Pakistan’s Military Empire: A cliché?, a Myth or a Reality?

DND Thought CenterPakistan’s Military Empire: A cliché?, a Myth or a Reality?

By Shazia Anwer Cheema

Why Pakistani military is controlling rather running Pakistan? Whenever I hear this argument, I find it hard to indulge in this argument because the truth-proposition of this argument is structurally flawed.

Armies are supposed to be powerful, leaving aside the weak under-developing democracies even for Western countries. Can anybody give me an example even from the Western world where strategic decisions are solely taken by politicians? Do you think that Pentagon is not the mastermind of the key strategic decisions in the USA, the only difference between us and them is that their policymakers and politicians eagerly sing the suggested tune and also volunteer to sit in the front row, claiming with full confidence that they are decisionmakers.

The problem with Pakistan is that its military is overexposed for two reasons. The first reason is that Pakistani politicians lack diplomatic and strategic training and the second is military itself for many years selected to be in the limelight. The journey from an unsung hero to become “Mr. of the Evening” was a wrong strategic move.

In any ordinary country, the role of the military establishment is to work from the shadows, but this had not been the case in Pakistan due to three military takeovers and the failure of the civilian establishment to cater to domestic requirements like dealing with natural disasters, the external threats, diplomatic moves, and long-term strategic alignments. National security has never been taken seriously by politicians and they always transfer responsibility to military establishments to handle the issue. Such situations always put the military at the forefront and civilian governments whose actual frame of work is running the country choose to enjoy while sitting on backbenches. This scenario provides a battleground for enemies. Unfortunately, the heat wave of nonsense gets amplified by opportunists, who somehow design their business models on Pakistan’s bashing.

To discredit the military, the dictions previously coined as “Military Empire” has come again in the market and the Army is being criticized for the businesses it runs. Does the Army run businesses for its Generals or it is actually putting responsibilities on its shoulders beyond the call of the duty because civilian system is too fragile, economically weak, and corrupted that it cannot provide the fiscal demands of the Army?  This question should be addressed because it is very important to understand that the actual enemy of Pakistan is very intelligent and it lures a bunch of people having no knowledge of politics, arts, and history into money-making possibilities, where they by using SEO optimization can flood damning content. These individuals need a target and they are being used by enemies of Pakistan to target the strongest aspect of their enmity which is the Pakistan Army. These e-hatemongers are hungry for views, reposts, Conversation Rate Optimization (CRO) comments, laughing stocks, sensational curiosity, and so on. There is a long list of these technical terms that are used to basically grab attention. Obviously, these YouTubers and social media handlers are clueless about the functionality of a state, its mechanics, and its operatives. They are naïve to the fact that states more or less operate in a similar manner, and it has been so for ages.

If a civilian officer can commit a wrongdoing a military officer is as prone to that however the slogan of “Men at Their Best” does not allow them to accept that some men are not the best among them

I have mentioned earlier that when the Pakistan Army is blamed for operating Pakistan, it is like somebody is being victimized for what he/she is supposed to do. Here comes to the mind that Pakistan’s enemy is successfully exploiting a business model by certain clueless individuals. The fact of the matter is if it is based on truth or a lie. Aristotle says that we just need a grain of truth to create the whole truth, if this is the case then where does the grain of truth lies and what’s its nature?

Since enemies cannot discredit the professionalism of Pak Army officers and soldiers the soft belly is provided by some retired rich ex-Generals

Before locating the grain of truth let me give you a hypothesis; will the individual’s actions be mapped on the general population and can they translate into their general behavior? I don’t think we need a longitudinal research for it, the answer is upfront and clearly nullifying the hypothesis. And that’s where the grain of truth lies for opportunists and enemies to weave an intricate web of lies based on a grain of truth and that is, Pakistan Army is comprised of homo sapiens and their genes are the same as the civilian population, if a civilian officer can commit a wrongdoing a military officer is as prone to that however the slogan of “Men at Their Best” does not allow them to accept that some men are not the best among them. The larger-than-life facade and band of brotherhood create a semantic maze of blind spots that provide the dust for the actual truth to stay in the dark. Since enemies cannot discredit the professionalism of Pak Army officers and soldiers the soft belly is provided by some retired rich ex-Generals but the Army is not ready to alienate themselves from it and stands to protect them even without having solid grounds. The truth is how many Army officers are in Pakistan living within their means and hiding behind the smoke shield of a few rich ex-generals. The small number of wrongdoers get highlighted and all those who are working honestly remain in the shadows. I am not saying that there is no accountability in the military rather I am saying that not making it public creates a vacuum for opportunists to fill with their ugly deceitful half-truths.

