Leadership: The "Year of the Soldier" In Pakistan

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April 22,2008: Last November, the Pakistani armed forces got a new commander, general Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani. Two months later, he declared 2008 as the "Year of the Soldier." This was an attempt to improve the morale of the army, which has been unhappy with so many troops being sent into the tribal areas, to fight Islamic radicals (Taliban and al Qaeda.)

There are 619,000 personnel in the armed forces, most of them in the army. It's an all volunteer force, and recruiters can be picky about who they let in, for there is no shortage of applicants. The official military budget is about $5.3 billion a year. That's about three percent of GDP. But in reality, the military get close to 7 percent of GDP. That because the military has a welfare trust (the Fauji Foundation), set up over half a century ago, that controls commercial firms amounting to about six percent of GDP. Profits from these operations pay for health, education and other benefits for members of the armed forces (active and retired) and their families. The senior officers in the armed forces benefit most from this arrangement. General Kiyani apparently plans to redeploy a lot of this money to improve health and education benefits for the troops and their families. Housing and living standards for troops will also be improved. All this will improve the morale of the troops, apparently in preparation for another offensive against Islamic militants. This is needed because the Taliban and al Qaeda have turned some parts of the Pushtun and Baluchi tribal territories into terrorist sanctuaries. From these locations, attacks are planned and carried out against targets within the tribal territories, and the rest of Pakistan. In effect, the Taliban and al Qaeda are at war with the government of Pakistan, and have made public announcements to that effect. But about fifteen percent of army personnel are Pushtun, and many of these have kin in the tribal territories. In this case, morale and motivation matters, a lot.

 


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