Can Pakistan Survive Under The Heavy Boots Of Its Generals?

Developing Just Leadership

Zia Sarhadi

Shawwal 22, 1445 2024-05-01

News & Analysis

by Zia Sarhadi (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 54, No. 3, Shawwal, 1445)

Image Source - Pixbay Free Content

To understand Pakistan’s predicament, consider the men that occupy the top four posts in the country. Asif Ali Zardari is the president, Shahbaz Sharif is the prime minister, Qazi Fa’iz Issa is the chief justice of the supreme court and Asim Munir is the head of the army.

All four men are thoroughly corrupt. Some, like Zardari, Sharif and Munir, have also committed murders. Zardari had his own brother-in-law Murtaza Bhutto as well as his wife Benazir Bhutto murdered. Sharif was involved, as chief minister of Punjab, in the murder of more than a dozen poor people in Model Town Lahore in February 2014. And since becoming the army chief, Asim Munir has ordered the murder of many innocent people, mostly supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI), the party led by former prime minister Imran Khan.

Not one of these men has been held accountable for these horrific crimes.

Fa’iz Issa, the chief justice, cannot explain how he and his wife acquired properties in the most expensive area of London. Since becoming the chief justice last October, he has made a mockery of justice. He takes his orders from the intelligence agencies and carries out their orders. When there is no justice in society, it is doomed.

The army chief occupies his post illegally. He should have retired on November 27, 2022 yet his appointment to the top post was announced in advance and he took up his post on November 29. This is a violation of the constitution as well as army rules.

Unfortunately, there is no law in Pakistan. Whoever has the power to get away with whatever they can, that passes off for law.

According to the constitution, Zardari is the highest authority in the land. Don’t laugh. He is the supreme commander of the armed forces yet he shows great deference to the army chief whenever they meet. The army chief is way down on the totem pole in rank yet he struts about the land as if he is god, astaghfirullah.

All of these men occupy their posts illegally. According to the proper official results of the February 8, 2024 general elections, the people had overwhelmingly voted for candidates backed by PTI. Goons from the army barged into polling stations, beat up PTI representatives and brazenly stole the people’s mandate.

Zardari’s party had won less than 40 seats in the 336-member National Assembly. Sharif’s party had garnered even fewer seats, around 15-20. Yet the army handed them large numbers of seats and installed them in power. Both the national assembly and the upper house, the Senate, are illegally stacked with members of the two parties.

It could be argued, quite legitimately, that electoral fraud is nothing new in Pakistan. This is true but the manner in which the people’s mandate was stolen on February 8, 2024 has no parallels in its entire tortuous history.

Since Imran Khan’s ouster, through an army-engineered vote of no-confidence in parliament that was demanded by the Americans, Pakistan’s economy has gone into a tailspin. From 6% GDP growth rate during Imran Khan’s last year in office, it has gone into negative territory.

The country’s external debt stands at around $180 billion. Interest alone on this debt is about $28 billion. Pakistan has no foreign exchange to pay this interest. True, it will be rolled over but it simply adds to the debt burden.

When in debt, there are two ways to get out of it. Either increase revenues or reduce expenditure, preferably both. In Pakistan’s case, the ruling parasitical elite are incapable of increasing revenue nor are they prepared to cut expenditure.

In an article published in the English daily, Dawn, Riaz Riazuddin, the former deputy governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, referred to research undertaken by Dr Hafeez Pasha. It was “published in the UNDP’s Pakistan National Human Development Report 2020 that focused on ‘The three Ps of Inequality: Power, People, and Policy’.”

Raizuddin writes that the “UNDP’s report estimates resource transfers to the rich to be not only on account of tax concessions, but also deliberate political and economic concessions. This report identifies the seven powerful groups in our country that get privileges and access to resources, which creates not only inequality in our country but also constrains economic growth and potential, besides giving rise to frequent economic crises.

“The report estimates this resource capture at over 7pc of GDP in FY 2018. These powerful seven groups are broadly identified in the UNDP report as the feudal class, corporate sector, exporters, large traders, high-net-worth individuals, the military establishment, and State Operated Enterprises (SOEs).”

These parasites take $17.4 billion in concessions each year, according to Mushtaq Ahmad, a former member of the Senate. The military establishment is the biggest blood sucker by dint of its might: guns and tanks. Far from being a fighting force to defend the country’s borders, these parasites live in gated communities called Defence Housing Societies (or Authorities). They grab the choicest land in the country and indulge in vast real estate scams.

The military establishment has also set up the Fauji Foundation, which is granted the status of a charity so it pays no taxes. This is a vast conglomerate whose net worth is estimated at $53 billion. It owns cement factories, golf courses, banquet halls, corn flakes factories and a host of other industries. The military establishment has now spread its tentacles into agricultural land as well as mines.

The previous caretaker government had set up a body called the Special Investment Facility Council (SIFC). It is headed by the army as are a number of its branches. What expertise do the men in khaki have about the economy apart from stealing with both hands? The one job for which they are trained—to defend the country’s borders—they have failed miserably.

Since the creation of Pakistan, India was presented as the arch enemy and the liberation of Kashmir from its clutches was the most important task of the military. For this, the military needed a huge budget. The people willingly accepted this demand. Far from confronting India or liberating Kashmir, the army has been conquering its own people in periodic bouts of martial laws.

Half the country (former East Pakistan and now Bangladesh) was lost when 93,000 soldiers, police and bureaucrats surrendered in Dhaka in a disgraceful manner to the invading Indian army on December 16, 1971. Not one general was held accountable for such disgraceful surrender. Instead, the military has continued to demand ever-larger share of the budget to “defend” the country!

The latest bright idea being floated by the army is to sell State enterprises including the country’s flagship carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), airports, seaports and even the new deep-water seaport, Gwadar. Gold and copper mines are also up for sale.

The Saudis have expressed interest in setting up an oil refinery in Gwadar but are demanding complete control of security and political affairs of the area. The Saudis are incapable of protecting Gwadar; they cannot protect even their own kingdom. The idea has been planted in their minds by the Americans and behind them, the Israelis.

The aim is to undermine China which has huge investments, amounting to some $60 billion in Pakistan. As part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Gwadar is an important node of China’s investment project.

The Pakistani generals believe that they can pit China against America and make money from both. This, they did successfully in the past, especially in Afghanistan. They made tons of money from the Americans during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. They did the same when the Americans invaded and occupied the country. General Pervez Musharraf quickly ditched the Taliban and turned the Pakistan army into a mercenary force, killing even its own people.

Now the situation is different. By handing over Gwadar to the Americans via the Saudis, the generals are allowing foreign troops on Pakistani soil.

The Americans have made no secret of their plans to redraw Pakistan’s borders. Baluchistan offers an enticing option. It will achieve two objectives at a stroke: destabilize Iran as well as Pakistan by cutting both down to size.

Pakistan is so desperate for funds that it has been making frequent trips to the IMF and the World Bank for additional loans. These loans come with stringent conditions whose burden is passed on to the hapless people of Pakistan in the form of higher food and fuel prices. Inflation is running at 38 – 40 %. Poverty levels have skyrocketed and have affected 60% of the population.

Despite these grim statistics, the parasites ruling Pakistan, led by the army, continue to live their rapacious lifestyle. They reside in palatial homes and their children study abroad. All of them have foreign nationalities, whether American, British, Canadian or Australian. They plunder Pakistan’s meagre resources and transfer them abroad.

What future can a country have with this state of affairs?

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