The policy of distributing agriculture land and housing plots continued with greater vigour to perpetuate the feeling that a military government was good for one and all in the military. Besides, the system of placement of military officers in civilian jobs in the governmental sectors, autonomous bodies, etc., secured for it wide penetration in all walks of life.
Today the Armed Forces directly control vast commercial and industrial interests also.
Today the Armed Forces directly control vast commercial and industrial interests also. The Army Fauji Foundation has become the largest industrial group in the country. It runs schools, colleges, hospitals, and joint ventures with foreign companies. The Army Welfare Centre operates sugar and woollen mills, cement plants, projects in power generation, petrochemicals, aviation, pharmaceuticals, agro sectors, etc., financial institutions, insurance companies and a host of smallscale businesses. T
he Air Force and Navy have foundations of their own, which operate separate strings of businesses. Besides, the Ministry of Defence runs many defence production units like ordnance and arms producing factories, aeronautical complexes, etc., producing components for aircraft and other material.
The militarys move into a more privileged status continued with Zia contriving to give it an expanded role as protectors of Pakistans ideological frontiers and Islamic identity.
The Army Chief also has under him many service providing groups like telecommunications, border roads, frontier works, etc. Recently, a new opening was given to the army personnel in WAPDA to oversee power distribution. General Parvez Musharraf who carried out a military coup against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on October 12, 1999 has carried out army penetration into civil administration to its utmost limits. There is now an army supervisor to monitor the performance of every major civilian unit.
Backstage Control of the Military
And yet, when Zia-ul-Haq was killed in an air crash in August 1988, his successor as Army Chief, General Afzal Beg and his senior colleagues did not wish a government of a military man to take over. The experience of the three military regimes (of Ayub, Yahya and Zia) had brought home the reality that a military led government offered no panacea for curing the basic problems of political, economic and social development of the nation which had plagued it during civilian rule and solutions, however imperfect, must be sought through a system of participative institutions and processes, which the framework of elective democracy alone ensured.
Beg and his top brass were pragmatic enough to accept the limits of possibilities of growth of political institutions under a military regime and were no longer desirous of asserting military supremacy directly in the governance of the country. The constitutional processes under the amended (by Zia) 1973 Constitution were allowed to work but there was never any doubt where power resided. The understanding was that so long as the professional and corporate interests of the Armed Forces were not threatened, a fagade of civilian supremacy could be allowed to be maintained.
The military leaders were much disappointed at the continued failure of the civilians to ensure effective governance. Their own conviction grew that without their monitoring, the turmoil in the polity would remain uncontrolled.
Between 1988 and 1999, four general elections were held. These elections threw up four elected Prime Ministers, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif twice each. These elections contributed to the development of civil society and enhanced its expectations but the political leadership did not again measure up to their expectations. The military leaders were much disappointed at the continued failure of the civilians to ensure effective governance. Their own conviction grew that without their monitoring, the turmoil in the polity would remain uncontrolled. The conference of Corps Commanders became an important institution within the military, functioning like a politburo, which kept an eagle eye on the economic and political management of the government in power.
The Army Chief emerged as the most important member of the Troika, a term coined to refer to the group of three most powerful personages in Pakistan, the other two being the President and the Prime Minister. The Troika provided a forum for consensus building between civil and military perspectives on all problematic issues facing the decision makers. The Army Chiefs was always the dominating voice. In the removal of the four Prime Ministers mentioned earlier, the role of the Army Chief was the most decisive. In this period, two Presidents also had to go, Ghulam Ishaqque Khan (1993) and Faroukh Leghari (1998); in their exit too the Army Chief had an important role
The never-ending fragility of the party system created a dilemma for the military leadership. Since the constitution conferred no constitutional role to them to participate in the exercise of power, they could do so only from the shadows.