Customer Reviews: Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy
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on June 20, 2007
Writing about the military in Pakistan can be risky business and the author of this book has shown tremendous courage in publishing this important work. However, the merit of this book is not because it is daring but rather because of the intellectual rigor and empirical detail provided. Unlike anti-establishment provocateurs who can often claim courage of conviction but not much else, Dr. Siddiqa has provided us with a well-substantiated account of financial hegemony in the military that deserves applause. While recognizing the vital importance of the military itself, the book unravels how essential security can be easily manipulated to accumulate wealth for a powerful elite.

The author starts with a structural premise that defines the phenomenon of "milbus" as "military capital used for the personal benefit of the military fraternity, especially the officer cadre, which is not recorded as part of the defence budget." She then goes on to situate this concept within the larger literature on the military industrial complex. Her lucid prose is also augmented by clear, tables, organizational charts, graphs and Venn diagrams. Her findings are staggering: for example, the amount of land owned by military officers through subsidized schemes amounts to $4.6 billion. The military pensions being offered are five times the amount for civilian officers. The role of the Fauji Foundation and other military organizations in running commercial enterprises that range from cereal manufacturing to running schools is astounding.

The usual argument given by proponents of milbus is that the military is the most disciplined organization and can do everything more efficiently. Yet, this logic is defied by most of the world's leading economic powers where development has occurred through private enterprise by educated and responsible citizens. Perhaps the author could have spent more time in evaluating these arguments. Nevertheless, given the range and scope of the matter at hand, Dr. Siddiqa has done a marvelous job with this manuscript. One can only hope the military will not feel threatened by this constructive criticism and use the the book as a means for initiating reform.
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on May 27, 2007
The book is not only first of its kind on the secrets of Military Economics in Pakistan, it also contains the lessons a nation should learn on the limits of military engagements in civil insitutions.

Well written, and a brave effort.

5 stars
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on May 31, 2007
Hinderance in releasing this book in Pakistan is a clear indication of the authenticity of this book. Lessons to be learned.
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on January 27, 2008
I bought this book because Pakistan has recently been in the news, and sad to say will probably be in the news again. Since the author received death threats when the book was published and wisely left Pakistan, it seemed that she had earned my support, and also that the book had hit a nerve.

The background for the book is the theory, originating among US academics, that the military is the most modern institution in developing societies, and that a politically strong military will therefore develop a country. This view is associated with Morris Janowitz and Samuel Huntington. Being Pakistani, Ayesha Siddiqa has noticed that their theory has not worked. She explains why in this book.

The book covers: the theoretical concept of Milbus, which she introduces; the Pakistani military; the political history of Pakistani; the four foundations that run the major investments of the Pakistani military; diversion of state land to private purposes in the interest of senior military officers; the cost of Milbus; and some speculations about its likely impact on the future of Pakistan. These appear sound to a non-expert on the Pakistan army.

If asked to state her general thesis, I would use a metaphor that she does not, and say that the suggestion that the military can develop a developing country in effect casts it in the role of a Marxist vanguard party. It has some advantages in this role, notably including greater administrative competence than a Marxist vanguard party usually has. But it lacks a concept of the revolutionary transformation of society, and it has a entirely different mission from social development, which is national defense. It is subject to the same tendency to corruption as a Marxist vanguard party. So the military can develop society to a certain extent, but does so in the interest of military officers, who become a class in the Marxist sense themselves. Corruption, diversion of public resources to private purposes, etc, which are a big issue with Marxist vanguard parties in power, are also serious problems with military led development. The author claims, and makes a fairly good case to support her claim, that the economic interests of the military both increase its political power, and give it an incentive to expand its political power rather than "returning to barracks".

It is not clear how large a portion of Pakistan's economy the military controls, but a few figures she offers near the end suggest that it is anywhere from 3-10%.

