Oli adds teeth to intelligence body

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu
Draft law proposes that the intelligence chief report directly to the prime minister and the chief secretary on a regular basis

Nov 28, 2018-The country’s premier intelligence agency, National Intelligence Department, will receive a wider mandate, according to a provision in a new law being drafted quietly at the Prime Minister’s Office. The draft of the new intelligence law, details of which were briefed to the Post by two senior officials at the PM’s Office, will replace the Special Service Act-1985.

The intelligence department (NID), which used to be a part of the Home Ministry, was brought under the purview of the PMO when Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli assumed office nine months ago. Oli had vowed to transform the department into a national security agency that would not only gather and analyse information but also help set key national security policies.

The draft is scheduled to be presented at the winter session of Parliament after discussion with the prime minister.

The draft law proposes that the intelligence chief would report directly to the prime minister and the chief secretary on a regular basis.

In the old arrangement, the head of the intelligence used to report to the home minister and the home secretary and had access to the prime minister only on special occasions.

Another departure in the new draft is the extension of the scope of the intelligence body once it comes under the PMO’s full control.

The department’s intelligence-gathering mandate would be extended to constitutional bodies as well as Cabinet members and other state and non-state agencies, a senior official told the Post on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the draft law.

In a recent policy briefing, former NID chief Devi Ram Sharma had stressed that safeguarding national interests would be the most challenging task for the department given the country’s geopolitical sensitivities.

“If the organisation is not restructured in the federal framework, we may have to trade off our values, creed and the goals in securing our national strategy,” Sharma wrote in a recent policy paper.

The new draft law also proposes recruiting talents for its covert and overt operations. Earlier, the department used to recruit university toppers but after the restoration of democracy in 1990, it has turned into an agency employing cadres of the ruling party, turning the department into a mundane spy agency with few skilled professionals.

Officials believe that the NID will get more powers and resources under the prime minister’s watch. “We cannot disclose all the provisions,” another official familiar with the draft told the Post.

In line with the federal set-up, several government offices and entities have moved to provinces for intelligence operations, but the intelligence department will be located in Kathmandu and will not have any provincial branches.

“No provincial government can form a separate intelligence body, so it will work as a centralised agency,” said Ramesh Dhakal, secretary at the PMO, who oversees the drafting of the legislation.

The intelligence department, currently experiencing a resource crunch, will now receive funds and special perks for its employees similar to the other three security agencies—Nepal Army, Nepal Police, and Armed Police Force.

Home Secretary Prem Rai told the Post that his ministry was not consulted while drafting of the law. Since the organisation is secret, details related to it should be secret, said Rai. “I don’t know what’s there in the draft.”

Published: 28-11-2018 07:24

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