After the PTI-army ‘same-page’ relationship turned into a raging and ugly divorce, one expected some reluctance from Shahbaz Sharif’s PML-N government in contracting yet another fishy civil-military cohabitation arrangement. Instead, last week the prime minister upped the military’s role in national affairs by another notch. Henceforth all potential candidates for government posts, including civil service officers awaiting promotions, must have their credentials check-marked by the ISI. To be screened are Supreme Court judges, top-level civil servants, university professors, and many others.
Every intelligence agency — CIA, KGB, RAW, and Mossad included — provides intelligence on foreign operations, does counterintelligence operations, identifies sleeper cells, etc. Everywhere there is a temptation to use them against domestic opponents by casting them as anti-state. Although robust political systems can resist this, Pakistan’s has certainly not. The government’s new directive formalising the role of a military intelligence agency opens a can of worms.
Nabbing a mischievous Kulbhushan Jadhav from here or there is relatively easy — an Israeli-made Pegasus system can do wonders. But evaluating the patriotism of those who were born and live within Pakistan — and consider themselves loyal but free citizens — is complicated.
Certainly no intelligence agency is empowered to invent its own definition of patriotism. Instead it must follow the Constitution as interpreted by parliament and judiciary. But in practice, one question leads to the next.