Time to restructure the army

Published: May 28, 2011

The only reason the Pakistan army has successfully held its own country hostage to its needs up till now is because of the army’s unity and organised structure.

Recently, there was a public demonstration in support of the Pakistan army outside the Presidential Palace. There were more banners in support of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the army than there were demonstrators. Ironically, all the banners were exact lookalikes. There was a desperate need for show of some public support for the military after US Navy Seals violated Pakistan’s sovereignty undetected, to hunt down Osama bin Laden. This demonstration didn’t change much.

Pakistan received a small, handicapped army after the partition of India in 1947. The civilian population, keeping the best interest of the country in mind, massively sacrificed and nourished the army to the best of its ability. With endless resources, at the cost of good civilian living standards, the army grew comfortably over the decades. Up to 70 per cent of the budget was initially allotted to the armed forces because of the defense needs of the newly born state of Pakistan. Later, the defense budget continued to rise with great advancements in nuclear and missile technologies. The idea was to establish a solid defense for the country and then move to other economic and social developments once the so-called nuclear deterrence was in place. Turns out, there is no such thing as nuclear deterrence. Instead, the result was an arrogant, business-oriented organisation that misused the trust of the civilians and stabbed the very nation which fed it selflessly.

The sacred institutions of the Pakistan military are going through a rough patch. Often labeled as the most organised institution in the country, the Pakistan army has always treated civilian politicians like pets and puppets. They often create and manipulate the political leadership, which is not able to resist the offense because of their shady, corrupt backgrounds. Of course, the army only creates politicians out of the lazy, immoral ones who can easily be blackmailed. The worst of the worst miraculously bag innumerable votes and represent the so-called democracy that exists. The civilian leadership has its graph at its lowest, with nothing to lose. But the proud armed forces are finding it increasingly hard to stand tall and justify the huge investments they have been snatching from the budget.

The recent operation by the US Navy Seals to eliminate Osama bin Laden was a PR wreck for the armed forces. The situation was such that the army was forced to plead incompetence in front of a parliament of what they usually refer to as ‘bloody civilians.’ That was a hard pill to swallow, but it was either that or the acceptance that Osama bin Laden was a guest of the military. The latter would have angered the masters of the masters. Hence, after accepting the fault, the ISI chief offered his resignation to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. The prime minister said nothing. Furthermore, the prime minister even lobbied against an independent inquiry commission to investigate what had happened. In other words, the army would decide if the army was at fault.

On May 23, 2011, four to six militants entered a naval base in Karachi and gave a fight for 17 long hours, during which they destroyed at least two US made surveillance aircrafts worth at least $60 million. The militants also managed to kill 10 security personnel during this adventurous act of revenge for the killing of Osama bin Laden. Chief of the Pakistan Navy, Admiral Nauman Bashir, jumped into the scene with a statement saying:

“This attack could not be termed as security lapse.”

This gentleman was surprisingly given charge of the investigation into the matter by the prime minister.

The time is ripe to restructure the Pakistan army. Endless resources being poured into the defense of Pakistan are corroding the foundations of the country. Osama bin Laden being found near the most prestigious military academy may not represent the official policy of the forces, but they clearly show that certain elements of the army were involved. At the same time, an attack like the one on the Navy base in Karachi is not possible without one or more insiders. These elements need to be exposed to the Pakistani public and the world at large.

The organization needs to cut down on its business roots and extra activities to streamline the defense of the country. Large military owned enterprises divert the attention from the real risks at hand. An army, formed and trained to counter India, is finding it increasingly difficult to face the militants that lie within the country. Term extensions awarded to the army chief and ISI chief are internally rotting the system with growing enmity among senior officers. The only reason the Pakistan army has successfully held its own country hostage to its needs up till now is because of the army’s unity and organised structure. As this structure crumbles, the whole country’s fate is at stake.


