Earlier this past week, Norway’s Police Security Service Janne Kristiansen caused a furore when she accidentally revealed that intelligence agents from Norwegian military intelligence were in Pakistan. On January 20, she resigned from her post in ignominy. The reaction to the spy scandal in Pakistan has been quite interesting too. When asked about the presence of these agents in the country, Interior Minister Rehman Malik denied knowing anything about it and then said that when intelligence agents operate in a country, they do not necessarily seek the host’s permission. While, he may be correct technically, the interior minister did come across as sounding a bit facetious and probably should have been able to respond in a more sensible manner. The minister did say that questions regarding the presence in Pakistan of intelligence agents of other countries was probably something that the country’s intelligence services would be in the know of. However, the minister should not really expect journalists to seek answers to these questions from the intelligence agencies directly. This was perhaps why, when he raised this issue in the Upper House, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani also asked the interior minister to let parliament know if any accord existed between Norway and Pakistan allowing such an arrangement.
The fact is that countries spy on each other all the time, so it’s not exactly a revelation that we have intelligence agents in Pakistan who happen to be from countries other than the US, UK and India. Even in the case of the three named countries, their governments have never officially admitted to their presence — just like Pakistan would never do for its agents overseas. However, since the matter has now come under the spotlight, and has been raised by a senior and respected member of parliament from the ruling party, it would be good if the government were to share details of all arrangements that it has with foreign states, allowing the physical presence of their intelligence agents on Pakistani soil. It is precisely because such official information is hardly ever divulged by the state that an atmosphere is created, particularly in this country, in which conspiracy theories of all kinds are given birth and thrive.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2012.
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