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February 24, 2008
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February 27, 2008

Why army is the most important political factor in Pakistan?

Pakistani FlagWith the elections done and Nawaz-Zardari joining hands together to form the government, people in Pakistan and around the world might be of the impression that Pakistan’s military is out of the scene, as if obvious. But I can only wish it to be so. This I say because army is the most important political actor in Pakistan. Even without being a formal political party, it can influence or manipulate most things in the country: from managing its nuclear weapons programme to conducting census. The Fauj is everywhere. It shall not be wrong to state that it’s omnipotent as well as omnipresent even in the presence of a successful civilian government in power. Wearing the Khaki uniform allows you unprecedented status, and transforms you into being part of that tiny elite corps of Pakistanis whose writ run everywhere.

It might just be a surprise for many of you to know that from the areas as disparate as running businesses to finding ghost schools, the army is the ubiquitous face of Pakistan’s government. Besides it also builds roads and fights insurgencies; less important to say that its membership is superior to any exclusive club. From one phase of a military regime to another, the army has ever taken care of its own.

Given the failing of other institutions, even civilian governments have take recourse to using the military to get their jobs done. In the process, of course, they have succeeded in further undermining Pakistan’s already weak civilian institutions.

Since the end of the 1980s, Pakistan has been running a comparatively low-cost war against India by backing militants in Jammu & Kashmir. At the same time, it saw no contradiction in running the massive Fauji Foundation, said to be the ‘Largest private sector employer in Pakistan.’ In its scheme of things, a Jihad in Kashmir and the Fauji Foundation can, and did, happily co-exist.

Success, be it material or otherwise, was something the military establishment in the nation has aimed for without minding the means to achieve it. The Annual Report of the Foundation would make you to realize how far the Army had gone in controlling the nation and stakes it had in the economic stability of Pakistan.

While Pakistani Air Force runs the Shaheen Foundation, the Navy has Baharia Foundation, but it is the former that commands greater attention.

The Fauji Foundation is at the heart of the military’s economic machine. With an annual turnover of more than $500 million and profits of $41 million, Fauji provides womb-to-tomb benefits for more than 8.5 million ex-military men and their dependents. Retired servicemen get preferential hiring for the 10,000 jobs at the foundation’s wholly owned companies. Thousands more find work at Fauji subsidiaries, while top management jobs are reserved for retired generals… Just how big a slice of the economic pie the military controls remains a well-guarded secret, but it’s safe to say it is by far the single biggest player. Fauji Fertilizer companies in 2000, earning $44 million on sales of $170 million. Outside of the Fauji network, Askari Commercial Bank, controlled by the Army Welfare Trust (AWT), is the country’s largest private bank in terms of assets and profits. Military companies enjoy access to prime real estate, easy bank credit, and tax breaks, and routinely beat out civilian companies in bidding for contracts.

Started in 1947 with a $3.6 million endowment from the departing British colonial administration to provide for the needs of World War II widows and their families, the Fauji Foundation remained a modest institution until the late 1970s, when it started expanding aggressively. Using money made by its 20 companies, the foundation spends $18 million a year running some of Pakistan’s best hospitals and schools.

As per Colonel E. A. Bohari (retd.), in his article, on January 1999, in the Defense Journal a very brief business profile of the Fauji Foundation would include the following:

Fully-Owned Projects:

·         Fauji Sugar Mills, Tando Mohammad Khan

·         Fauji Sugar Mills, Khoski

·         Fauji Sugar Mills, Sangla Hill

·         Fauji Sugarcane Experimental & Seed Multiplication Farm

·         Fauji Cereals

·         Fauji Corn Complex

·         Fauji Polypropylene Products Foundation Gas

Shareholding Projects:

·         Fauji Fertilizer Company Limited

·         Fauji Oil Terminal and Distribution Company Limited

·         Fauji Cement Company Limited

·         Mari Gas Company Limited

New Projects:

·         Fauji Kabriwala Power Company Limited

·         FFC-Jordan Fertilizer Company Limited

Education:

·         Colleges 2

·         Schools 64

·         Scholarships 1, 30, 942

Technical Training:

·         Technical Training Centers 9

·         Vocational Training Centers 66

·         Fauji Institutes of Computer Sciences 2

Medical:

·         Hospital 12

·         Day Health Centers 24

·         Mobile Dispensaries 48

·         Static Dispensaries 21

Owen Bennet Jones, in his book Pakistan: Eye of the Storm, asserts that the asset of the Pakistan Army is at nearly $2 billion. Former BBC Correspondent, Jones, has argued that the army’s economic operation were profitable to such an extent because they could obtain both tax breaks and subsidies.

Institutionally, military personnel in Pakistan, as they rise up the ranks, are said to be eligible for cheap plots according to their rank. When Gen. Musharraf took over the reigns of government after deposing Nawaz, in an effort to encourage transparency, had declared his assets. The details were available in the Associated Pakistan Press’ (APP) report filed on 2 November 1999, and are as given below:

·         Under construction house in Army Housing Scheme Pt-II, Karachi

·         2000 sq. yards in DHA, Karachi

·         2 x Kanals in Morgah Housing Scheme, Rawalpindi

·         1 and half Kanal in AWT Housing Scheme, Peshawar

·         8 x Marlas in LCCHS, Lahore

·         2 x Square agriculture land at Bahawalpur

·         Parent’s house in F7/3, Islamabad

·         His daughter’s house in DHA, Karachi

·         1 x Kanal plot in Eastridge Scheme (09)

·         2 x Kanals in Sangar Housing Scheme, Gwadar

You may feel that the property possessed by the general and members of his family was excessive. But then, several friends informed me that this was quite normal for senior army officers, as plots of land were offered to them at preferential rates as they climbed up the ranks. It was part and parcel of the perks that came with the job.

The army is, thus, well networked and, over the years, has perfected the job of protecting its institutional interests. Even as it allowed a civilian façade of government since 1988, it retained the clout to influence decision making on key domestic issues or when it came to overseeing Islamabad’s India policy.

The aforesaid are an iota of information about the strengths of the Pakistan Army, in economic areas, that which makes it the most power establishment by itself, and also strengthens it to rise against the civilian government, as and when needed.

Author is the Editor-In-Chief of Aseemaa: Journal for National Resurgence | indiamahesh@gmail.com | February 27, 2008

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