Where to begin ? Myths, gossips, uninformed opinions, outright false allegations, blatant hate, ill intentions, or straight up wrong blames, you name it and the armed forces face it. Nowhere in the world have I seen such a narrative built against its own forces. Lack of knowledge or call it lack of want to know the facts-whichever it may be, it has become a requisite in Pakistani liberal culture to bash the armed forces if you want to come across as intelligent.
And the ones who support and defend them as civilians are given titles as ‘Mochi” or “Boot Polishia” or whatever derogatory term that is invented the previous week by the pseudo intellectuals. I say pseudo not because we do not have the right to criticize military policy, but I say pseudo because instead of criticizing policies they malign the entire institution. And once you malign an entire institution you are giving a blanket statement against the majority who have nothing to do with the policy making of the few.
Irony is that these so called intellectuals spelled Intellec-Chawals, consider themselves refined and well exposed to the Western culture since they have studied in or visited America a few times. But never do they bother to investigate, even just for comparative reasons, the doings of the other armed forces around the world. Especially of their Demi-Gods in Pentagon.
America has not won a single war since the Korean wars in the 1950’s. Every single war it has lost since the past 60+ years. On top of it all, it has spent $15 trillion dollars on wars in the past 30 years. The total debt of America is $20 trillion dollars. Keeping this fact in mind, one can easily say that 75% of the American debt is caused by war adventurism by their forces. Yet you will never find a single American bad mouthing the entire institution. They very well oppose in large numbers, the policies of their Generals, but do not cast a doubt on their entire forces. Much to be learned for these liberals from their masters, America.
Maybe it is the lack of education or an outright lazy nature that us Pakistanis love to “Forward As Received” any message that comes in our WhatsApp window. Especially if it is against the forces and has some figures and numbers in it. Figures to us mean facts, however sad this may sound, but if there are figures in a message, we automatically assume them to be correct. Speaking of figures, let me try to dispel some long built narratives. I am compelled to this because just last week I received one such message questioning the finances of the armed forces with a narrative that “Everything” spent by the armed forces is kept a secret.
Nothing can be farther from the truth.
Myth Number One: Armed Forces Budget Is Not Audited.
What if I told you that not only it is audited but it is audited by a Civilian Authority and that civilian authority is audited by the Public Accounts Committee of The National Assembly which is run by the politically elected civilians.
All accounts of air force, navy and the army are audited by a civilian department called “Controller Of Military Accounts”. And this authority is completely civilian controlled. Not a single armed forces person is ever inducted in it. Officers come into it from the Civil Services exam or what is commonly known in Pakistan as The CSS Exam. If there are any audit objections raised by CoMA, then the matter goes to The Public Accounts Committee of The National Assembly whose Chairman is the Leader of The Opposition. And on top of it all sits the Accountant General of Pakistan.
Myth Number Two: Everything Is For Free For The Armed Forces
How many times have we not heard that armed forces enjoy everything for free. From plots to cars to travelling to entertainment to whatever your diabolical mind can conjure up. Nothing can be further from the truth. Let’s discuss some figures.
231 million rupees is paid by army, navy and the air force in sales tax alone. 1260 million is paid to the national exchequer of Pakistan by the officers and junior commissioned officer who live in government owned housing. 5% of their salaries go towards the electricity, gas and other utility bills to the government owned institutions. Military Engineering Services pays about 2642 million rupees for all construction and equipment related taxes. Supplies taxes deposited into the government exchequer exceed an amount of 2200 million rupees. Custom Duties paid by the forces exceed 2000 million rupees. Defence production or equipment related to it, when imported, generates a yearly tax of 2500 in sales tax.
Myth Number Three: Fauji Foundation Is Being Run By Tax Payers Money
This one is my favorite one. Why is the army running a foundation for its officers ? Well, every armed forces around the world has Veterans Affairs Departments. Some even have their Veterans Affairs Ministries that are funded every year by the tax payer’s money. But only in Pakistan it is not funded by tax payer’s funds nor does a single serving officer is the beneficiary of this foundation. It is only for the retired officers and not a penny comes to it from the defence budget. It, on the contrary, adds 1.5 trillion rupees in taxes to the national exchequer. Army Welfare Trust alone adds 1600 million in taxes to the government accounts.
Myth Number Four: DHA Gives Free Plots To Its Officers
This myth is a famous one. And a bigger myth than this is that the armed forces just grab the land or get it for free from the government. A blatant lie it is. DHA land is purchased either from the government at a price or directly from the civilian owners of the land. So much so that if the civilian land owners refuse to sell their land to the DHA, DHA can do nothing about it. A living proof of this is a small village (pind), smack in the middle of DHA Lahore. Village inhabitants refused to sell their land to DHA and DHA had to build everything around the village. Leaving the village as it is and even building roads for the villagers at their own expense.
When an officer joins the service at the age of 20 years, every month he pays based on his salary size, an amount to the forces to buy a flat or a piece of land sometime in the future. And based on this accumulated amount and his rank does he get the asset that he has been paying an installment for. 800,000 plus people in the combined forces even pay from their salaries towards their pension Plan or what is commonly known as the Provident Fund, in Pakistan.
I can continue to write figures that are facts till all of us go blue in the face, but some faces are blue right from the beginning. Blue in jealousy or BUGHZ.
The point of this article is not to defend what the forces are spending or where those funds that they are spending come from. The point is that unless and until we begin to point are fingers in the right direction and based on facts, we will never be able to correct or point out the mistakes our forces make. And as a civilian it is my right and it is our collective right to speak constructively and help our defence policy makers to line our ducks in a row. So they can fly in the right direction, to speak metaphorically. But neither it is my right or the right of any Pakistani to malign our forces based on rumors and wrong narratives. Let us respect the ones who defend our lives with theirs.
And yes, I am waiting for the Intellec-CHAWALS to give me some title as well. Mochi is old now and so are the other ones. Think of something better. May I suggest one myself ? A patriot would sound better to my ears.
Author: Mir Mohammad AliKhan