Federal Influentials’ Agency

An exterior shot of the FIA headquarters

“I am bothering you to inform that Mr Tahir Jamil, presently working on deputation as Additional Director, Economic Crimes Wing, FIA Headquarters, Islamabad is my nephew. He is interested in absorbing himself in Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on permanent basis. I shall be grateful if you please consider his request favourably for permanent absorption in FIA.”

This is an excerpt from a letter that Railways Minister Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour sent to Interior Minister Rehman Malik on August 4, 2011. Written on Bilour’s official letterhead, the letter is also copied to the then FIA Director General Tehseen Anwar Shah and shows how the process of deputations to the FIA, and subsequent regularisation of services of the officers on deputation, works or, at least, gets initiated. Those interested in a deputation or regularisation of service approach the FIA’s senior officials through personal connections – in many cases, relatives in high places – to get the envelope pushed on their behalf.
As in almost all such cases, Jamil’s deputation violates the Appointment, Promotion and Transfer Rules, 1975, which say that an additional director can only come from the agency’s internal cadre and cannot be an officer on deputation from some other department. Only in extreme circumstances when no suitable officer is available within the FIA can the position of an additional director be filled through other means; there is, however, no dearth of officials within the agency who qualify for that post, says an FIA official.

Other such sources tell the Herald that, since the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government came into power in March 2008, scores of officials from various government departments have managed to get deputations in the FIA, mostly in violation of the 1975 rules. Sources say that around a 100 officers have made it into the FIA over the last four years from departments as varied as the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), the Senate, the fisheries department, the Pakistan International Airlines, the Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) and cantonment boards. Many of these departments are responsible for doing things which are not even remotely linked to what the FIA does as Pakistan’s supreme investigation agency into terrorism, corruption, financial fraud, money laundering and immigration/migration malpractice. The man mentioned in Bilour’s letter as the minister’s nephew originally worked at the National Bank of Pakistan before he joined the FIA on deputation.

Almost all such deputations violate the rule that declares that all FIA posts in grade 16 and above must be filled through a test conducted by the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC). In some cases, those on deputation do not even have the relevant academic qualifications or the required experience for the job they are holding. This applies in the case of Haris Mirza, the son of the Pakistan Television Corporation’s managing director, Yousaf Baig Mirza. He graduated from the University of Westminster, England, in 2011 with a bachelors in business administration and was appointed assistant director at the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) on a one-year contract on April 16, 2012. In little more than four months, sources say, he succeeded in securing the post of assistant director at the FIA’s counter-terrorism wing. The recommendation for his appointment on deputation in the FIA came from the interior minister’s office which wrote a letter to the Establishment Division on August 7, 2012, seeking Haris Mirza’s transfer from Nacta to the FIA. The post he is deputed to, however, requires a minimum experience of five years, according to government’s rules, sources say. The other serious flaw pointed out in Haris Mirza’s case is that his initial appointment in Nacta was only for one year, whereas his deputation is to last for three years.

In many other cases, officials seeking deputation have been able to pull it off because of their influential political links, such as the Bilour-sponsored Jamil. Syed Yazim Ali Shah and Syed Gada Haidar Shah have succeeded in joining the FIA on deputation thanks to their relationship with Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khursheed Shah — the former is the minister’s stepson and the latter his nephew. Syed Yazim Ali Shah was working at the EOBI before his deputation as assistant director in the FIA’s immigration wing at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport. Syed Gada Haidar Shah was initially posted at the Sindh Assembly, but is now working as an assistant director in the FIA’s counter-terrorism wing.
These two deputations came into the media spotlight in July 2012 when the Sindh High Court heard a petition filed by the United Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a local non-governmental organisation. The petition specifically mentioned Khursheed Shah and the deputations of his relatives as violating a Supreme Court order issued earlier in the year which had said that all officers on deputation should be sent back to their parent departments.

Similarly, Asghar Ali Mangrio, the son of Faqir Mohammad Jadam Mangrio who is a senior Pakistan Muslim League–Functional leader and a member of the National Assembly, managed to secure a position in the FIA in January 2012 as an assistant director in the corporate crime wing, Karachi, even though his initial posting on December 3, 2010, as a deputy manager at the Export Processing Zones Authority was “purely on a temporary basis”.

