Pakistan: Situation of retired military officers, including role in society and business interests; specific state protection available to military and ex-military members (2012-December 2014) [PAK105022.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Business Interests of the Pakistani Military

In an paper published by the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) [1], Elisa Ada Giunchi, a professor of history and institutions of Islamic countries at the University of Milan, indicates that the Pakistani army is "the most powerful institution in the country" (ISPI July 2014, 2). In his book The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World, T.V. Paul, a professor of international relations at McGill University, indicates that the Pakistani army

[r]uns a vast array of institutions: military schools and colleges, teacher training institutes, the Army Education Press, the National Institute of Modern Languages, the National University of Science and Technology, cadet colleges, and the Fauji Foundation-run educational and health care institutions. The Army Medical Corps runs a broad network of hospitals and specialized institutions. (Paul 2014, 86)

Sources report that the Pakistani military's businesses also include banks, transportation companies, cement, fertilizer, and cereal factories (Rashid 8 Mar. 2012; WSJ 9 Aug. 2013). The Wall Street Journal indicates that the army also runs schools and engineering projects in Pakistan (ibid.). Information on engineering projects run by the Pakistani army could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The New Zealand Herald reports that army officers manage highway construction and trucking operations in the country (The New Zealand Herald 20 Aug. 2011). The article adds that the military runs trusts like private corporations, with investments worth US$20 billion (ibid.). Sources indicate that the military also owns companies in the energy-production sector (TI 26 Jan. 2012; ISPI July 2014, 8) as well as in broadcasting (ibid.).

In an article published on the website of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Saad Mustafa of Transparency International's Defence and Security Programme indicates that military-owned businesses in Pakistan have a seven percent share of Pakistan's GDP [Gross Domestic Product], control a third of the manufacturing sector in the country, and possess seven percent of assets in Pakistan's private sector (TI 26 Jan. 2012). Mustafa also indicates that the army is one of the largest land owners in the country, controlling about 13 percent of state land (ibid.). The Wall Street Journal similarly indicates that the military is the largest residential property developer in the country (9 Aug. 2013).

According to Giunchi, the participation of current and former military officers in universities and think tanks in Pakistan has "entrench[ed] a process ... that promoted the image of the military as the saviour of the country and the guardian of its integrity and ideology" (ISPI July 2014, 8). The Wall Street Journal similarly reports that "the Pakistani army believes that it is the ultimate determiner of the national interest" (9 Aug. 2013).

2. Benefits Offered to Retired Military Officers

Sources indicate that the Pakistani military offers comprehensive services to its current and former members, often referred to as "'womb to tomb'" (Fair 18 Dec. 2014; The New Zealand Herald 20 Aug. 2011). The New Zealand Herald indicates that the Fauji Foundation, one of Pakistan's leading military-business conglomerates, offers resettlement and re-employment opportunities to about nine million retired military (The New Zealand Herald 20 Aug. 2011). In his book, Paul cites the former director of the Fauji Foundation as saying that the Foundation is the biggest corporate entity in the country, and that it "[t]akes care of some three million retired military personnel by setting up schools and hospitals in a country where delivery of services is very poor" (Paul 2014, 87). According to Paul, the director also argued that "if the interests of the retired military personnel are not taken care of, it would be extremely difficult to obtain new recruits" (ibid.).

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, Christine Fair, an assistant professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University who specializes in political and military affairs in South Asia and who has written several articles on Pakistan security issues, indicated that the benefits offered to retired military personnel range according to the rank of the officer (Fair 18 Dec. 2014). Sources indicate that the higher an officer's rank the more benefits they get upon retirement (Visiting Professor 16 Dec. 2014; Siddiqa 14 Dec. 2014). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a visiting professor at Dartmouth College who specializes in civil-military relations, politics, and security in South Asia indicated that senior retired military officers are "perhaps the most privileged social group in Pakistan," benefitting from free health care, pensions, and what he characterized as commercial and residential land at "throwaway prices" and "often cushy" civilian jobs (Visiting Professor 16 Dec. 2014). The Wall Street Journal reports that army generals enjoy "lavish lifestyles in service and retirement" (9 Aug. 2013).

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, Ayesha Siddiqa, an Islamabad-based independent political and defense analyst and Charles Wallace Fellow at Oxford University's St. Anthony's College, who is the author of the book Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy (openDemocracy n.d.), indicated that

[the] Pakistan military has an elaborate system of perks and privileges for their officer cadre. This is not something subject to expire at the end of their careers but are meant for their personal benefits. Every officer gets, for instance, a house and one additional property which they can sell or keep as they wish. Moreover, they are not subject to pay the same taxes as civilians ... This is the minimum. There are other benefits that depend on the ranks. The generals get a staff of house help that are not only paid for by the government but their meals are also responsibility of the government. (14 Dec. 2014)

