Army, Strong Economy: Two Parallels or Two Opposites
HAGUE, Netherlands, July 21: Recently the Pakistani military ruler
claimed in front of large audience in Shandoor: ‘Pakistan
is rising economically, both our defence and economic foundations
are strong now’. Well the General was not completely honest
while making this statement as the reality is quite different
than what he perceives it to be.
so called friends see us as the front line state against war on
terror whereas in the eyes of our critics Pakistan is the epicenter
of terrorism. Both mean the same.
the recent 7/7 attacks in London where the four terrorists had
Pakistani origins and had visited religious schools in Pakistan
just months ago before carrying out the terrorist acts, it seems
that the country is more of an epicenter of radicalism and extremism
than a country which is waging a war against fanaticism. (Pix
above shows Madarassa students protesting on the streets of Lahore).
anything the extremist groups still have a free hand in the country.
In one of the four provinces, these extremist elements hold the
majority seats and are calling for Taliban style government by
passing one extremist law after another.
all this, Musharraf seems to be the only beneficiary as he has
proved himself to be one of the best rent seeker dictators of
his times. He has taken billions of dollars from the west with
a promise to extend unconditional cooperation against war on terror.
is a long debate whether the West is really getting the returns
worth their money from their key ally on war on terror in Pakistan.
However one thing is sure, it is in Musharraf’s own interest
to prolong this war on extremism in Pakistan, as it is the sole
source of his rent seeking from the West, whereas this war will
last as long as extremism and radicalism will last in this country.
under his dictatorial rule would not be a blue eyed boy of the
West, as it is today, once the war on terror is over. Musharraf
knows that the West, which is the champion of democracy, has accepted
his dictatorship only as a compromise for his cooperation.
with the support of his Western allies, Musharraf is successfully
ruling over Pakistan and it seems his prime motive remains simple
and singular: to prolong and sustain his dictatorial rule over
Pakistan. The money he has received is thus duly utilized to this
instance a significant part has been allocated to billion dollar
defence deals and further strengthening the army as an institution.
This step is to ensure his continuous support in the army which
remains the primary source of his power.
A good part of the money has been injected into the economy only
to artificially improve the statistics as seen in the macro picture.
He is defending his dictatorial rule over the previous democratic
governments on the basis of Pakistani economic achievement which
is empty at best in real terms as the plight of the common man
is worse than the 1990s.
government may view Pakistan as progressing, but a neutral observer
views any such optimism with a lot of skepticism, whereas the
skepticism feeds on the stark reality that this country has been
witnessing a rapid demise of its political and legal institutions
under army rule.
doubt, the utter tragedy in this country is that strong political
institutions, which are deemed to be a pre-requisite of any progressing
society, are considered by our present leadership to be a unnecessary.
Ridiculous and bizarre it may sound, but this is the bitter truth
and the leadership wants us to swallow it. Doesn’t matter
if we agree or not.
all military dictators, the lame justification Pakistan’s
military leadership gives is that army is the only competent institution
whereas politicians and judiciary in Pakistan has largely been
incompetent., So further strengthening the army is in Pakistani
national interest and the most competent should run the country
if this country has to progress.
in the opinion of the intelligentsia in Pakistan and outside,
weak institutions are the ones we need to strengthen and not the
armed forces if we want to develop and progress on sustainable
basis. It seems that an obvious fact has skipped the thinking
minds of our rulers that armed forces are not meant to run the
countries or contribute to economic prosperity.
their sole duty is to defend the borders of a sovereign nation.
Yes, armed forces need to be strong enough to be able to deter
the enemy against confrontation or defend the country if attacked.
But in a country which yearns to progress, the army can never
be a substitute of political institutions or judiciary.
country has seen many wars and many we may have lost not because
we did not have strong army but because the enemy was many times
superior to us. If there was ever a need to have a large army
with a large arsenal, it is indeed not today for several reasons.
First, we are a nuclear state.
In order to get this nuclear capability, the nation has already
sacrificed billions which could have been spent on poverty alleviation
and social and infrastructure development, to allow the generals
to spend to their satisfaction so that our borders would remain
secure and we can live like a sovereign nation.
for a small country like Pakistan, the strength of the armed forces
does not come from being large and expensive to the exchequer,
but from being disciplined. Pakistani armed ranks have always
been strong and confident to face any outside aggression as they
practice immaculate discipline. It is only the top brass, which
needs to learn some lessons so that they stop walking over the
constitution and overthrowing democratic governments when ever
they feel like it.
and more importantly, the need to increase the arsenal is not
required as our so-called traditional enemy is trying to become
a friend and we have tried to be sensible as we have abandoned
the language of confrontation and have started talking peace.
Both Pakistan and India have wisely recognized that confrontation
has not done any good to them and they have to learn to live as
peaceful neighbors if they want to progress and realize their
when poverty is on top of the government agenda and the General
himself claims that the government is following a comprehensive
strategy for poverty reduction through employment generation and
sustainable economic development at the grassroots level, adequate
amount of funds need to channeled to meet the challenges of development
sector rather than procuring expensive military gadgetry we can
very well do without or spending on the lavish life styles of
generals who can very well live without.
in strict economic terms, army is a non-development expenditure
and a burden on the public exchequer. Pakistan is a developing
country and the economic priority should lie in keeping the defence
expenditure to its minimum. Furthermore, if economic prosperity
is the main concern, then good political institutions, rather
than a strong army, leads to sound economic foundations and puts
the country into a long run growth path on sustainable basis.
is a rich economic literature available which talks about the
importance of political and legal institutions in economic development.
It strongly suggests that the success of economic policies is
associated with well developed political and legal institutions
rather than strong army.
Dani Rodrik, a well known Harvard Professor of political science,
has shown in his study published in 2004 edition of ‘Journal
of Economic Growth’ that good political and legal institutions
are by far the most important determinant of long term economic
a nutshell, the strong economy and strong army proposition presented
by Musharraf is nothing to do with the progress of this country
and every thing to do with perpetuating his rule over this country.
reality, Pakistan is a country hijacked by fanatics and ruled
by a dictator. The only hope out of the shackles of tyrants and
fanatics is democracy. Western powers should realize this fact
sooner than later.
writer is a Doctoral Student and Fellow at the Royal Netherlands
Institute of Social Studies, The Hague