Pakistani ISI strengthens political influence in the country by … – Robert Lansing Institute

Robert Lansing Institute
The National Assembly (Parliament) of Pakistan green-lighted the intelligence law proposed by the government. The legislative initiative grants wider powers to the country’s top intelligence agencies and provides for a three-year prison term for anyone guilty of disclosing the identity of an intelligence official.
The law authorizes the Federal Investigation Agency and intelligence officials to investigate suspected violators of the Official Secrets Act.
In fact, some of the amendments are an attempt to cover up occasional controversial intelligence activities within the legal framework.
The Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill was passed by the Senate and forwarded to President Arif Alvi for ratification.
Sharif makes new laws two weeks before the current parliament completes its five-year term, paving the way for parliamentary elections in October or November.
According to analysts, the legislation done in recent weeks is primarily aimed at taking action against some of those retired officers who have been ‘maligning’ the military since the ouster of Khan, who claims his removal was part of a US plot.
Such laws will weaken democracy and human rights situation in Pakistan and create a dangerous precedent in the country’s democratic history.
Pakistani government proposed an amendment to a colonial-era Secrets act (1923) that critics claim would allow the military intelligence agency to detain citizens with impunity.
Pakistani parliament approved amendments to the Official Secret Act by a majority vote after the government agreed to remove a clause granting the intelligence agencies to carry out raids and make arrests without warrants.
However, the law still gives the intelligence agencies a lot of additional rights: the employees of the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau are empowered to seize any documents, sketches, plans, modern electronic devices, or anything that may indicate a committed offense. The amendments also expanded the concept of ‘document’ to include ‘any written, electronic digital, or any other tangible or intangible instrument’ related to defense information.
The amendment broadly uses the word ‘enemy’ to describe ‘any person directly or indirectly intentionally or unintentionally working for or engaged with a foreign power, foreign agent, non-state actor, organization, or a group guilty of a particular act tending to show a purpose that is prejudicial to the safety and interest of Pakistan’.
The legislation comes days after the National Assembly and Senate passed another bill, The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, recommending up to a five-year imprisonment for both currently serving and retired officers found guilty of taking part in politics or disclosing sensitive information.
The E-Safety Bill makes it difficult for media organizations to obtain tax and other detailed information on individuals – especially government officials and politicians.
The legislation comes amid growing criticism of military and intelligence officers by former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his deputies. 
Mr.Khan was elected in 2018, ruled for just under four years; he was replaced by Sharif in April 2022 in a no-confidence vote in parliament.
Read also: Political turmoil in Pakistan: future scenarios
Pakistani authorities earlier this year initiated trials in military courts against people suspected of being involved in deadly riots and attacks on military installations over the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on May 9. 
Khan has been critical of Pakistan’s powerful military since his ouster, and his government, which is backed by the army, could use new laws to prevent him from returning to power. Sharif’s government has granted more power to the military establishment of the country, which has ruled Pakistan for about half of its history since independence in 1947. 
Khan was the first politician to publicly disclose the names of some of Pakistan’s senior intelligence officers, saying they were conspiring against him. He even claimed that Maj. Gen. Faisal Naseer, who works for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, was behind the Nov. 3 gun attack that wounded Khan while he was leading a protest march to pressure the government to agree to early elections.
This, the law should secure Pak intel in Khan’s case. 
The Pakistani military supported and nurtured Imran Khan, but later realized it was a failed experiment. Every mainstream party of Pakistan has at one time or another been nurtured by the military. The present coalition government used to mock Khan for being a military puppet, oppressing them when they were in opposition, and criticized the military for its interference in politics. The military decided to undo the ‘project New Pakistan’ under Khan that it had started a decade ago, which resulted in massive sociopolitical polarization of Pakistani society.
Khan’s successor, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, said it would bring charges against Khan for ‘exposing an official secret document’ in an incident last year when he waved a confidential diplomatic letter at a rally, describing it as “proof” that he was threatened and claiming his ouster was a conspiracy.
Some of those Bills were not properly debated and oftentimes not even referred to parliamentary committees – sparking fears about the setting of negative precedents in the South Asian country.
It was ‘necessary to amend the official secret act law to make it more effective’, Parliamentary Affairs minister Murtaza Abbasi, who introduced the legislation in the National Assembly, said.Eventually all these laws will be used against politicians who fall out of favor with the military as well as being used for a crackdown against human rights activists. The extraordinary powers of intelligence agencies will affect human rights, political liberties and media freedom. ‘It would be nothing short of a legal martial law.
Read also: Pakistani ISI head replacement might speak for China’s growing foothold amid developments in Afghanistan
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