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> Parliamentary Oversight of Security Sector
Roundtable Discussion
February 25, 2005
Best Western, Islamabad



PILDAT, in association with the Geneva Centre of Democratic Control of Armed Forces – DCAF, held the launching ceremony of Urdu Translation of Handbook on Parliamentary Oversight of the Security Sector on February 25, 2005 at Hotel Best Western Islamabad.


The handbook in English language was prepared by Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces – DCAF and the Inter-Parliamentary Union – IPU (of which Pakistan is a member) so that it can act as a concise and accessible guide offering a comprehensive set of practices and mechanisms which might shape Parliaments contribution to security sector. In order to make this handbook and its content more accessible for the benefit of Pakistani Parliament and Parliamentarians, PILDAT, in keeping with its mission of strengthening democracy and democratic institutions, prepared and published an Urdu Version of the Handbook in association with DCAF.


At the occasion of the launching of Urdu edition by PILDAT, in association with DCAF, a Roundtable Discussion was also organised on the topic of “How can Parliament and Parliamentary Committees in Pakistan engage in Oversight of the Security Sector: Challenges and Opportunities.”

Introduction of Speakers

The launching ceremony and the roundtable discussion were chaired by Senator Nisar A. Memon, Chairman Senate of Pakistan’s Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production (PML). Mr. Philip H. Fluri, Deputy Director DCAF and Mr. Arnold Luethold, Senior Fellow DCAF presented an overview of the book and shared their thoughts on the topic of Parliamentary Oversight of the Security Sector: Lessons, Tools and Techniques. Speakers of the roundtable discussion included Lt. Gen. (retd.) Talat Masood, Analyst; Senator Farhatullah Babar, Member of Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production (PPPP), Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Former Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs & Finance (PML-N), Senator Prof. Khurshid Ahmad, Chairman Institute of Policy Studies and Parliamentary Leader MMA and Senator S. M. Zafar, Chairman Senate Committee on Human Rights (PML).


Participants at the roundtable discussion included leading Senators and MNAs from treasury and opposition benches, former military generals, representatives of development agencies and the media. The newly-appointed interns with the Senate Committee on Defence & Defence Production (under a Parliamentary Internship Programme implemented by PILDAT and supported by USAID) also participated in the roundtable discussion as observers.

Formal Launch of the Urdu Edition

Senator Nisar A. Memon, formally launched the Urdu edition of the handbook through untying the ribbon at the start.


Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director of PILDAT, formally welcomed the Chairperson and distinguished panel of speakers and the participants. He briefly spoke about PILDAT’s association with DCAF which started at Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in 2002. PILDAT, due to its interest in strengthening democracy and democratic institutions, sought to partner with DCAF in the area of building parliamentary oversight of the security sector in Pakistan. PILDAT was happy to bring out the Urdu edition of the handbook prepared by DCAF for the aid of Pakistani Parliament and Parliamentarians, he added, and also sought to deepen the civil-military dialogue necessary for improving civil-military relations and fixing the equation of civil and military in the country for strengthening of democracy. He said that Parliament, being premium institution of a country, has the right and responsibility of oversight of all sectors including defence and security. This principle is recognised in Pakistan as well and is at the heart of the committee system of Parliament in Pakistan, he said. There is a need, however, to exercise the right of oversight prudently and effectively and the handbook provides international best practises on the issue to learn from.

Mr. Mehboob invited Senator Nisar Memon to chair the session and begin its proceedings.

Mr. Arnold Luethold
Senior Research Fellow, DCAF

Mr. Luethold thanked PILDAT for translating the handbook into Urdu and said that it was a great moment for him to be a part of the launching of Urdu translation of handbook with such a participation of Pakistani Parliamentarians. He believed that Pakistan offers itself on many grounds as an example to the Islamic World: it is the first country of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) to have translated this handbook into its national language; it has a very intense debate on democracy and an intense interaction on civil military relations in the country and it is also a country with freedom of information laws. PILDAT, he said, is an ideal partner for DCAF in this country as a civil-society organisation dedicated to strengthening democracy and committed to improving civil-military equation. As PILDAT, DCAF also seeks to promote transparency and accountability. Good governance, he held, makes valuable contribution through peace and prosperity and DCAF’s objective is to support interested parties in improving governance in defence and the security sector. Pakistan is one of the few countries of OIC who have defence committees of Parliament. DCAF will try to connect these committees to a larger debate on this issue in the world, he said.

The handbook carries certain important messages, said Mr. Luethold. Firstly, in a democracy, all activities of a government are of relevance for Parliament. Secondly, Armed forces are part of the ruled and not of ruler; they are subject to the political rule of the Parliament which helps limit their potential use and misuse. Thirdly, dialogue is essential in this area while trust and confidence-building is necessary between Parliament and the security sector, he said.

