Bring intel agencies under civilian control: Sharif

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Lahore: Former premier Nawaz Sharif on Saturday criticised Pakistan`s intelligence agencies for their failure to detect Osama bin Laden`s presence in the country, saying they should be brought under civilian control and their budgets opened to scrutiny by parliament.

The head of the main opposition PML-N party said all intelligence and security agencies, including the Inter- Services Intelligence, should be placed under civilian control.

The budget for the military and the intelligence agencies should be presented in parliament for approval, he told a news conference at his home here.

"We should stop receiving directions from the US and the intelligence agencies. We should bring all institutions, including the ISI, under civilian control," Sharif said in his opening remarks.

"The defence budget should be revealed in parliament.

The budget of intelligence agencies should be brought before parliament and select committees should decide how and where the funds are spent. After all, it is the public`s money," he said.

Details of the budgets for the military and intelligence agencies are currently not provided to parliament and there are rarely any discussions on such issues by lawmakers.

Even before an in-camera joint session of both houses of parliament yesterday decided that the US raid which killed bin Laden should be probed by an independent commission, the PML-N had demanded the formation of a judicial panel to conduct an inquiry.

Sharif warned that the PML-N would adopt a "new policy" if the government delayed in setting up the independent commission as laid out in a resolution adopted during the joint session of parliament.

The PML-N has been pressing the government to fix responsibility for intelligence and security lapses since US special forces conducted a dramatic raid in the garrison city of Abbottabad on May 2 and killed bin Laden.

"Much depends on the independent commission. The sooner it is formed and the commission gives its report, the better for the country," he said.

Sharif further said the intelligence agencies should have no role in politics.

"The ISI`s interference in politics should end now.

The intelligences agencies should not divide and strengthen political parties. They should not make new alliances. The agencies should not run a parallel system," he said.

The intelligence and security set-up should not interfere in foreign policy or frame a "parallel policy", he said.

The elected government should frame all policies, including those government relations with key countries like the US, India and Afghanistan, Sharif said.

Sharif said he was not against state institutions, including the military, but individuals who damaged the country, such as former President Pervez Musharraf.

He said Musharraf and a handful of military officers deposed the PML-N government in 1999 and were responsible for the Kargil conflict with India.

"Now martial law and Kargil-like operations will not be tolerated," Sharif said.

Noting that he had met US Ambassador Cameron Munter this morning, Sharif said Pakistan should review its relations with America.

"They should understand our concerns. There have been no attacks in the US since 9/11, but we have lost over 30,000 people and our security forces are being targeted. The US is secure but the risks have increased for Pakistan," he said.

The covert US raid against bin Laden "destroyed" Pakistan`s sovereignty and no one should be allowed to conduct such operations, he said.

"These one-way relations cannot continue," he added.

Responding to Sharif`s tirade, senior Pakistan People`s Party leader and Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said the PML-N chief`s attack on the ISI would help the "enemies" of the country.

She said the PML-N and Sharif were once the "favourites" of the intelligence agencies.

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