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Pakistani Chief of Army Staff: General Qamar Javed Bajwa – Picture Courtesy Arab News

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Pakistan takes solace in dictatorship every decade or so since it came into existence. The last dictatorship of Gen. Parvez Musharaf ended in 2008. Since then, Pakistan has been fighting for its democracy to survive. But today, the atmosphere doesn’t look good. All the indicators are in favor of an upcoming dictatorship. Let us analyze.

A quick look at all the dictators Pakistan has suffered before we continue further.


In 1958, the first Pakistani President Major General Iskander Mirza dismissed the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan and the government of Prime Minister Feroz Khan Noon, appointing army commander-in-chief Gen. Ayub Khan as the Chief martial law administrator. Thirteen days later, Mirza himself was exiled by Ayub Khan, who appointed himself president. Muhammed Ayub Khan came to power in 1958. He suspended the constitution which had been adopted two years earlier and ensured that the new one gave him ample powers. He was confirmed in office as president by an electoral college of 80,000 members who were merely asked whether they trusted him. He made Pakistan a military ally of the USA. In the mid-1960s, however, the Soviet Union brokered a ceasefire in the short war he had waged against India. Khan had to resign in 1969 because of protests in West Pakistan as well as the growing independence movement in what was then East Pakistan and would soon become Bangladesh.

In 1958, the first Pakistani President Major General Iskander Mirza dismissed the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan and the government, appointing army commander-in-chief Gen. Ayub Khan as the Chief martial law administrator. Thirteen days later, Mirza himself was exiled by Ayub Khan, who appointed himself president. Khan had to resign in 1969 because of protests in West Pakistan as well as the growing independence movement in what was then East Pakistan and would soon become Bangladesh.

After serving in the war with India over the Kashmir region, he became Pakistan’s youngest brigadier general at age 34 and its youngest general at 40. He became commander in chief in 1966. A protégé of Pres. Mohammad Ayub Khan, Yahya was in command of the military when street riots erupted in the country. Ayub called on him to take over the direction of the government and preserve the integrity of Pakistan. He was appointed chief administrator of martial law, which he declared with the words “I will not tolerate disorder. Let everyone return to his post.” 
The Pakistani general and World War II British Army veteran imposed Martial Law in 1969, only to lose power 2 years later, when Eastern Pakistan broke off to become Bangladesh. Yahya Khan administered attacks on over half a million Bangladeshis and minorities in India. He ordered a separatist movement in 1971, called Operation Searchlight, which targeted Bengali intellectuals and nationalists. He was recorded saying to “kill three million of them” in a high level meeting in the same year, which by the end of, thousands of people had died and Yahya Khan had been exiled.

After serving in the war with India over the Kashmir region, Yahya Khan became Pakistan’s youngest general at 40. He became commander in chief in 1966. He was appointed chief administrator of martial law in 1969 by Ayub Khan, only to lose power 2 years later, and go into exile, when Eastern Pakistan broke off to become Bangladesh. Yahya Khan administered genocide and killed over 3 million Bangladeshis, mostly minority Hindus.

In 1977, Muhamed Zia-ul-Haq grabbed power in a coup. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the ousted prime minister, was sentenced to death and executed in 1979. Zia-ul-Haq promoted Islamisation, turned against Muslim minorities such as the Ahmadis, the Shias, and supported the Mujaheddin, who were fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan. He not only aligned the country more closely to Washington but also pursued a nuclear program. Pakistan detonated nuclear test devices in 1998, ten years after Zia-ul-Haq had died in a plane crash.

Pervez Musharraf toppled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999, just when Sharif had decided to fire him as top army leader after a failed military campaign in the Kargil region of Kashmir. Musharraf held onto power until 2008. Thereafter he went into self-exile to Dubai. In 2014 he was charged with treason, and sentenced to death in 2019. The Lahore High Court annulled the death sentence given to former military dictator Pervez Musharraf in Jan 2020. He continues to live a lavish life in Dubai. 