Samir Butt

A former Youth Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Fulbright undergraduate scholar, freelance writer, public speaking trainer, IT consultant and marketing professional. He blogs at samiranwar.net.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • muhammad aftab khan

    it’s not a question of restructuring but the removal of islamic fundamentalists from the armed forces.Ever since zia started his infamous islamication campaign in the forces ,the soldiers have become brainwashed by religious fanaticism.
    we’ve seen in recent terrorist attacks the involvement of soldiers in helping the terrorists carry out the attacks.This is highly dangerous & an operation cleanup is required for the forces to clean up the islamic fanatics in their own ranks.
    if this is not done one day we could have religious fanatic soldiers trying to takeover our nuclear weapons which would spell disaster for our country.
    A deradicalisation programme for the armed forces is urgently needed. Recommend

  • zeeshan imtiaz

    ilyaas kashmiri was a ssg commando trained by our military but then he got influenced by radical islam & is now attacking our soldiers in terrorist attacks.we are reaping what we have sown.our establishment promoted islamic fundamentalism & now the frankenstein they created has turned on its masters.

    The chiefs of the forces need to take immediate steps to weed out the religious extremists in their departments so that religious terrorism is reduced in our land.Recommend

  • kumar shiv

    hello,the cookie has started to crumble?
    pls wait for a few more weeks. results will be open for all to seeRecommend

  • AnisAqeel

    Thanks Samir for a good timely article. It is high time to restructure the entire military, weeding out the radicals from within, stopping the promotions and their recruitments. Cleansing is the most difficult job our military is facing and is hugely expensive too as they have to identify and replace these elements.
    Making anything is difficult as compared to breaking and the radicals are doing the easier job of breaking Pakistan. Knowingly or unknowingly they are helping our enemies.Recommend

  • asad

    great article. :)Recommend

  • parvez

    Very well written. Do not completely agree with your closing sentence.
    We have, all these years, lived in awe of our armed forces and they have taken undue advantage of this adulation. Bringing things back into perspective would be a good thing.Recommend

  • Mohammad naeem

    Bravo samir!
    incredible! This is the best article so far to hit at singlemost and core problem of pakistan. The khaki minority ruling over the majority of “bloody civillians”.Recommend

  • Boota from Pakistan

    I find that Army’s top brass has been stubborn inspite of displaying clear incompetence.Pasha ought to be a repalced.He is living with remorse and guilt and that’s not going to help him be more effective. On the other hand our survile govt whose survival in itself depends on the military establishment,they being their instrument to meet US demands and remain in power,cannot hold Army accountable and answerable.

    I personally feel let down by the one’s who frisked away health and education share and lead to the dire state of health in the country. Look at the lives of your brightest students making doctors.Their social stature is inferior to a police cosntable’s.They are protesting for their rights and decent living. And look at the lifestyles of military top brass and bureacrates.Naval Chief visits Mehran base in a BMW worth million.Shame on him!!!!

    It’s about time public should hold them accountable. Do you feel safe in your home today? No? Ask them what the heck are they for? Do you trust them? I don’t. In fact Navy & Air Force are known for their life style. It’s the pooor Army which hardly makes both end meet.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    A very bad approach of looking at things. Pakistan Army knows Pakistan better than the ‘bloody civilians’. You need to restructure your political parties not the Army. If you think that the ISI chief is answerabe to the fake degree parliament you are committing a blasphemy towards our men in uniform.Recommend

  • InAm

    I agree that army is the most powerful and most disciplined institute of the country, And if its structure crumbles, Pakistan is doomed to be a failed state.But one thing may be you didn’t notice about the technology used in the Abbotabad operation against OBL. They used stealth helicopters which were never seen before in any operation and I am sure if this operation was held even in more sophisticated countries like China, their Radars also won’t be able to detect those Black Hawks. So just because of this sole incidence you can’t Blame our Heroes. Thank you. Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    You are spot on dude.. we need to redeploy and restructure this institution, we need to raise the pay in lower ranks and freeze the pay at highest ranks, the Army budget need to be discussed in parliament. Its allocation towards equipment and training to be re assessed. We need to cal the generals out, they are public servants and answerable to public not behind closed doors.Recommend