This book is an academic sociological work, not a call to action. It adheres to the conventions of academic work, meaning that it has a lot of jargon and is fairly difficult to read. It also addresses a specific problem, not just the military but military involvement in business. Pakistan has enough other problems that this should not be used as an introduction to the sociology of Pakistan.

That said, I hope she sells a lot of copies.

In the US we're relying on the Pakistani army, so we should know something about its downsides, and why many Pakistanis are not wild about it. The fact that the Pakistani army is arguably not really a national institution, because its personnel are recruited almost exclusively from the Punjab and the NW Frontier, has interesting implications.

In short, I agree with Lee Hamilton and Ahmed Rashid, who recommend the book.
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on August 21, 2011
This book should come across as informative to outsiders, but not sure how they will ascertain if all is factual.

I have divided this book into three sections:
1. Military, Inc. financials—I find the financial irrelevant. Referenced Military, Inc. is a publicly traded company and pays taxes.
2. Historic facts—Dr. Saddiqa is downright wrong per other evidence provided.
3. Author’s opinion and research behind what should Pakistan Military’s role be and the impact of Milbus on Pakistan—Dr. Siddiqa is entitled to her opinion, provided evidence is factual.

My focus is #2, the historic events—what Dr. Siddiqa claims, are not factual. I reason it by sharing what other authors have written. Also, it is not an objective read.

Dr. Siddiqa’s research is very narrow--we now know the dollar value of "Milbus," and all its ills that she has claimed. There are no solutions provided and what benefit “Milbus” brings to the retired soldiers is overlooked. When it comes to the Army's various organizations out to make a buck, Dr. Siddiqa is quite right. These are tax paying organizations and are profitable organizations, but who is the beneficiary of revenues from acts of "Milbus"? These are the shareholders the retired men and women and the families of the arm forces--this other side of "Milbus" need mentioning in her book. In the U.S., we have veterans set aside quotas too for veteran's benefit—that balanced view is missing from her book. Milbus could also have been presented as the army's "Welfare Program" and a transitioning of a retired solder into corporate environment, which an author with a balanced approach would not have missed.

The country being poor and the democratic politicians mostly corrupt, are not able to manage much; I find the act of "Milbus" necessary to offer its veterans jobs/welfare and if it makes revenues for the shareholders within the constitutional limits, then no harm.

Dr. Siddiq’s book does not lend value to serious intellectual debate for two reasons:

One, it is a think tank sponsored effort. Majority of think tanks have negative view of Pakistan. As such, funded books can only support so many shades of their truth.

Two, I will make a case that factually the content is incorrect—you be the judge.

I find the learned doctor not an astute student of the history of Pakistan Vis-avis Army and its polity or she turned biased due to aforesaid reason #1 and has misinformed her audience. For example, in chapter 10, Dr. Siddiqa stops short of giving opinion of other authors who have written extensively on subjects that she is addressing. These authors were very much established in that era, were a party to making that history that Dr. Siddiqa has falsely recreated. Dr. Siddiqa was not born then and her inexperience in exuberant youth is evident. I find her approach not being objective and at times disturbing—harming her country's army. Please see the following example.

In chapter 10, Dr. Siddiqa says, "The Pakistan military's economic interests are the result of the defence establishment's political 1950s, the military gradually encroached into politics..." is not truthful based on overwhelming data by other authors.

In 1950s, the military had no political clout--today they do. In fact their morale was very low. Pakistan was created on the basis of democracy in 1947 and exercised greater power. For readers to judge, the author Brig. M. Hamid-Ud-Din, in his book, "Looking Back," writes that the army after Pakistan's independence was treated with disrespect by the civil servants. The disrespect trickled from the personalities at the top--many were feudal lords. For example, the civil government would not attend to army officers when they visited civil offices--made them wait outside. The list is rather lengthy.

