Is it true that the Pakistan Army is a business house?

Mudassir Ali
Feb 08, 2020 04:53 AM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Feb 08, 2020 04:53 AM

Yes absolutely. Since the 1980s, with jihadis doing most of the work for the Pakistan Army, Pakistan military’s top brass, particularly, the retired and serving mid-level and senior officers, have increasingly focused efforts on acquiring land for property development and also setting up various businesses with the aim of creating a monopoly for various products in the market. The so-called charitable foundations, the Fauji Foundation (established in 1955; run mostly by retired senior Pakistan Army officers), the Shaheen Foundation (established in 1977; run by retired Pakistan Air Force officers) and the Bahria Foundation (which was established in 1982 with the sole intention of reducing inter-services rivalry; run by retired senior officers of the Pakistan Navy) are in reality business conglomerates where only retired and serving officers are entitled to a share of the profits. As the Army is larger in strength than the Air Force or the Navy, the Army also set up a private-sector charitable trust, the Army Welfare Trust (A.W.T.) exclusively run by senior Pakistan Army officers (both retired and serving). Here again, the soldiers do get a marginal share in the profits but the bulk of the control of various businesses run by the A.W.T. is again with the officers. Then there is the National Logistics Cell, established by military dictator General Zia in the year 1978 to ease congestion at the Karachi port, N.L.C., has used the military’s enormous judicial and political clout to take away the share of haulage business that was meant for the Pakistan Railways, thereby, making the railways go bankrupt. Headed by a two-star General or Major General from the Pakistan Army’s Army Service Corps, the N.L.C. now has it’s own freight train. N.L.C. vehicles also do not need to pay any highway tolls and also escape police corruption as they are exempt from checking by the police. Then there is the Frontier Works Organization (F.W.O.), set up by military dictator Ayub Khan in 1966, with the original aim of building the Karakoram Highway (the road that links Pakistan and China), the Karakoram Highway was completed in 1978 but after that, the F.W.O. which has always been headed by a General from the Pakistan Army’s Corps of Engineers, was repeteadly allotted contracts for building roads and bridges. The A.W.T., which had started with just one sugar mill in 1971, had, by the year 2000, diversified into various business sectors such as clothing, shoes, medicines, lubricants, cement, power plants, etc. If this wasn’t enough, Pakistan military officers are entitled to land at rock bottom prices which are way below market rate and a military officer with negligible personal cost, can easily develop the property allotted to him and then sell it at market rate, thereby, making a very huge profit. This along with the unchecked authority of the military means that the various Corps commanders of the Pakistan Army run smaller ventures like gas stations, bakeries, shopping malls, etc. Successive civilian governments have repeatedly given the A.W.T. state-owned land, despite the A.W.T. actually being registered as a private charitable trust. The three branches of the Pakistan military are also into education business — the Pakistan Navy has it’s own university, Bahria University, usually headed by a retired senior Admiral, the Air Force has it’s own schools and intermediate colleges (Fazaia Intermediate Colleges) and the Army succeeded in establishing a seperate board of examinations, independent from the government, the Askari Education Board and of course, the Army also has it’s share of schools and intermediate colleges. Most of the seats in these educational institutions is reserved for the children of officers and they pay very low tuition fees when compared to civilians and if you thought, well at least farmland in Pakistan is almost exclusively owned by civilians, you are wrong!. An officer of Major General or two-star General rank and above gets 240 acres of irrigated land and the lands owned by military officers always get more share of irrigated water over other farmers’ lands. While urban real estate is limited to military officers, farmland is also given to non-officers. As for tax, the Fauji Foundation, Shaheen Foundation and the Bahria Foundation all pay income tax at 30% while the A.W.T. pays just 20% tax on income. Since Pakistan is still mostly a cash economy and online transaction facilities are absent in most areas, getting away with corruption, that for the military, Pakistan’s most powerful institution is very easy.


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