Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is the border control, criminal investigation, counter-intelligence and security agency controlled by the Interior Ministry of Pakistan and is responsible for investigations into terrorism, espionage, federal crimes, smuggling and other specific crimes.

The FIA agency was established in 1974 by the Constitution of Pakistan and is managed by the Ministry of Interior. Interpol collaborates closely with the FIA in order to carry out international operations. The agency is based in Islamabad and has branches and field offices in all of Pakistan’s major cities.

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Objectives and Mission Statements

FIA’s main roles and responsibilities include protection of Pakistan’s interests, enforcing criminal laws, and maintaining law enforcement in Pakistan. Currently, FIA mission statement is to:

  1. To promote a culture of merit at FIA by achieving excellence.
  2. To provide ongoing professional development.
  3. Maintaining an effective internal accountability system.
  4. Utilizing technology and providing meaningful feedback.

— Mission Statement of FIA

Departments & Priorities of FIA

As of 2021, Federal Investigation Agency FIA Pakistan has 11 active departments to lead criminal charges and investigation, with priorities:

  • Anti-Corruption
  • Anti Human Trafficking and Smuggling
  • Counter-Terrorism
  • Economic Crime
  • Electricity, Gas, Oil Anti Theft Unit
  • FIA Academy
  • Immigration
  • Interpol
  • Intellectual Property Rights
  • Integrated Border Management System
  • National Response Center For Cyber Crimes

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Priorities

  • Counter-terrorism Wing (CTW) – This group is responsible for protecting Pakistan from all types of terrorism, including cyber-terror, bioterrorism, chemical terrorism, electronic terrorism, and nuclear terrorism.
  • Anti-Corruption Wing (ACW) – Investigates all public corruption and combats it at all levels of command
  • Economic Crime Wing (ECW) – Protecting intellectual property rights in Pakistan as well as protecting the economic security of the country.
  • Immigration Wing (IW) – Resisting illegal immigration in Pakistan and combating human trafficking.
  • Technical Wing (TW) – Assists with the investigation of high technology crimes and protects Pakistan from foreign espionage and intelligence operations.
  • Legal Branch (LB) – Protects civil rights and provides legal guidance regarding all administrative and operational issues.
  • National Central Bureau (NCB) – Assists Interpol and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in combating transnational and national criminal organizations.
  • Anti Trafficking Unit (ATU) – Tasked with combating major violent crimes, ensuring nationwide coverage of human trafficking, as well as preventing and protecting trafficking victims.

History

Background

During World War II, the British establishment of the Special Police Establishment (SPE) in British India was aimed at investigating Indian Civil Service (ICS) corruption rampant in the Supplies and Procurement Department of British India.

Pakistan became independent in 1947, and the Special Police Establishment (SPE) was divided equally among the governments of India, which created the CBI, and Pakistan, which retained it as the Pakistan Special Police Establishment (PSPE).

Apart from investigating corruption and bribery against federal government officials, the PSPE has been given the power to investigate the following laws:

  • Official Secret Act, 1923
  • Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947
  • Passport Offenses Act, 1952
  • Customs Act, 1959

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Creation

Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto implemented police reforms following the war with India in 1971 by using recommendations from the report submitted by bureaucrat G, Ahmad in Prime Minister Secretariat, on 7 March 1972.

The Federal Investigation Agency Pakistan was established on 13 January 1975 by enshrining the FIA Act, 1974, in the state constitution. The agency initially focused on building efforts against organized crimes, smuggling, human trafficking, immigration offences, and passport scandals.

Federal Investigation Agency FIA took on cases of corruption at all levels of government when it was founded. Though ostensibly focused on investigating crime, the FIA also investigated political opponents and critics who were accused of financial impropriety, such as taking bribes while in office.

National security and efforts against terrorism

Its primary function was to investigate public corruption, but in the 1980s, the FIA’s investigation scope widened to include communist terrorism as well. FIA agents were successful in investigating, interrogating, and holding Murtaza Bhutto for responsibility in the hijacking of a Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 720CR in 1981.

In Syria, the FIA closely monitored Murtaza Bhutto’s movements and was able to contain the influence of the Al-Zulfikar group. Undercover operations conducted by the FIA in 1985 broke up the drug trade, with the dealers and their associates apprehended. With the arrest of the key drug lord in the Pakistan League Affair, the FIA ended the drug trade.