There was no encroachment; the army was dragged into her political journey by the actions of the civil government. The low army morale and the Kashmir issue were the two prime reasons of a first trace of army attempting to come into the political system through a failed coup, foiled by the army in 1951--what encroachment? After the failed coup, the democratic government came to senses and gave the army basic respect and privileges such as discount on fare tickets and the like to help with the morale. Brig. M. Hamid-Ud-Din, in his book, "Looking Back."

Till this point [meaning the 1950s], the army had not encroached that Dr. Siddiqa claims the army did. Detailing the following events would show why Dr. Siddiqa is wrong on three accounts. One, having political clout; two, Army did not handle Kashmir issue and three, encroaching into politics.

Political clout: In early 1950s the civil servants disrespected the army--political clout not possible. The military's economic interest grew out of civil government's incompetency when they could no longer run the country and brought Martial Law into the country. The country rule was co-chaired. If civil is incompetent, military must then have economic programs to support its infrastructure. When civil brought the army into running country, it gave them an opportunity to learn the business of economics.

Kashmir: On the Kashmir issue, India was and is in violation of the terms of independence--grabbed Kashmir in 1948. Quaid-e-Azam M. Ali Jinnah (the father of Pakistan) understood the importance of Kashmir, requested Gen. Gracey--a British officer, the then Chief of the Pakistan Army to send troops into Kashmir, which he refused. Thereafter, Quaid passed away and the matter had to be addressed--mainly Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan's (Mr. LAK), the Governor General of Pakistan.

The civil government mostly incompetent feudal lords did not approach the Kashmir matter with strategic wisdom as did Quaid. Due to Mr. LAK's incompetence and his unconventional approach to X-Gen. Akbar about the Kashmir matter, explained next, the army could not have done much regarding Kashmir or India that the Dr. Siddiqa alludes to.

Per the author Brig. Hamid, Mr. LAK, privately approached X-Gen. Akbar on the Kashmir matter. X-Gen. Akbar was not the senior officer in charge. Why did Mr. LAK approached ONLY X-Gen. Akbar in private where there were other senior generals to him? The issue should have been discussed with Joint Chiefs and other senior officers. X-Gen Akbar would have had his say to explain his views and matter would have been addressed jointly, not leaving the burden of Kashmir on one shoulder. X-Gen. Akbar was dragged into the mess; consequentially he made it his affair. X-Gen. Akbar realized that Mr. LAK did not find the matter as serious as Quaid; in isolation he considered it his patriotic duty to take Kashmir matter into his own hands. X-Gen. Akbar thought coup (the foiled one) was the only option. Again read the above referenced book and a book written by X-Gen. Akbar, The Raiders of Kashmir. Both these authors had participated in the limited battle of Kashmir in 1948. According to Brig. Hamid, it was civil who lost the opportunity to settle Kashmir issue by not handling it in an eloquent manner.

Encroachment: Later, when the civil government could not handle the civil unrest, they requested Martial Law around October 1958 and the civil government recommended for Gen. Ayub Khan to co-share power with President Iskandar Mirza. The 1950s era had almost ended, without any evidence of encroachment and one successful attempt by the army to preserve democracy by foiling a coup, shows army had no plans to encroach. After 20 days into Martial Law, on October 27, 1958, Gen. Ayub Khan in a coup deposed President Mirza, was sent to exile. That would bring the chronology to 1958, the ind of the 50s era without evidence of encroachment.

I might add another interesting trivia--a British author had written, after Quaid's death and LAK's assassination, the sister of the father of the nation, Ms. Fatima Jinnah, approach Gen. Ayub, two months before the bloodless coup and suggested that the country needed a few years of tight rule. Ms. Fatima Jinnah statement is a testimony to the fact that the civil were not capable of managing Pakistan.

It was in Gen. Ayub's regime that Pakistan GDP growth rate was the highest, some 8-10 percent. Civil regimes are putting out only 2-3% growth rate. Not liking military rule is fine, but creating facts out of thin air or not stating what other authors have argued does not give readers a factual or a balanced view.