Once a renowned Pakistani citizen was asked, “Why Pakistan has had so many coups in the past, and India none”, he stated, “that is due to the moral bankruptcy of the military, and the civilian leadership of Pakistan”. In my eyes, Pakistan failed at many levels, which gave chance to opportunist Generals to play Saviour. The following could be some of the reasons:

  • First nine years, four Prime Ministers, four Governor-Generals, one President and no Constitution.
  • Country ran like an adhoc unit without any direction, guided by personal ambitions and greed.
  • Mega projects and history of either no completion or completion at exorbitant cost. Kalabagh; Mangala; Tarbela dams, CPEC, and Gwadar Port to name a few.
  • Corruption, lack of accountability & transparency, and personal greed of the military & civilian leadership.
  • ISI and its desire to reign supreme in Iran, Afghanistan, and the whole of South Asia.
  • Army’s iron grip over the economy.
  • Challenge to the military establishment from civilian leadership.


The Pakistani Army has a business empire that would put African dictators and their cronies to shame. China also follows a similar model, and this explains a ’Friendship higher than the Heights of Himalayas and deeper than the depths of the Arabian Sea’. The Pak military empire is run by direct involvement of the forces, through subsidiaries, and individually. The subsidiaries run their business through four foundations, which were operating about 100 independent projects in 2007. The foundations are:

  • The Fauji Foundation
  • Army Welfare Trust
  • Shaheen Foundation
  • Bahria Foundation

These subsidiaries are into private security, oil terminals, phosphate ventures, commercial banks, airline, travel agency, stud farm, shipping and freight, construction, cement, gas, fertilizer, pharmaceutical, power, aviation, air cargo, insurance, fisheries, pay-TV, schools, universities, manufacturing of shoes; hosiery; woolen goods; rice; sugar; paint, etc. The list is endless.

By the late 80s, the Pakistani army’s greed had become cause célèbre, leading to resentment amongst the populace. As per Shuja Nawaz’s book, ’Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within’, the rampant land grabbing and corruption by the Pakistani generals had crossed all limits, and most army officers used to refrain from going out into the public places in their uniforms.

Depiction of Normal Pakistani Citizens(Awam) Vs Army: Courtesy –

Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, in her 2007 book ’Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy’ uncovers how the Pakistani military was involved in all kinds of conceivable businesses. She estimated that in 2007 the military’s net worth was more than £10 billion, which was four times the total foreign direct investment that came to Pakistan in the same year. She claimed that the army owns over 12 percent of the country’s land. The current and retired senior officers have a monopoly over this land, making each one of them worth over £3.5 million. A Major General can expect to receive on retirement a present of 240 acres of prime farmland, worth on average £550,000, as well an urban real estate plot valued at £700,000(all market values as of 2008).

Interview of Ayesha Siddiqa in Hindi

In 2016, it was informed to the Pakistani senate that the armed forces run over 50 commercial undertakings, which are worth over $20 billion. The military stands today as the biggest conglomerate of all businesses in Pakistan and the jewels in their crown are the eight housing societies in eight major towns. 


Since the founding of Pakistan in 1947, three classes of people have benefited the most. The military, politicians, and bureaucracy. They have properties in western countries, and their wards go there for higher studies. The ordinary citizens of Pakistan understand that and criticize politicians and bureaucrats with impunity. However, they refrain to do so, against the military, for the fear of retribution. 

Pakistan’s GDP Growth Over Two Decades

Before coronavirus disease struck the world, Pakistan’s GDP growth rate was estimated to be 3.3% for 2020 and 2.4% for 2021, its lowest in a decade. Now, Pakistan’s real growth rate for 2020 has been projected by the World Bank to go into the negative, between -1.3 percent and -2.2 percent.

Pakistan has double-digit inflation, almost 12%, and a budget deficit of almost 9%. To overcome this country would need to grow in double digits to break even. Its total external debt stands at a whopping $111 billion($62 billion to China alone). It’s debt servicing obligation for 2020 is over $29 billion. Pakistan is in a classic debt trap. It borrows more to service its debt burdens and pays for its imports, a never-ending cycle. Its foreign exchange reserves at under $11 billion are barely sufficient to cover 3 ½ months of imports.


When the going is so good, then who needs military rule. Today the Army controls the country’s nuclear and missile programs, the military budget, national security decision-making, and foreign relations. This is called, a coup without a coup. However, key variables, such as economic instability, a threat to senior military officer’s economic dealings and high-handedness by the civilian leadership could quickly change the course of this relationship. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif got this golden rule wrong. Despite performing consistently better than his predecessors, he was ousted, once by Gen Parvez Musharaf in 1999, and the second time by the invisible hand of the army, in 2018. 