The security sector is generally difficult to oversee as secrecy laws hinder efforts of transparency, said Mr. Luethold. In many cases, however, this secrecy is unnecessary and often it limits parliamentary oversight. Generally absence of freedom of information laws also creates a hindrance in transparency but Pakistan does not have that issue. Skill is another requirement for Parliament and Parliamentarians to engage in oversight of the security sector, he added. Parliament generally lacks time and the knowledge to do so. Another issue is that international security cooperation does not always work in creating transparency at home. It is also wrong to perceive military as an adversary in establishing avenues of Parliamentary oversight of security sector. Military or the security sector should favour their integration as they should have nothing to hide. However, oversight of security sector becomes a real challenge in the presence of these issues, not only in Pakistan but also for developed democracies, he analysed. The handbook offers a number of suggestions to overcome these issues based on international best practises rather than providing a concrete recipe. DCAF believes that it can learn many things from Pakistan and we would like to cooperate with PILDAT and other institutes in this regard, he said.

Role of Parliamentarians in security sector oversight means that Parliamentarians have a role in review cycle. Clear terms of reference for committees and their functions are required for this role. But effective Parliamentary involvement and oversight of security sector demands that executive also has an effective control over the security sector. Several countries of the OIC, however, do not even have ministers of defence in place, he added.

Mr. Luethold reiterated that DCAF is pleased to present an Urdu edition of the handbook in association with PILDAT. PILDAT, in almost no time, has translated, printed and made the handbook available to Pakistani Parliament and Parliamentarians and we congratulate PILDAT for that, he said. The availability of handbook in Urdu, however, is not an end in itself but there is ground to be covered in terms of preparation and sensitisation of Parliamentarians and Parliamentary committees for use of this handbook to achieve the objective of parliamentary oversight of the security sector, he said.


Mr. Philip Fluri
Deputy Director DCAF

Introducing the book as its editor, Mr. Fluri said that the book took a long time in preparation because it covers a simple subject and simple books are more difficult to write than difficult books. The handbook went through many committees, workshops and three years of work before it was finalised. There is a lot of international experience in this book, and Secretary General of IPU was a co-editor, he said. The effort put into this book, however, has been met with enthusiasm and it has so far been translated in 30 different languages and 60,000 copies of it have been distributed around the world, he informed. DCAF is very pleased by the launching of Urdu version as it is very well aware of role of Parliament in oversight of security sector in Pakistan and the role Pakistan can play for the Islamic world in this regard, he said.

The first focus of the book is on Parliamentarians. It provides good practices from established democracies in a comparative manner. The second focus of the book is for everyone who needs to know about the work of Parliament in a democracy; hence it is useful for scholars, media, military and the civil society. Main message of the handbook is that oversight can only work if there is division of labour in a society, he added. It is heartening to note that in Parliamentary committees relating to defence, this book has come to be the reference point on best practises around the world.

Mr. Fluri said that Armed Forces need to be controlled; not only because they are subservient to public representatives but because good governance is not possible without that. The recent Human Development Report of UNDP says that sustainable development is not possible if pockets of state exist within the state. Transparency and ownership are necessary and the message of this book is that only if we have transparency, we have empowerment of Parliament and resultantly, the public.

Throwing light on the role of DCAF, Mr. Fluri said that the organisation trains Parliamentary staffers and has also been publishing studies on individual aspects of Parliamentary oversight of intelligence and of police reforms, etc. DCAF will be very happy to make these available to Pakistani Parliament and Parliamentarians as well, he offered. As a non-profit organisation, DCAF is willing to help in its areas of focus but you need to help DCAF by asking for what is required, he said. In the end, Mr. Fluri thanked PILDAT for its cooperation and thanked Parliamentarians for accepting DCAF’s gift in the shape of this handbook.

Senator Nisar Memon
Chairman Senate Committee on Defence and Defence Production (PML)
Session Chair

Mr. Nisar Memon congratulated DCAF and IPU for sharing this book in English for the benefit of Parliament. He also congratulated DCAF on the achievements of printing this book in 30 different languages and 60,000 copies. He thanked PILDAT for organising the translation of this book and bridging this gap for Pakistani Parliament and Parliamentarians. As a new Parliamentarian, he said, he has seen PILDAT, since October 2002, acting as formal link for all the legislators in Pakistan; as well as their link with the society and with the government. PILDAT has not just been a contact but an educated contact providing education and training to Parliamentarians on various crucial subjects and issues. Today PILDAT is venturing into an extremely challenging area; challenging because of the geopolitical development that took place in this region as well as political history of Pakistan. This, in my view, is the most appropriate time to talk about this challenging issue of control of defence sector by the Parliament, he said, adding that he would reserve his comments as the chair of the session till the end of panel discussion.

