Pakistan's intelligence agencies have gained unprecedented ascendance since President Pervez Musharraf seized power. Their role has been the "solitary decisive factor", particularly since 2002, says a media report citing several instances.
The country's current anti-terror campaign and two controversial actions of the Musharraf regime - suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, and the house arrest of A Q Khan, the controversial father of the country's nuclear weapons programme - are being credited to the intelligence agencies.
On the role of the civilian government, it says: "Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is not a person who has the habit of grudging or complaining. He is content with the room he has been provided to operate."
The "latest bomb shell" by the intelligence agencies, according to The News, is the March 9 suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry.
"....that took the nation by storm and shook President Pervez Musharraf and the entire applecart he is leading..." the report says, adding that the agencies' role was "extremely critical and beyond an iota of doubt".
The newspaper, however, did not cite any source for its report.
"The intelligence agencies' role did not end with the creation of the judicial mess," says the report of the nationwide agitation that the presidential action has sparked.
"They had been very active in the damage control exercise so that the crisis turns out to be favourable to the boss at the end of the day. Hardly any member of the civilian set-up has been trusted as being capable of stemming the erosion at the public level," it alleges.
"The reliance of the present top man, like his uniformed predecessors, on the intelligence agencies has been immense and plays the most singular role in his decision-making. It is through the intelligence work that he gets the job done and relies on the conclusions of the spymasters," the newspaper said.
By comparison, "this mighty state structure had little dominant role in the decision-making process when Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto had ruled twice each. Then the involvement of the federal cabinet and the ruling party, obviously comprising civilians alone, was ensured, maybe at times to a limited extent. The 'kitchen cabinets' of the two prime ministers, consisting of small bands of their confidantes, used to take vital decisions.
"But for three years from 1999 to 2002 and after the last general elections, the intelligence agencies had performed an unquestionable overriding role in every major decision the government has taken. The process of consultations has been too restricted and the participation of the civilian stakeholders of the dispensation has been absent," it said.
There has also been no civilian involvement of even a minor nature in the anti-terror campaign even after the restoration of "democracy". It is a Pakistan Army affair, being carried out by the support of the intelligence agencies.
Even elected representatives become aware of sketchy details of operations when these are made public mostly by foreign media. However, credit goes to the ruling MPs that they have never put any questions.
The Military Intelligence (MI) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are directly answerable to Musharraf by virtue of his position as chief of the army staff.
There had been several instances when the ISI had not been properly reporting to previous prime ministers, who had publicly complained to that effect more than once.
Benazir Bhutto's successful attempt to have her nominee as ISI chief was not of much help to her as the agency hardly cooperated to the extent she had desired. Lt-Gen (retd) Hamid Gul, as ISI chief, during her tenure, used to boldly speak against the prime minister of the day.