  • http://tightdhoti.wordpress.com TightDhoti

    @Ahmed: They are answerable to parliament, it does not matter who sits in the seats. That is how the constitution of the country mandates the role of the military, and respect of the constitution is a key part of the militarys oath. Not doing so is tantamount to treason. Recommend

  • Khalid Rahim

    There are more than 72 political parties in Pakistan as compared to celestial Virgins they hope to find in Heaven! Whoever paid you to write this article or placed the gun your shoulder is shrewed person. Why restructure the armed forces would we be not wasting time
    and energy? All our Parliament needs to pass a bill dissolving the armed forces and turn the
    assets to our politicians who hold the honor of impeccable honesty and integrity,And their Intellectual capacity has no comparison.Recommend

  • mehreen hasan

    this is a baseless article written without going through the facts.Opinionated and biased just to malign the pakistan army.At this crucial and difficult times, we all should stand beside our most prestigious institution, support them and give them respect It is because of this army that we r sitting comfortably in our houses.While they are on the borders in 50 degree heat, we r enjoying French open tennis in our comfortable air-conditioned tv lounges.we only see the shiny black BMWs driven by the Generals,but conveniently turn blind to same bullet proof models driven by the our ministers,senators,president PM.
    the author pointed out that its time to restructure Pakistan Army.First please start by restructuring our corrupt politicians who are eating the country like termites,first restructure the democratic system where these corrupt and illiterate people could not be elected freely.
    So instead of writing immature articles like these,the author should focus on more pressing issues. Criticism for the sake of criticism and that now everyone is doing Army bashing we should join in too is very stupid and uncalled for…Recommend

  • ASQ

    sole incident thats pretty laughable!!!honestly the only way to save this country is to get these sacred armed forces be accountable.Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com israr

    so where in the constitution is it written that fake degree holders can be elected to parliament? what sort of foreign policy you expect from jamshed dasti and co? and a political leader who bought an iphone for a foreign journalist? first restructure the parliament..no county in the world has a parliament where half of the members have bogus degrees, more than half have properties and businesses abroad and almost all the parties are personal properties which are inherited with the addition of a third name…. sham democracy…Recommend

  • http://bakwasism.blogspot.com Abdullah Zaidi

    wah wah, kia baat hai bhai!!!Recommend

  • faraz

    Our army survived the defeats of 1948 and 1965 war, Dhaka fall, Kargil fiasco, failed operations in Karachi, Baluchistan and FATA. This sole incident wont dent its image in the long run. ISPR is the real elite formation of the army; it wont disappoint the khakis.Recommend

  • NR

    Great article! The cookie really has started to crumble.
    Say goodbye to your free BMWs and free plots bought on tax-payer expense, Generals!Recommend

  • Khalid Rahim

    Hello Field Marshal! Now that you have spoken your mentor’s mind, ask him how we should
    restructure the armed forces? Should we invited the honorable B Raman and Marty Martell
    along with B Morris and Pervez Hoodbhoy to begin weeding undesirable elements, And when we do complete the excercise what would be left on the ground; Did someone shut the gates of one of the academy on your face or you failed to reach the handle to the door
    thus the bitter frustration of being unable to reach the desired rank.Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    The Army is only a sub set of the people. As extremist tendencies spread across the land it is natural that there will be many supporters within the Military subscribing to the Jihadi project. There will be some wise counsel there too. The inertia and inabiity to focus on the source of trouble is due to the existence of two sub sets within the Defence Establishment. The Jihadis have looked at the soldier as his supporter and friend. This make it very difficult for the soldier to kill Taliban type religious fundamentalist running amock, even as soldiers are being slaughtered by the same monsters. Many soldiers actually think that 30000 Pakistani’s have been killed not by muslim Pakistani citizens but by hired killers contracted by CIA/Mossad?RAW. Soldiers can get as affected by propaganda as any citizen. Now we have paralysis but there are real dangers of an internal coup or Mutiny led by younger officers, which is only a prelude to civil war.
    The time for restructuring the Army is long passed. One cannot renovate our house when it is on fire. Also to remember is that if we keep large quantity of combustibles in our house, it is pointless to ask who lit the spark that caused the fire.
    Khuda Hafiz !Recommend