Mr. Memon invited panellists to share their views on the topic of “How can Parliament and Parliamentary Committees in Pakistan engage in Oversight of the Security Sector: Challenges and Opportunities” in the allotted time.

Lt. Gen. (retd.) Talat Masood

Beginning his talk, Lt. Gen. (retd.) Talat Masood said that he has had the experience of serving on the other side [military] while those who know me are aware that I have been a champion of democracy all my life and I am proud of this.

No country is normal till it is democratic, said Gen. Masood, but unfortunately Pakistan has followed this path for various vested interests many times and has been justifying this as well. He hoped that the country is now moving towards genuine and sound democracy. He held that supremacy of the civil over the military is necessary for continuity and sustenance of democracy but unfortunately civilian institutions have been weak in ensuring that. He congratulated DCAF and PILDAT for their contribution towards strengthening the premium civilian institution, the Parliament, in this regard.

Lt. Gen. (retd.) Masood said that it is necessary to recognise that this roundtable discusses a situation where reality demands to be as candid as possible to identify real challenges and possible solutions for tackling those. One of these realities is that as a country, Pakistan is far from democracy; the state remains military-dominated with military as the centre of gravity, he said. Political forces in the country are following politics of status-quo and not politics of change. The country requires a change of culture and mindset through evolution not revolution and while the present regime is aware of this scenario, its practices differ from its theory often put forward, he added.

Arguing as to why it is necessary for the security sector to be controlled by Parliament, he said that if the running of this sector is left to the military, the state drifts into being a security-oriented state with a uni-dimensional prism. If military thinks on its own and formulates its own policies, not only state becomes security-centric but the centre of gravity shifts from people to the military. This, he believed, is a very great distortion that needs to be corrected.

In offering his suggestions, he said that parliamentary oversight is required at the policy and strategy levels so that the aims of the military are the same as those of the state. On the financial side, presentation and scrutiny of defence budget is very important component of the oversight. Defence budget can include major procurements and other basic ingredients. He stressed that oversight on procurement is the most crucial aspect. The barrier of secrecy is sometimes necessary and all armies and governments are aware of this phenomenon, but there is a way of doing accountability despite that, he added. Certain MPs or the committees on defence can be taken into confidence on these subjects. If Parliamentarians are taken into confidence on sensitive issues, no one would grudge the necessary secrecy elements. He also believed that defence public enterprises need to be scrutinised. A mechanism also needs to be in place for the scrutiny of intelligence agencies. For the availability of independent research capacity to Parliament, it is necessary that think-tanks are established outside the control of the government.

Concluding his comments, Gen. Masood said that Pakistan is undergoing a democratic transition and if its course is not set properly there is a danger that the country can slide-back into autocratic rule. All stakeholders need to make sure the process is not reverted, he said.

Senator Farhatullah Babar
Member Standing Committee on Defence & Defence Production (PPPP)

Senator Babar began his comments by congratulating DCAF and PILDAT for having produced the book and its Urdu translation. He said that subject of the discussion was important because it involves parliamentary accountability of a group which carries guns, tanks and missiles. He said that he is often struck in his conversation with military officers that they are not mindful of their oath which requires them to be under civilian supremacy. The subject was also important, he added, because this sector has continued to write civil-military equation in the country always on the terms of the military and to its advantage and never submitted itself to the accountability of civilians. Giving an example of military’s disregard for civilian institutions and their sanctity, he said that in one of the meetings of the Parliamentary Committee, chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was asked to attend the meeting but refused to do so. Members were informed at midnight that the meeting next day was cancelled but when the next meeting was called, chairman NAB was not invited to come.

Senator Babar said that parliamentarians and politicians realise that security sector is a sensitive sector and in many instances, can not be discussed in public but it is also a sector that is grossly misrepresented. If a question is raised about this sector in the Parliament, it is dubbed as a ‘security-risk’ and against national security. Military needs to understand, he said, that when MPs comment on a security sector issue, it does not make them less patriotic. “We are as patriotic as any general and do not require a certificate of patriotism from a military general,” he said. As a senator, he said, he submitted a question that has any enquiry been undertaken into Kargil episode and if, at some time, the findings of that enquiry will be made public. In response, we were told that it is a security question and can not be answered. Another question was that public servants have to declare their assets and does it include declaration of assets by military officers too, but the answer again was that it infringes upon our national security and hence can not be answered. We [opposition MPs] also asked if there is a law governing intelligence agencies, and that law was never placed in front of Parliament.

