I’ve been waiting for this book for the last five years… the author has written bits and pieces of the contents in “various”:http://www.newsline.com.pk/NewsDec2006/cover3dec2006.htm “articles”:http://www.newsline.com.pk/NewsDec2006/cover1dec2006.htm over the years, but finally the entire book is done. There was a bit of “drama at the book launch”:http://www.dawn.com/2007/06/01/top4.htm, which put it on the front page of Dawn.
Now, generally I write about a book after reading it, but this book has been *banned in Pakistan!* Someone high up to must have read in today’s paper about the book launch,and ordered it removed from the shelves today in the morning. “Liberty Books”:http://www.libertybooks.com/, the only major bookstore chain in Pakistan pulled the books from the shelves without selling a copy, while OUP, the publishers in Pakistan sold a few copies in the morning before closing sales. The author’s friends and well wishers must have been congratulating her all day long, as the sales of the book around the world are going to shoot up drastically along with the credibility of the book.
It was a interesting time for the book to come out, as while on one hand the Chief Justice’s illegal dismissal is putting a spotlight on the many constitutional transgressions by the military, while the book exposes the economic plundering of the country by the military. A second front, so to speak, and no army wants to fight on two fronts at the same time.
The book estimates the military’s share of the economy at over 200 billion rupees, besides owning 11.58 million acres – a staggering amount! These figures, large as they are, don’t even begin to tell the real impact of the army on the country’s economy. What has happened in Pakistan is that any sector which could be monopolized, has been attempted by the military, and since the military has many non-business advantages over civilian competition, they keep continuing at their extremely inefficient nonbusiness like pace. This has led many industry sectors in which the army has been active to remain stuck back in the early 20th century style of business, grossly inefficient, with a literal retired army of people running the show, who after having retired from one job already aren’t looking to be putting in the hours or the effort which a real business requires.
That is the real point of the book – that many of the so called business’s run by the army aren’t – they are just welfare centers for retired army personnel, funded in part by government bailouts, partly by various illegal barriers to entry to prevent completion, and of course the time honored tradition of influencing govt. contracts. Sure, they churn out products, but only because of the many crutches propping them up.
Simple economics means that the military effort in so many private sectors has severely stunted the growth of not only just those sectors but all the associated industries alongside. So while the 200 billion rupee figure is large, it could have been a trillion rupees if left alone by the army and the government. The opportunity cost of the army’s adventure in making money is horrendously large, and one of the reasons this country remains so backwards.
For example, back in the “2005 budget”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2005_06/economic_survey_of_pakistan_2005.html, the official handouts were *Rs 94.57 billion, or 16% of all taxes!* This is a staggering figure. The major -beneficiaries- blood sucking leeches on the back of the Pakistani taxpayer are FFC Jordon, TCP, PIA, Pakistan Steel, Railways, Wapda, KESC, Saindak, Utility Stores and others. Besides PIA, all these names are owned directly by the military, or if not owned by them, at least run by them. Even PIA comes directly under the Ministry of Defence, which PIA has to go after to get all major things approved, and like everything else run by a Ministry, it has gone to the dogs. Besides the unofficial handouts, there is a whole army of underhanded favours being handed out also.
The blurb from the back of the book:
bq.. Pakistan is a strategic ally of the US in the “war on terror”. It is the third largest receiver of US aid in the world. Yet Pakistan is a state run by its army.
Siddiqa shows how the power of the military has transformed Pakistani society, where the armed forces have become an independent class. The military is entrenched in the corporate sector. So Pakistan’s companies and its main assets are in the hands of a tiny minority of senior army officials. Siddiqa examines this military economy and the consequences of merging the military and corporate sectors. Does democracy have a future? Will the generals ever withdraw to the barracks? Military Inc. analyzes the internal and external dynamics of this gradual power-building and the impact that it is having on Pakistan’s political and economic development.
The News says that the “book is now available in bookstores”:http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=58732. It wasn’t available yesterday though, and as of June 5th is still not in any store in Karachi.
* ” Military Inc. — it’s big business in Pakistan”:http://www.hindu.com/2007/04/19/stories/2007041902931200.htm
* “Pakistan: the army as the state “:http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/pakistan_military_4519.jsp
* “Guardian: Book shines light on Pakistan military ‘£10bn empire”:http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,2092182,00.html