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Musharraf Forces Parliament to Give More Powers to ISI

Musharraf Forces Parliament to Give More Powers to ISI

Author: Amir Mir
Publication: Satribune
Date: December 10, 2004
URL: http://www.satribune.com/archives/dec04/P1_mir.htm

The Musharraf-led military government's decision to allow the country's top intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), to recruit its own civilian officers without going through the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC), has literally given absolute powers to a spy agency that is already perceived by many to be excessively intrusive in national politics.

"Now the ISI will recruit every Tom, Dick and Harry who they want to spy on every other Jack and Jill in the country, without any legal supervision," an analyst said.

On November 26, 2004, the Senate finally passed an amendment to the Federal Public Service Commission Act that was first cleared by the National Assembly on September 23, 2004. The amendment empowered the ISI to fill various posts directly, thus removing the check of the Federal Public Service Commission, which is responsible for conducting tests and examinations for recruitments to All Pakistan Services in basic pay scale 16 and above.

Before General Musharraf's October 1999 military take over, certain posts in various federal ministries, divisions and departments including those in Directorate General of the ISI were being kept out of the purview of the FPSC in view of their special nature of duty and procedure of selection.

However, General Musharraf brought these posts within the purview of FPSC in 2000, through amendment in the Federal Public Service Commission Ordinance and Federal Public Service Commission (Functions) Rules.

While conducting an official visit of the FPSC headquarters in Islamabad on January 27, 2000, the then Chief Executive Musharraf had announced restoring the pre-1973 authority of the Federal Public Service Commission, saying that he wanted to strengthen the civil bureaucracy in the country besides ensuring good governance.

The announcements made by the General included: all recruitments in grade 16 and above through the FPSC; recruitment to all the posts including those in the Inter Services Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau and Defence Division, through the FPSC; fixation of non-extendable five-year service tenure for the chairman and members of the Commission and restoration of their oath; reduction of the maximum age limit for appearing in the CSS competitive examination, etc.

The chief executive had asked the then chairman of the FPSC, Lt-Gen (retd) Mumtaz Gul, to give a presentation to the National Security Council for a formal approval to all these decisions. The secretary of the establishment and other authorities were asked to work out modalities for the implementation of the decisions taken in principle during the chief executive's over three-hour visit to the FPSC.

With the implementation of the decisions taken by General Musharraf, the government had formally acknowledged the status of the FPSC as an independent constitutional body vide Article 242 of the 1973 Constitution, thereby granting it administrative and financial autonomy.
The role of the FPSC was further enhanced in line with General Musharraf's directives, primarily to cover the areas of personal administration that used to exist prior to 1973.

The areas in which the Commission's role was widened included matters relating to qualification for and methods of recruitment to all services and posts; principles on which appointment and promotions should be made; confirmation of the promotions and proceedings of all selection boards of civil/government servants, and principles on which persons belonging to one service should be transferred to another service or occupational group, including transfer and appointment to posts in the secretariat group.

Quite interestingly, the draft recommendation presented to General Musharraf by the then FPSC chairman, Lt-Gen (retd) Mumtaz Gul, rightly pointed out a trend in the federal government to avoid recruitment of officers through the FPSC - "This practice needs to be curbed, ensuring that no posts are excluded from the purview of the Commission".

Though the FPSC chairman had recommended for such recruitment in selected departments, it was Musharraf who decided that the Commission should make recruitments in those grades and in all the government departments.

Subsequently, the following posts which had earlier been excluded from the purview of the FPSC were reverted to the FPSC for recruitments: a) Intelligence Bureau; all posts. b) Defence division; all posts in the directorate-general of Inter Services Intelligence. c) Defence production division; all posts in the Pakistan Ordnance Factories, and all posts under the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Committee.

However, almost four years after introducing these drastic reforms in the FPSC, and that too in the best interest of the body, General Musharraf ordered reversal of his own decisions, for unknown reasons. Subsequently, while acting under instructions from the presidency, the National Assembly approved on September 23, 2004, an amendment to the FPSC Act, empowering the ISI directorate to fill various posts directly, without going through the Commission.

The text of the amended FPSC bill, presented before the National Assembly for approval gives an interesting reading, quite contrary to what General Musharraf had earlier stated on January 27, 2000, while restoring the pre-1973 authority of the Commission during his visit to the latter's Islamabad headquarters.

The FPSC bill stated: "The candidates for the posts of Directorate General of ISI pass through a transparent and systematic process comprising written tests, interviews, medical examinations and in some cases, intelligence and psychological tests also. Security clearance of the selected candidates is carried out by the vetting agency of the ISI keeping in view the standards and peculiar requirements in accordance with the mandate of its Directorate. A panel of highly qualified senior officers select the candidates keeping in view the sensitive nature of jobs to be assigned/performed, and the candidates are tested/interviewed with particular emphasis on their potential, trends, zeal, devotion, dedication and psychological suitability required for the job. It is, therefore, in the larger interest of the country to make the recruitment of the posts of Directorate General ISI by the department itself instead of the FPSC. The above amendment in the FPSC Ordinance 1977 has been made with these objectives and reasons."

The National Assembly passed the FPSC bill when the opposition parties had staged a token walkout from the house. The ISI happens to be the overall intelligence outfit of the military, in which the appointments are already being made by the military. However, what the FPSC Amendment Bill 2004 sought to do was to let the country's premier spy agency recruit people directly from the civilian sector for posts in Grade 16 and above.

Founded in 1948 by a British Army officer, Major General R Cawthome, then Deputy Chief of Staff in Pakistan Army, the ISI is tasked with collection of foreign and domestic intelligence; co-ordination of intelligence functions of the three military services; surveillance over its cadre, foreigners, the media, politically active segments of the Pakistani society, diplomats of other countries accredited to Pakistan and Pakistani diplomats serving outside the country; the interception and monitoring of communications; and the conduct of covert offensive operations.

The ISI Directorate is of particular importance at the joint services level. The directorate's importance derives from the fact that the spy agency is charged with managing covert operations outside Pakistan - either in Afghanistan or Kashmir or elsewhere.

The writer is a senior Pakistani journalist who has been frequently harassed by the ISI. He is Assistant Editor of Monthly Magazine "Herald"

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