Senator Babar said that a booklet of all such questions has been compiled that have been killed in the chamber and the booklet is available for media and interested parties. Questions have been asked about the military, far less sensitive in nature than defence procurement, that what is the level of involvement of armed forces in non-professional activities and business enterprises and what kind of tax-concessions do they get? What is their involvement level into real-estate business? He said that just a few days ago, an ordinance was issued on defence housing authority establishment; the opposition members of defence committee immediately moved the committee and the chairman of committee must be complemented for agreeing to hold the meeting. Investigation into this area by committee will be a test as to how far security sector allows Parliament to oversee its activities, he added.

On the issue of defence budget, Senator Babar said that we do not demand the laying of entire defence budget in the house but at least it can be discussed in defence committees of the Parliament on the line of major allocations. Similarly, he added, a mechanism needs to be in place for the oversight of intelligence agencies.

Senator Babar said that admittedly Parliament and parliamentary committees are weak but efforts need to be made to strengthen these. A Parliamentary Academy for Security Training should be established to train MPs about various aspects of security-related oversight. It will be a major achievement if Senator Memon can accomplish this under his tenure as Chairman of Defence Committee, he added. He believed that the opposition in defence committee has done its bit by refusing to go to GHQ for a briefing and by demanding to ask them to come to Parliament.

Senator Babar said that he would urge his fellow MPs to get knowledge and expertise of the area as security sector is too important a field to be left to military alone. He also felt that other than MPs, the handbook on Parliamentary oversight of security sector should also be read by the military. “I entreat to military to submit to the will of your own people before you have to submit to the will of others,” he concluded.

Mr. Sartaj Aziz
Former Senator; Former Federal Minister for Finance & Foreign Affairs (PML-N)

Mr. Sartaj Aziz began his talk by complementing IPU, DCAF and PILDAT for production, translation and dissemination of the handbook, adding that he was confident that whenever this process of oversight of the security sector by Parliament in Pakistan begins, this handbook will be useful to follow members of various Parliamentary committees. However, he said, he did not think the Parliament was there yet.

The handbook warns that if oversight of the security sector by Parliament is not carried out, there are dangers of a state developing within a state, while Parliamentary oversight stops one-man rule. Unfortunately, in many ways the predictions and the apprehensions expressed in this book have become a reality in Pakistan’s own experience, said Mr. Aziz. The country has been in the direct or the indirect military rule for almost 30-35 years out of 57 years and, therefore, this process of oversight has not developed. Even when democratic governments had a chance to rule, they were not strong enough to assert themselves to exercise this. The defence budget continues to be of one line, therefore, the process of oversight has not really begun, he said.

Mr. Sartaj Aziz said that in his view, a military or a military-supervised rule offers a better opportunity rather than a civilian rule to start Parliamentary oversight of the security sector. Developing oversight of the security sector is a gradual process and can begin by identifying those elements where the military leadership will be prepared to share information, he said. In this process, the Parliamentary committees and the Parliament as a whole need to show sufficient responsibility, knowledge and a rational attitude to allow this process to move forward. In other words, if the process of oversight starts and the Parliament and the Parliamentary committees use it for the purposes that are not understood or it is perceived against the national interest, the process may stop. But if there is a reciprocal process and responsibility is shown as the booklet emphasises, this process can move further, he said. In-depth knowledge and understanding on these issues is required by MPs, he said. It is fortunate that Senator Nisar Memon is the chairman of Defence Committee and he is in the best position to initiate this gradual process of exercising parliamentary control over security issues, added Mr. Sartaj Aziz.