The organisational structure of FIA

Aamir Ali, whose mother Shahnaz Sheikh was a member of the National Assembly representing the Pakistan Muslim League–Quaid-e-Azam before she was disqualified by the Supreme Court last month for holding dual citizenship, got his career fast-tracked after joining the FIA on deputation on November 30, 2011. He was originally serving as a grade 19 officer in Nadra and about four months after joining the FIA, he became an additional director of the agency’s economic crime wing. Also, just under three months after securing his deputation, he sent a request to the interior ministry to have his services regularised in the FIA as a “certified forensic accountant”. The request is under consideration.

Such deputations, according to sources in the FIA, are having a negative impact on the agency’s performance. Inexperienced officers working on deputation bring a bad name to the country during their dealings with international and foreign agencies like Interpol, the United Nations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), says an FIA officer seeking to keep his identity secret. He puts this down to short cuts implicit in the deputation process. “Those who are appointed directly to the FIA through the FPSC have to undergo one year of mandatory training in subjects like policing, investigation and white-collar crime, and laws such as police rules, the Pakistan Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code,” he says. “How will a person thoroughly bereft of any such training deliver?” he asks, adding that those who join the agency through proper channels hate to take orders from someone who is not even familiar with the ABC of investigation. “This badly affects the FIA’s performance.”

Others say deputations, out of turn promotions and regularisation of the services of those on deputation hamper regular promotions in the agency, causing frustration among staff hired through regular channels. Some have moved the courts to air their grievances — a few months ago, some FIA officials wrote a letter to the Supreme Court, complaining that “unprofessional officers of various departments working on deputation … [are] causing frustration in the FIA cadre.”

Two cases of fast track regularisation and promotion of officials on deputation in the FIA exemplify why others going through the slower regular process would feel left out. Shahryar Khan joined Nadra on March 1, 2011, as a contract employee. Two months later, he joined the FIA on deputation, and by the end of the year he has been absorbed in the agency as a regular employee as an inspector in grade 16, without having passed an FPSC test or receiving the mandatory one-year training, both officially required for the job.
Nasrullah Gondal’s case is even more curious. Originally a grade 14 sub-inspector in the Punjab Police, he was appointed as an officiating inspector in 2006. Later that year, he joined the FIA on deputation as an assistant director, a grade 17 post, despite the fact that his promotion violated official rules which state that officials on deputation can work only in the same grade in which they were originally appointed in their parent department. In 2008, in another violation of the rules, Gondal’s services were regularised in the FIA in grade 17 and then in 2012, he was promoted to grade 18.

Cases like this are having a serious impact on the pace of regular promotions in the agency. “There are more than 50 inspectors [in the FIA], with over nine to 10 years of experience awaiting promotion to the next grade,” says an inspector working with the agency since 2002. Their promotions are getting delayed because officers on deputation are being regularised and promoted much more quickly, he adds.

While deputation has been going on for decades in Pakistan, what is remarkable is the apparent mad rush to work in the FIA rather than any other department. If we compare the salaries in the Police Services of Pakistan with those in the FIA, we will find that police officers are drawing better salaries, but even they are willing to get deputation appointments in the FIA, says a senior FIA official. Why? Because a posting in the FIA is a very effective means of making quick money, he says, adding that the nature of crimes the FIA handles ranges from petty to high profile, some involving millions of rupees. “An official posted in the immigration or banking wing of the agency, for instance, can make millions overnight.” In his original department, such as Nadra, the Sindh Assembly or the National Bank of Pakistan, he will never get such a chance.

Director-General FIA Muhammad Anwar Virk admits that there is reason for officials to want to become part of the agency: “We have a power-oriented society and people tend to join departments like the FIA to enjoy more power [as compared to their parent departments].” When asked about irregularities in and the impact of deputations, he says, “[Some] FIA officials had reservations over the transfer and absorption of certain people and, in this regard, they have petitioned the court. Now I can only submit before the court as to whether these deputations are adversely affecting the performance of the FIA.”

Occupational hazard

Rescue work in progress at the burnt garment factory in Karachi on September 12, 2012. Photo courtesy Dawn Archives.

Rescue work in progress at the burnt garment factory in Karachi on September 12, 2012. Photo courtesy Dawn Archives.

