Parliament should watch over military’s business activities: senator

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Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)’s Senator Farhatullah Babar has said that the security establishment’s vast network of industrial, commercial and business enterprises throughout the country had been kept out of the public and parliamentary discourse and called upon the members of the parliament to equip themselves with knowledge and expertise to be able to supervise Milbus.

Addressing a seminar on the defence budget, organised by Defence Committee of the Senate for defence correspondents at Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services in Islamabad on Monday, Babar said, “Milbus has not only been kept out of the public view and parliamentary oversight but has also escaped government accountability procedures.”

There is need to look into state subsidies and other support provided to entities such as Fauji Foundation, Army Welfare Trust, Shaheen Foundation, Bahria Foundation, Frontier Works Organisation, National Logistic Cell and examine its adverse impact on the growth of free market economy.

The stupendous task of oversight requires that governance is improved and the MPs strive hard to enhance their capacity to ask questions and agitate issues. Framing issues in the national budget from the parliament’s perspective, Babar said that the defence budget is built around a security narrative given by the security establishment and lacked transparency in formulation and accountability in implementation.

“As a result, Pakistan has been turned into a security driven instead of a welfare driven state,” Babar said, adding that the national security discourse and the threat perception was determined entirely by the security establishment.

The senator opined that every issue of concern, including that of missing persons, reforms in the country’s tribal areas or resource allocation was determined according to the security narrative.

He said it had become a taboo to even ask whether the greatest threat to our security came from internal or external sources, adding that civilian leaders who sought to give an alternative narrative in the past were summarily sacked and cited the examples of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

The security establishment determines its own financial needs and expects that allocations are made in accordance with its narrative of national security he said.

He said that the pensions for over 100 billion defence personnel are shown in the civil budget, adding that it was due to lack of transparency and manipulation of figures.

Any criticism of the security budget should not be dubbed as a conspiracy against security institutions, he said.