Mr. Aziz believed that issues of procurement and oversight of the intelligence agencies may be sensitive to deal with at stage one. In stage one, a very broad discussion of the defence budget and its relationship to other dimensions of the economy, its overall growth rate in relation to growth of other sectors, etc., would be something that can be usefully discussed, he added. To illustrate his point, he said that when Gen. Ayub Khan imposed martial law in 1958-59, Pakistan’s defence budget was Rs. 1 billion; when he left it was Rs. 5 billion. In Gen. Zia-ul-Haq’s tenure, the defence budget was Rs. 9 billion but when he left it was Rs. 90 billion, with a ten-fold increase while other expenditure had gone 4 folds. Had any committee been overseeing this, it could have cautioned that the growth should not exceed the overall expenditure and should stay within certain limits, he added. The growth rate in the last 5 years has not been equally rapid partly because pensions have been excluded from the defence budget, although the defence budget has gone up from something like Rs 130 billion to Rs. 190 billion. Hence, in the last 45 years, the defence budget has gone up from Rs. 1 billion to Rs. 190 billion. In the 1989-90, the defence budget was the largest item in the budget at 6.9% of the GDP and higher than development and debt servicing. Obviously, said Mr. Aziz, with a hostile neighbour such as India, which is 6 to 7 times Pakistan’s size, if Pakistan wants to defend itself, a three to one ratio is required. Hence, by definition, Pakistan has to spend twice as much of a percentage of its GDP as India because if India is spending 3% of its GDP, Pakistan has to spend 6% of its GDP. Up to 1990, this burden was bearable to Pakistan because of its partnership with various defence organisations and access to cheaper weapons but after sanctions were imposed on Pakistan in 1990 and Pakistan had to pay commercial prices, and sometimes even more than commercial prices, the burden became unbearable adding to a very serious debt burden of the country, he analysed. By placing these broader issues in the overall economic parameters, it is important that a framework is developed and joint meetings of defence and finance committees can look at the budget as a whole to discuss these issues, he suggested.

Mr. Sartaj Aziz said that another dimension of oversight, which will be accepted, if not welcomed by the defence forces is the proportion of defence budget that is spent on domestic procurement versus the proportion spent abroad. He said that at one stage, he calculated that India’s proportion of defence budget spent on domestic procurement was 2 ½ times that of Pakistan’s in percentage terms. In other words, the greater the proportion of the defence budget spent domestically, the greater the backward linkages developed with local industry and electronics, etc. In America, the defence budget has a very large economic impact not only on the industrial activity but on technology accelerating innovations in aviation and electronics, etc. If in Pakistan, this sector is exposed, the Parliament and Parliamentary committees can certainly recommend that a minimum of the percentage of defence budget should be spent on domestic procurement with backward linkages, he said.

Mr. Aziz said that certain boarder security issues that link up with foreign policy are also relevant to be examined. The defence committee of the Parliament can hold joint meeting with the foreign affairs committee of the Parliament. In both 1965 and after 1990s, Pakistan’s foreign policy, security requirement and economic realities were not consistent, he believed. In other words, with that economy, Pakistan could not afford the foreign policy that it was following; some changes, hence, were called for as otherwise the defence burden had to become heavy, he added. Oversight of the security needs to be analysed from these dimensions also. If trust is developed between Parliament and security sector where broad discussions can take place while MPs show sufficient responsibility to provide guidelines without going into sensitive areas, hopefully the area of supervision can expand to other areas, he opined. Gradually, this handbook will become more relevant and useful in terms of the detailed checklist of issues and points, he added.

Concluding his comments, Mr. Aziz said that the study of this handbook by MPs is a very useful starting point to preparing themselves for this kind of debate. Debate can take place on the basis of these guidelines irrespective of the details that are presented. MPs need to prepare them with knowledge based on research, received from think tanks and obtained from internet, etc., and try to present overview of security issues to increase this interaction. He believed that the roundtable discussion was also very useful and timely. He also hoped that the committees on defence, finance and foreign affairs can meet before long and prepare a memorandum. This memorandum should then be taken to the Prime Minister and the President urging them that this is the framework in which the committees would like to begin this task. Once that framework is accepted, the process can begin. A constructive and a gradual approach, based on sound knowledge, good preparation and a gradual built-up of mutual trust is required to start this oversight. In the meanwhile, if the power equation changes, it will facilitate this oversight, added Mr. Sartaj Aziz, however, even in the existing power equation, a great deal can be achieved, he concluded.

Senator Prof. Khurshid Ahmad
Chairman Institute of Policy Studies; Parliamentary Leader MMA in Senate

Senator Prof. Khurshid Ahmad believed that the handbook has been launched and disseminated at the right time; both because of domestic situation but also the global scenario. He congratulated Senator Nisar Memon for untying the handbook and quipped that Parliament can play an imp role in tying the Armed Forces through this.

Senator Prof. Khursid Ahmad said that initiation of a civil-military dialogue is crucial in these times and added that ex-army officers are not the problem but uniformed ones are so they should be invited to take part in the dialogue.

Senator Ahmad apologised for not having read the book completely but having glanced through it, he complemented DCAF on the area covered, width, richness of rules and international practises contained in the book. He said that he was impressed that DCAF has not tried to define security in a narrow angle and has placed due emphasis on financial oversight. He said that he was amazed that DCAF was courageous enough to define terrorism not in the language of the super power but distinguished between terrorism and the right to liberation which is blurring these days under US influence, he added offering his felicitations.

He said that he was also reasonably happy with the definition of security establishment. Security has been defined in terms of military and political security. These terms are essential but not sufficient, he added, and economic and human angles need to be included in this.

