Perils of Garrison State: Case Study of Pakistan Economy

By Dr S R Niranjan

The State of Pakistan was created in 1947 after forced partition of Indian Subcontinent on Communal lines. The new Islamic State of Pakistan which first started with hope of separate homeland for Muslims in Indian Subcontinent is fast falling into despair after 75 years of its creation, in contrast India a state that had started with despair and pain of partition has marched long-way in right direction with purpose of giving her people better future and secure lifestyle.

The tale of two warring neighbors  can be compared to the emerging economic disparity and living conditions of the people in the two countries. Pakistan as a state was based on twin identities namely Islam and Army. Immediately after partition the creators of Pakistan envisaged the state to be a garrison state i.e., a state where army has more importance than any other worthwhile institution in that country.

The perils of Pakistan’s present economy have a past history tracing back to its creation in 1947. The economic condition and optimum utilization of resources in Pakistan was determined by the Military Generals in Rawalpindi, this can be understood from simple fact that at the time of Partition Pakistan as its share received 17% of British India Revenue while its share in Defence forces being 33%, so the Army became the largest institution of Pakistan. This had cascading effect on Pakistan economy which was basically agrarian economy and its rulers were forced to allocate nearly 60% of its budget to maintain the Armed forces, especially Army.

 Pakistan’s obsession with Indian state of Kashmir and its hatred towards India, which got more alarming post 1971, resulted in Pakistan spending heavily on its security with an agenda for preparing to wage constant war with India. The very creation of Pakistan was not based on hope or well being of its people but was on fear and perceived threat from Indian state, so as a state Pakistan and its Generals did not allow that country and its people to make peace with India, thereby preventing their own growth and well being.

The Indian state in comparison was able to build institutions and was investing on improving the living standards of her citizens, the constitution values and the apolitical nature of Indian Armed forces made India to take different growth trajectory with positive results. India though faced threats from both eastern and western neighbors no effort was made to convert the state as a garrison state, this can be understood from one clear evidence after 75 years of Independence and upon fighting 3&1/2 wars (1962,1965,1971,1948 & 1999) India’s defence expenditure was above 4% only once in 1986 -1987 (during PM Rajiv Gandhi’s Tenure) in comparison Pakistan time and time again had breached its own benchmark in Defence Spending which is still in double digits in GDP terms.

Pakistan because of its heavy defence spending with little or no productivity based economic model had to get addicted to loans which has brought the country to current state of economic distress and financial breakdown that is beyond repair at this moment.

The Loan Addiction Syndrome:

During the 75 years of Pakistan existence it has approached IMF for bailout, 22 times and had benefited out of it, in comparison India during the same period approached IMF 7 times with the last time being in 1991 (India did not utilize even full bailout due to economic reforms). Pakistan in last 43 years since starting of with their obsession with Jihadi way of fighting in 1980 has got 13 IMF bailouts.

The continuous bailouts in the form of loans from USA and soft loans from China, brotherly loans from Saudi and UAE had helped Pakistan getting lifeline almost every time it had financial crisis. The situation is fast changing in this front as well with most of Pakistan benefactors having a rethink their policy towards that country.

Presently In case of USA the requirement of Pakistan is fast diminishing because of its lack of interest in Afghanistan so the card of Pakistan being strategic ally does not give it any returns in the form of weapons or dollars.

In China’s case the much hyped China + Pakistan Economic Corridor is not seeing light of the day and Chinese investments are proving to be non performing assets with each passing day and moreover the impunity with which Chinese contractors getting attacked in Pakistan is becoming an vexatious problem between two countries.

In case of Saudi and UAE, Pakistan has sold the idea of Islamic bomb far too long. Once Saudi and UAE have tried to make peace with Israel there is little or no relevance for this Islamic bomb developed by Pakistan. The dastardly killing of then Pakistan Punjab governor Salman taseer by his own body guard due to Taseer’s anti blasphemy law stance had shaken the Saudi and UAE ruling elite. Thus forcing them to substantially reduce their dependence on Pakistani forces who where rented by Pakistani state to the above two mentioned kingdoms and their rulers this has resulted in downsizing of loan packages to Pakistan from above mentioned Muslim kingdoms. 