The so-called “Military Empire” has never been discussed with facts and figures because civilian governments are not interested in telling the truth to the public that the so-called Military Empire is taking the burden of failures of the civilian structure

Army officers are privileged and live a princely life has the grain of truth and a ton load of truth lies deep into the cantonments, where a young officer cannot enter and exit his house without scrutiny, cannot party like his age fellow cannot involve in a romantic relationship as per his age. On the contrary, he is signing in and out of the vicinity and living an isolated life which a civilian university student of his age cannot imagine living.

So all these princes and kings are dust particles of complete truth but Pakistan Army does not seem ready to accept some “men not at their best” and is even not willing to outcast them from the band of brothers at the cost of the reputation of 99%, the protection of 1% is being prioritized and the enemy is dancing in euphoria for having individuals to present as an example and then moronic opportunists to link them to the entire Army and making them a symbolic representation of an institution which has just one flaw of not disowning and penalizing the rotten individuals at the cost of all others.

Moreover, the so-called “Military Empire” has never been discussed with facts and figures because civilian governments are not interested in telling the truth to the public that the so-called Military Empire is taking the burden of failures of the civilian structure.

The problem lies with civilian media management in Pakistan which has always been shy to protect the Pakistan Army and does not share real data and pictures because of many reasons the foremost reason is that facts would reveal the incompetency of the civilian bureaucracy that has failed to operate effectively.

The role of the Pakistan Army in boosting defence exports has never been highlighted. Tax contributions by Army Welfare Organisations (AWTs), rendering support in a solution of international financial disputes, creating a secure environment for economic prosperity, and supplementing government in the Health, Education, and Agriculture sectors are important points we do not find if we go to data hubs of civilian government.

What is hidden in the dark is that Pakistan’s Defence budget has consistently decreased as a percentage of GDP since the 1990s and now stands at its lowest 2.2% of GDP. Although Pakistan has the 7th largest military in the world, its expenses are one of the lowest. The US spends $392,000 per soldier, Saudi Arabia spends $371,000, India spends $42000, Iran spends $23,000, and Pakistan spends $12,500 per soldier per year.

Pakistan Army has also contributed Rs. 28 billion in FY-2020/21 as direct taxes to the government exchequer. Moreover, the Pakistan Defence Industrial Complex is making significant contributions to the national economy. In the last five years, an unprecedented boost in the Defence Exports (Approx. Rs. 60 billion in 5 years) and Inland Sales (Approx. Rs. 70 Billion in 5 years) was accomplished.

Alone in the year 2019, PAC Kamra secured the Export of JF-17 to Nigeria for USD 184 Million and the Contract finalization of 12 x Mashaks to Iraq worth USD 33.33 Million.

Heavy Industries Taxila undertook the rolling out of indigenously manufactured Al-Khalid Tanks at 1/3rd cost of the international market.

In addition to generating exports, MoDP paid approx. Rs 6 billion Taxes/duties annually in the national exchequer and generated 8000 jobs in defence production sector.

Most notably indigenous manufacturing of Ventilators (during COVID) was also achieved by NRTC, which not only benefitted the economy and people of Pakistan but also raised the stature of Pakistan as one of few countries that can manufacture ventilators.

Fauji Foundation (FF) is not a business venture rather as per its charter it is a welfare organization / Charitable Trust incorporated under the Charitable Endowments Act 1890. More than 73% of its income is spent on wards of martyrs (shuhada), war-wounded and disabled soldiers, and retired military personnel.

Annual FF contributions for various welfare activities amount to approx. Rs 10 billion (Education, Training, Health and Stipends). Hence, it must be acknowledged that if FF was not providing for the welfare from its self-generated funds, then there would have been an additional burden on the government budget of Rs 10 billion annually.

