DailyTimes Editorial: EDITORIAL: Intelligence agencies’ controversial role - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Source : http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\03\20\story_20-3-2012_pg3_1

EDITORIAL: Intelligence agencies’ controversial role
On Sunday, the intelligence agencies’ controversial role in the country’s affairs received attention from diverse sources. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, while interacting with journalists in Lahore, in answer to a question said the ISI was an important national institution but should not be controversial. About the possible closure of the political wing of the ISI, considered the part of the agency most involved with interference in the politics of the country, the prime minister said he had not yet had time to speak to the new DG ISI on the matter. We would urge the prime minister to do just that at the first opportunity, since it is obvious that the powerful agency needs to be taken on board if the objective of regulating its activities is to be achieved. Meanwhile, as a consequence of the Mehrangate case, Altaf Hussain, leader of the MQM, reasserted from London that he had refused to accept money offered by the ISI. If true, it means that Altaf Hussain’s suspected links with the intelligence agencies of the country when he first embarked on his political career have since been overtaken by time and developments. In any case, politicians have to realise that such links have not helped them or the democratic system to find its desired level. Also in London, Nawaz Sharif expressed the hope that COAS General Kayani will ensure that the new DG ISI, Lt General Zaheerul Islam would refrain from meddling in the country’s affairs to ‘engineer’ the political course. Nawaz Sharif accused the PPP-led government of currying favour with the establishment for the sake of clinging to power and said his party would never become part of the conspiracies hatched by the intelligence agencies to ‘manage’ politics. He went on to add that the role of the spy agencies should not be to take over the offices of political parties and indulge in horse-trading as they did during Musharraf’s rule to help the PML-Q. The reference here is to the forcible takeover of Muslim League House in Lahore and the creation of the PML-Q from the bulk of the PML-N in the aftermath of Musharraf’s coup in 1999. Here too, if Nawaz Sharif, as he claims, has realised the mistakes he made in the past and has learnt his lesson, another protégé of the establishment has seemingly broken ranks with the intelligence agencies-driven manipulation of politics. Nawaz believes the reason why his party is considered anti-establishment is because he has steadfastly refused (since returning from forced exile) to be party to the games the establishment and its intelligence arms constantly play.

A credible addition to the concerns expressed by these diverse political leaders across the political divide was the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP’s) statement at the end of its annual general meeting that it was time to improve vigilance against any form of extra-democratic intervention in the forthcoming general elections by the military, extremists or any special judicial process. Stress was laid during the proceedings on the issue of forced disappearances and the government’s lack of action in this regard, expressing the HRCP’s indignation that nearly a decade after the menace of forced disappearances raised its ugly head, not a single person has been held to account for involvement in this travesty of human rights and the law. HRCP called for the government’s acknowledgement of all such illegal detentions, release of the detainees and to put in place means to ensure that disappearances become a thing of the past. Compensation must be offered to the victims and due process ensured for the considerable number of people known to be in military detention after the military’s operations. Last but not least, the HRCP asked for respect for the consensus that there is a need to regulate the working of the intelligence agencies through legislation.

While the need for legislation and setting out of the rules governing the role of the intelligence agencies is undeniable, perhaps some institutional arrangements are also the need of the hour. In developed democracies, the intelligence agencies are controlled through parliamentary oversight. Something similar needs to be created here to ensure the dreaded ‘deep state’ is reined in from violating its appropriate purview. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Cruel custodial battles

Sometimes the law is not helpful at all. This became evident in Lahore the other day as a large group of parents and social activists staged a peaceful protest at the Liberty Roundabout. The flickering flames of candles held in their hands added solemnity to their already grave expressions. And the placards in their hands spelled heart-wrenching pleas. The protest was organised by “My Foundation for Separated Children” against the custody laws and custodial visitation rights. The reason for the protest is enough to jolt one into unspeakable sadness and a bewildering despair. Parents gathered in a public place to request the government to revise the law that restrains them from seeing their own children is extremely disturbing. How have these laws been made so ironclad that some divorced or divorcing parents, in a custody battle or even after one, are forced to meet their children for two hours in a month, only in the court’s premises? Sounds inhuman? It is more than that. The law is meant to bring comfort, not pile on misery. It is inexplicable why conflicted individuals, after the rupture of their matrimonial relationship, are subjected to the erection of a Berlin Wall between the less fortunate partner and the children. In some cases, this cruel arrangement is perpetrated for years, given the excruciatingly slow pace at which our judicial system works, creating distance between one parent and the children that becomes unbridgeable with time. For the law to induce an environment where loved ones cannot spend time together is unhealthy, unproductive, unfair and unnatural, to say the least. The government must take notice of these anomalies in the law and bring in amendments to guarantee opportunity to both parents, during or after a divorce, to be a part of their child’s life.

The parents are to be blamed here too. Two people for a multitude of reasons may part ways, but to keep a child/children away from one parent for some vindictive, spiteful and wrathful reasoning is beyond comprehension. A person who may have been the worst spouse does not lose his or her basic right of being a parent to a child. Even more than the law, the parties involved in these ugly custody battles should be re-educated. For one parent to mercilessly snatch the right of the other parent to be with an offspring is something society should take note of and attempt humane redress. *

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