A new book (Military Inc – Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy. by Dr. Ayesha Siddiqua) has been published in Pakistan that digs into the vast and expansive empire that the Pakistani Military has set up in Pakistan over the past 6 decades.
The military of Pakistan long ago ceased to be an instrument of the civil government to defend national security and borders. As early as the first military martial law in Pakistan, it sought to take direct power in its own hands, and since then has only attempted to further extend its grip on not just the political power, but has also reached out to consolidate its control over major economic institutions and even judiciary.
I received an email several years ago that listed the number of major Pakistani institutions that were either owned by the military or were now under direct control of the military. The list was eye opening, and frightening. Majors, Colonels, Brigadiers and Admirals (current or retired) were scattered all over the map and held positions that they simply could not have held by sheer merit. The list of industries where military or ex-military were in charge included steel mills, sugar factories, cement factories, fertilizer factories, cereal factories, banks, logistics companies, construction companies, utilities, even universities and other higher education institutions.
Here are some notes from a decent review of her book:
The author is a well-known strategic affairs analyst. The central argument of her book is that `Milbus’ (combining the words military and business) perpetuates the military’s political predatory style. Its good health is dependent on the military’s influence over state and society. In other words, profit is directly proportionate to power. And, that this is both a cause and effect of a non-democratic political system.
Ms. Siddiqa defines `Milbus’ as military capital used for the personal benefit of the military fraternity. It refers to all activities that transfer resources from the state to an individual or a group within the military. These activities do not figure in the defence budget nor are they subject to the normal accountability procedures of the state. They are either directly controlled by the military or enjoy its implicit or explicit patronage.
The beneficiaries are primarily officers, both serving and retired, but the author says the `Milbus’ harvest is reaped by a wider circle of civilian businessmen and politicians who have decided in their own interests to play the game. And in this, says Ms. Siddiqa, lies the key to Pakistan’s story of repeated military rule. Civilian `clients’ are bound in predatory partnerships with the military, in turn strengthening it institutionally and increasing its appetite for power and profit.
In Pakistan, `Milbus’ is present in all three sectors: agriculture, manufacturing, and services. And it operates at three levels: as an institution, through its subsidiaries, and through individuals.
At the level of the individual, the military provides several benefits to its personnel. The boys always find jobs after retirement. The Musharraf regime has placed between 4,000-5,000 military officers through a system of preferential appointments.
But the biggest and the most visible perk is the rural and urban land given out to serving and retired officers. They also get subsidies and other benefits to develop the land. The estimated worth of the legally acquired assets of Pakistan’s generals, says Ms. Siddiqa, is in the range of $ 2.59 million-$ 6.9 million, based primarily on the value of rural and urban properties of these new land barons. The Pakistan military, as a single group, owns more land than any other institution or group, amounting to about 12 per cent of total state land. And unlike other state institutions, the military can convert this land for private usage.
Of the 11.58 million acres of land under its control, more than half is owned by individual members of the armed forces, mainly officers. Ms. Siddiqa argues that the “monopolisation” of land by the armed forces is aimed not just at increasing the financial worth of individuals or groups within the army, but also to increase its social and political worth. “The military owes it authority to change the usage of land to its phenomenal political clout. The land redistribution policy has an impact on the relationship between the powerful ruling elite in the country — of which the military is a part — and the masses.”
Here’s some recent news from this book’s inauguration ceremony held in pakistan:
ISLAMABAD, May 31: A book putting a critical spotlight on the military’s business nooks was launched from a virtual sanctuary on Thursday and some high-profile political reviewers seized upon it to denounce the army’s role in Pakistani politics.
The launching of the book, Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, by Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, a military analyst, was due to have taken place at the capital’s elitist Islamabad Club.
But the author told a surprised audience that not only the club cancelled the booking of its auditorium, “all hotels in Islamabad were also told” by unspecified authorities not to allow the use of their halls for this, forcing the organisers to find a sanctuary at a third-floor room provided by a non-governmental organisation.
Mr Aitzaz Ahsan said the expose of Ayesha, who puts the net worth of the army’s commercial empire at Rs200 billion, had come at a “defining moment” in Pakistan’s history following President Pervez Musharraf’s controversial charge-sheeting and suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
He narrated what he called the military’s moves in the past to convert Pakistan into a national security state contrary to the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s vision of a welfare state and to forge an alliance with mullahs in search of an ideological justification for this, but said he thought now “a watershed has come”.
Mr Iqbal rejected as a myth usual accusations holding politicians responsible for four military coups in Pakistan’s history and put the blame on what he called ambitions of army chiefs who toppled civilian governments from General Mohammad Ayub Khan, who later became field marshal, to General Musharraf.
It speaks about the role of the military power in transforming the Pakistani society, armed forces becoming an independent class entrenched in the corporate sector and their five giant welfare foundations, or conglomerates, running thousands of businesses ranging from petrol pumps to industrial plants.
Adil has also posted a note about it on ATP.