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Musings on Military Rule: Does It Benefit Anybody? a Stark Example Is Pakistan Where the Economy Is in a Tailspin

The author is an air warrior, military historian and writer on warfare and military history



In 1958, general Ayub Khan carried out a military coup that sent President Iskander Mirza in exile to London when a pistol was held against his head by a man called Brigadier Yahiya Khan. He later became president of Pakistan. Since that fateful day, the Pakistan army has been in the driver's seat for over 6 decades as well as ruling the country as a director for a good part of three decades.

After more than six decades, one would expect that with military rule, Pakistan should have been the land of milk and honey but unfortunately, as admitted by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan himself, the Pakistan government is facing a severe economic crisis. Imran Khan came to power with the slogan of 'Naya Pakistan' with the support of the Pakistan army. As much as anybody denies it, Imran is the mouthpiece of the Pakistan army which holds the reins of power.

In these 6 decades, the Pakistan army has the dubious distinction of having lost half the country which declared itself independent after a war of liberation in 1971. That was the time when Lieutenant General AK Niazi surrendered over 100,000 troops under Eastern Command. Just for the record General Niazi is the uncle of the present Prime Minister Imran Khan. General Niazi also has the dubious distinction of having given a Guard of Honor to the Indian Eastern Command commander Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Arora as well as signing the instrument of surrender of Eastern Command in a public ceremony witnessed by thousands of Bengali Muslims at the Dacca racecourse.

All this is a matter of history now and nothing can be done about it. There were expectations that Pakistan would now develop economically for the betterment of the people but hopes have been belied. I will discuss in the succeeding paragraphs

The predicament faced by Pakistan can be traced to the Army being omnipresent in all walks of life. If Pakistan is in dire straits, the responsibility of the army cannot be negated.

Pakistan External Debt

Pakistan External Debt

The economic scenario

In 1971 with the creation of Bangladesh, many economists in Pakistan opined that Pakistan would now be a cohesive state and have good economic prosperity. There is an old saying that figures never lie( if not doctored). A few of the parameters given below will show how Pakistan has fared economically under Army rule.

> To start with Pakistan since 2018 is in the grey list of FATF for terror financing. Being in the grey list means no or minimal investments (FDI) is coming, aggravating the economic situation.

> Bangladesh, once ruled by richer Pakistan and born amid famine and war has surpassed the latter's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As per reports, the GDP per capita or the economic output of a Pakistani citizen rests at around USD 1,543 per annum, as compared to Bangladesh's USD 2,554.

>Pakistan's rate of inflation or the rate of increase in price is 'officially' nine percent while in Bangladesh it is 5.56%. The statistics mean that a major chunk of 220 million Pakistanis is facing dismal income levels and an ever-soaring tariff of most essential kitchen items.

> Pakistan has a nominal GDP of USD 296 billion, while Bangladesh has a GDP of USD 409 billion. Just for comparison, India has a gross GDP of $ 3 trillion.

> As of December 2020, the Total Public Debt and Liabilities of Pakistan is estimated to be about ₨22.978 trillion/US$161 billion which is over 50 percent of (GDP) of Pakistan. As of the third quarter of 2021, the external debt of Pakistan now stands at US $ 127023 up from US$ 122199 in the second quarter of 2021( Source State Bank of Pakistan).

> Disconcerting figures are available that show about ₨24.309 trillion is owed by the government to domestic creditors, and about ₨2.3 trillion is owed by Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs).

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> As of December 2020, Pakistan owes US$11.3 billion, the Paris Club, US$33.1 billion, and US$7.4 billion to IMF. There are a host of other liabilities including US$12 billion to international bonds such as Eurobond and Sukuk.

> The China -Pakistan economic corridor is turning out to be a white elephant. Nearly 15% of the external debt which is estimated around US$17.1 billion (6.15% of GDP) is owed to China.



With the country in the throes of a debt trap, the Pakistan government is desperately trying to raise cash from any source in the world. They have approached the IMF but the IMF has imposed strict conditions. Imran Khan had approached Saudi Arabia for help. He visited Saudi Arabia but the Saudi's made him sign on the dotted line with some very humiliating conditions.

The Saudis took a sovereign guarantee that in case Pakistan defaults on any loan to any country or the IMF, the Saudis would have the right to ask for repayment of their loan within 3 days. They also charged an interest of 4% above the 3.2% they were charging earlier. It means Pakistan would have to pay an interest of $120 million every year, which given the low national GDP is a big problem.

Requests to China have drawn a blank. The Chinese are shrewd investors.


What is happening is bad for Pakistan. There is rampant inflation and no investment is coming into the country as Pakistan is perceived as a nation that is allowing extremism. The recent agitation by the TTK asking for the expulsion of the French ambassador, and blasphemy laws( out of 100 persons on death row in the world 85 are from Pakistan) have contributed to this impression. On 2 December 2021, a Sri Lankan national in Sialkot was lynched for blasphemy allegations. Army chief General Bajwa has called this incident 'unacceptable' but until the blasphemy law is water down there can be no respite. Who can forget that the governor of Punjab, Mr. Salman Taseer was shot dead by his own bodyguard as he had advocated the removal of the blasphemy law?

Politically a lot is happening which calls for a separate article. The question is who is responsible for this state of affairs? It doesn't require a crystal gazer to say that the army which is ruling Pakistan for the last six decades is the culprit. They have no accountability. A look at men heading corporations and big businesses, one finds many are army generals.

It's about time the Pakistani people asked the army to go back to the barracks, but that is a tall order and as it stands cannot happen. At least not with Imran Khan, who has to give a 3-year extension to the Army Chief General Bajwa and also was forced to accept the choice of the Army for the important post of DG-ISI. Imran must have realized that those who ride the tiger are eaten by the tiger.

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