Days after the Pakistani government tasked the country’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) with conducting verification and screening of the government officers, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has now appointed the Intelligence Bureau (IB) with the same job of screening of government officers before their induction, appointments, and postings as well as promotions.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday appointed the IB as a “Special Vetting Agency (SVA)” for officers category for initial appointments and postings. The notification issued by the Establishment Division read, “The Prime Minister is pleased to notify IB as SVA for officers category for initial appointment, induction, certain postings abroad and specific promotions,” reported The News International.
Fears have already been voiced about the curtailment of the executive’s and in effect, the legislature’s role.
There are also apprehensions that more and more military personnel, serving and retired, being already vetted, may be preferred to the civilians. The action of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government has been subjected to speculation.
In a similar move, earlier, ISI, the Pakistan military’s powerful intelligence wing, was officially named the Special Vetting Agency (SVA). This curtails the powers of the executive that ought to have the prerogative, and the last word, in all appointments, including that of the Army Chief.
The promotions and appointments of the senior government officers will be approved on the condition of clearing the special screening and verification process of the country’s top spy agency, ISI.
In doing so, the government has given legal cover to a practice that had already been in place but had not been formalized as part of the protocol.
According to the Establishment Division notification: “In exercise of powers conferred by sub-section 1 of section 25 of the Civil Servants Act 1973 read with notification No. SRO 120 (1)/1998 dated Feb. 27, 1998, the Prime Minister is pleased to notify Directorate General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as [the] Special Vetting Agency (SVA) for verification and screening of all Public Office Holders (Officers Category) for induction, important postings/appointments, and promotions.”
Beleaguered by the unprecedented economic crisis and mounting opposition from former Prime Minister Imran Khan who was voted out in April, the government is seen as resorting to this as a desperate measure to bring in the Referee, officially, to calm a heated situation wherein every institution of the state is fighting everyone else, to protect own turf, while making forays into those of others, analysts say.
In the free-for-all that is on, the army itself has been the target of much criticism, wherein its Chief, General Qaisar Javed Bajwa is harangued in public on a daily basis by Imran Khan who feels the army that originally propped him up in 2018 should have protected him, yet again, from the opposition onslaught.
The situation is grim even on the diplomatic front. As Sharif seeks to placate the United States and seek an economic bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Imran Khan continues to accuse the latter of hatching a conspiracy to oust him and impose an “imported government” on Pakistan.Sharif is having to succumb to IMF stipulations on raising prices of fuels that have a cascading effect on all essential commodities. His introduction of subsidies to lessen the impact on the prices is being disapproved by the IMF that is perceived as delaying the sum Pakistan sorely needs.