  • Saleem Khan

    Yes, a top class re-engineering is required to overhaul and bring back Military to its actual position, that a normal country can afford. We have to accept that Military Jobs and Military Housing Authorities has become fame and rest of whole country is struggling to survive. Now things have started exposing that what is the strength of military intelligence, military security etc. All is just liquid dears.

    I read almost 9 years back a statement of SONIA GANDHI that we don’t need to worry about Pakistani Military because a Military that is running businesses, busy in buying and selling of real estate, occupying civilians lands under the name of Military usage then using it for their villas and bungalows can not fight war.

    Today, it is quite clear that a big bellies Officers can do nothing except discussing current rates of real estate in market. I am telling you truth dear. that I personally knows.

    I am seriously thinking that why Pakistan shake hands of Friendship with neighbours and agrees (like Britan and France) that we should not fight and shed heavy load of Military from civilian population. Why Civilians have to suffer and pay huge taxes and debt servings for the sake of 5 star living standards of Pakistani Military…who never bother to call their name without MAJOR FALLAN FALLAN, COLONEL FALLAN FALLAN, BRIG FALLAN FALLAN. Is it right to put this designation till death and even after death…keep putting with name. These are bitter realities thats our own military is treating civilians like dogs…and today getting expose when terrorists are challenging with riffles.

    God bless this country…it is in big truble but I dont see any thing positive…Politicians wants to eat their share only. No body seems sincere to country or people of this region. Sorrows and Sorrows.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Constitution of the country also mandates the candidates to give full and correct information about their past.Recommend

  • khan-e-Azam

    so hilarious…. what a sense of humour…hehehe… !Recommend

  • Ahmad Ali

    Mr Aftab & Zeeshan etc without ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISM it is not possible for survive Muslim Umma . e.g ; on the question from Sultan SALAH-UD-DIN AYYUBI that whether “Islam spread from power of sword ?” . Sultan answered that ” I don’t know that ISLAM spread from the power of sword , but I knows that “To protect ISLAM we have to use SWORD”.
    So why not ISLAM in PAKISTAN ?
    Indeed we have taken this country as an ISLAMIC state for Muslim & for role model for other Islamic countries .
    Brother It is not Islamic fundamentalism which is destroying PAKISTAN . These are the powers who wants to destroy ISLAM & PAKISTAN .Recommend

  • Mirza

    @Ahmed: “committing a blasphemy towards our men in uniform”
    This is the sickest statement even from a Pakistani. The army is not Allah, prophet or Quran, and the use of word blasphemy with these paid public servants is by itself degrading this word itself.
    This highly paid army who invaded and surrendered East Pakistan, Kargil, aided and protected OBL in their base and indoctrinated itself with Islamist terrorists is the real enemy of Pakistan. It is a cancer that must be removed. Their multiple acts of treason and plundering of national wealth, putting the first elected PM of Pakistan to death, throwing more than 60 judges with their families and the list of their crimes goes on and on. One should be ashamed of siding with the traitors and equating these losers with Allah, prophets, and holy books. The criticism of our paid servants cannot be equated with the insulting of the religion
    . Recommend

  • Mirza

    In case you have missed this from one of the most educated lady in Pakistan. Of course she is highly educated and elected, which you may not like but she is a constitutional expert and a ray of hope in Pakistan. The naval officer could not say anything except to agree with her truth. How one can keep refuting the truth?


