Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s decision to empower Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to screen government officials has raised eyebrows, with many suggesting that the step would undermine civil authority.
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.
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.
Condemning the decision on Twitter, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that the role of the military in civilian affairs needs to recede if Pakistan is to move forward as a democracy.
The practice of vetting of governmental officials by the ISI or the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was already unofficially a 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, which is making some people question the wisdom in giving further powers to a wing of the military that has been used to silence voices of dissent, as activist Usama Khilji says.
Some have been pointing out how decisions like this weren’t even taken during martial laws.
There have been calls for the reversal of the decision, along with some suggestions to bring the ISI under civilian authority.