Senator Prof. Khurshid Ahmad said that he was of the view that Parliament can play a role in oversight of the security sector. Vision and understanding of Constitution in the security sector is missing. There are laws but no rule of law. Most important issue is of attitude and no democratic transition will take place without a change in the attitude of military in Pakistan, he said. He said that there was a need for such a manual to be developed for use by military as well. The material for this is contained in the handbook but a re-arranging will be required to suit the audience.

Senator Prof. Khurshid Ahmad stressed that civil-military dialogue was crucial now as this equation has become an urgent national issue. It does not need to be viewed from different political parties’ prism but is a national issue that needs to be urgently and comprehensively addressed. Military needs to understand that no forces can prosper if they are in confrontation with their own people. The question is not of a security-state emerging within the state but that the security-state is now overtaking the state. National reconciliation is required in tackling of this issue, he said.

Rights are not doled out but struggle needs to be waged to obtain them, said Senator Prof. Khurshid Ahmad. History of Europe shows that Parliament and peoples’ representatives had to work hard to get those rights from monarchy. At one time, such a situation arose in US as well when Armed Forces had a direct access to President but we have seen that next 15 years were spent in creating systems and structures to prevent that from happening over there, he said. It is a difficult issue and amounts to taming the tiger, but it has to be undertaken. A national consensus needs to be built. Parliament has to play an important role while Armed Forces have to rethink too as security of a country is possible only with a relationship of trust with people, he added.

In the end, Senator Prof. Khurshid Ahmad said that the handbook is valued and it is hoped that it will be a point of reference for our MPs while it can also set the ball rolling on the issue of civil-military dialogue.

Senator S. M. Zafar
Chairman Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights (PML)

Senator S. M. Zafar said that he has read both the English and Urdu versions of the handbook. In reading English version, he felt that someone was talking to him but in Urdu edition, he felt that he was talking to himself. He complemented DCAF and PILDAT for undertaking this. Senator Zafar said that when Senator Memon untied the book, he was reminded of a phrase from Islamic jurisprudence which means those learned people who untie and then bind. He was confident that the knowledge untied by Senator Memon in this book will be carried forward by Parliamentarians.

Senator S. M. Zafar said that striving for a no no-go zone for Parliament is ideal and while striving for the ideal should continue, oversight of the security sector is a reachable goal in Pakistan. With a functioning Parliament, it is the duty of MPs to be pro-active in the use of constitutional provisions and rules that empower them. Constitution and rules of Parliament allow for many powers which need to be explored, he said. In the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights, we found that the existing rules could be interpreted to allow for suo moto action, he said. Similar latent powers must be sought in other committees and their rules, he urged.

Senator Zafar said that civil-military dialogue is crucial. He complemented Senator Farhatullah Babar for asking questions in the Senate and urged him to continue as he termed it as a beginning of a dialogue. He said that security does not just include defence but includes issues of internal disturbances, financial issues and emergency provisions, etc. Parliament needs to be involved in all these issues as security is too serious a matter to be left only to generals. He said that the idea is the most important thing and once an idea becomes a part of peoples’ thinking, no body can stop it from succeeding.

Senator Nisar Memon
Chairman Senate Committee on Defence & Defence Production (PML)
Session Chair

Presenting his comments as the session chair, Senator Memon said that the Handbook on Parliamentary Oversight of the Security Sector was provided to him by PILDAT when he had just taken over as the chair of the Defence committee. He said he has been a major beneficiary of the handbook as immediately after receiving this book, he immediately went into developing a plan of action for the committee for the chair which has been launched. He said that in reality, the responsibility of providing such a support to committees is that of the Parliament secretariat. MPs should be trained and Parliamentary secretariats should not relinquish this responsibility to PILDAT. PILDAT, as an independent entity, can continue to complement the work of secretariats in this regard, he said.

Commenting on the handbook, he said that when he first read it, he thought it was a utopia to accomplish in the historic perspective of civil-military relations in Pakistan. Today the country is undergoing a transition to democracy by a military general, he said, while he is proud to be a part of this transition. This transition is expected to continue till 2007 till when the Parliament has authorised the President to continue as President and Chief of the Army Staff, he said.

Senator Memon said that role of the military is very clearly defined according to Article 245 of the Constitution of Pakistan which states that the Armed Forces are to defend Pakistan under the directions of the federal government. Federal government is responsible to the Parliament. Parliamentary committees have the power and flexibility according to rules to engage in oversight. “I am not directed by the government to do anything,” he said while my oath as a Senator is the guiding principle for me.

