'Use of military as prop aggravated civil-military imbalance'

Senior politicians on Wednesday acknowledged that the use of military as a prop by political parties has aggravated the civil–military imbalance, calling for a national dialogue to fix this ‘broken relationship’.

They were speaking at a high-level political party leaders’ dialogue hosted by the Islamabad Policy Institute, a think-tank, on civil–military imbalance.

The discussion, participated by leaders of the three major political parties – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party – was held to analyse the state of civil-military ties in the context of political instability in the country.

Speaking on the occasion, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said all three major parties had suffered from the imbalance in the relationship with the military, therefore they should prudently look at the past mistakes and try to rectify them.

Urging cooperation among political rivals on this issue, Qureshi asked them not to remain stuck in the past. “If we continue with the blame game, we won’t be able to move ahead,” he said, adding that national consensus would have to be forged on this issue.

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Criticising the government for giving a role to the Inter-Services Intelligence in vetting postings and appointments of government officials, he said the move would strengthen spy agency’s involvement in civilian matters.

He regretted that PML-N and PPP did not fully implement the Charter of Democracy, which they signed in 2006 for restoring balance of power between various state institutions and reclaiming the space lost by the mainstream political parties.

The PTI leader stressed the need to study why these signatories did not fully implement CoD. “There is now a need for an expanded CoD,” he maintained.

Chairman Senate Defence Committee Senator Mushahid Hussain, who represents PML-N, said political parties should decide among themselves that “road to Islamabad would not lie through Rawalpindi, Washington or London, but through Constitution and ballot box” and if they remain steadfast on this then “neither ISI nor any general can encroach on their domain”.

He furthered that there should be a realisation that if political parties use military to get power and then rely on them for running affairs, the military would keep deciding the time of their exit.

Dealing with this imbalance, Mushahid added, might look difficult, but it could be done if there was a political will and unity among the political forces on the issue.

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He recalled how the PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto formalised ISI’s role in domestic politics through an executive order issued in 1975.

Addressing the audience, PPP Secretary General Farhatullah Babar said that a dialogue between political parties on this issue was not enough.

“Once the political forces reach some sort of consensus on ties with military, a two-pronged strategy would have to be adopted vis-à-vis the army – holding a dialogue with their top brass, but at the same time increasing parliamentary oversight of defence related matters.”

He cautioned that civil-military imbalance was no more a governance issue and had instead started undermining the national security because of the widening disconnect between the people and the military.

In his concluding remarks, Executive Director of IPI Prof Sajjad Bokhari said it was time for politicians to stop seeking military’s patronage for their electoral prospects.

“This opens the door for manipulation,” he remarked.

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