Why is the PM surrounded by serving military officers?

Why is the PM surrounded by serving military officers?
By Ansar Abbasi, The News, April 1, 2008

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his close associates are wondering if all Army officers are being pulled out of the civilian positions, why the prime minister should keep nine military officers with him.

At least nine serving officers are among the personal staff of the prime minister whereas the number of such officers included in the president’s personal team is at least 12. What is more intriguing is the fact that within the premises of the Prime Minister’s House, only military officers have been allowed official residences, whereas civilians, including even the principal secretary to the prime minister and his personal staff officer, have no such privilege.

In functioning democracies so many military officers never surround an elected leader as part of his/her personal staff. Already questions are being raised about the rationale of keeping such a large number of uniformed officers in the personal staff of the president and the prime minister.

“This could even create misunderstandings between the civilian and military establishments, if these officers start playing games in the vested interest of one or the other side,” according to a newly elected member of parliament.

Prime Minister Gilani might not even be aware of the fact that all nine residences in what is called the Prime Minister’s House Estate, that falls within the premises of the PM’s House, are presently occupied by military officers, who are part of his personal staff.

These include military secretary to the PM; personal physician to the PM; deputy military secretary to the PM; director security; general staff officer; ADC (Army) to the PM; ADC (Navy) to the PM; ADC (Pak Air Force) to the PM; and security officer to the PM.

The top most military officer attached to the Prime Minister is his Military Secretary who mainly deals with the appointments of the Chief Executive. Why this key job has been given to an army officer is beyond understanding. Why can’t a civilian do this job, many analysts are asking, especially when army officers are being pulled out from all civilian jobs. Why to have a military secretary at all?

The most vital officer with the Prime Minister is his principal secretary, who is a civilian, however, there is no accommodation available for this officer within the premises of the PM’s House. It is also attention-grabbing that the security officers from military are housed in the PM’s House but those from civilian normally gets usual government accommodation in different sectors of Islamabad.

President staff from defence include his Military Secretary; Director General Security; Chief Security Officer; two Deputy Military Secretaries; Additional Chief Security Officer; two ADCs- one from Army and another from Navy; four Security Officers etc.

Though in case of the incumbent President General Æ Pervez Musharraf there seems to be a justification for the attachment of so many military officers with the head of the state, there is no reason to continue with this when there is a civilian rule in the country.

The President, according to the 1973 constitution, is just a figurehead and it is the prime minister who, being the country’s chief executive, is the head of the government and responsible for the official business and day to day running of the government.

Many argue that if the size of the President’s personal staff justifies its strength or needs to be cut to save taxpayers’ money. Unlike the prime minister, all the defence staff members of the President do not live in the Presidency’s premises also called Presidential Estate Islamabad though many of them do.

In his speech in the National Assembly on Saturday after getting a unanimous vote of confidence, Prime Minister Gilani ordered that the serving defence officers, occupying civilian posts, should return to their respective disciplines within two weeks time. After the Prime Minister’s order, the ISPR immediately responded positively and issued orders to the concerned soldiers for their early return to barracks. But the jobs around the PM are military posts and a decision has to be taken to abolish them.

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