Pak to form new national intel body under ISI chief

PTI, Nov 24, 2020, 4:08 PM IST

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved the setting up of the National Intelligence Coordination Committee, a mechanism to coordinate over two dozen intelligence organisations in the country, to be headed by the ISI chief, according to a media report on Tuesday.

Although there have been discussions about the establishment of the coordination forum, its terms of reference and modus operandi would be decided once it formally takes shape, Dawn newspaper quoted a senior security source as saying.

The new body would be led by the director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), who would function as its chairman, it said.

The intelligence agencies have had at least two rounds of discussions on the issue after which the proposal was submitted to the prime minister for approval. It is expected that the first meeting of the coordination body could be held as early as next week.

The NICC would serve as a mechanism to coordinate the over two dozen intelligence organisations in the country. National Counter Terrorism Authority would also be part of the new structure.

The move is part of the long-awaited reform of the intelligence apparatus, which aims at clarifying the role of respective agencies, improving their coordination and optimising their capabilities, the report said.

One of the lessons learnt by the country during the fight against terrorism was that effective intelligence coordination was the weakest link in the entire effort. It importantly resulted in the loss of critical time and in some cases, the agencies even could not piece together the information available to them. It was, moreover, a major hurdle to collective strategising, the report said.

A leaked version of the Abbottabad Commission’s report had revealed that the commission, while noting the absence of civil-military intelligence coordination mechanism, too had proposed establishment of an agency on the lines of the US Department of Homeland Security to synergise the working of main spy agencies in the country.

The Abbottabad Commission was set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the killing of elusive Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a US raid on a compound in the garrison city of Abbottabad in 2011.

Although the report has not been officially declassified, it reportedly made 32 wide-ranging recommendations to address the issues identified during the course of its investigation on the basis of testimonies by key civilian and military functionaries; intel coordination was one of them.

There have in the past been multiple attempts at developing this coordination, but little progress could be made because of differences over the leadership of the new body, which has now been settled.

On July 26, 2008, the then Peoples Party government even notified the placement of ISI and Intelligence Bureau of Pakistan under the “administrative, financial, and operational control” of the Interior Ministry. But the decision was reversed within 24 hours due to strong reservations of one of the organisations.

Similar efforts were made during the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government when Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan headed the interior ministry, the report added.

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