ISLAMABAD: While holding the previous PTI government responsible for “an increased role” of the establishment in government’s affairs, PPP leader and former Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani said that the civilian space ceded to the military during previous government’s tenure was “unprecedented”.

In a statement released on Sunday, the PPP leader said that historically, civil-military relations have been heavily tilted towards the military, but the PTI government “was a government of the establishment, for the establishment and by the establishment”.

He claimed that during the PTI-led government, Parlia­ment was controlled by “others” rather than the Senate chairman and the National Assembly speaker.

“Motions, questions and other tools of parliamentary oversight were vetted by ‘the others’ rather than parliament’s staff,” Mr Rabbani alleged.

He claimed that members’ presence in Parliament during voting on vital issues was ensured by the establishment.

“Crucial decisions pertaining to or discussions on national security and foreign policy were taken outside Parliament,” he added.

The establishment had a role in all major decisions and there was a greater militarisation of civilian institutions, Mr Rabbani alleged.

He also said that the PTI-led coalition government was kept intact by the establishment.

He said that during the previous government, 25 autonomous or semi-autonomous bodies and organisations were headed by retired or serving officers of the armed forces.

While emphasising the need to address this disequilibrium, Mr Rabbani proposed three actions.

“Firstly, all political parties should agree on a second Charter of Democracy. Secondly, all institutions functioning under or through the Constitution should respect the trichotomy of power as envisaged in the Constitution. Thirdly, an economic agenda [should be chalked out]. This will require an intra-institutional dialogue and Parliament should assume its role and set this process into motion,” Mr Rabbani said

This statement came a day after PTI Chairman Imran Khan deplored the imbalance in civil-military relations and blamed previous the PPP and PML-N governments for ceding space to the army to `save their skin` in corruption cases.

Addressing a seminar on freedom of expression, the former prime minister said because of this imbalance, a situation has developed that [now] the establishment isn’t realising [the consequences of] the actions it is taking. He was referring to a crackdown against his party following his ouster as a result of the no-confidence motion.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2022

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