 The other important factor in Pakistan’s failing economy is its oversized Army, as we say every country has an army, in Pakistan’s case its opposite. This is indeed the failure model of Garrison state for which Pakistan has become a living example.

Pakistan in all its existence has economically grown above 6% only twice in (2004-2005 and 2005-2006), while India achieved the same 20 times in past 32 years post Liberalization of its economy in 1991. This clearly shows misplaced priorities and callous approach of Politico-military rulers in Rawalpindi.

The Pakistani currency is in a free-fall the current exchange rate of Pakistani Rupee for US Dollar is 272 Rupees for 1 Dollar this has led to galloping inflation, joblessness coupled with denial of fresh loans by international institutional lenders which will further cause stress to Pakistan’s fragile economic situation, leading to complete breakdown of Law and Order.

The Pakistani state has FOREX reserve sustainable for not even a month of its import needs. There is no industry worth its name in Pakistan; the agriculture sector is in a complete shambles because from wheat producing country it is now become wheat importing country . The overall apathy, misplaced priorities, financial mismanagement, war mongering attitude and illusions of grandeur by Pakistani ruling elite has brought the country to this level. At this rate Pakistan is a perfect model of failed state that had a promising start.

There must be some hard measures that both Pakistan Polity and Army have to make to reverse this trend and save ultimate disintegration of Pakistan state. These measures are both long term and short term in nature.

The long term measures are:

 To accept the reality that India as a nation state is the regional power in South Asia whose destiny is to achieve global dominance in 21st Century. Pakistan has to realize it cannot keep fighting India on J&K because post 2019 because the ground realities have changed and the state has virtually become a forbidden fruit that Pakistani establishment must never think of tasting.

Pakistan must stop exporting its biggest product which it manufactures in abundance i.e., the terrorists because the logic of using non-state actors as tool to achieve Pakistani states politico/military/economic goals have badly damaged and dented its credibility in the international stage leading to distrust and lack of faith in foreign investors resulting in lack of economic growth in the country.

Pakistani state must start accepting the reality that it has over played its geostrategic location far too long that no one takes this country seriously at international stage. Another important measure it has to take without second thought is substantially reducing its defence spending and also lessens the number of men in khaki uniform which is hugely disproportionate to its size and security needs.

Pakistan must stop its obsession of treating Afghanistan as its satellite or extended territory. In simple terms its concept of using Afghan territory for its own strategic requirement has lost its meaning, instead every day growing attacks on Pakistan orchestrated by Tehreek e Taliban operating from Afghanistan is exhibiting the shallowness of the concept of strategic depth, propounded & propagated by Rawalpindi GHQ since GEN Zia’s time.

The overdose of Islamic Radicalization has proved to be a disaster for the Pakistani State and it has affected its society to a point where the idea and concept of Jihad has reached insane levels that Pakistan as a state is now considered as most unsafe place in the world thereby forcing its citizens to live in gloom and despair without knowing what is in store for them next day.

Short term measure: though it appears to be simple but it is quite complex solution because Pakistan must just stop comparing itself with India and start building its polity with credible democracy but not the one that is guided by men in khaki sitting in Rawalpindi GHQ.

Pakistani Army has to realize that to fight a war against India is not going to help its own cause considering the conventional/economic superiority of India over Pakistan. Pakistan rulers and security planners must stop treating Afghanistan as its subservient vassal state. In the past 75 years, Pakistan has over hyped its role and over accessed its self importance geopolitically thus taking Pakistan people nowhere but to a gutter called terrorism. Pakistan has to realize this, sooner than later otherwise very existence of the state that Jinnah had created on a lopsided idea of religious identity will disintegrate thus strongly emphasizing the unsustainable idea of two nation theory.

Dr. S R Niranjan has been working as the Head of Defence and Strategic Studies Department at Dr. M.G.R Educational and Research Institute, Chennai, Tamil Nadu.