The statement by Lord Acton, a British historian that “All Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely” appositely relate to Pakistan Army. The Army which was fragile, underprovided and derisory at the time of the creation of Pakistan in 1947, has risen to develop into 6th largest army of the world with 650000 soldiers on the active list supported by half a million Army Reserve and National Guards with nuclear assets at its disposal. Today, it is the most powerful institution of Pakistan. It is said that all nation world over have Army but Pakistan Army has a nation which dances on the tune of Pak Army. Although Pakistan was formed as a democratic state ironically, the country has spent 37 years under Army dictatorship by overthrowing democratic elected Governments in three military coups and the remaining phase had puppet governments. With this unparalleled power and authority, corruption happens to be part and parcel of Pak Army.
Genesis of corruption
The foundation of the malaise was laid during General Ayub’s time when he started the “Culture of Entitlement” and commenced awarding land to army officers. It has to turn into a common practice that officers used to acquire plots in different cantonments of their choice at highly subsidized rates and then sell off these plots at an exorbitant price resulting in nepotism in allotment and corruption among both the military and civil bureaucracies. He also started involving serving officers into money-making activities. Army lands, cantonments and the powers for provisioning of administrative and logistics were given to local commanders. In order to create a structured organization to accord legitimacy to a range of commercial activities, several foundations and trusts were formed which could be given direct contracts by the Army without going through any process or procedures. These organizations have virtually penetrated into all economic activities in the country.
It is a well-established reality that Pak Army runs the country by having absolute control over external affairs, security and economic activities. Army has built the largest and most profitable business empire in the country. Today, Army’s total private business stands at more than $100 billion and is the largest business conglomerate having more than 100 concerns, primarily in areas of banking, food, retail superstores, cement, real state housing, construction, private security services, insurance – the list is endless. To run these businesses, The Army has created a number of foundations and charitable Trusts, the notable ones are Fauzi Foundation, Shaheen Foundation, Bahria Foundation, Army welfare Trust and Defence Housing Authority with Fauzi Foundation being the most diversified business conglomerate having more than 25 companies.
These organizations are run by serving as well as retired senior Army officers. As per the latest record, Pak Army is holding 12% of the land of the country. The Pak Army is on business expanding spree and of late entered into the business of oil sector where, in February, Frontier Oil Company, a subsidiary of Army’s Frontier Works Organisation was granted a contract for construction of a 470KM long pipeline at an estimated cost of $370 million violating laid down procedure and rules. Besides, the Army also exercising control over Public Sector Organisations such as Frontier Works Organisations, Water and Power Development Authority, Special Communication Organisation and National Logistics Cell. In spite of funds flowing into the Army’s kitty from all quarters including aids from the US, Saudi Arabia and other friendly countries, profit from business ventures and defence allocation by the civil Government.
Right from the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the senior Army officers realized the perks and privileges to be taken from all probable sources and steadily ingressed into all spheres of activities of the country with primary focus on exploitation of economy for personnel gains, riding on self-assessed and unfounded threat from Indian aggression. The “Culture of Entitlement” started during Ayub’s time is getting stronger slowly but systematically and this culture is certainly going to stay. It appears that Pak Army has no concern for country’s safety, security and welfare of its citizens as it is continue to amass wealth for their officers wherein country’s economy is at critical juncture and on the verge of collapse. The country has debt and almost cash-strapped with only $8 billion reserve which can barely cover 1.7 months of imports. The Government of Pakistan is running from pillar to post, with a begging bowl and also approached International Monetary Fund(IMF) but could manage barely $6 billion from IMF as bailout package, 13th since 1980. In spite of World Banks’ suggestion to put cap on its defence budget, $1.1 trillion, approximately 21% of total budget has been allocated to defence during 2018. It is to be seen as to where the all-powerful, authoritative, dominating Pak Army will take country where the civilian Government has no courage to question the authority and deeds of the Army.
18 Jul 19/Thursday Written by Fayaz