On September 11 this year, the country witnessed its worst industrial tragedy when nearly 260 workers died in a Karachi factory blaze. This tragedy not only exposed the inefficiency and negligence of the concerned government departments but most importantly it highlighted the appalling state of our industries’ occupational safety and health (OSH) practices. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) considers health and safety at the workplace as a fundamental human right and the government of Pakistan being a signatory to various ILO Labour Conventions is committed to ensure OSH in all its industrial units. Here, the Herald examines the existing law, as well as the roles and responsibilities of various government departments specifically connected to the fire safety component of OSH.

The Factories Act 1934

A single, independent, comprehensive legislation on OSH is lacking and various aspects of the subject are covered in different laws. The Factories Act 1934 is the foremost law that contains a part titled Chapter 3, on OSH issues and factory inspections. Provision number 25 of this chapter explicitly details precautions that are needed to be taken, in case a factory catches fire; according to this “every factory should be provided with means of escape, the door affording exit from any room shall not be locked or fastened while work is being carried out in the room, every window, door or other means of escape in case of fire shall be distinctively marked, audible means of giving fire warning shall be installed, maintenance of free passageways giving all workers access to each means of escape in case of fire and to ensure that all the workers are familiar with the means of escape and have been adequately trained in routine.”

Industries and Commerce Department

Every industrial unit from its planning phase to its inception, and throughout its working life, is supposed to be thoroughly inspected by four main government departments to ensure the implementation and compliance of the OSH regulations. The Industries and Commerce Department is assigned to conduct surveys of industries, registration of firms and societies, collect labour data and carry out boiler inspections and registrations.

 A FIA team is seen examining the garment factory where more than 290 employees were killed in a fire. Photo courtesy Dawn Archives.

A FIA team is seen examining the garment factory where more than 290 employees were killed in a fire. Photo courtesy Dawn Archives.

Sindh Industrial Trading Estates Limited (Site)

An organ of the Industries and Commerce Department, Site was established in 1947 under the Companies Act, 1913 now known as the Companies Ordinance, 1984 along the pattern of Trading Estates in the United Kingdom to promote industrialisation and to create attractive conditions for industrialists. In Karachi, any factory located in an industrial area, falls under the jurisdiction of Site, which is responsible for approving construction plans of industries — without its approval no industrial building can be built in the area. Site also has the authority to approve the map of an industrial building but only if it does not violate any by-laws of Karachi Building Control Authority (KBCA), as the industrial unit has to follow KBCA rules and its by-laws.

KBCA’s Karachi Building and Town Planning Regulation 2002 has two chapters about by-laws on fire resistance and fire precautions (Chapter 13) and fire resistance structure requirements (Chapter 14). According to Chapter 13 “it is compulsory for each industrial building to have a set of (sic) pipes system with reserved water tank(s), automatic sprinkler system equipped with fire department’s approved inlet connection, at least one manual fire extinguisher in each vocational room, floor, corridors and stairway landings; internal alarm systems and signal stations to be located in an accessible location.” Chapter 14 deals with fire-resistant structure requirements; use of non-combustible material; availability of direct access for firefighting by unobstructed windows etc. If any industrial building fails to comply with these requirements, the KBCA and Site can take action against such buildings.

Labour department

The labour department of a provincial government has to ensure the protection of the labourers and make sure requisite safety measures are in place in every factory or industrial set-up. The primary responsibilities of the department include the “promotion of industrialisation and industrial peace by implementing labour laws, managing labour courts, (sic) provide social security cover and improve the welfare condition of the industrial and mine labourers.” It is also the responsibility of the department to gather concrete data on all industrial units, get them registered and regularly inspect the industrial units for implementation of labour laws to protect the safety of employees and proceed against those who violate the laws.

Civil Defence department

The Civil Defence department, a branch of the home department, is governed by the Civil Defence Act 1952. It states that the department must take remedial measures against natural and man-made disasters in peace times and reduce the number of casualties as much as possible, whilst ensuring uninterrupted production in mills and factories. The department is further responsible for the fire-safety training of workers, in ensuring installation of fire-safety equipment in all industrial buildings, in providing technical assistance to the management of industrial establishments in the implementation of civil defence rules and measures and most of all, it is empowered to prosecute defaulting managements.

To keep or not to keep

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has abolished its watch list for the umpteenth time — with many hoping that it will not make a comeback soon as it has in the past following its numerous abolitions since 1994. During the ongoing tenure of the current government, it has been abolished thrice and restored on two earlier occasions.