Islamabad: The civil-military imbalance has made Pakistan a security-driven state and the issue can only be collectively tackled by the Parliament, the government, political parties, media and civil society, a top leader of the ruling PPP has said.

No government in the past has succeeded in correcting the civil-military imbalance and no future administration is likely to succeed without the backing of political parties and the Parliament, said Farhatullah Babar, a member of the upper house of the Parliament and the spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari.

It was widely perceived that critical policies on foreign relations and national security were made by the security establishment without oversight by the Parliament and political forces, Babar said at a discussion yesterday on the Parliamentary oversight of defence and national security.

"Indeed, the security establishment seems to have struck with a vengeance whenever civil-political forces tried to shape foreign policy," Babar said at the meet organised by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Trasnparency.

Giving examples, Babar said late military ruler Zia-ul-Haq had used Islam as a facade to dismiss a premier who tried to take political parties on board on the Geneva Accords on Afghanistan.

Similarly, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s bold move to normalise relations with India was scuttled through the Kargil conflict and Sharif was punished with dismissal, a court case and a decade of exile, he said.

Babar said it was widely believed that slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was not allowed to pick her foreign minister in her first government.

"This demonstrates the refusal of the establishment even to share the foreign policy formulation," he said. During Bhutto's second tenure, according to her account, she refused to acquiesce into misadventures like Kargil and was dubbed a "security risk", said Babar.

The spokesman for President Zardari revealed that when the Parliament sought a copy of the law governing state security agencies some years ago, it was bluntly told to keep its hands off because it was a "secret and sensitive" issue.

The civil-military imbalance deteriorated during successive spells of military rule, especially due to bodies such as the National Security Council and ordinances that altered the balance and were indemnified by the Parliament, he said.

Referring to changes since the PPP-led government came to power in 2008, Babar said: "The defence budget had been placed before the Parliament for the first time. It is now for the members to make use of the opportunity."

MPs should endeavour to ensure that replies to their questions in the Parliament were not denied under the he facade of "national interest" or "secret and sensitive" issues.

He said PILDAT must study how power has gradually moved from the Parliament and civil governments to military and military dictators.

Another important development is the setting up of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, which has consistently worked to strengthen the Parliament’s role, Babar said.

Raza Rabbani, another senior PPP leader and head of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, said fixing the civil-military imbalance requires a change in mindset.

"It is important to understand that this is essentially to change the mindset in which a civilian's patriotism is always a suspect and only a uniformed person can grant a certificate of patriotism.

"According to this mindset, civilians and politicians are not even competent to deal with issues of national security and foreign policy and cannot be trusted with it," he said.