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Thursday December 02, 2021

Formation of intel gathering cell scares bureaucracy

The National Crisis Information Management Cell, the new body, will work under the Ministry of Interior to be headed by a BS-21 officer

August 27, 2021
A representative image.
A representative image.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered setting up of a body whose apparent purpose is to gather intelligence related to the law-enforcement but it has created panic in bureaucracy that fears it will also be used for their surveillance.

The National Crisis Information Management Cell, the new body, will work under the Ministry of Interior to be headed by a BS-21 officer. One officer each of BS-20 from ISI, IB, Directorate General Military Operations, provincial home departments, police and Ministry of Information will form part of the NCIMC.

An interior ministry official told The News NCIMC is an attempt to revive the National Crisis Management Cell, which was set up during the Musharraf government under the leadership of Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema. It was assigned the task to collect intelligence from spy agencies and provinces related to terrorism. The ministry’s official shared a notification of NCIMC, which suggested that the PM had granted its approval and composition of officers of different departments was also given in the letter.

The official said the NCMC was almost non-operational as it was working without any head for quite some time now. Instead of coordinating with law enforcement and intelligence agencies, NCMC’s work was reduced to monitor the media and report to the ministry’s high-ups. “Most of the time, the ministry would come to know about different happenings through the media. Its own information system was almost non-functional,” he said.

Keeping in view this situation, it was decided to revive the NCMC with a new name, which is now NICMC. The ministry official said that a BS-21 officer, Momin Agha, has been appointed its Director General. Agha has previously served as home secretary in Punjab. Another officer of the ministry, while talking to The News, said NCIMC’s task is to collect and disseminate round-the-clock information related to CPEC security in addition to the security of foreigners as well as keeping an eye on sectarian and terrorism incidents.

Although, NCIMC is under the interior minister, it has been given the responsibility to remain in close contact with the Prime Minister’s Office for updating the PM on a daily basis. The PM approved its formation on August 6 with the direction to make it functional within two weeks. Its initial budget has also been approved. The NCIMC office has been set up in the Fata House building.

NCIMC’s apparent mandate notwithstanding, the word is making rounds in the bureaucracy that NCIMC’s unwritten assignment also includes keeping an eye on officers, their report preparation and submission to PM. They also believe that promotion to BS-22 has been stalled pending a report from NCIMC of the promotion candidates. “At a time when NAB is a nightmare for bureaucracy, surveillance, if done, by NCIMC will only scare them further,” said an officer expressing his apprehension.

The News tried to reach Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Azam Khan through text messages and calls. He neither replied nor returned the call. Prime Minister’s spokesman, Shehbaz Gill, was also sent a text message. He didn’t reply either.