It would have been interesting to know the point of view of Dr. Siddiqa, why Pakistan army officers opted for "milbus" and military regimes and not the Indian army, when both the armies were made from the same lot, all had graduated from either Sandhurst Military Academy, UK or IMA? Approach as such by the author would have made her book quite objective. Nonetheless, for a while now the army is committing acts of "Milbus", the author never indulges into if "milbus" is due to first the incompetency of polity or is due to some other factors. Rediscovering the obvious and attaching a dollar value to "milbus" is an accounting exercise and it does not fit the category of philosophic intellectual analytic wisdom, which I wished it did. The author should have spent time in explaining possible reasons for the army's involvement in acts of "milbus" and possible fixes, is my expectation from an objective writer.

It is an exercise of either Dr. Siddiqa got exhausted or she ran out of facts and could not find any more dirty laundry and ended the book. Or is it the author got paid to write this book and hence the likely direction. It is all of that, but NOT a constructive approach to making matters better. Pakistan needs a visionary and an analytic writer to get that country out of the center of paralysis.

Indeed, a courageous step Dr. Siddiqa took--from bright minds, which I believe she is, one should expect to provide the under pining of why Pakistan Army is involved in "Milbus" and its fix. A chapter or two to that end would have been an absorbing read and the book would have served well--her country. I gave it three stars because it is an academic exercise with data that Dr. Siddiqa was not able to put to good use. Sadly, the author ends her research at that. Four chapters of that would have been fine, it would have given a reader the same compelling message that she tries in some nine chapters, a fact well know inside Pakistan.

I would like this author to give us her second take, what are the causes and what is needed to fix "milbus." With an objective approach, I am sure she will make new friends at Military, Inc.!!!
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on January 3, 2014
Sadly, I was unable to finish this book because the English used in it is so tortured. Ms. Siddiqa may have good points, but I couldn't learn them because the book was so painful to read.
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on October 16, 2009
Good, well researched and lucidly written book on the subject of Pakistan military run business enterprises, which in sum form a significant part of the national economy.
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on April 23, 2013
This book provides a good history of how military controls Pakistani politics, but more important, how it controls the economy. Full of facts and data.
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on March 24, 2011
Dr. Ayesha is one of my favourite authors. And she writes with conviction and detail. It is impossible not to laud this book. Pakistan Army, one of the largest employers in Pakistan is also the most powerful. To write something on this huge reality is surely about risking one's life. And Dr. Ayesha has done so with great empirical evidence as well.

This book provides detailed analysis of the various profit making business ventures of Pakistan Army. She argues that Army should be a fighting unit and not someone into all kinds of businesses, from corn flakes to agro urea products. And she is right. She often asks this question: How can a business minded Army fend of attacks? A question which Army generals have failed to answer.
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on November 26, 2007
Let me start by saying this is a great book. It has a very detailed explaination of how the army and the politicians have always been working together to achieve their individual goals. The research is top notch and claims are backed by facts.

However I do have a problem with the 'evil' tag that this book is attaching to the army. What Ayesha has failed to look at (and I guess since this book is ONLY about the hard facts she cannot be held responsibile for it) is the human side of things. Survival is every ones desire and survival in a lavish style is more so. According to proof in this book, the army officials have used money for projects to renovate their own life styles (and that has to be condemned) but there will always be bad fish in every pond. Lets not color everyone with the same brush.

I refuse to accept the fact that a soldier is only a solider because he can dip into the FF or SF to make his house better. These people have a belief that they want to protect pakistan at all cost and they in their 'own warped' (as per Ayesha) manner have done that time and time again.

Business is important and some resources in the army might get diverted away from their real use for the wrong reasons but that does not make them inefficient or weak or completely corrupt.

even the best and most efficient army in the world will have some 'skeletons in the cupboard' - pakistan army is no different. but they are not evil and they are not hell bent on destroying the country.
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