Pakistan News Service

Tuesday May 21, 2024, Zul-qaadah 13, 1445 Hijri

Civil & Military in Pakistan

31 July, 2007

By Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd)


An email on the internet by the caption, *"Every Country has Army, Pakistan Army has a country"*  has been going the rounds for the last many years much to the delight of  the likes of Farahat ullah Babar,  Ansar Abbasi and Dr. Ayasha Siddiqui, who let go of no opportunity to malign the armed forces! It surfaces every now and then in a planned manner to strike when the anvil is hot, that is; whenever the government is facing a situation. I have received it again for the third time now during the last two years. It contains a comprehensive list of the army officers in civil appointments in the country. On the face of it the list looks huge and on its first reading gives the impression to the uninformed gullible that the entire administration of the country is being run by the military officers. What it does not say cleverly is that it is a consolidated list of all such military personnel who have held such appointments over a period of last two decades or more and includes the names of even those who have retired since long from their civil positions or have even left for their eternal heavenly abode. But the list keeps on making the rounds, of course not without the obvious purpose of maligning the army in its own country, thus doing the job of the enemy strategists for free (but who knows, there might be a price?) in eroding the very unity and the foundations of Pakistan.

Civil & Military Interdependence

Civil Services and the Military are the two most important wheels without which no country can run. There are two types of military officers who find their way to the civil appointments – The Serving Officers and the Retired Officers. Similarly, there are a few departments in the government which are defence oriented in nature and the defence personnel, serving or retired, are considered better suited for some of the specific jobs in them. It is just like many civilians serving in the GHQ, AHQ, NHQ, various Formations/Stations and Log Areas Headquarters, All Cantonment Boards and the Military Estates Offices, hundreds of Army Rations and Ordnance Depots spread all over the country, and the largest number of them employed by the Pakistan Ordnance Factories at Wah, Garwal and Sanjwal, the Aeronautical Complex, Kamara, the Heavy Rebuild Tank and Gun Factories, Taxilla, the Naval Dockyards, numerous PAF Air Bases, various many Technical Inspectorates like Inspectorate of Electronics & Instruments, Inspectorate of Vehicles and Engineering Equipment, Chief Inspectorate of Armaments, Inspectorate of Optics etc. etc. many Military Hospitals and many other purely military organisations and set ups all over the country. Each and every one of them can be very easily replaced by a serving of retired military person. Not only that, all these civilians employed by the thousands in these military establishments are categorised as “Civilians Paid out of Defence Budget” and are entitled exactly to all those facilities as given to the army personnel in these establishments. As a matter of fact and on the lighter side, there is a saying going rounds in all such military head quarters that it is the civilians who are the permanent staff there as the military officers keep coming and going. And if it a surprise let it be that way.  No military officer in the GHQ can punish any civilian employ – even his office peon. The matter is to be reported to the CAO (Civilian Administrative Officer), who is only competent to take any action against them. And if it could offer some solace to Messrs Farhat Ullah Babar and Ansar Abbasi to know that a very large number – indeed a very large number- of civilians is employed by the Fauji Foundation, AWT, Shaheen Foundation and Bahria Foundation, the Frontier Works Organisation, the Special Communications Organisation, the Civil Works Organisation and the NLC in their many and multi million rupee projects and enterprises. Some of the civilians in these organisations are employed at much higher pay and perks than what most of the serving and retired officers and men get there.  If we compare the number of such civilians employed in the defence organisations vis-a-vis  the number of the army personnel in the civil services, I bet the ratio will be at least 500 to 1 in favour of the civilians.