FF organization is headed by civilians and under their management Fauji group is one of the highest taxpayers as approx Rs 150 billion is paid to the national exchequer in the form of taxes, duties, and levies annually, whereas over the last five years, FF has paid Rs 1 trillion to the government as taxes and levies. Moreover, Fauji Group has incurred Rs 1.377 billion (yr 2021-21) on account of Corporate Social Responsibility activities through donations and local welfare activities. Over 79% of employees in FF are civilians and the rest are retired service personnel.

Pakistan has a number of white elephants in the disguise of civilian departments (WAPDA, Police/ CAFs, Education, and Health) and the hidden truth behind the Military Empire is that these departments are ill-functioned and totally dependent upon taxpayers unlike the Pakistan Army even is having the capacity, they never choose to become self-sufficient by generating some sort of revenues from available resources.

If we look at the statistics of these civilian departments, we will get shocking revelations about how burdensome they are for Pakistan’s economy. For a fair comparison, let’s begin from the start, Pakistan Railways, Pakistan International Airlines, provincial forest departments, provincial Irrigation departments, and Pakistan Army have almost equal resources rather in some cases Army was the least resourceful. The arable and commercial lands owned by these departments were much higher than the Pakistan Army but with the passage of time, the Pakistan Army utilized its resources and multiplied them not only becoming self-sufficient but also taking the burden of the national economy. Other departments due to extreme levels of corruption either let their lands encroached or sold in peanuts.

Pakistan Railways and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) used to run their own schools, hospitals, and clinics when the Pakistan Army was not in the education and health sectors. Today, the majority of Pakistanis want to send their children to Army-run educational institutions and take advantage of the military healthcare sector but nobody wishes to get services from PIA or Railways in the same sectors.

why Army has to help civilians everywhere
why does the Army have to help civilians everywhere?


According to the Police Corruption Perceptions Index, Pakistani police were ranked 13th most corrupt police in the world.

According to Human Rights Watch, public surveys and reports of government accountability and redress institutions show that the police are one of the most widely feared, complained against, and least trusted government institutions in Pakistan, lacking a clear system of accountability and plagued by corruption at the highest levels.

Owing to poor management and line losses the circular debt of Pakistan in the power sector has risen from Rs 1.148 trillion (2018) to Rs. 2.77 trillion (2022). Wapda within 4 years has doubled the circular debt which is one of the major reasons for exponentially growing tariff rates in Pakistan.

Medical treatment in private hospitals is significantly more expensive than in a government hospital. However, 78% of the population still continues to pay more for healthcare due to the standards of medical facilities at government hospitals.

According to the Lancet Global Ranking Healthcare Access and Quality Index, Pakistan ranked 154th out of 195 countries. There is a ratio of one doctor for 1764 patients in Pakistan which is really alarming.

A report published in 2021 by the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) and the Sindh Education Department revealed that Pakistan has the lowest literacy rate in South Asia, after Afghanistan.

Across Pakistan, there are about 30,000 ‘ghost’ schools that continue to exist only on paper. These are non-functioning entities.

UNICEF Annual Report 2020 states that the children who attend school receive relatively poor quality of education: 65 percent do not achieve minimum proficiency by the time they leave primary school.

It is always easy to create flawed arguments based on a grain of truth, and that argument usually does get its five minutes of fame but the life of a proposition built on the amount of truth equal to a dust particle always proved short-lived.

The whole truth which is always much more in magnitude may hide behind deceitful lies but has the tendency to show itself.
An institution so strong emotionally and financially can not be shaken by seasonal winds, the problem lies with men at their best as they do not present their case rightly and promptly. Also, they cannot get out of the illusion of best and perfect by negating the fundamentally flawed nature of human existence. They keep justifying the wrongdoing of individuals and finally now bearing the burden of proof to justify their institution which in fact is becoming the victim of confirmation biases.

Note: Writer Shazia Anwer Cheema is an author, columnist, and foreign affairs expert who writes for national and international media. She is a doctoral student and researcher in semiotics and philosophy of communication at Charles University in Prague. She can be reached at her: Twitter @ShaziaAnwerCh Email:


The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.

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