Islamabad: The civil-military imbalance has
made Pakistan a security-driven state and the issue can only
be collectively tackled by Parliament, the government,
political parties, media and civil society, a top leader of
the ruling PPP has said.
No government in the past has succeeded in correcting the
civil-military imbalance and no future administration is
likely to succeed without the backing of political parties and
parliament, said Farhatullah Babar, a member of the upper
house of Parliament and the spokesman for President Asif Ali
It was widely perceived that critical policies on foreign
relations and national security were made by the security
establishment without oversight by parliament and political
forces, Babar said at a discussion yesterday on parliamentary
oversight of defence and national security.
"Indeed, the security establishment seems to have struck
with a vengeance whenever civil-political forces tried to
shape foreign policy," Babar said at the meet organised by the
Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and
Giving examples, Babar said late military ruler
Zia-ul-Haq had used Islam as a facade to dismiss a premier who
tried to take political parties on board on the Geneva Accords
Similarly, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s bold move
to normalise relations with India was scuttled through the
Kargil conflict and Sharif was punished with dismissal, a
court case and a decade of exile, he said.
Babar said it was widely believed that slain former Prime
Minister Benazir Bhutto was not allowed to pick her foreign
minister in her first government.
"This demonstrates the refusal of the establishment even
to share the foreign policy formulation," he said.
During Bhutto`s second tenure, according to her account,
she refused to acquiesce into misadventures like Kargil and
was dubbed a "security risk", said Babar.
The spokesman for President Zardari revealed that when
parliament sought a copy of the law governing state security
agencies some years ago, it was bluntly told to keep its hands
off because it was a "secret and sensitive" issue.
The civil-military imbalance deteriorated during
successive spells of military rule, especially due to bodies
such as the National Security Council and ordinances that
altered the balance and were indemnified by parliament, he
Referring to changes since the PPP-led government came to
power in 2008, Babar said: "The defence budget had been placed
before parliament for the first time. It is now for the
members to make use of the opportunity."
MPs should endeavour to ensure that replies to their
questions in parliament were not denied under the he facade of
"national interest" or "secret and sensitive" issues.
He said PILDAT must study how power has gradually moved
from parliament and civil governments to military and military
Another important development is the setting up of the
Parliamentary Committee on National Security, which has
consistently worked to strengthen Parliament’s role, Babar
Raza Rabbani, another senior PPP leader and head of the
Parliamentary Committee on National Security, said fixing the
civil-military imbalance requires a change in mindset.
"It is important to understand that this is essentially
to change the mindset in which a civilian`s patriotism is
always suspect and only a uniformed person can grant a
certificate of patriotism.
"According to this mindset, civilians and politicians are
not even competent to deal with issues of national security
and foreign policy and cannot be trusted with it," he said.