Fair indicated that retired officers enjoy pensions, plots of land, and, with their families, are offered "separate and better hospitals, schools, social amenities and they are eligible to live in special 'cantonments' where all of the amenities are vastly superior to those available to non-military families" (18 Dec. 2014). In Military Inc., published in 2007, Siddiqa similarly indicates that "[s]ome of the best clubs, guest houses and other such facilities belong to the armed forces, not to mention the availability of health and educational facilities that are far better than those available for the civilian population" (Siddiqa 2007, 206). In correspondence with the Research Directorate in December 2014, Siddiqa indicated that

health care for retired officers and their dependents is provided for free at all medical facilities of the armed forces. The military has an extensive system of hospitals throughout the country which is better equipped and funded than civilian counterparts. The dependents include parents, spouse and children of the officer. The education is available on subsidised rates in military institutions which charge hefty fees from civilians. (ibid. 21 Dec. 2014)

Information on the system of benefits available to military officers by rank could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Sources indicate that the religious or ethnic background of the retired officer does not play a role in the benefits provided to him upon retirement (Fair 18 Dec. 2014; Visiting Professor 16 Dec. 2014; Siddiqa 14 Dec. 2014). However, in her book, Siddiqa indicates that military welfare resources are mostly invested in the province of Punjab, since 75 percent of military personnel are from that province (ibid. 2007, 213). Giunchi similarly indicates that 75 percent of the military personnel comes from the province of Punjab and adds that

the system of rewarding military personnel with perks and privileges, land and employment opportunities, which remained in place, consolidated the political influence and affluence of Punjabis at the expense of other groups. Land transfers to Punjab military personnel in non-Punjab areas has time and again created political tensions with the local population, particularly in Baluchistan. Contributing to the bitterness of non-Punjabi ethnic groups, the military's welfare funds have invested in the largest province, a product of the predominance of Punjabis but also of the extent and quality of infrastructures in that province. (ISPI July 2014, 9-10)

However, Siddiqa indicated that all benefits and privileges apply to retired officers regardless of their province of origin (21 Dec. 2014).

3. State Protection

According to Siddiqa, "the military does not provide any protection on the basis of sect or if there is extra threat to a minority. ...The military does not provide any extra security for those who have served on counter-terrorism duties" (21 Dec. 2014). The Visiting Professor indicated that high ranking officers, especially three-star generals who retire in "certain strategic positions," can have access to government protection upon retirement (Visiting Professor 18 Dec. 2014). However, the Visiting Professor also indicated that "actual vulnerability on the basis of faith or operational experience is usually not sufficient" in order to obtain state protection (ibid.). According to Fair, state protection is offered to retired servicemen depending on "who they are and what they did" (Fair 18 Dec. 2014). She added that retired high-ranking servicemen "can easily afford to pay [for protection] out of [their own] pocket as well" (ibid.). According to Siddiqa, "[t]here isn't individual protection but they are far more protected than civilians. They live in neighbourhoods that are highly protected. In case of an emergency, these officers seek individual protection as well" (14 Dec. 2014). Further information on state protection available to retired military could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


[1] The Italian Institute for International Political Studies is an independent think tank created in 1934 "dedicated to being a resource for government officials, business executives, journalists, civil servants, students and the public at large wishing to better understand international issues" (ISPI n.d.). It produces reports and provides insight on international affairs issues and world events (ibid.).


Fair, Christine; Professor, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. 18 December 2014. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI). July 2014. Elisa Ada Giunchi. The Political and Economic Role of the Pakistani Military. Analysis No. 269. [Accessed 2 Dec. 2014]

_____. N.d. "Institute." [Accessed 19 Dec. 2014]

The New Zealand Herald. 20 August 2011. Rahul Bedi. "Armed, Dangerous and Building Their Own Empires." [Accessed 2 Dec. 2014]

openDemocracy. N.d. "About Ayesha Siddiqa." [Accessed 19 Dec. 2014]

Paul, T.V. 2014. The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World. New York: Oxford University Press.

Rashid, Hashim Bin. 8 March 2012. "The Military in Business." Pakistan Today, Lahore. [Accessed 2 Dec. 2014]

Siddiqa, Ayesha. 21 December 2014. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

_____. 14 December 2014. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

_____. 2007. Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy. Karachi: Oxford University Press.

Transparency International (TI). 26 January 2012. Saad Mustafa. "Military-owned Businesses and Corruption Risks." Thomson Reuters Foundation. [Accessed 2 Dec. 2014]

Visiting Professor, Department of Government, Dartmouth College. 19 December 2014. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

_____. 16 December 2014. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). 9 August 2013. Saeed Shah. "Big Decision for Pakistan's Prime Minister: Who Heads Coup-prone Army." [Accessed 2 Dec. 2014]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact a professor at the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response.

A professor at the Department of Political Science at McGill University could not provide information.

Internet sites, including: The Age; Al Jazeera; Amnesty International; Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation; British Broadcasting Corporation; Dawn;; The Express Tribune; Factiva; The Hindu; Huffington Post; Human Rights Watch; Inter Press Service; Pakistan – Inter Services Public Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Army, Pakistan Navy, Supreme Court; Pakistan Press Foundation; Saach TV; The Salem News; Transparency International; United Nations – Refworld, ReliefWeb, United States – Department of State, USAID.

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