Retired Military Officers:  They are mostly taken on contract basis for a fixed period of normally three years. The contract, like any other contract, could be extended for another term of similar or lesser period. The raison d’etre behind it being that most army officers retire as Majors and Lieutenant Colonels at a young age of mid and late forties after having put in a very demanding service of 23 to 25 years.. At this age they are mentally alert and physically fit, possess the necessary experience of command, man management and administration, are disciplined, dutiful, responsible, trained to obey orders and accomplish a given task in the given time. In other words they are able, capable, efficient and proficient. The elder lot of the retired officers who fall in the category of Brigadiers and Generals are much more experienced and possess a good insight of the socio-economic and geo-political affairs of the country. Having served in various assignments within Pakistan and at times abroad, undergone courses of higher studies in the Staff Colleges and National Defence University (both local and foreign) are considered more suited for higher responsibilities – gubernatorial, and  diplomatic assignments as ambassadors and delegates to foreign missions etc. Most countries designate retired Generals as their ambassadors abroad. 


Serving Military Officers:.  They are absorbed in the civil services under a constitutional quota. They are either seconded to the civil services where they revert to the military after completing the stint or find their entry into it permanently after having been selected by the Public Service Commission of Pakistan. Lieutenants Iskandar Mirza and A S B Shah (later Major General Iskandar Mirza and Lt Colonel A S B Shah) became ICS (Indian Civil Services) officers in their very early military carrier in pre-partitioned India.  There were many more like them. Incidentally, in those days no one in the civil service could be given a rank more than that of a Lieutenant Colonel, including the honorary rank bestowed upon the Rajas, Maharajas and Nawabs. It was only after the partition and that too in Pakistan only that higher military ranks were awarded to princely states rulers and Lt Col. Iskandar Mirza was made an honorary Major General who as a Defence Secretary took ex-officio precedence over the Army Chief- a General. Every country allocates certain percentage of the civil appointments for the veterans, the retired and the serving personnel of the armed forces. Ever since the inception of Pakistan and as a practice carried forward from the days of the pre-partitioned India, an 8 percent quota of the civil services was reserved for the retired and serving officers of the armed forces. Liaqat Ali Khan gave this practice the constitutional cover in 1951. Later ZAB increased this quota from 8 percent to10 percent. I agree, that they are a little too many to be in the civil jobs, but the big question is why are they there?  Has each one of them not delivered and contributed in bringing some semblance of efficiency and progress in the department entrusted to him?  If they could improve the working in it, does it not show that theretofore there were not very competent people in those departments?  Take the case of Punjab University, there used to be PERPETUAL strikes in it (thanks to JI). Ever since the induction of a General there almost 6 to 7 years ago, there has been none and the PU is being quoted a role model of a university for others to follow.  Why did the civil govts. of BB and NS have one after the other Lt Gens as Chairmen WAPDA and AVMs to head the Civil Aviation?  Why did the British have FM Wavell and  the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty Mount Batten as the Viceroys of India at its most crucial period of the British history in India at the time of its Independence?  Military 'bureaucrats' have their own plus points or else more than 60 percent of the Fortune 500 top most corporations in the world would not have been headed by them.


Talking of civil bureaucracy in Pakistan, happily though not all but many of them leave much to be desired. I have yet to see them coming to office on time, leave aside the amount of the corruption they indulge into. I was aghast to see in the 1980s seven trucks hauling the household belongings of a Commissioner transferred from ----- to Islamabad. One truck was carrying the peacocks, deer siblings and other fauna.  A young civil doctor friend told me how his district medical staff used to collectively send a truck load of mangoes and about a dozen deer to the Director Health Services Lahore for his annual feast that he used to host for the government officials and their friends.  No Pasban is sent to the Judiciary –not because they are not trained for it.  Law is a compulsory subject for all officers to study and qualify in various examinations - and one can see the pathetic state of affairs of our civil courts without them. The rampant corruption there is cited the world over by the Transparency International. Can any one get a piece of land registered in his/her name without illegal gratification ? Well nigh, impossible! If you ask me honestly, it is due to these Pasbans, that the Pakistan government machinery keeps ticking. They act as trouble shooters and put thing right where wrong. Otherwise, it would have come to a halt long ago.

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