Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has granted sweeping powers to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to screen and vet government officials before their appointment or promotion.
The direction to notify the ISI as the Special Vetting Agency (SVA) had been issued from the office of the Prime Minister on May 06, 2022, according to a news report by Dawn News.
According to a notification by the Establishment Division: “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 […] 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) …”
The mentioned laws — i.e. sub-section 1 of section 25 of the Civil Servants Act as well as SRO 120 — allow the prime minister to amend or make rules for the civil bureaucracy.
According to a senior official from the Establishment Division, the ISI and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) both send reports about civil servants before their posting to important assignments.
The senior official said that the IB would still continue to send reports to the concerned parties.
The official also said that since the government has now given legality to the reports issued by the ISI, these could be used in courts as a valid legal document from now on, unlike IB reports, which cannot be used as such.
Clearance from intelligence agencies has been an unofficial part of the appointment and promotion process for civil servants, especially during the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court.
However, for the first time, it has been granted governmental legitimacy.