Senator Nisar Memon said that for the first time in the history of this committee, Defence ministry has presented a defence policy to the committee which was discussed for 4 hours. This is the beginning of a dialogue, he said. The current Defence Committee, before the chairmanship of Senator Nisar Memon, had visited Air and Naval headquarters. After my chairmanship, we asked the General Headquarters for a briefing at the GHQ, he said, and therefore the committee will go. If the committee had visited the Air and Naval Headquarters, the question of symbolism should not arise with the GHQ, he said.

Agreeing with Mr. Sartaj Aziz’s view, Senator Memon said that a gradual process was required for oversight while he was positive that in terms of defence budget, the committee and this Parliament will break new grounds. Supremacy of the Armed Forces is a reality today due to the President in uniform as the head of the country but democracy and transition to democracy are in our hearts and minds, he added. This committee, due to seriousness and commitment of all its members, regardless of party positions, has been able to cover grounds that no committee of the past has been able to do, he said. If this committee and its efforts are not politicised, and remains focused, we will be able to achieve new grounds, he concluded.


Senator Rukhsana Zuberi
Member Senate Committee on Defence (PPPP)
We are passing through the third quarter of the fiscal year and the Ministry of Defence has spent 70-80% of its budget while other ministries have not even spent up to 40% due to the speed of transfer of funds to them. Defence organisations such as FWO, NLC, etc., are given preference in terms of awarding of jobs to them on three time the market price. Does a similar situation prevail elsewhere in the world?

Mr. Abdul Qadir,

Programme Officer Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
I was born in 1965 and my daughter was born, 34 years later, in 1999. While I get pleasure in seeing her grow, it continues to remind me that the transition to democracy is not over yet. Parliament has allowed a head of security sector to oversee the Parliament so how can this Parliament ensure its oversight of the security sector? I would also like your comments on the role of judiciary. Recently two petitions about President having 2 offices were submitted. Does judiciary in Pakistan have an active role and can MPs take confidence and strength from judiciary?

Senator Dr. Abdullah Riar

PILDAT and other Civil Society Organisations should continue such dialogues and the media should publicise these so as to carry these messages to the public. Political Parties must also hold this kind of debate and seminar on a regular basis. Do you believe Armed Forces are at such cross roads where they can be prodded into submitting to civil society’s superiority? I feel otherwise.

Ms. Saira

Fatime Jinnah Women University
Why is it so that defence sector is securitised? Politicians are more responsible for military supremacy. Why do the politicians support military rule?

Senator Sadia Abbasi

Regardless of history there must be a realisation that Armed Forces and politicians, as people of Pakistan, have to work together as Pakistan is supreme. Constitution is paramount and it delineates the powers of the military and the Parliament and it has to be respected. Mutual respect needs to be shown on both sides.

Mr. Philip Fluri

Deputy Director DCAF
DCAF has other handbooks for MPs that we can share with you. We cannot have security if we do not have democratic oversight and public ownership of it in a country. Whoever argues differently argues wrongly. Privileges for security sector are justified in some countries on the basis of their sacrifices, but in established democracies, military does not have excessive privileges. It is for legitimate representatives of the public to decide.

Lt. Gen. (retd.) Talat Masood

We will remain in transition till such time when civilian supremacy will be accepted. Understandably the transition process has been tedious. We may have pitfalls, but to avoid those we need to use some suggestions that came from the panel.

As for answering Senator Riar’s question, I can understand your frustration. We have discussed that the Armed Forces are not willing to be subservient. It is a fact also that the President is not willing to shed his uniform. A real transformation of culture is required. Pressure is being built-up but a major role has to be played by politicians. Those who submit to realpolitik by submitting to security agencies are not doing a great service to themselves or to the country.

Blackbox of secrecy is there but it can only go away if superiority of the civil is reasserted. Dialectic should apply internally. You can neither fight terrorism without democracy, nor is there any enlightened moderation without democracy. Politicians have to build the trust with public that they are capable of running the affairs of the state. There is a nuclear scare abroad but the answer to that is establishing civilian supremacy in Pakistan.

Senator S. M. Zafar

Chairman Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights (PML)
On the issue of President holding two offices, everyone is aaware of my stance that I gave on the Senate Floor and I stick to that. On the petitions against this, since the matter is in front of the Supreme Court, I cannot comment on it. I believe if Gen. Talat Masood’s erstwhile colleagues listen to him then a lot of ground can be covered.

Senator Farhatullah Babar

Member Senate Committee on Defence & Defence Production (PPPP)
Opposition members did not object to visiting Air and Naval headquarters because these two branches do not carry adverse political baggage and GHQ is the recipient of adverse comments because of the adverse political baggage it is carrying. We feel it is good for GHQ bosses to submit to will of Parliament for symbolic reasons.

Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob

Executive Director PILDAT
I would like to clarify that media, both electronic and print, has been invited to cover this event. We will be very happy to continue this dialogue, as indeed we have started and continued the civil-military dialogue since September 2004.

Concluding Remarks
Senator Nisar Memon

Chairman Senate Committee on Defence & Defence Production (PML)
Session Chair

It was a very interactive session and I feel we should, in future devote 30 minutes or more for interaction. Handbook is a good contribution and a congenial environment away from confrontational posture is needed for deepening of this dialogue for oversight. I feel civil-military dialogue should be away from cameras for constructive reasons. He, at this point, asked the two generals present in the audience to share their brief comments on this issue.

Lt. Gen. (retd.) Tanweer H. Naqvi

Former Chairman NRB
I am completely caught off-guard and was not prepared to be asked to share my views. My commitment to democracy is very fundamental. An important aspect is of coming of age when state will be in complete control and Armed Forces will be part of that. We should analyse that what has kept this from happening? No institute can be strong if top leadership is not strong. It is a question of capacity. It was said here that MPs should go through training and we welcome that. Senator Farhatullah Babar, the staunchest of military critics, also said training and education is supreme. During my association with NRB, I met as many people and institutions as possible to learn from best practises, including German foundation. They told me that these foundations, belonging to political parties, have institutionalised training and education of Parliament and Parliamentarians. Every MP goes through a course.

I come back to it that probably the cause of it all is the fact that those who want to be and ought to be in control are not necessarily equipped to be in control and therefore they are unable to assert themselves morally and intellectually to acquire control. The more we invest into that [training of MPs] in direct proportion will be our pace for civilian supremacy and oversight of Armed Forces.

Lt. Gen. (retd.) Asad Durrani

Former Director General, Inter-Services Intelligence
Gen. Naqvi was probably too busy restructuring and reconstructing to have noticed that politicians would not forego any opportunity to ambush the generals, which is why I am not caught off-guard. In deference to the desire of people who were missing the uniform, I decided to don my uniform again. You might have noticed that it is quite difficult to shed uniform but putting on your old uniform again is no big deal.

I have just been thinking about some of the things that have been said about Armed Forces, such as war, too complex a business for the generals. You are welcome to have politicians to conduct the war even though you must have seen what the politicians did in conducting the first and second world wars and lately the Iraq war. On our side, we found out that politics indeed was too complex a thing for politicians to run it because they are the ones, who whenever in trouble, reached out to the generals. Remember the President and the PM asking Gen. Jahangir Karamat to come and resolve their problems? Such instances should be kept in mind when discussing civil-military equation.

The principle of parliamentary oversight of the security sector is unexceptional and I have no problems with that. Politicians might recall that when their parties were in power, if they ever made the efforts to make known the defence budget or any other details about security, what is the answer they got from their Prime Ministers? I will remind you as I had the great privilege of working with some of these Prime Ministers. We went to them and said that as Chief Executives, nothing is a secret for them. Whatever they need to know, we were prepared to share with them, but we found out that they were not terribly keen on transparency. Let me not use words like skeletons in the cupboard or chinks in the armour but let me say because transparency did not seem to suit a particular environment. If politicians are prepared to ask today, I have no reasons to believe that people will not be able to share details with at least trusted members of committees. You might find that there were irregularities [in defence records]; I am not saying that there never are. Once you start taking care of irregularities committed on that side, please remove them. I find that responsibility not to have removed them is as much on our side as on the other.

What is that the Army Welfare Trust does? Is it because of the special considerations that are given to it that they become more efficient or is it because they have done certain things more efficiently? They have had political patronage but if that political patronage was given to non-military sector, what would have happened? Once the complete package is in front of us, I am sure we will find out for real.

Senator Nisar Memon
Chairman Senate Committee on Defence & Defence Production (PML)
Session Chair
Thank you. This was a very good sharing of views by the two military generals. I would like to remember the history when Churchill, as a politician, handled the World War II, I thought quite successfully, for Britain, while Gen. Yahya Khan did not handle war successfully for Pakistan.

Vote of Thanks
Sardar M. Yusuf Khan

Chairman PILDAT
This has been an excellent afternoon’s discussion and I would like to thank all speakers, our guests from DCAF and participants. PILDAT hopes that the handbook will be very popular with MPs and the Armed Forces. PILDAT is looking forward to further cooperation with DCAF. We look forward to more sessions on this particular topic. I must also thank my colleagues at PILDAT for organising this discussion beautifully. Thank you.