Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Pakistan Army Is Corrupt

Many Pakistanis hold its army in high-esteem; the only solid institution Pakistan has, many will argue. But as this Spectator article clearly states, the army, defender of Pakistan, is also one of the most corrupt. An excerpt:

All too often, there is no dividing line. In her 2007 book Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy Dr Ayesha Siddiqa exposes the rampant commercialism pervading every aspect of the country’s military forces, until recently headed by President Pervaiz Musharraf. Dr Siddiqa, a former researcher with the country’s naval forces, estimates the military’s net worth at more than £10 billion — roughly four times the total foreign direct investment generated by Islamabad in 2007. She found that the army owns 12 per cent of the country’s land, its holdings being mostly fertile soil in the eastern Punjab. Two thirds of that land is in the hands of senior current and former officials, mostly brigadiers, major-generals and generals. The most senior 100 military officials are estimated to be worth, at the very least, £3.5 billion.

Many of the country’s largest corporations are also controlled by the military, thanks largely to an opaque network of powerful ‘foundations’ originally set up to look after the pension needs of army personnel. The largest three — the Fauji, Shaheen and Bahria foundations, controlled by the army, air force and navy respectively — control more than 100 separate commercial entities involved in everything from cement to cereal production. Only nine have ever published partial financial accounts, and all are ultimately controlled by the Ministry of Defence, which oversees all of the military’s commercial ventures.
The army (and the military at large) still accounts for a very large slice—after loan repayment—of the budgetary pie, which funds operations, weapon purchases, pension for soldiers, etc. On top of this, the Pakistan military has received more than $10 billion from the United States to fund anti-terrorist activities on its border with Afghanistan. But we all know that money went to boost Pakistan’s defenses with India instead. Money well spent, no?

The last question is: how is Musharraf benefiting? He fosters this air of incorruptibility, but he was also, until recently, an Army man. Musharraf knows the system well because he’s been part of it, and still benefits from it: he will get his allotment of land, his cut of the profits, and, not to mention, his pension.

The army has been doing this for so long, it has developed a sense of entitlement.