The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday hastily authorised an undisclosed and unsanctioned transfer of arms and ammunition worth almost Rs12 million between the Inter Services Agency (ISI) and National Highways and Motorway Police (NHMP) while auditing their records from 2013. What stands out is not the action of the PAC, for it was always within its power to do so, but the nervous haste with which it swept the matter under the rug. Objections from other committee members were ignored as were the internal procedures for such an action. It seems that when it comes to security agencies, our accountability regimes are much more forgiving.

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Of course, the transfer of equipment and assets between government agencies is a matter of routine; underused and idle assets are often offloaded to departments that need them more. However, there are rules and procedures to be followed that make this a legitimate exercise. Here the procedure for open tender and normal arms procurement from the Pakistan Ordinance Factory (POF) were ignored. In the absence of a satisfactory explanation – and there is a lack of one in this case – kickbacks and financial impropriety can be assumed.

This does not mean that corrupt practices definitely took place – only that the circumstances are suspicious enough to warrant a full investigation. This is exactly why the PAC turning blind eye to this instance is so puzzling. Senator Chaudhry Tanveer Khan, a member of the ruling party, is correct in saying that “I cannot understand why we feel insecure,” adding: “Had it been any other institution, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) would have been given exemplary punishment.”

It is this exceptionalism afforded to the intelligence and armed forces that create a sense of exploitation among the civilian masses. If members of the ISI and the NHMP have broken federal laws while making this deal they should be investigated and punished like any other government official would have been.