Not Just Imran Khan, Pakistan Army Also Causing 'Perfect Storm' In Their Country
Pakistan army asserts that its administrative abilities in all areas are better than that of the civil service.
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Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party’s challenge to the writ of the state for the better part of this week in Lahore has demonstrated one aspect of the “perfect storm” that continues to hold the country in its grip. The term “perfect storm” was used by Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari during an interview on an American TV show on 15 March.
What Bilawal Bhutto said needs to quoted in full because it demonstrates the dire condition of Pakistan. He said “Unfortunately, Pakistan is facing a perfect storm. Not only do we have heightened partisanship to the extent that political parties or political stakeholders aren’t even in a position to sit in a room and discuss issues amongst themselves we are also facing an economic crisis”.
He went on to add “We are facing a security threat from the fall out of from the fall of the Afghan government and terrorist attacks are taking place with increasing frequency in Pakistan. And, we just faced the biggest climate catastrophe of our history where the third of the land mass of our country was under water and that (is) something my generation and generations to come will continue to pay the price for decisions that others have taken”
A “perfect storm” continues to hold Pakistan in its grip. Why has Pakistan reached such a terrible pass?
The answer is the dominant role that the Pakistan army continues to play in the country’s national life.
Punjab's caretaker government has agreed to transfer 45,267 acres of land in three districts of the province to the army for agricultural purposes.
In Pakistan, the army asserts, without any qualms, that its administrative abilities in all areas are better than that of the civil service.
Can Pakistanis Realise & Resist the Hold of the Army?
Seldom has a foreign minister of any country spoken with such candour. Besides, this writer cannot recall any instance where a Pakistan Foreign Minister has painted such a dismal but accurate picture about his country and its future. However, what Bilawal Bhutto Zardari refrained from doing during the interview was to go into the reasons why Pakistan has reached such a terrible pass.
All Pakistanis have to ask themselves that basic question but except for a small minority no one is really willing to do so even though the answer stares them in the face. That answer is the dominant role that the Pakistan army continues to play in the country’s national life. This was once again evident through a report in the Pakistan’s respected newspaper Dawn on 17 March. Amidst the political drama that has played out in the centre of Lahore this week it is this report that shows the depth of the comprehensive hold of the army over Pakistan.
Land Transfer To Pakistan Army
Pakistan’s Punjab province is under a caretaker government with Mohsin Raza Naqvi as the chief minister. According to the Dawn report this caretaker government has agreed to transfer 45,267 acres of land in three districts of the province—Bhakkar, Khushab and Sahiwal—to the army for agricultural purposes. The army will call the shots in a Joint Venture which has been formed between the government, corporates, and the army for the agricultural development of the land. The Dawn noted “The Punjab government will provide the land while the army will utilise its resources and retain the management of the project. The private sector, on the other hand, will invest and provide auxiliary support, including the supply of fertilizers”.
The army is emphasising that the ownership of the land will continue to vest in the Punjab government but it will provide a “coherent administrative structure”. The obvious inference which can be drawn from these words is that the army does not consider the bureaucracy capable of “coherent” administration. This has, of course, been the view of the army ever since it intervened in national politics directly since General later self-appointed Field Marshal Ayub Khan in 1958.
Pakistan Army: Military or Mafia?
The fact is that the Pakistan army dominates the country’s economic life and the political class and the people accept it as normal. That is why a caretaker administration which is expected to manage day to day activities decided to enter into such a deal. Retired army officers are employed in the economic and commercial ventures of the Fauji Foundation and will also be involved in this agricultural undertaking. It would not be wrong to assert that the Pakistan army is akin to a land mafia and grabs land for the housing of its retired officers and soldiers and for industries and for agriculture too. All this personally benefits retired army officers and staff.
In no other democratic country is it conceivable that an army would openly and shamelessly involve itself in matters which are far removed from national defence. What is more fascinating is that on this occasion it is teaming up with corporates in agriculture. Surely, a JV between the Punjab government and the corporates could have been formed without the army. That would have been the case in any other country but in Pakistan, the army asserts, without any qualms, that its administrative abilities in all areas are better than that of the civil service.
All Governments Hail the Army
Under Pakistan’s constitution, general elections either to the National Assembly or a Provincial Assembly can only be held under a caretaker administration. The Punjab provincial assembly was dissolved on the advice of Imran Khan’s ally Pervez Ilahi who was Punjab Chief Minister in January. Ilahi left office and a caretaker government with Mohsin Raza Naqvi as the chief minister took oath in the last week of January. Naqvi is 44, has a background in journalism but has become a successful media entrepreneur and is believed to be close to the Sharif family.
Thus, even if it has by now become a cliché, it must be reiterated that the Pakistani army has a state while other states have armies. This extraordinary development of the Naqvi government transferring land to the army is only one more manifestation of the army’s position in the country’s life.
(The writer is a former Secretary [West], Ministry of External Affairs. He can be reached @VivekKatju. This is a personal blog, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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Topics: Pakistan Imran Khan Pakistan Army
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