Has anyone ever pondered why we talk so often of Sher Shah Suri and his development works? He was a military administrator. Military organisations and technologies have always been dual purpose and precursors of development. Whether it was the moving logistics of Napoleon, the steam powered engines of the Great War, telephony, airpower or the internet; they changed the world forever. 

Assisting the Federal and Provincial governments ‘in aid of civil power’ is a constitutional function of the armed and civil armed forces of Pakistan. Contrary to disinformation this is a legitimate national function under the constitution of Pakistan.  

During the 50s and 60s, the role of armed forces of Pakistan in national development earned appreciation and admiration from military sociologist world over. Pakistan was the case study. These were teething times for a newborn state whence armed forces filled many gaps towards fast track development. By early 60s, Pakistan was the fastest growing economy of Asia. 

In the present circumstances; where rupee is in free fall;   federal secretaries and officials fall like nine pins; speculation creates windfalls and meltdowns; and imported experts are hell bent on a front loaded IMF intervention, the military can play a very constructive role at the grass roots. Remaining away from the gaze of economic racketeers can spring a start towards grass roots sustainable development. 

According to Section 245 (1) of the Constitution of Pakistan, “The Armed Forces shall, under the directions of the Federal Government defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so”. In Pakistan’s history, this constitutional role for armed forces is defined in every constitution since 1947. 

The term, ‘Threat of War’ encompasses the role against hybrid threats both kinetic and non-kinetic. The phrase, ‘act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so” expands the military role under federal authority to existing civil functions of the state. This includes ‘law and order’, ‘natural calamities’ and other services of national importance including development.  

A historical perspective: 

East Pakistan, rich in jute, rice, tea, paper and fruits lacked a commercial port and depended on Calcutta. Following the anti-Hindu riots in 50s, Pakistan’s armed forces sealed the East Pakistan border, brought smuggling to a halt and played their role in development of a new alternate port at Chittagong. The armed forces also helped develop infrastructure projects that sustain Bangladesh even today. 

After India blocked the flow of River Ravi, Beas and Sutlej the two countries nearly went to war. The military Corps of Engineers in partnership with WAPDA and Plans Division got involved in building of small and large dams including Mangla, Rawal and Khanpur. Many new link canals pending the IBWT were constructed and water diverted to starved areas. This is how Marala Headwork and BRB link Canal kept Ravi and Sutlej flowing. 

Quetta was a small town and the major training centre of army and PAF. It had acute water shortfalls. The Military Corps of Engineers completed the task of building water reservoirs around the provincial capital that even today cater for the needs of the residents. Kuchlak, Hanna, Spin Lake, Urak and Pishin Lake are the creation of Pakistan Army which supply water to the entire area and recharge underground karezez. 

When the high tides of the Arabian Sea began eroding agricultural land at Thatta, the military formations at Karachi and Hyderabad on the beck and call of Prime Minister Liaqat Ali, with minimum earth moving equipment created an outfall drain with picks and shovels in a record time of six months. This drain still holds its own.

Islamabad, the new modern capital with Rawal and Simly Dams was planned on military drawing boards.

PAF is also the pioneer of PIA. Once upon a time, PIA was the leading airline of the world and helped establish civil aviation in many countries including Gulf, Singapore and Malaysia.

It goes to the credit of our Military Corps of Engineers to carve a wondrous road through the granite of the Himalayan and Karakorum and establish a land link with China. They also linked the land locked Chitral with Dir and weaved a network of all-weather roads in Northern Areas and Kashmir. Gawadar is linked to Karachi through a road constructed by military corps of engineers.

Most health and communication facilities in Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan are run by armed forces. 

Development works in the restive now peaceful FATA were executed by the armed forces. Floods, earthquakes, droughts, cloudburst or national emergencies; armed forces remain the most responsive and efficient organisation. 

Pakistan Navy defends Pakistan’s maritime boundaries even in peace. It has contributed to expansion of Exclusive Economic Zone and development of coastal areas from Hub to Suntsar in Balochistan. 

New cantonments have acted as hubs for development. Quetta, Sibi, Dera Bughti, Kashmore, Panu Aqil, Ormara, Okara, Chunian, Malakand and Tal are some examples. Garrisons bring with them circulation of money to boost local economies, schools, colleges, hospitals and employments. The cities build around them. 

Military welfare organisations and defence industry are amongst the largest employers of civilian manpower with a welfare system. Military has made enviable contributions towards modern urban planning continuously agitating development industry. They are amongst the biggest taxpayers and make substantial contribution to the GDP. 

The new role:

Military’s new role revolves around making agriculture more profitable, conserving water and human resource development. 

In the internal security plans, every square kilometer of Pakistan comes in the area of responsibility of some military, naval or air formation. Hence every formation through its commands will assist respective civil administrations, civil society and local councils in education, health, agriculture, logistics and marketing. 

Modernising agriculture, sale of agro chemicals, regulated purchase and sale of agro products will cut out adulteration, usher efficient agricultural practices and edge out middlemen. Productivity, quality and profit margins would increase manifold. Combined with modern natural agriculture, markedly reduced agro-chemical inputs and manifold outputs with qualitative edge, Pakistan’s GDP could jump by 3-4% of GDP in the first two years. This will also direct a very big segment of informal economy into official book keeping. Into the second year of operations, Pakistan could largely shift to organic crops, becoming the biggest organic exporter of the world. This implies a GDP increase of 5-7 in the third to fourth year. Effects on downstream industry would be manifold. Ultimately every village will become a self-sustainable production unit. 

 The chain of military medical system can efficiently superimpose itself on the basic and rural health units to provide efficient medical coverage. This will result in medical documentation of every individual in the respective areas. Health and sanitation campaigns, now the domain of profit making NGOs will become efficient. 

Every school in the rural areas could be adopted by a military sub unit. Educational staff could be provided from amongst servicemen in the last two years of service. 

Around important hubs, military workshops and manufacturing facilities could become skill development centres. Vocational training institutes and child welfare centres could open up to civilians. 

Military farms and land could become model farms. Land could be reclaimed and converted into 10 hectare modern farms. Small delay action check dams would convert barani areas to irrigated farms.  In Pakistan thousands of identified sites will become arable.

Detailed papers on such a development are already available. They have to be dusted, improved and put into practical utility. 

 The intervention would set a trend of fast track development. From production to quality, and from unemployment to self-sufficiency, the dynamics of Pakistan’s economy would change forever. Then we could boast that Pakistan’s economy stands on the solid foundations of its geography and sociology.