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December 15, 2010

Oversight of agencies: Pakistan in exclusive club


December 15, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is one of the few democracies in the world with no mechanism of parliamentary oversight of intelligence agencies. Even the countries, which were previously governed by military rule under authoritarian regimes, had carried out intelligence reforms, a study of legislation indicates.
There were many countries without codified law for the agencies but necessary exercises had been carried out in different Parliaments in just two decades. As reforms have been completed elsewhere, Pakistan still lacks the will to venture into this practice. Indonesia and Chile that experienced repressive military regimes for decades have come out with intelligence reforms through codifying the laws of agencies thus subjecting them to the parliamentary oversight. Turkey where military has been traditionally a dominant player has also done this legislation.
Likewise, newborn states of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Slovenia that spent decades under authoritarian regime of former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have made statutory laws for governing the working of intelligence agencies.
A couple of states formerly under the occupation of Soviet Union, Estonia and Lithuania did legislation in this respect after gaining independence in 1991. Lithuania framed statutory laws in 1996, just five years after independence. Slovenia that won independence in 1991 from Yugoslavia did this legislation in 1994, three years after becoming a sovereign state, the study indicates.
South Africa that came out of the clutches of apartheid regime in 1991 also has laws for intelligence oversight. Former socialist republics in Eastern Europe like Hungary and Poland, has framed laws for holding the intelligence agencies accountable.
As the security and intelligence agencies used to carry out repressive functions under the former authoritarian heads of states particularly in Eastern Europe and dictatorial regimes elsewhere, the past experience was considered to be

a motivating force behind the urgent legislation for reining in the unbridled agencies there. This legislation was aimed to reform the intelligence services in order to change them from a tool of repression into a modern tool of security outfits working under the close watch of the executive and the Parliament.
Several countries of Latin America like Argentina and Brazil have this mechanism in place for the intelligence agencies accountability.
Well-functioning democracies are not without parliamentary oversight either. Prominent among them are USA, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Norway, Luxembourg, Norway, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Netherlands and others. Netherlands even has subjected its military intelligence to parliamentary oversight.
Most of the legislation in this respect has been done in last two decades and 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 in 1994 called the Intelligence Services Act.
Legality requires that security forces act only within their powers in domestic law. Contrary to prevailing practices in other countries, the UK has framed 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, Netherlands and Bosnia and Herzegovina have single agency for security and intelligence both domestic and external. Other states like UK, Poland, Hungary and Germany etc have separate agencies for domestic and external intelligence and security. Canada is a country that has no foreign intelligence agency.

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