  • Mirza

    @TightDhoti: I agree with you 100%. It is not religion, or nationality but the constitution that keeps a country/federation intact. Why Pakistan was defeated and broke? There was unlawful military dictatorship. The constitution is sacred and supreme for any country except the traitors who can only come into power via backdoor.

    The condition of being graduate for a candidate was unconstitutional and ordered by a military dictator. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has rejected it as unconstitutional, hence null and void and no more there. This was to keep a wide population away from the polls. Even in a country like USA there is no such condition to contest an election. Anybody who can vote is eligible to contest the elections except the president who has to be a native (not graduate) citizen. The way this condition worked was:

    All military/ex-officers who are metric and inter pass, are regarded as graduates and so do all the mullah from various madarsa! That is why too many mullahs were elected in the first election during Mush’s days.

    Let us see some enemies of democracy who have no respect for people’s opinion and mandate want to deprive the people who did not follow an illegal condition that was unconstitutional as of today. It is like I am criminal and should be punished because I did not follow an illegal and unconstitutional law! Recommend

  • Z. Akbar

    @mehreen hasan:

    How is the Army protecting us, exactly? They have drained our budget dearly and they can’t even fend off terrorists. The couldn’t even detect simple helicopters coming in to our borders, when just beyond margalla hills you have a M8 missle system to protect our facilities.

    Apart from that given the recent attacks on shrines and civilians and paramilitary troops, how has the army not been able to stop them? They have been draining our budget and yet they can’t fight these guys, they need to do in waziristan and fata what the Sri Lankans did against the LTTP. All out tactical strike!

    I would rather have a strong economy over a strong army anyday!Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com student

    @mirza…. i dont think the president of USA is a matric pass (or failed?)… and look at the literacy rate of these countries and the political system over there… john kerry lost once and he was sidelined by obama…. also a bar on 3rd term for president…most of the people even dont know the leaders of republican or democratic parties… and no 19year old son of JF Kennedy was elected as the heir to the throne of America… before comparing the graduate condition you first should have compared the political system..im sure if there were any jamshed dasti type senator or member of congress, im sure he would have been thrown by the american people if not resigned himself… if somebody is not selected into the army, it doesnt mean you should start criticizing army… there are good and bad people every where but i would take the army any day instead of the bogus degree holder parliament and the heridetary parties…. Recommend

  • Khalid Rahim

    To save our Nation from falling into the unknown Abyss; Our Admirals, Air Marshals, Generals and Politicians must bow to the Supremacy of the Supreme Judiciary. Whose one
    major task is to Protect and Preserve the Constitution. In order to achieve that we need to
    develop Moral Courage to suppress our ‘Self-Centered Ego’! Recommend

  • Arsito

    Bravo, Samir Butt, great article. Instead of being Pak armed forces apologists, we need to say what the truth is, as the truth is always bitter. The apologists accuse us of being traitors for our demand to have the armed forces also accountable. I believe the apologists are shooting themselves in the foot as I have observed that most of them are either the beneficiaries or driven by sheer emotions.Recommend

  • arif

    People like you are cancer of our society!Recommend

  • http://none jamal

    british and west needed a mafia don in south asia which could keep a check on india, a militarized pakistan in a military govt was ideal mafia lord for them,… in return these military dictators were given a full go ahead to pillage the resources of pakistan,… u guys talk abt dream?..the dream of an independent Pakistan has gone sour because of all the military generals who acted no less than like a mafia or gang at national level. Imagine a mafia “legally” consuming more than 80% of the national resources and armed to the teeth with all kinds of weapons.

    pakistan military has the biggest share in Pakistan’s stock exchange. It operates commercial bank, airline, steel, cement, telecom, petroleum and energy, education, sports, health care and even chains of grocery shops and bakeries.
    In short, the military’s monopoly is present in every sector of Pakistan economy. To the contrary, its performance at the professional level is zero, instead of defending Pakistan, it has undermined the very foundations of this country….

