Monday April 22, 2024

Whole Senate body asks govt to adopt ISI-related bill

By Tariq Butt
January 08, 2016

Bill makes agency answerable to parliament and PM;recommends internal accountability, better discipline

ISLAMABAD: The Committee of the Whole Senate has asked the government to adopt a bill relating to the functions, powers and regulation of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) or the leaders of all the parliamentary parties will move it in the Upper House of parliament as a private members’ legislation.

In its elaborate report on “Provision of inexpensive and speedy justice”, the committee, a rare body comprising the entire Senate, noted that the bill was ‘binding’ on the government. The 19-page bill aimed at making the premier intelligence agency fully answerable to parliament and the government was moved by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar in the Senate way back in 2012 but was later withdrawn. At the time, he was the official spokesman of the then president Asif Ali Zardari.

The present forum said that a report of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights was adopted by the Upper House on October 30, 2013, which contained a draft of this bill.

It said that sub-rule 3 of rule 196 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate provides that the decisions of the Upper House shall be communicated to the ministry concerned for implementation. In case the ministry is unable to implement them, it shall inform the Senate within two months of the reasons, and if the ministry fails to do so, the decisions shall be binding.

The report said that in view of this rule, the recommendations of the functional committee are binding on the government. It noted that till date the government has not conveyed the status of implementation of the Senate decision. Therefore, it recommended that the government “shall” report to the Senate bipartisan oversight committee, to be established as proposed in the Way Forward of the present recommendations, on the adoption of the bill within one month of the adoption of this report of the Committee of Whole.

The recommendations said that if the committee is satisfied with the report, it shall share the progress with the Senate; and if it is not, it “shall recommend” to the Senate that the bill may be moved as private members’ legislation by all the parliamentary parties’ leaders.

The bill had suggested that the ISI should be answerable to parliament and the prime minister and recommended internal accountability and a better discipline system within the organisation to put an end to “enforced disappearances and victimisation of political parties”.

The proposed legislation provided for a director general of the agency who shall be a serving or retired civil servant of Grade 22 or of an equivalent rank in the armed forces to be appointed by the president on the recommendation of prime minister and shall hold the office for four years. The ISI shall be directly under the prime minister and not under any ministry.

The bill envisaged an Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament comprising nine members drawn from both Houses with none of whom being a minister or minister of state to examine matters relating to expenditure, administration and policy of the agency. The committee will not be allowed to go into the intelligence sources of the ISI.

The prime minister shall lay before each House of Parliament a copy of the annual report of the committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from it and why, the bill said.

It said that in the case of missing persons, the federal government formally stated before the Supreme Court on April 27, 2007 that the operations of the intelligence agencies were beyond its control. It suggested that the director general may issue written orders for taking into preventive custody any person who in his opinion is acting or has acted in furtherance of a terrorist act or in a manner prejudicial to the security of Pakistan, or has aided or abetted any such act.

The bill said that the director general shall fix the period of custody, not exceeding 30 days, in the order of preventive detention of any such person and this period can be extended up to 90 days on special grounds. If a person is required to be detained for more than 90 days, the ISI chief shall place the matter before a review board set up for the purpose under Article 10 of the Constitution, it said.

An ISI officer not below the rank of Grade 18 should be authorised in writing by the director general to enter any premises which may contain information of substantial importance to the agency, the bill said. It added that any ISI employee found in any way working for the enemy, any terrorist or terrorist organisation, or for any criminal or organized criminal group, shall, on conviction, for every such offence be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 25 years and with fine. The ISI employees shall not be regarded as civil servants and the bill prescribed a separate mode of taking disciplinary action against them for misconduct.