Jam Saqi, leader of the Pakistan Communist Party, was investigated by the FIA from 1982 to 1988. The FIA assisted with court proceedings relating to its investigations. In 1986, the FIA agents succeeded in infiltrating Pan Am Flight 73’s terrorist group, and the Libyan commercial pilot suspected of being involved in the hijacking was quickly detained.

Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto expanded the scope of FIA after winning a plurality of votes in the 1993 Pakistani general elections, establishing FIA as akin to the intelligence community’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). A senior FIA agent was appointed, and the agency began working closely with the FBI as it conducted investigations into the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center in New York.

The FBI and the FIA, among other things, conducted investigations into the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center. It was the FBI and FIA who found Ramzi Yousef, the bomber’s mastermind, in Pakistan. An investigation that resulted in Yousef’s extradition to the U.S. was completed in 1995.

The Federal Investigation Agency FIA directed by Malik utilized the 1990s as a time to conduct investigations and action against al-Qaeda operatives. Youssef and Mohammed were captured by the FBI in 1995 and 2002, respectively. The FIA heavily focused on counter-terrorism and pursued crime syndicates linked to terrorist organizations.

A terrorist organisation had mounted a secret competition against the FIA, which was said to be launching secret intelligence operations against them. After successfully conducting operations against terrorism in 1996, the FIA had gained worldwide prominence despite difficulties.

According to the FIA, Sultan Mahmood was successfully investigated in 2001 for his alleged involvement in nuclear terrorism but was cleared of the charges in 2002 by the FIA. A counterterrorism wing (CTW) was established by the FIA in 2003. Agents of the CTW were trained and provided with equipment handling by the FBI through ATTP.

The Federal Investigation Agency FIA started an investigation into Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and was monitoring his travels. Mohammed’s case was investigated by FIA agents and FBI agents.

Through the FIA’s successful investigations, Mohammed was subsequently captured by the ISI and the CIA in a paramilitary operation in Rawalpindi, Punjab, in 2003. FIA investigators continued to follow Afia Siddiqui in Karachi in 2002 and kept strict surveillance on him. The FIA investigated Siddiqui’s movement and activities beginning in 2003, sharing the information with the U.S.

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Anti-infringement efforts

The FBI filed a petition that contested Pakistan’s commitment in 2001 to pursuing infringement within its national borders, which prompted investigators to intensify efforts against copyright violations.

Some copyright infringement investigations were conducted by the FIA in 2002, and Pakistan was on track to lose its duty-free GSP agreements with the US in 2005. The FIA adopted a schedule of offences that included sections of the Copyright Ordinance 1962 to prevent any further negative consequences.

A law established in 2005 paved the way for raids of the country’s largest video wholesale center: The Rainbow Centre, under the direction of the federal interior ministry.

It was highly successful to raid the factories of the dealers inside the centre, resulting in a 60% reduction in bootleg video sales. A spokesman from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), later confirmed, that many of the outlets had stopped selling unlicensed video goods and were now selling mobile phones, highlighting that the FIA’s raids and the resultant legal action were a success

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Intelligence Operations

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto implemented many recommendations of the Hamoodur Rahman Commission’s papers in 1972–73 after suffering intelligence failures in East Pakistan. Accordingly, Prime Minister Bhutto reformed the FIA, establishing it on the same pattern as the American Federal Bureau of Investigation, which protects the nation not only from internal crises but from suspected foreign threats as well.

During the 1970s, Prime Minister Bhutto instructed Pakistan’s intelligence agencies to arrange for military intelligence programs in other countries to secure scientific expertise and technical papers in line with the Alsos Mission of the Manhattan Project.

Under the government, both the FBI and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) were given extensive powers and their operations were extended during the 1970s. Although the ISI lost its importance in the 1970s, the ISI gained its importance back in the 1980s after successfully conducting military intelligence against the Soviet Union.

The ISI received training from the CIA in the 1980s, and President Zia-ul-Haq subsequently improved ISI methods of intelligence gathering as a result of recognizing the competition.

The ISI and FIA were essentially at war in the poverty-stricken politics of Pakistan during the 1990s. According to published accounts, the ISI used Islamic guerrillas to undermine FIA credibility, and the FIA allegedly turned to Mossad and the Israeli Intelligence Community through General Musharraf to bring the terrorist network to an end.

