ISLAMABAD - The future of the county’s premier counter terrorism body — National Counter Terrorism Authority —is at stake as the government considers to transfer administrative control of its Joint Intelligence Directorate to the Ministry of Interior.

The Nacta reforms committee under the chairmanship of Finance Minister Asad Umar in its only meeting has discussed the role and functioning of JID and the government higher authorities have a unanimous view that the JID should be placed under the control of the Ministry of Interior instead of Nacta, a senior government official privy to the development said. He further said that final decision would be taken with the approval of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The government’s likely decision that JID should work under the ministry is contrary to the view of incumbent Nacta chief that it should be disbanded.

Nacta has a major role of coordinator of all intelligence agencies by bringing together intelligence information at a single platform — the JID that works under its administrative control. Security experts and officers working within Nacta are suspicious about the future of the counter terrorism body once its function of coordination of intelligence information was transferred to the ministry, background interviews with key counter terrorism officials indicate. Many officers within Nacta in their informal meetings have shown serious reservations about this likely decision and they view that the role of Nacta would become meaningless with this decision, the official sources said.

The last Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) federal government had shaped up the ambitious plan of JID, an idea conceived before the establishment of Nacta, to counter terrorism in most effective way. The purpose of the JID was to make a central platform to coordinate all intelligence information from different intelligence and law enforcement agencies for its proper utilisation and implementation. Former Nacta Chief Ihsan Ghani had initiated the process to establish the directorate—a place to have representation of all intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

“The role of Nacta would become useless if the whole set-up of JID’s was transferred to the interior ministry as the counter terrorism authority’s only primary role at the moment is to coordinate intelligence information,” said Mohammad Amir Rana, a security expert and director of an Islamabad-based think tank Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies. He was of the opinion that it was possible that JID would improve its functioning if given under the direct control of interior minister as the portfolio is with Prime Minister Imran Khan himself but Nacta role would become worthless. “The authority has a role in preparing major counter terrorism documents like National Internal Security Policy (NISP) and National Action Plan (NAP) but there is no justification of the authority if its role in coordination of intelligence is eliminated,” Rana said. The other role Nacta could assume, he said, that it should be made the coordination authority of provincial counter terrorism departments (CTDs) but there is no provision in the existing law for this purpose. “For this purpose, the law would have to be amended,” he said.

Initially, incumbent National Coordinator (NC) Nacta Mehr Khaliq Dad Lak, a senior police officer, had recommended to the federal government to close down the JID. As part of the “Nacta Reforms”, he had advised that JID should be disbanded because of having no need of it. In official meetings, he had been stressing that the JID should be replaced only with “Intelligence Directorate.” as it was not the duty of the authority to collect intelligence from all agencies. H had a view that Nacta only should analyse the information on counter-terrorism and pass it to the departments concerned for further implementation. He had placed this recommendation along with others before the Nacta reforms committee. The committee was formed on the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Under the original plan of JID, around 35 desks of different intelligence and law enforcement agencies including Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Rangers, provincial counter-terrorism departments, and police etc had to be established. JID has yet to be made fully function but representative of many agencies are working in it.

During the last week of September, PM Imran Khan had decided to review role and functions of Nacta during its first-ever meeting of Board of Governors after its chief himself had criticised over its functioning. While briefing the meeting, Mr Lak had said that the performance of the authority had remained dismal since its inception.

Upon this, the prime minister had decided to constitute a committee for reviewing the role and functioning of the organisation, a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office had said at that time.

The Nacta was primarily established as a think-tank in 2008 to do research and formulate policies on counter-terrorism and counter-extremism and to play the role of a coordinator of intelligence information. According to Mohammad Amir Rana, “JID was conceived even earlier and Nacta was basically established to form a JID and perform other coordination tasks.”