The Pakistani army has ruled Pakistan almost throughout its creation in 1947, either directly when there was martial law, or covertly under the figleaf of a civilian government ( as today ).
Why is it that the Pakistan army does not withdraw from politics, and confines itself to the traditional role of militaries worldwide, i.e. defending the country’s borders, and helping the civilian government in time of civil disturbance ?
To answer this question one has to delve into Pakistani history.
Pakistan was created as an Islamic state in 1947. It was thought by its creators that what would keep it together was Islam.
However, this proved to be an illusion.There were such tremendous differences in Pakistani society, between the Bengali East and those who lived in the West, between Sunni and Shia, Deobandi and Barelvi, Wahabi and Sufi, between Punjabis who being over 60% of the population soon became the dominant group, and the non-Punjabis who often felt suppressed , that the glue of Islam which was supposed to keep the country together, soon proved woefully inadequate.
It was at this stage that the Pakistan military ( particularly the army ) came forward, and claimed that it alone was that glue by which Pakistan could survive in one piece. Remove that glue, and Pakistan will break into a hundred pieces ( or be devoured by its mortal foe, India )..
Thus the army proclaimed itself to be the real saviour of Pakistan.
However, the saviour said that since it was performing such a sacred function, it must be adequately financially rewarded by the nation..
Ever since Gen Ayub Khan staged a coup in 1958, the army which directly ruled Pakistan for 30 years, and indirectly (under cover of a civilian leadership) for the remaining period, steadily spread its tentacles into almost every sector of the country’s economy — industry, agriculture and services. The military ruthlessly milked Pakistan’s economy, benefiting military personnel (particularly the senior officers) most of whom became multi millionaires, and some even billionaires.
As pointed out by Eliot Wilson in his article ‘The military millionaires who control Pak Inc’ published in The Spectator, and by Ayesha Siddiqa in her widely acclaimed book Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy (she has also spoken about this in her video interview on YouTube), Pakistan’s economy is dominated by the military, which owns everything from fertilizer factories, bakeries, petrol pumps, banks, cement, hosiery factories, milk dairies, stud farms, golf courses, etc. Hundreds of commercial entities, worth over $20 billion, are owned and run by the military, which is allotted over 25 per cent of the national budget.
The jewel in the military’s crown is the real estate sector. Ever since Gen Ayub Khan started the practice of allotting large tracts of prime land to military officers, the phenomenon has multiplied exponentially. Over 14 per cent of Pakistan’s land is owned by the military, mostly prime land in fertile Punjab and Sindh, which is in the hands of senior officers, serving and retired. Some very senior retired Generals are reportedly worth $3.5 billion. There are several housing societies whose land was given to military officers at highly subsidised rates. On retirement, a major general (who usually owns a Mercedes car) is expected to receive a present of 240 acres of farmland worth £550,000 ($673,411) as well as a residential plot worth £700,000 ($857,069).
Many of Pakistan’s largest corporates are controlled by the military by opaque trusts. For example, the Fauji Foundation and Army Welfare Trust, the Shaheen Foundation (for the Air Force) and Bahria Foundation (for the Navy), which have penetrated into all sectors of Pakistan’s economy, and own and run hundreds of commercial enterprises — producing everything from cement, bakeries, fertilisers and cereal to running golf courses and stud farms. Thus, the Army Welfare Trust runs the Askari Commercial Bank (Pakistan’s largest lender), an airline, a travel agency, petrol pumps, and more.
The Pakistan military is loath to disclose these details, and even asking questions about them is dangerous and taboo in Pakistan. A political leader who tries to curb this gargantuan scandal is soon ousted from power, for example, Bhutto (who was hanged) and Nawaz Sharif (who was jailed ). Journalists who investigate or raise these questions are often bumped off by the ISI — like Syed Saleem Shahzad, who investigated the link between the Navy and Al-Qaeda. Zahid Husain, who wrote an article in Newsweek documenting the military corporate and real estate empire that gave the senior officers enormous wealth, and lately, Arshad Sharif, who was mysteriously killed in Kenya. The senior lady lawyer who raised these questions, Asma Jahangir, was imprisoned and her family business targeted. Ayesha Siddiqa is surviving as she lives and works in London
The civilian state institutions like Parliament, the Ministers, and the judiciary dare not question the military about this financial angle.
As is evident from the above discussion, the Pakistan army (particularly its senior officers ) has acquired enormous wealth. It will naturally not wish to part with this.
But it has a problem. The army no doubt has the gun, and so most people are scared of it. But, it knows it cannot rule by force alone. The people of Pakistan are mostly terribly impoverished, and the time may come when there may be a popular uprising against the army’s loot. So, the army has to have an enemy, towards which it can divert the people’s anger. This enemy is India. The Pakistan army portrays itself as the sole bulwark and sole saviour of the Islamic Republic against this enemy, and so it claims special rewards in the form of privileges and perks for doing its ‘patriotic duty’.
From all that has been said above, it is evident that the Pakistan military for long has been having a merry feast, and like a tiger that has tasted blood, would naturally not like to be deprived of it. Even when the country is having economic difficulties, the military will not give up its benefits and amenities.
If the Pakistan army effectively renounces politics, and subordinates itself to a civilian government, it will have to give up its economic vested interests ( mentioned above ), which it will be very reluctant to do. As was said by someone about the Roman Catholic Church ” It will readily give up 35 of its 36 principles, but fight tooth and nail before it gives up one-thirty sixth of its property ”.
Also, it may be called on by its civilian masters to render accounts of its huge loot, something which it will undoubtedly find very unpalatable.
For these reasons, and realising that it has the gun, and power grows from its barrel ( as the aphorism goes ), the Pakistan military will never really renounce politics. It has become a Vampire, which needs to drink the blood of the Pakistani people constantly for its survival.
It is high time now that the mask of belonging to an an honourable profession be torn off from the faces of these looters and murderers, and they be exposed in their true colours as rapacious gangsters, who far from serving their country, only serve themselves, and survive by drinking the people’s blood, like vampires.