    if u guys think, that the west has any interest in pakistan, then u guys are mistaken, west only needed a puppet in south asia, which could dance to their tunes,……… pakistan army is ideal puppet for them, in return for the favor, they can pillage pakistan.

    i have interest in pakistan, but ofcourse i dont have interest in parasitic military which is consuming 80% of pakistan’s resources legally,…….. its funny how people start to relate pakistan’s interest with pak army’s interest, its so funnyRecommend

  • Alien

    If only our Army can go back to their Real Job rather than Businesses and be accountable……….can make a difference.Recommend

  • Mirza

    I am glad that you choose to call yourself student. I have taught in colleges in Pakistan and the US. The point is not whether Obama has a law degree from Harvard or not. The point is even in such an educated society it is still not mandatory to have a degree to vote or contest elections. Please listen carefully: The reason US has become what it is today is that “it is inclusive” and not exclusive. We want people to contest elections and vote not to limit them with artificial restrictions that were illegal to start with. Do you know that US constitution which is about 200 years old had restrictions on voting. However, they were all eliminated with amendments and changing times.

    An illegal dictator put the restrictions so in such a backward country (especially older people ane women) very few elite would take part in elections. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has removed that illegal condition of graduate and as it was against Pakistani constitution. Still some army touts and right wing keep talking about that as if it is still the law of the land.

    While talking about being graduate, a Pakistani BA or BS degree is not graduate. In the US, one gets a BA or BS after 16 years of education, and still they are called under-graduate degrees! That is the main reason why Pakistani degrees are not recognized in most countries of the world. Another example is, in the US one has to go to 12 years of school, 4 years of undergraduate and only then can go to a medical school. Not right after only 12 years like in Pakistan. Best of luck in life beta. Recommend

  • wasim younis

    Finally the point of decision has arrived. Hopefully the decision will be positive and in the interest of Pakistan. Undoubtedly this is our war. However,in the wake of current media hype most of the terrorist present in N Wazirastan must have or trying to move away to other safe sancturies. Dont let this happen as they owe us so much: blood of 35000 shaheeds. Just a reminder that Generals belong to motherland and not to armies. As Quaid said that the safety and honour of your country comes first always and every time. So give a good account of yourselves. Allah be with you and remember that whole nation stand united behind you.Recommend

  • maestro

    The army of “general” Zia has to be reformed completely. PPP has to be disbanded. Feudalism has to be disbanded. The military is stuck with this thought that India is an enemy. India is NOT AN ENEMY! The enemy lies within us! Half my best friends are Indians and they say we want to see Pakistan prosper but how many times have we been hurt. Hand over people like Dawood Ibrahim, Hafiz saeed, who forment hate illogically and without rational thought = they are the biggest kaafirs! ! Destroying self taught extremism via Arab support has to end! Indoctrination of hate has to end! Islam is a religion of PEACE! And Zias couple of teeth need to be taken out of the Faisal mosque and thrown into sewage for destroying this country! Recommend

  • AnisAqeel

    “The Pakistan army has successfully held its own country hostage to its needs up till now is because of the army’s unity and organised structure. As this structure crumbles, the whole country’s fate is at stake.”

    Samir, you are absolutely right in saying so but this unity and organization is not for the betterment of Pakistani people and only for the betterment of the military personnel who are one of the highest paid if not the highest paid military in one of the poorest countries in the world.
    Now that there are traitors all over this unity and organization is crumbling there is little time to tell them boldly and loudly that Pakistan is more important than their stubbornness. We do not want you to create another Bangladesh but want you to stay within your boundaries, restructure yourselves and clean up this existential mess.
    I hope you stay safe after recent shutting off a journalist’s voice but this is a real Jihad you are participating in.Recommend

  • Khalid Rahim

    Are you not surprised that the chicks hatched from his hatchery in the last thirty years have
    not declared him a ”Saint”?Recommend