The current incompetent Prime Minister Imran Khan would complete two years in the office in August 2020. Other than establishing a smooth relationship with GHQ(General Headquarters), he has displayed ineptness in every other department. After almost two years of rule, Khan, on his plate, has a bankrupt economy, failed foreign policy, and an incompetent set of ministers. Stuck between the hammer and the anvil, Khan came out with an ingenious idea. He granted the current Army Chief, General Qamar Bajwa a full three-years extension as COAS, and made him a member of the government’s National Development Council. This was akin to paying protection to the mafia, for safely running one’s own business. However, this decision impacted the careers and promotions of 20 Pakistani Army Generals. The main list of disgruntled generals included Corps Commander Multan Lt Gen Sarfraz Sattar(forced to resign after being kept under house arrest) who was on top of the seniority list for appointment as the Chief of Army Staff; Lt Gen Nadeem Raza, Lt Gen Humayun Aziz, Lt Gen Naeem Ashraf, Lt Gen Sher Afghan, and Lt Gen Qazi Ikraam. 

Bajwa today stands at crossroads, where he is haunted by General Ayub Khan’s dilemma of October 1958. His solutions to problems could generate more issues, and his allies may turn into his critics and his critics into hostile opponents. So would he take things in his own hands before any disgruntled general decides to undertake the route of Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan of Rawalpindi conspiracy(1951), or Maj. Gen. Tajammul Hussain Malik’s conspiracy to assassinate Zia-ul-Haq(1980), or Maj. Gen. Zahirul Islam Abbasi’s coup attempt against the government of Benazir Bhutto(1995).

This new reality would haunt General Bajwa for a long time. He got an extension of three years, which surprisingly coincides with his protégé Imran Khan’s government’s tenure. Imran Khan’s incompetent government, the country’s failed economy, the exodus of industries, a meltdown of exports, the crash landing of Pakistani rupee, false fear of external threats, the fake narrative on J&K, and COVID19(a gift from their all-weather friend) would give Bajwa enough reasons to be the fifth dictator of Pakistan. The million-dollar question is, would he do it now or towards the end of his three years extension? And believe you me, Bajwa is having sleepless nights over this question.

268 thoughts

  1. Your article is very good. The information is well documented and explained. In the USA the democrat party is trying to act like rogue military tyrants. the thing that makes our country a success is our Constitution. It was only after our war of independence from England that we gained our freedom. It was during the cold war years (as you explained) that the US used your country’s land to keep an eye on Russian and her Soviet Union. The US/Pak relationship was good, and would have continued if Pak had maintained a stable government. I have met many Pakistanis; they have always been very kind to me. Please keep up your good work.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Hehe, I am from India and not Pakistan, but it is all the same as far as the common history is concerned. I am really unhappy with the way things are panning out in the US. It is the world leader and a good one when we compare it with the rest of the world. It has its own problems but then which country doesn’t have. I sincerely hope that things get sorted out soon. One wrong cannot justify the other.

      1. It is the American people who have to decide who is best to lead them but other countries are still looking at America for a calibrated approach that was being done till now. These riots make me think if there are bigger conspiracies at play behind the curtains.

      2. Democrats want illegal aliens to come into USA and vote. They have a good way of lying to immigrants about the Republican party being evil.

      3. Do you see left-wingers behind the riots? How come otherwise there is so much of coordinated effort so well organized getting erupted spontaneously.

      4. Yes. Leftwigers want to destroy our country. It is very well organized. The left was waiting for a choice time to begin their destruction.

      5. It is so evident to any outsider that such coordinated efforts cannot be some impromptu public action. I have seen enough demonstrations where people are hired to riot and spread mayhem. This is so sad. Those policemen should be punished for killing a person but others cannot take the system for a ride in the name of justice.

    1. Problem with human being is that we don’t count our blessings. We don’t realise that there are millions in the world today, who don’t get even one square meal in a day. Alas…

  2. Pakistan’s present disposition is one of the worst kept secrets and is bound to fail or I wish it fails. However, as usual it was a pleasure reading your insights in such lucid details. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thank you so much, Jasbir, for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. You just said it. They have left no stones unturned in spoiling that amazing land of my ancestors.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. You have an amazing way of writing.

