The tricky issue of intelligence sharing

NACTA was formed as a repository of all information of institutional memories supposed to be under the control of the PM. But it has been rendered ineffective because the IB, the ISI and the MI have their own spheres and they cannot work under the Ministry of Interior. NACTA has not started functioning properly because of a lack of will.

At the moment, a number of intelligence agencies are functioning in Pakistan that include Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), premier intelligence agency run by the army; Military Intelligence (MI) directly working under the army command; Intelligence Bureau (IB), officially reporting directly to the Prime Minister/Chief Executive to deal with independent political affairs and law and order situation. In police, there are two major agencies: Crime Investigation Department (CID) and Special Branch. Only police and the CID can submit challan and arrest any person. The Special Branch is sued for the protection of the VVIP (Very Very Important Person) movement. Also, there is Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), working under the Ministry of Interior that deals mainly with immigration and cyber crime.

There is a homeland security system in place in the USA since 9/11 and the information is shared at the immigration level. 9/11 gave a vital realisation to the US to improve its intelligence-sharing which is central to the war on terror. In other countries, there are intelligence coordination and supervisory committees in the parliament that review the performance and coordination among the intelligence agencies. In Pakistan, there is no such committee except National Security Committee, a body confined to the periodic meetings only.

Some top police officials, requesting not to be named, say that such gaps have also been noticed in the attacks on Rescue 15 and ISI office in 2007. Examples of prior intimation of the possibility of attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in March 2009 and the one on Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in October 2009 are other glaring examples of this lapse. The information of one intelligence agency was overlooked by the other law enforcement and intelligence agencies even though it had been provided beforetime.

“Such examples are not new,” recalls Imtiaz Billa, former DG IB, who had informed the then-NWFP government that Lt Gen (r) Fazle Haq could be assassinated in a week’s time, but no measures were taken and the person was killed. “What is needed is a first-rate and effective coordination system both in sharing of intelligence information and coordination of the joint interrogation,” he suggests.

“There is no sharing system within Pakistan. We are taking up the issue in the national security committee, too. The role of the NACTA is also under purview,” Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, former interior minister and sitting Member of Parliament, tells TNS.

Historically, General Yahya was the first to attempt the formation of a national intelligence commission but the plan never materialised. There were attempts also to set up intelligence academies at that time. A similar proposal was made in Air Martial (r) Zulfiqar Commission in 1989, during the first regime of Benazir Bhutto, but again it could not be implemented. Hameed Gul, former DG ISI, proposed an end to the political role of the ISI but he was rejected.

In 1996, Masood Sharif, former IB chief, proposed Intelligence and Crime Coordination Committee. The proposal was widely appreciated and discussed but, again, it was never implemented.

Much needs to be done to share facilities and information. The latest botched effort in this regard pertains to establishing of the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA). The organisation was being set up as a central point for intelligence gathering and handshaking amongst various intelligence organisations, and to produce a counter-terrorism strategy that would also comprise of interaction with media and developing research and analysis tools. Its former head Tariq Pervez, who has a great career in the police, resigned recently in protest against the interior ministry dragging its feet. Now, NACTA is a non-starter due to pressures from within the interior ministry and from the intelligence community


One response to “The tricky issue of intelligence sharing

  1. Zainab Ali

    Intelligence sharing not only at the international level, but also at the national level is important to cope with this problem of terrorism. The stability of this country is highly dependent on how information sharing takes place at all levels.

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