By Badar Alam in Lahore
THE GOVERNMENT in Pakistan was on Sunday left with egg on its face after it took back a notification within hours of issuing it to give the interior ministry control over the Inter- Services Intelligence ( ISI). A press release said the notification “has been misunderstood and the ISI would remain under the prime minister”. Though the government said it would issue a new notification to clear the air, no senior political representative of the government was available for comment.
In fact, some of the people concerned– Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his advisor on interior affairs Rehman Malik — are both out of the country. The government’s detractors, however, had a field day denouncing the government as inefficient. Some of them castigated Malik for his inept handling of the issue. Siddiqul Farooq, the spokesperson of Pakistan Muslim League ( Nawaz), which theoretically is still a partner in the ruling coalition, says taking back of the notification proves the government is turning out to be good for nothing.
“By mishandling small things like issuing a simple notification, the government has underscored its ineptness,” he said. Farooq added that it is not for the first time a notification has been taken back. “The government notified the bypolls to be postponed till August but revoked the decision after no one had the courage to own it,” he said. Mushahid Hussain Syed, secretary general of the Opposition Pakistan Muslim League ( Qaid- e- Azam), said it displays a wanton disregard for propriety in handling a serious issue involving the country’s premier intelligence agency. “ The ISI has a strategic role. Bringing it under the control of a political party will compromise its sensitive mandate and reduce its efficiency,” Mushahid said. But according to him, there is a pattern to what the government is doing.
‘Taking back the notice proves govt is good for nothing’
“They (the government) want to push their own people into every institution,” he said, adding attempts at “domesticating” the ISI are not being made for the first time by the PPP. He was referring to failed attempts by the party’s slain leader Benazir Bhutto to assert her authority over the ISI.
According to the revoked notification, “the prime minister ( had) approved” the ISI to be put “ under the administrative, financial and operational control of the interior division with immediate effect.”
The ostensible aim of the move was “to enhance coordination between the intelligence agencies especially in the war against terrorism,” an interior ministry official said. The ISI is known for its alleged roles in making and breaking governments in the country and raising and training Islamic militants for operations in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Legally it is under the prime minister’s control, but its detractors say the agency has always been a law unto itself.
Source: The Mail Today, New Delhi