World Bulletin / News Desk
In a rare challenge to Pakistan's powerful generals, the country's Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the military should stop interfering in politics.
In connection with a case dating back to 1996 in which a retired air marshal filed a petition against the army for sponsoring a political alliance, Chief Supreme Court Judge Iftikhar Chaudhry said military intelligence agencies must stay away from politics.
"Such organisations have no role to play in the political activities/politics, for formulation or destablisation of political governments," he said in the ruling.
"Nor can they facilitate or show favour to a political party or group of political parties or politicians individually in any manner which may lead to his or her success."
It is not clear whether the decision would reduce the military's vast power.
But the move could create tensions between the increasingly assertive Supreme Court and the military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 65-year history through coups or from behind the scenes.
In the late 1980s, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was accused of establishing a political cell that worked with the presidency to distribute money to hand-picked politicians in a bid to get them elected.
"Any Election Cell/Political Cell in Presidency or ISI or MI (Military Intelligence) or within their formations shall be abolished immediately," said the Supreme Court ruling.
In unusually strong language, it went on to say: "Their acts have brought a bad name to Pakistan and its armed forces as well as secret agencies."
It was also not clear how the Supreme Court planned to ensure the military would abide by its decision. It called on the federal government to take necessary steps under the constitution against retired generals named in the case.