Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has notified the intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as a Special Vetting Agency (SVA) for verification and screening of all public office holders.

In doing so, the government has given legal cover to a practice that had already been in place, but had not been formalised as part of protocol.

“The prime minister is pleased to notify Directorate General Inter-Services Intelligence as Special Vetting Agency (SVA) for verification and screening of all Public Office Holders (officers category) for induction, important posting/appointments and promotions,” said the official notification issued by the Establishment Division following the premier’s approval on Friday.

The development comes days after Supreme Court restrained the executive authorities from transfers, postings and removal of officials involved in the investigation or prosecution of high-profile corruption cases against top government functionaries, especially PM Shehbaz and his son Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz.

A five-judge larger bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial had issued the verdict while hearing a suo motu case regarding the alleged government interference in the affairs of prosecution as well as investigation branches in high-profile cases.

The bench had issued notices to interior secretary, director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), chairman and regional directors of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the prosecutors general and the advocates general and the head of prosecution branches of FIA and NAB to file their statements in writing.

During the hearing of the case last month, the Supreme Court observed that it would examine changes being made to the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 – the NAB law – by the federal government as it could not overlook the efforts to “minimise the role” of the accountability watchdog.

The chief justice also commented on the appointment of the new NAB chief following the retirement of Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal. The top judge hoped that the federal government would appoint a person of integrity to head the bureau.

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