Friday April 12, 2024

IB’s 51-year struggle to remove a clerical error

In the process several governments changed and the files kept shuttling between the Prime Minister Office and the Cabinet Division

By Umar Cheema
February 22, 2024
A general view of the illuminated Pakistans Prime Minister office building in Islamabad. — AFP/File
A general view of the illuminated Pakistan's Prime Minister office building in Islamabad. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: It took fifty-one years to notify Intelligence Bureau a separate division as the decision made in 1973 has only been implemented in 2024.

In the process several governments changed and the files kept shuttling between the Prime Minister Office and the Cabinet Division.

A source privy to the case said that a few clerical omissions in 1974 resulted in this inordinate delay as due to this reason its status as a division couldn’t be notified which was to be done through incorporating its status in the rules of business of 1973. Successive IB chiefs struggled to address these anomalies without success.

An attempt was made in 1994 when the agency managed to secure recommendation from the Management Services Division, then under the Cabinet Secretariat but this could not be translated into reality. Consequently, IB faced certain implications in dealing with administrative and financial matters.

Explaining this, one former DG IB said that the agency would require the counter-sign of the secretary cabinet on its internal audit who would often hesitate causing unnecessary delays in concluding this exercise. At times, he said, the secretary would make an ad hoc arrangement of delegating his power to the IB chief but this all depended on the nature of relationship between the agency head and the cabinet secretary.

In the event of a deadlock, he said, the IB would seek PM’s intervention to get this resolved. Another official said that the budget was not the only issue. Narrating an incident occurred a few years ago, he said the DG IB recommended some of his officers for the gallantry award. The secretary cabinet insisted that the recommendation would route through him to the PM Office and the IB chief refused to submit to his demand. The exemption was granted only by the PM Office.

According to the elevated status of the IB, its chief will be ex-officio secretary meaning thereby he will not have to route any file through the Cabinet Division. Even by nature of its work, the agency is directly answerable to the prime minister and its chief acts as principal security adviser to the PM concerning national security and functions as his eyes and ears. By virtue of that, the PM is also minister-in-charge of the agency. The IB is the oldest civilian intelligence organisation of the sub-continent; its origin is rooted in the Thuggee and Dacoity Department set up in 1830 under British rule. The department was assigned the task to counter the challenges posed by gangs of thugs and dacoits. It evolved and expanded with the passage of time and was renamed as the Central Criminal Intelligence Department in 1901 with an added responsibility to counter all sorts of organised crimes.

In 1912, it was renamed again as the Central Intelligence Bureau and was mandated with intelligence collection to curb the issues challenging British rule including the situation in Afghanistan. The agency was bifurcated into Pakistan and Indian Intelligence Bureau at the time of the independence. In 1948, it was placed under the PM and later made an attached department of the Cabinet Division. However, in March 1973 the then President approved its status of an independent division with its head as its ex-officio secretary. This was to be reflected in the rules of business and failing in that due to some omission an inordinate delay of more than 50 years occurred.