As the 1990s progressed, there was continued criticism and competition within the intelligence community for credibility.

The FBI launched the largest investigation in its history following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States and soon discovered that the hijackers were linked to al-Qaeda, headed by Saudi exile Osama bin Laden.

The FIA gained credibility over the ISI just as it did after the 9/11 attacks in the United States. Additionally, the FIA and ISI were mentioned in the television series The Path to 9/11.

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Special FIA teams

The Pakistan agency FIA formed the Immigration Wing (IW) on 9 June 1975 to assist NARA agents and officials with investigations into illegal immigration into Pakistan. Anti-Human Smuggling Wing was established in 1979 to combat human smuggling and human trafficking. In 1975, the Technical Wing was created to combat financial crimes.

To eliminate terrorism in Pakistan, the FIA formed an elite counter-terrorism unit in 2003. A team called the Counter-Terrorism Wing (CTW) is responsible for all counterterrorism actions and related procedures. The FIA also established the Cyber Investigation Unit (CIU) and the Computer Analysis and Forensic Laboratory during that same year.

Since then, the Foreign Intelligence Agency has assigned its agents and provided its officials with electronic equipment and training. Further expansion of the CTW occurred in 2011, and an additional Terrorist Financing Investigation Unit (TFIU) was established by the FIA to lead operations against terrorist financing.

In addition to the CTW operatives, other intelligence agencies have used CTW operatives as part of joint investigations against terrorist groups. CTW has been involved in a wide variety of high-profile cases involving terrorism. Additionally, the organization has maintained a list of individuals most wanted for their involvement in terrorism, whether indirectly or directly.

A joint investigation into the Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad was successfully conducted and concluded by the FIA in 2008. The FIA shared the majority of its findings gathered through the interrogation of arrested suspects with the FBI to assist in the hunt for al-Qaeda’s top leaders.

ACW, which was established in 2004 to conduct investigations into corrupt officials and other white-collar criminals, was another FIA special team. This unit of the FIA was also created in 2004 as the Economic Crime Wing (ECW).

However, it was transferred to the NAB in 2008 and returned to the FIA in 2009. In 2014, the FIA formed an elite response team in collaboration with the National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) to carry out decisive and comprehensive counter-terrorism actions, based on the intelligence gained internally, against terror groups.

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Organization

The head of the Pakistan FIA is appointed by the Prime Minister, who in turn is confirmed by the President. The Director of FIAs is appointed either by high-ranking police officials or by civil bureaucrats.

A DG of the FIA reports directly to the Interior Secretary. To ensure effective monitoring and the smooth functioning of the FIA’s operations throughout the country, three Additional Director-Generals and ten Directors are assigned to assist the Director-General.

The FIA official website is https://www.fia.gov.pk.

Structure

The headquarters of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is located in Islamabad. Director generals are appointed by the Minister of the Interior as the agency’s presiding officers. There are 7 provincial offices under the headquarters, including Sindh-I, Sindh-II, Punjab-I, Punjab-II, KPK, Balochistan and Federal Capital Islamabad. 

Provincial heads of agencies are known as “Directors”. The provincial-level has a variety of smaller offices known as wings or circles, including those that deal with crime, corporate crime, banking crime, and human trafficking.

For running the bureau, they are headed by the assistant and deputy directors, assisted by investigation officers, such as inspectors, sub-inspectors, and assistant sub-inspectors. The agency has several major wings, including the Anti-Corruption or Crime Wing, the Cyber Crime Wing, the Immigration Wing, the Technical Wing, the Legal Wing, the Administrative Wing, and the National Response Center for Cyber Crimes (NR3C).

Additionally, some branches work in coordination with the above-mentioned wings, namely: Interpol branch, legal branch, counter-terrorism branch (SIG), economic crime branch, intellectual property crime branch, rights branch, anti-human smuggling branch, immigration branch, administration branch, PISCES branch, implementation and monitoring branch.

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FIA Director Generals

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is headed by a Director-General (DG), appointed by the federal government. The DG is usually a very senior Police Officer from BPS 21 or 22, based in the FIA’s Islamabad headquarters. At present, Sanaullah Abbasi serves as the Director-General, a PSP officer who was appointed on 9th June 2021.

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