‘Attack on constitution’: Pakistan opposition lashes out at Shehbaz govt over ISI special powers
Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which is known for having overarching in the politics of Pakistan, has now been granted the power by the Shehbaz Sharif government to screen appointments of bureaucrats, a move which is being termed an “attack on the constitution” by the Opposition parties.
The political set-up in Pakistan has been military-driven for ages and it is also perceived in Pakistan that politicians need the military’s backing to come to power, however, after the newest reform, many now fear that bureaucrats could also need the same support for their appointment and postings, reported Asian Lite News. The move has placed the verification and screening of government officials in charge of postings, appointments, and promotions in ISI hands, leading to concerns of a shrunken civilian space, the report added.
The recent reform issued by Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has raised fears about the military increasing its control over the country’s public life after Shehbaz Sharif gave the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency vetting power over civil service appointments.
“If we keep in mind Pakistan’s history of takeovers and the sway that military has over our politics, this decision will weaken civil bureaucracy and compromise their independence,” Asian Lite quoted Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar as saying.
“We have shot ourselves in the foot and it’s a decision worth reconsidering,” he further added.
In another statement, Raza Rabbani, the former chair of the senate, called Sharif’s decision an attack on the constitution. “The concept of civilian supremacy is tarnishing,” he said.
Pakistan’s powerful military has earlier ruled the country for three decades, owing to which Ayesha Siddiqa, an author and expert on military affairs of Pakistan said this move by the Shehbaz Sharif-led Pakistan government has sown seeds for a long-term disempowerment of the political class to strengthen its position and that of the parliament to weaken the military’s control over politics, Asian Lite News reported.
Before ousting the former prime minister, Imran Khan, in a no-confidence vote in April, the opposition parties had criticized the military for its meddling in politics, and bringing Khan into office have now met the same fate while being in power.
According to a UNDP report, Pakistan’s military is one of the largest “conglomerates of business” entities in Pakistan besides being the country’s biggest urban real estate developer and manager with wide-ranging involvement in the construction of public projects.
The military has ruled the country for half of Pakistan’s history and receives privileges of over USD 1.7 billion in the form of preferential access to land, capital, and infrastructure, as well as tax exemptions in a few instances.