SAFMA seminar: ‘Politicians should make national security policy’

Speakers call for parliamentary oversight of defence spending and foreign policy formulation.

Saleha Rauf May 16, 2011


Pakistan’s national security policy should be defined by parliament and not the army, said speakers and audience members at a seminar on the ‘Prospects and pitfalls of the post-Osama Pak-US relationship’ organised by the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) on Monday.

The speakers said that the elected government should have full control over the armed forces and intelligence agencies, who must completely submit to the government in accordance with the Constitution. They also agreed that the defence budget should be reduced and presented in parliament.

The seminar was meant to include a lecture by Daniel Markey, senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent American think tank. However, he could not attend for unexplained reasons.

Journalists Shafqat Mehmood, Jugnu Mohsin and Imtiaz Alam and political scientist Khalid Mehmood were the main speakers. Many people from civil society and the general public participated in the seminar.

Mohsin criticised the division of resources in Pakistan, saying that Rs900 billion of the Rs1.6 trillion budget was spent on defence. She said that India’s economy was growing at nine per cent a year, while Pakistan lacked leadership. She said that it was futile to consider India a rival and to gear the country towards fighting it.

Alam said that the operation to kill Osama bin Laden should have been a joint US-Pakistan operation, but emotion should not be made part of the issue. “People always talk about the honour and dignity of Pakistan. I wonder how they can use such terms when we are a beggar nation facing a severe economic crisis because of our wrong decisions. We should develop a foreign policy that benefits the nation,” he said.

He said Pakistan’s relationship with any country should be clearly defined and on a long-term basis to the mutual benefit of both sides, without providing room to other countries to take unilateral action, “nor allowing any sanctuary to the terrorists on our soil or falling prey to provocateurs who advocate a course of confrontation.”

During the open discussion, a participant said that the handover of Shamsi airbase to the United Arab Emirates was also a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. Another audience member said that she had read in the American press that the US didn’t inform Pakistan in advance of the Abbottabad operation because it feared that elements in the establishment would inform the terrorists.

Another participant suggested that religious parties should be banned from politics. She also said the US government should release photos of Bin Laden’s corpse to dispel doubts that he was still alive or had been dead for a long time.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2011.


Noor Nabi | 10 years ago | Reply Of course, of course, parliament is supreme. Did anyone note that in the recent in-camera hearings about the Abbottabad debacle the military leadership was, for the first time, showing some overdue humility and acknowledging that parliament was the boss? No more martial laws, no more toppling of governments, no more Changa Manga politics, no more control over foreign policy and, last but not least, no more blank cheques under the false garb of protecting Pakistan.
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