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.”

Live blog with Malik Iqbal

Malik Muhammad Iqbal joined the Police Service of Pakistan in 1976. During his career, he held important positions at the hotspots of sectarian violence across Pakistan as Capital City Police Officer in Lahore and Deputy Inspector General in Gujranwala, Multan and Karachi. He also headed the Punjab Police’s special branch before becoming the Inspector General of Balochistan Police and then the Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency. His last assignment has been as the head of the National Counter-Terrorism Authority.

On April 16, 2012, Herald asked  him to hold a live blog where people could pose their questions about sectarian violence. The blog has been edited for space, clarity and grammar.

9:11    Comment From SHM. Why have the police consistently failed to curb sectarian violence in the country

9:16    Malik Iqbal. It is the collective responsibility of the society because it is our attitude towards religion which determines how the society as a whole takes shape. The intolerance towards others’ beliefs/faith is the basic reason for extremism. The police on its part is doing its level best to control such types of crimes which have assumed dangerous proportions in recent times because of multifarious factors. The foreign intervention on account of using one extremist against the other is the primary cause for this dilemma. Anyhow, there is a lot of room for improvement in the performance of the police which also requires capacity building in areas such as training and fighting terrorism.

9:16    Comment From Lubna Shah. In your experience as the DG of Balochistan, who is to blame for the violence in Balochistan? The Army, government, Taliban or the Baloch themselves?

9:33    Malik Iqbal. As IGP Balochistan it is my experience that we cannot hold responsible either the Army or the Government for the present state of affairs. It is in fact the foreign hand which is patronizing some disgruntled elements in order to destabilize Pakistan. They have been able to identify existent weaknesses in our society and they are actively exploiting them. To my mind LEJ and TTP are involved in the indiscriminate killing of the Hazara community in Quetta. I have no doubt in my mind about the capability of the Law enforcement agencies to handle the situation provided political will is there. However, it is important we should pay full attention towards the capacity building LEAs.

9:34    Comment From Ahsan Majeed. Could you tell us how your experience of sectarian violence was different in different provinces? Is the type of violence in Sindh different from that of Punjab? Or are the causes the same?

9:37    Malik Iqbal. As far as the sectarian violence is concerned, the primary cause according to my experience is extremism and intolerance in the society. Whether it is Sindh or Punjab, the causes are the same. However, the involvement of different groups cannot be ignored. This is the unholy alliance of different groups who are working against each other to establish their own hegemony at the cost of lives of innocent citizens.

9:38    Comment From SHM. You were given a grant of 15 million Euros even then NACTA failed to take off, why?

9:45     Malik Iqbal. As far as NACTA is concerned there is a basic need for providing a legal framework for the organization to function properly. The donors have been reluctant to cooperate until such a legal framework is put into place. This is the primary reason for the failure of NACTA.

9:45    Comment From Naveed Hazara. The Balochistan Police as well as some Ministers are saying that there are hurdles to taking action against those religious militants. Being an ex IG in Balochistan, what do you think those hurdles are?

9:49     Malik Iqbal. Personally speaking, I do not agree to this statement. My firm belief is that political will is the foremost requirement to handle such like crimes. The Hazara community is being targeted by the unholy alliance of LEJ and TTP. There is need to handle these elements with an iron hand and the administration should not hide behind such lame excuses.

9:50    Comment From Mohammad A Dar. First of all why do sects exist? Where are the sources of sectarianism? Does anyone have strength of knowledge to correct the path of Ummah, misguided by so-called, self-appointed scholars in the name of religion? Can you elaborate please?

9:56    Malik Iqbal. Sects have existed since a very long time. Because of the tolerance between various sects and respect for each other’s faith untoward situation were rare at best. The basic principle is that one should not leave his own faith and should not interfere with the faith of others. As long as we were strictly adhering to this golden principle, the society was full of tolerance resulting in peace and tranquillity. When the extremist elements from abroad entered our society and tried to impose their own faith upon the others, it meets stiff resistance and society falls apart on the basis of religious divisions. It is my suggestion that if we follow the golden principle of respecting the faith and ideas of others it is bound to bring reconciliation and peace among all. One cannot be the judgemental about other people’s faiths.

9:57    Comment From Cyrus Howell. During the past year, no politician has dared raise the issue of reforming the blasphemy law. Intolerance by extremists against both Muslims and non-Muslims has increased enormously and there has been a dramatic rise in the number of sectarian attacks, which are usually perpetrated by Sunni extremists against Shia citizens. Why do you think this is so?

10:12   Malik Iqbal. The present situation cannot be termed as a clash between Sunnis and Shias. In fact, these are the extremists who are actively involved in creating a wedge between various sections of the society by attacking their faith. It is the collective responsibility of the society as a whole to put up a bold stance against these elements, even the politician cannot be held responsible for this inaction. The extremists have so far succeeded in creating an atmosphere of hostility between different sects and are using one against the other.

As far as the Blasphemy Law is concerned, it is based on the basic faith of Muslims. It is a very delicate issue and needs to be handled extremely tactfully. Any misguided zealousness may result in a far more alarming response from the masses than anyone would imagine.

10:12  Comment From I.W Khan. Today’s news is that around 400 Prisoners from Banu Jail were helped by Teherik-e-Taliban to escape. They were fighting there for 2 hours. Where was the security force? Where was the military? Where were the security helicopters? Pakistan security forces have failed so many times. These 400 escapees will be a source of additional violence. Do you agree?

10:15   Malik Iqbal. No doubt this was a serious situation which will have far-reaching consequences. One cannot tend to agree with such a sweeping statement questioning the capability of the LEAs. The police and other agencies are very actively pursuing the re-arrest of these escapees and responsibility is being fixed for negligence of duty if any. Till the final outcome of the inquiry one should avoid indulging in a blame game.

10:15  Comment From JUMA. Are secret agencies involved in genocide of Hazaras in Quetta to weaken the Baloch independent movement? In order to show the world that it is a sectarian issue in Balochistan not an independent one?

10:18  Malik Iqbal. This statement is based on heresy and has misconceived the actual issues. The Hazara community in Quetta is being targeted, as far as my personal knowledge goes, by the unholy alliance of LEJ and TTP in order to destabilizePakistan. Some Baloch dissidents are also supporting this unholy alliance for their own benefit. The Hazara community is loyal to Pakistan and any such suggestion is totally based on conjectures and is far from reality.

10:21   Thank you all for joining in. I hope you enjoyed the session.