  3. well done… If I would be a professor in a history class I would certainly use this material ( with your permission of course).Continue producing this kind of material sir.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, sharing your thoughts and kind words. Knowledge is there to share.

      1. Hello Sir. Just saw the latest news regarding the incident in Pakistan Stock Exchange, 4 armed men tried to force themselves in the building which resulted on their untimely demise, do you see a bigger play on this incident. Because I’m following one patriotic lady in facebook. I don’t know if she’s a supporter but from her post she is portraying IK on a good light. Hope everything is gonna be okay.

      2. Hi. No, it was just a local action by BLA. They wanted to show their presence. They displayed that they can reach anywhere, killing was not on their agenda, else they would have gone to any of the bigger markets and killed hundreds with that kind of ammunition. It was not on similar lines, like 26/11 Mumbai, done by Pakistan. This was a message for Pakistan to stop killing Balochs, listen to their concerns, and stop spreading terror.

      3. Great information and hoping for the best. I was with an Indian friend when the news broke about Mumbai Hotel incident… Hoping always for the best. We don’t need more bloodshed.

      4. Absolutely. We need peace and tranquility in the world. Terrorism has no place in the world, in any form. What is the name of the lady you were talking about?

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I am glad that you have liked it.

  4. It seems the norm for many countries including the US for its government to become a dictatorship as economies collapse due to the pandemic. An excellent article at a very crucial time in our history!

    1. Thank you so much, Lance, for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.
      I suppose this is the beginning of the end of China. They should have enjoyed the success, which was trusted upon them by the West, but they chose to flaunt it by flexing their muscles.

      1. My sincere pleasure. I believe it will be a while before China’s infrastructure collapses. The US economy is outpacing them in financial ruin due to the pandemic and a corrupt government. Greed always seems to prevail.

      2. You are so right Lance. I have done my homework, the future is not rosy for China. Unfortunately in the process of taming China, the world would also suffer. 2022 is my estimation when we go in for a war.

      3. Let’s hope and pray not. We’ve suffered enough with a devastating world pandemic. A war, especially nuclear, would be the human race’s ultimate demise.

      4. You are absolutely correct, Lance. No one in the civilized world wants war but when it is imposed up, one has no option but to respond.

      5. Thank you. I hope and pray that there will never be another war, especially nuclear. The devastating pandemic is far from being over, as there is no vaccine at present. WWIII would be our ultimate demise!

      6. You can just see how treacherous China can get. The virus originated from that country, but instead of being on the back foot, they are trying to terrorize their neighbors. That’s their true nature, and they are living up to it.

      7. The US, once the most powerful nation on Earth, not only in terms of nuclear power, but it’s strong economic prowess. Now, because of a slithering snake in the White House, we’re nothing more than a third world country. Our disparity is due to a fascist dictator who is nothing more than a puppet for Putin and Xi. It’s all done for the power of money!

      8. I sincerely hope the U.S. achieves it’s lost glory and once again be leading light with other free nations.

      9. That will all be determined this November when Americans vote for a new president. However, it will take a new and significantly better leader at least two terms to correct the damage inflicted on our democracy, our economy, and our people (especially minorities).

  5. Fascinating… your expose of the military and the myriad sources of wealth and corruption explains the tragic and extraordinary situation of a quarter of Pakistani pilots having gained their pilots license when they can’t fly, and presumably is behind the tragic plane crash recently.
    I also have to have a giggle when I see all these photos of top military men jangling with medals… my father fought in five campaigns in WW2 from 1939, in France, North Africa, Italy, Tunisia and Europe. Stationed at Belsen concentration camp after the war, where I lived, not having see my father for six years, he had six medals and a couple of bars to them…
    Where have all these wars been fought since for these generals to earn so many decorations !!!!!!!!!

      1. Hello friend,
        yes I’ve been reading all your posts… and enjoyed them – loved your references to Metternich and de Tocqueville – there are so many interesting layers of meaning in your posts… great stuff ….thank you

      2. Thank you so much, Valerie, for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I am glad that you have liked the write-up.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by. There is an issue with your website. It doesn’t open.

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