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South Asia

Pakistan: A quiet sort of military might

It is perhaps no surprise that in a supposedly democratic nation that has been ruled by generals for 33 of its 71 years of independence, the military has an outsized role in Pakistan’s economy.

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Across the army, navy and air force, conservative estimates put the value of the military’s business empire at more than $25 billion; on any normal day, it’s difficult to conduct commercial activity in Pakistan and not make the brass hats richer.

Your breakfast tea? That could be grown by Nurpur Farms, which is owned by the military. Likewise the pasteurized milk that goes with it. Fancy a tasty aloo gosht for dinner? Both the potatoes and the lamb could come from commercialized farms owned by military-owned Fauji Fresh n Freeze. Or maybe macaroni is preferred? That would come from the military’s Fauji Pasta.

With the eating over, it is time for work. Perhaps a few share trades on the roaring Pakistan Stock Exchange? Why not use the military-owned investment bank Foundation Securities in Karachi. You could park any profits in your account at Islamabad-based Askari Bank, also owned by the military.

And so it goes; the gas that powers the cooker, the cement used to build many Pakistani houses, the electricity for the lights, the petrol in the car, travel agencies, property development, transport and schools, hundreds of business entities across all areas of the economy, and all competing with the private sector.