Ayesha Siddiqa : A Thorn In The Side Of The Paki EstablishmentHow Pakistan’s Military Monopolised State Resources For Personal Use
The 2017 edition of Ayesha Siddiqa’s Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy discusses how military capital being used for personal benefits is now a permanent feature in Pakistan. At present, the writer is safely ensconced in Londonistan !
In 2007, Ayesha Siddiqa touched a raw nerve by publishing Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy. Then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf branded her a traitor, blocked the book launch, threatened to try her for treason and hounded her out of the country. Her crime was documenting the Pakistani military’s business involvement (“Milbus”) at the cost of the public economy. The 2017 edition of Military Inc. adds details from the post-Musharraf era and concludes that Milbus has become a permanent feature now. There is also widespread public and media acceptance of Milbus through the Pakistan military’s successful efforts in brushing up its image as the most trustworthy security guardian even under civilian rule. According to her, “In post 2007 Pakistan, military power is more intensely entrenched” The Paki military has successfully created an false image that it is the only institution
that is capable of defending the so-called Islamic and Pakistan ideology ( whatever it means
Siddiqa defines Milbus as military capital used for the personal benefit of the military fraternity. Over a period of time a segment of civilians has also benefited. These funds are neither recorded nor are they part of the defence budget. These activities are controlled by retired or serving military officers or under their patronage. Milbus evades regular accountability procedures for “the gratification of military personnel and their cronies”. A nexus exists between military, corrupt bureaucrats, land and building mafia ; those who join the club are adequately compensated .(eg. Malik Riaz and Kayani brothers !)
Milbus activities and dividends are justified as quid pro quo for their security work to the state. They are also justified as welfare measures provided to the armed forces. However “the rewards are limited to the officer cadre rather than being evenly distributed among the rank and file”. Even a noted columnist like Khaled Ahmad, who disagrees with much of the Pakistani military’s stance, told her that Pakistan should pay the price “for what we believe in. There is a paradox triggered by our nationalism which allows the military to monopolize the state’s resources.” The so-called guardians of Paki Ideology !
The military’s involvement in politics results in Milbus, which in turn generates military interest to remain in power or to control the government. In fact, it perpetuates “the military’s political predatory style”. It serves as a tool for the military to gain “institutional and personal economic influence”, thereby preventing any possibility of pushing them back to the barracks to allow democratic institutions to flourish. The military’s expertise in “violence management” gives a special character and influence to the Milbus economy. This is evident in countries in Latin America, Pakistan, Indonesia or Turkey Mush's false claim that "democracy has to be tailored to the needs of Pakistan "
The military’s predatory style makes its capital “concealed, not recorded as part of the budget, and entails unexplained and questionable transfer of resources from the public to the private sector, especially to individuals or groups of people connected with the armed forces”. Financial autonomy gives the military a sense of superiority over “incompetent civilians”. Milbus activities are not revealed to the public on “national security” grounds. There are many instances whether military backed enterprises have muscled their way into civilian business ventures
xternal factors also helped Milbus thrive. The US considered the military in many of its client states as “instruments of domestic stability and as partners that were depended upon for achieving US security objectives”. In such countries, the military justifies their encroachment into the economy for guarding national security. The elite in such countries either turns a blind eye to military’s economic interests or tries to join them as “cronies” to derive commercial advantage. International businesses also build corporate partnerships with military-operated business groups, as they dominate the government and can deliver.
Milbus creates monopolies resulting in market distortions by giving military officers and “cronies” unfair advantages in winning contracts and also by permitting a hidden flow of funds from the public to the private sector. “Such redistributive processes encourage both authoritarianism and clientship”. However this rapacious behaviour also creates tensions to the detriment of the dispossessed. Any businessman complaining against the unfair advantage of the military in gaining civilian business is immediately labelled as a traitor !
Criticize "fauj" at your own peril !
Although no public data were available, the author tried to do case studies of four welfare foundations: the Fauji Foundation, Army Welfare Trust, Shaheen Foundation and Bahria Foundation. These are subsidiaries of defence establishments with diverse business activities like private security firms, corporate enterprises like banks, insurance companies, radio and television channels, fertiliser companies, cement and cereal businesses, bakeries, farms and schools.
Their activities are not at all transparent. Out of 96 projects run by these foundations, only nine are listed with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan. In 2005, the Pakistan defence ministry rejected their parliament’s call to enquire into the “under-sale” of a sugar mill by Fauji Foundation
The author laments that the civilian elite also had an active role to play in propelling the military to prominence, as they used it as a political force multiplier without realising that “the military would gain wings of its own”. She blames Pakistan’s initial civilian leadership for this, since the military was allowed to initiate a major operation (against India) without civilian control, which propelled the army into significance. She quotes Brigadier (retired) A.R. Siddiqui, a noted Pakistani author, who had said that the use of tribals to take control of Kashmir was the first reason for turning Pakistan into a military-dominated state. A strengthened military under General Zia ul-Haq asserted its supremacy by introducing Article 58(2)(b), which empowered the president to dismiss elected governments.
In her 2017 edition, the author adds that the military have now shown clever resilience to the new wave of democratic transformation under foreign pressure. However in that process it has also become stronger. The army felt that it would be better to allow a civilian government to run the day-to-day affairs, take responsibility for policies made by the generals and face the international community. In that way, “a military led government was replaced by a military led governance system in which the Army GHQ controlled strategic affairs”. Which includes guarding the "Islami crown jewels", relations with India, Kashmir policy, China, USA and Saudi Arabia, and the control/ use of non-state actors for strategic purposes !
The author quotes Hein Kiessling, who told her a sensational story about how Musharraf’s resignation was forcibly extracted by Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani who kept him “under a brief, forced detention”. She says that this was never reported publicly. (I had reviewed Hein Kiessling’s book on the ISI, Faith, Unity, Discipline, for The Wire, but this was not mentioned in that book.) At one time , Mush- a Shia- was facing a hard time and there were reports in the Paki press that Ashfack, his one -time subordinate and - a fellow Shia- did not raise a finger and come to his rescue
Musharraf’s pro-India stance on Kashmir was resented by middle-level officers who firmly believe that “opposing India is not just a policy but is the country’s and the military’s raison d’etre”. She quotes Riaz Khokhar that Musharraf’s three-star generals did not support him on his Kashmir policy. The author hints that the lawyers’ agitation was contrived by the military to ease Musharraf out of power. Mush a Mohajir did not have a constituency of his own , although he tried his best to ingratiate himself with the Pakjabis
By 2016, the Milbus in Pakistan “seemed unstoppable” since the army was perceived as the only credible national institution for guarding national security, fighting terrorism and intervening domestically to be a “counterweight to the corrupt, unaccountable and inefficient image of the political class”. This has boosted the army’s media image. This was also because “all political, religious and ethnic parties have over the years developed a dependency on the military”. IMO, Raheel, the Umah NATO C-I-C is presently polishing his resume and will eventually seek the PM ship of Pakiland . He will of course face "tough competition" from his one-time mentor Mush . It will be interesting to see the competition between the two !