Stringer Asia Logo
Share on Google+
news of the day
in depth
Military Enterprise
  • ?Military Enterprise
    ?Military Enterprise
It is Pakistan's largest industrial group, a multinational corporation with a $26.5 billion turnover and about three million people on its payroll. A multinational corporation that, despite the economic crisis, is growing by a good twenty percent annually and that runs business projects and financial operations throughout the country totaling about ten percent of Gross Domestic Product: making it in this respect and proportionately, the richest multinational corporation in the world. Richer than the multi-billion dollar groups next door, the Indian Ambani or Adani, and also richer than most Western or Chinese groups. It is the highly meritorious as well as unacknowledged abroad Fauji Foundation, founded in 1954 by then army chief General Ayub Khan and Defense Secretary Major General Iskandar Mirza: and that is, in plain words, the Pakistani army. Which may not be, as its generals claim, the strongest army in the world since documents in hand have never won a war, but it is certainly the richest army in the world. So much so that it justifies the old but always relevant joke that has been circulating for years: all nations have an army while, in Pakistan, it is the army that owns a nation. Literally. The Pakistani army has interests in virtually every sector. It produces, among other things, steel, furniture, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, food, grains, processed meats, and more. It is the largest construction company in the country, with about fifty housing unit development projects covering thousands of acres: just to cite a couple of examples, Islamabad's DHA (Defense Housing Authority) covers more than sixteen thousand acres, Karachi's about twelve thousand. The land in question is allocated free of charge by the government to the army, which then resells houses to private individuals at sky-high surcharges. The army owns mines, clinics and hospitals, schools and universities scattered throughout the country. It is the largest producer of cement and fertilizer in Pakistan. And even if you analyze the compositions of the boards of the Sino-Pakistani companies carrying out the 'development' projects along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, you invariably find some retired or active-duty member of the army, or his relatives and kin. Not only that. The army is also an oil and gas giant, with more than two dozen companies involved in the import, distribution and processing of petroleum products. And although Pakistan's space program never got off the ground, the army is the main contractor for SUPARCO (Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission of Pakistan). It also earned mind-boggling figures during the infamous 'war on terror' in Afghanistan, crediting itself as the main supplier of goods and services to coalition forces and to all foreign contractors working in Afghanistan, FATA, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In addition to the private sector, the military is also involved in public sector enterprises. More than a dozen enterprises, including the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), the National Logistics Cell (NLC), the Frontier Works Organization (FWO) and the Special Communications Organization (SCO) are totally controlled by the military. Cherry on the cake, the military owns Askari Bank, which is among the top five banks in the country and is, among other things, Pakistan's largest player in wind energy. Almost all of the above enterprises and holdings are run by charitable organizations: the Askari Foundation, Fauji Foundation (Pakistan Army), Shaheen Foundation (Pakistan Air Force), Baharia Foundation (Pakistan Navy), Army Welfare trust, Defense Housing Authorities (DHA) and so on. Since these are charities, created in theory for the purpose of providing services and benefits to military personnel, they do not pay taxes. Even though the profits generated are not reinvested in the aforementioned activities but cheerfully distributed to shareholders who happen to be retired generals and colonels who not only receive dividends but end up en masse running the companies in question or in the ranks of the diplomatic service. Given the multinational corporation's success and profits, the military is now preparing to enter the agricultural sector as well: it was reported last month that the Punjab government handed over the management of some 45,267 acres of farmland to the military. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that even though the country is starving, the military refuses to accept cuts in the nuclear program or military spending. Politicians and generals can always go to their London apartments and use their foreign bank accounts anyway. While the rest of the country has only to continue to comply with the precept dictated many years ago by the ineffable Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto: starve or eat grass in order to continue to declare themselves proud owners of the Bomb.
Francesca Marino