ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Wednesday said all three major parties had suffered from the imbalance in relationship with the military and therefore should prudently look at the past mistakes and try to rectify them.
Speaking at a dialogue hosted by Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI), a think-tank, on civil-military imbalance, the former foreign minister called for cooperation among political rivals on this issue and asked them not to remain stuck in the past.
The discussion was held between three main political parties to analyse the state of civil-military ties in the context of the political instability in the country.
“If we continue with the blame game, we won’t be able to move ahead,” Mr Qureshi said, adding that national consensus would have to be forged on this issue.
Criticising the government for giving a role to Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in vetting postings and appointments of government officials, he said the move would strengthen the spy agency’s involvement in civilian matters.
He regretted that the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) did not fully implement the Charter of Democracy (CoD), which they signed in 2006 for restoring balance of power between various state institutions and reclaiming the space lost by the mainstream political parties. He said it needed to be studied why these signatories did not fully implement CoD, adding that “there is now a need for an expanded CoD”.
Speaking on the occasion, Senate Defence Committee Chairman Mushahid Hussain Syed said any effort at redressing civil-military imbalance should begin with political parties agreeing to take back former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s directive that mandated ISI’s role in politics.
The defence committee chairman and PML-N senator said in 1975, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had mandated the ISI to keep an eye on political parties on national security grounds.
He said all political parties should reach a consensus on withdrawing the directive. “This could be a starting point,” he added.
Senator Mushahid Hussain said political parties should decide among themselves that “road to Islamabad would not lie through Rawalpindi, Washington or London, but through the Constitution and ballot box”.
He said there should be a realisation that if political parties use military to get power and then rely on them for running the affairs, then the military would keep deciding the time of their exit.
Dealing with this imbalance, the PML-N senator said it might look difficult, but it could be done if there was political will and unity among political forces on this issue.
PPP leader Farhatullah Babar said 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 said.
IPI Executive Director Prof Sajjad Bokhari said it was time for politicians to stop seeking military’s patronage for their electoral prospects.
“This opens the door to manipulation,” he added.
Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2022