Rabbani wants equal space for civilian govt

PPP senator says current set-up dominated by establishment


Our Correspondent July 18, 2022
A file photo of Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD:

PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani on Sunday said that the equation of civil-establishment relations had historically been heavily tilted towards the latter.

"The [previous] PTI government was … of the establishment, for the establishment and by the establishment,” the former Senate chairman maintained in a statement.

He added that civil space ceded during this period had no parallel in history, for example: parliament [Senate and National Assembly] was controlled by others rather than the chairman and speaker.

The PPP stalwart claimed that motions, questions and other tools of oversight were vetted by “others” than the parliamentary staff.

Secondly, he maintained that the coalition was kept in place by the establishment.

Thirdly, he added that the security establishment ensured what the members of parliament voted for over vital matters.

“Fourthly, crucial decisions pertaining to or discussions related with national security and foreign policy were taken out of parliament.”

Fifthly, he claimed that over 25 autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies or organisations were headed by the security establishment's retired or serving officers.

“The establishment is associated in all major decisions and committees,” he added.

Rabbani stressed the need to address this disequilibrium, firstly, by all political forces agreeing to a Charter of Democracy II.

Secondly, he suggested that all institutions operating under the Constitution to respect the trichotomy of power envisaged in it.

Thirdly, he said there was a need for an economic agenda.

“This will require an intra-institutional dialogue. Parliament should assume its role and set into motion these processes.”

The PPP stalwart is known for his anti-security establishment stance.

In June, he had said the notification allowing the ISI to screen civil servants was "surprising" and added that the move amounted to "ceding civilian space".

His reaction came a day after the government provided legal cover to the country’s premier spy agency to screen civil servants before their induction, appointments and postings, as well as promotions.

In a statement, Rabbani had said the additional task of screening civil servants would “overburden” the ISI, keeping in view of the situation on the eastern and western borders, Afghanistan, Kashmir, internal terrorism and related issues.

The former senate chairman had said the notification indicated a lack of confidence in the civilian apparatus of the state and “also blurs the distinction between the civil and military bureaucracy”.

The Constitution as well as the Civil Servants Act, 1973, were comprehensive laws and did not require screening of civil servants, he had noted.

“The courts have in some judgments disregarded intelligence reports in such matters. Civil servants are already working under the pressure of NAB [National Accountability Bureau] law.”

Sources had revealed that the decision was made in a  federal cabinet meeting but was kept hidden, adding that the ISI had already started working and sought data of government officers and their families from the departments concerned.

With the special status and powers, they had said, the spy agency would keep an eye on the moral and financial affairs of the government officers and would submit details to the promotion boards, especially the high-powered board and Central Selection Board (CSB).

Previously, they maintained, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was performing the vetting process.

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