Since a large portion of economy is in military’s hands, they may like to assume direct charge

by R Vaidyanathan

There have been recent rumours about an impending military coup in Pakistan. That is not something new or surprising in that country, since civilian rule is a nominal mask for military dictatorship.

Pakistan is not a normal country with political leaders, a Parliament, a constitution, the army and other branches of the state. It is one of the few places in the world where the army owns a country and runs it. The army is also in charge of a substantial portion of its economy. 

After Indian action on Article 370, Pakistan appears to be very concerned about our 'secular’ fabric. They are trying to raise the issue in every way possible, without success.

In their ignorance or over enthusiasm, they claim that Kashmir is the jugular 'vain’ of Pakistan, as a recent press release by their official spokesperson, Director General ISPR revealed: “Pak Army is fully configured, prepared & determined to defend honour, dignity & territorial integrity of motherland at all cost. Kashmir is jugular vain (sic) of Pakistan & no compromise shall be made which denies right of self-determination to our brave Kashmiri brethren” - COAS. Such is their level of vain about the jugular!

Their Constitution – the 1973 version visualises– to quote from its preamble, “Whereas sovereignty over the entire Universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust; wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed” 

It is the Pakistani Army which is the chosen instrument to implement the will of God. This was clearly enunciated by its former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani; protecting Islam and protecting Pakistan are the sovereign duties of the armed forces. Actually, Kayani suggested that the role of army is more than protecting the country – it is to protect the idea and religion.

An UN investigating team appointed by former Pakistan President Asif Zardari probing the death of slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto could interview all civil leaders, including the PM and the President, but not the military brass. When the army objected to the Kerry–Lugar bill, the President had to bring in Kerry himself to convince the army chief.

It does not stop there. The army does not recognise some sects of Islam as Muslims. Ahmadis are an example. Abdus Salam, a Pak-origin scientist got the Nobel Prize in Physics, along with Steven Wienberg in 1979. His home town municipality erected an arch in memory of him, which said: ‘First Muslim Nobel Laureate in Physics’. There was a big hue and cry since he was an Ahmadi. So the word Muslim was erased. The revised plaque read: “First Nobel Laureate in Physics”!

Very recently, an MP brought a bill in the Pakistan senate to allow non-Muslims to occupy positions like Prime Minister, President etc. That was out rightly rejected by the parliamentarians. Forget about other ethnic groups like Hindus and Christians, minorities even within Islamic sects like Ahmadis and Bahais cannot occupy high constitutional positions.

In India, the defence minister can ask the army chief to court martial a General, but in Pakistan, any such attempt will result in a coup. That is why Pakistan always negotiates with a gun to its own head. It wants to assert its suicidal tendencies. 

Many studies have found that a large number of companies in Pakistan are ultimately owned by Fauji Foundation (FF), Army Welfare Trust (AWT), Bahria Foundation (BF) and Shaheen Foundation (SF), all different wings of its armed forces.

Also, a significant portion of its GDP is attributed to army-controlled entities. (See Military Inc. inside Pakistan’s Military Economy Ayesha Siddiqa—OUP—2007). One can easily conclude that the Pakistan economy and its army and spy agency, ISI, are synonymous.

At least 70% of the market capitalisation of the Karachi stock exchange is owned by the army and other related groups. Hence, never think of Pakistan without its army, whoever may be temporarily and nominally ruling that country. 

At the moment, Pakistan is facing acute economic crisis. Its inflation rate is around 13% and the rupee has declined by more than 25% this year. Its GDP growth rate has fallen to sub-3% and there is a move to put it on black list by FATF because of its role in terror financing. A group of industrialists and businessmen recently met the powerful Pakistan army chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, without Prime Minister Imran Khan being present at the meeting. It is to be noted that the army chief is a member of the Prime Minister’s Development Council.

If the economy is in crisis, the main loser will be the defence forces since they control a significant portion of it. They are certainly not going to allow the benefits to go away from them.

There will be attempts to side line Imran Khan, who is considered as a 'selected’ PM rather than an elected one. Hence there is every possibility that he may be thrown out and once again, the actual rulers, namely the Army and ISI will assume power. As we have explained, Pakistan is the only place in the world in which the army has a country.

Author is retired Professor of Finance at IIM-Bangalore and two-time Fulbright scholar.