IB v/s ISI: IHC concerned over agencies ‘tug of war’


ISLAMABAD: The quest of an Intelligence Bureau (IB) spy to have the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) investigate his seniors for allegedly protecting terrorists may not yield the desired results, after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) noted on Wednesday that both agencies seemed to be involved in a “tug of war”.

However, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui sought a reply from the interior secretary to the petition filed by an IB assistant sub-inspector. The bureau has already come under fire from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan after its head allegedly met ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the UK. A list of politicians allegedly having links with terrorists was also recently attributed to the IB; however, the intelligence agency has disowned any such list.

Earlier, during the Panama Papers hearings before the Supreme Court, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) had blamed the IB for hampering its investigations against Mr Sharif and his family members.

The JIT included representatives of the ISI, Military Intelligence, Federal Investigation Agency, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, National Accountability Bureau and State Bank of Pakistan.

In his petition, IB ASI Malik Mukhtar Ahmed Shahzad claimed that he had “reported against various terrorist groups having roots in Uzbekistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and India… [but] no action was ever taken by IB in this respect, despite concrete evidence provided to it in the form of the intelligence reports”.

According to the petition, the matter was even reported to the IB director general, but to no avail. The case was earlier fixed before IHC Justice Aamer Farooq. However, during the hearing, the petitioner’s counsel requested the judge to transfer the case to Justice Siddiqui, since an identical matter was pending in his court.

On Wednesday, when Justice Siddiqui took up the petition, ASI Shahzad began weeping inside the courtroom, and pleaded with the judge to refer this case to the ISI for investigation as soon as possible.

However, Justice Siddiqui remarked that there were reports of an ongoing “tug of war” between the two spy agencies, and asked how ISI could be authorised to carry out an investigation in such circumstances.

The judge pointed out that the interior secretary may be the relevant authority to conduct such an investigation, but he had not been cited as a respondent by the petitioner.At this point, the petitioner’s counsel, Barrister Masroor Shah, requested the court to allow them to amend the petition and include the interior secretary as a respondent.

The court granted the request, and the interior secretary was added as a respondent. Other respondents include the prime minister, secretary to the PM, IB DG and ISI DG.

The court has asked the interior secretary to respond to the petition. The petitioner also alleged that he was receiving threatening calls after having filed the petition and requested the court to provide him and his family members with security. Justice Siddiqui then ordered police to deploy reasonable security for the protection of the petitioner and his family.

In the petition filed through his counsel Masroor Shah, Mr Shahzad has said he joined the IB in 2007 and that he “reported against various terrorist groups having roots in Uzbekistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and India”.

“However, to the petitioner’s utter dismay, no action was ever been taken by IB in this respect despite concrete evidence provided to it in the form of the intelligence reports”, the petition says.

“Upon thorough intelligence gathering process, it transpired that certain high officials of the IB themselves are directly involved with the terrorist organizations having linkages with hostile enemy intelligence agencies” the petition reads.

It goes on to say that the matter was even reported to the IB director general, who also did not take any steps.

It says some IB officials travelled to Israel and had direct links with Afghan intelligence which, it was found later, had links with another terrorist group from Kazakhstan.

“These terrorists used to disguise themselves as citrus dealers in Kot-Momin and Bhalwal, Sargodha. The business was a mere camouflage,” the petition says.

The petition goes on to say that the son of joint director IB (Punjab) was dealing with the said terrorist groups.

The petition claims that some officials of Afghan and Iranian intelligence used to take refuge in the places of the citrus dealers.

The petition names certain IB’s officials who are on the payroll of foreign intelligence agencies which include a joint director general, directors and deputy directors. The petitioner says that the senior IB officials also facilitate Afghan nationals in getting Pakistani nationality.

Mr Shahzad said he “has been running from pillar to post including approaching the prime minister of Pakistan to raise this issue of national security and protection of lives of the citizen of this country but in vain.”

The petitioner requested the court that the issue of connivance, complacency and involvement of official of IB and other senior bureaucrats raised in the petition may graciously be entrusted to ISI for investigation.

The petition further requested that the prime minister be directed to evolve a comprehensive strategy to keep a check on IB officials’ involvement in sectarian terrorism.

IB also recently came under attack by a joint investigation team consisting of officials from ISI, Military Intelligence and officials from other departments for ‘hampering the investigation’ into the assets of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s family.

Further hearings in the matter have been adjourned until Oct 9.

Another saga

In another saga, members of the federal cabinet on Tuesday took serious notice of the airing of a “false report” on a private television channel claiming that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had directed the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to keep vigilance over some 37 legislators, mostly belonging to the ruling PML-N, allegedly for having links with banned terrorist and sectarian outfits, sources told Dawn.

According to the sources, the issue was raised by Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada at the cabinet meeting that was presided over by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Later, a number of ministers, whose names were included in the alleged report, spoke on the matter, calling for strict action against those who had “fabricated” the news.

The ministers were of the view that the report was aimed at damaging their reputation and that strict action should be taken against the “plotters” because the IB had already denied receiving any such directives from the Prime Minister’s Office or possessing any such list.

The report aired by ARY News in its programme “Power Play” on Monday had claimed that the-then prime minister had directed the IB on July 10 — three weeks before his disqualification — to probe the 37 lawmakers for allegedly having links with the banned outfits.

Interestingly, the list contained the names of a number of key ministers — including Riaz Pirzada, Zahid Hamid, Baleeghur Rehman, Sikandar Bosan and Hafiz Abdul Kareem — as well as Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Murtaza Javed Abbasi.

The prime minister later directed Law Minister Hamid to probe the issue and ensure action against the channel through the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for the “mala fide reporting”.