both domestic and external.

Other states like the UK, Poland, Hungary and Germany etc., have separate agencies for domestic and external intelligence and security. Canada has no foreign intelligence agency.