More bang for the buck


Ikram Sehgal

WHILE I was in uniform on Sep 6, 1965 it was in the relative safe confines of the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Kakul. It was quite emotional witnessing the gentleman cadets (GCs) of the 32nd and 33rd PMA Long Courses graduate in a ceremonial “Passing Out” parade under the cover of PAF combat aircraft on Sep 11, 1965 (many of those commissioned young officers (YOs) would be Shaheed or injured within 12 days by the time ceasefire took effect on Sep 23). The many Shaheeds, particularly in 1971 and the last two decades of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism where our casualties have been substantial, does lead one to ask whether, we have utilised our entire resources to their maximum potential in preparing for war and/or even for peacetime? Like it happened 54 years earlier, the current situation developing over Kashmir is quickly diminishing our options, we may have no choice but to go to war. When will we get out of the comfort zone of maintaining status quo when our very existence is threatened?
Pakistan is passing through a very critical phase as far as the economy is concerned. The rot started with Zardari’s PPP’s blatantly corrupt regime in 2008 and continued unabated with Nawaz Sharif taking over in 2013. That they are crooks is not a matter of conjecture or of doubt, the question is whether our judiciary can satisfy their conscience that they are playing with the wording of the rule of law while clever lawyers well paid out of ill-go then gains are subverting the spirit of the law? Did all our young men die for their country in vain? The fathering economy is badly eroded the security needs of the country, becoming worse by the day. Economy and security being closely linked with each other only out-of-the-box thinking can rectify this situation, the dire need for Pakistan is to break out of the traditional mould and the status quo. While increasing of revenues is a must, we must look at all means to effect savings and force-multiply the effectiveness of the changes, in effect get “more bang for the buck”.
The defence-related expenditure has swelled phenomenally because of pension and commutation thereof. Today this is in excess of Rs 250 billion. It does not matter which head this expense is parked in, for accounting purposes, the money has to come from revenues. Continued expansion of this expense will leave little for security expenditures in coming decade, how will we sustain this in the future? A significant portion of the national budget every year goes for ‘pension commutation’ of the retiring personnel. A plan to make the pension fund self-sustaining needs a separate and detailed study. Since Armed Forces personnel retire much earlier than their civilian counterparts they can still contribute to national life without becoming a burden on the national exchequer. Ironically there are diametrically opposed ‘outcomes’ of ‘early retirement’ of armed forces personnel (1) it is criminal to put them out on the streets looking for a second ‘job’ which will see them through to the ‘actual retirement age’ (2) only a cursory survey will reveal many of them waste the amount received as ‘commuted pension’ in arranging marriages, buying showy items and join the ranks of un-employed. (3) the Catch-22 is that the State has to pay a hefty amount as ‘pension commutation’ to those who are still capable of productive work, takes a huge chunk out of the budget and (4) the state losing out on this vast reservoir of trained and disciplined manpower is insane.
Utilization of trained manpower of defence services, both men and officers, who retire between 35-45 yrs of age respectively, is crucial for the state. Retiring at 60 and after drawing their commutation of 12 yrs only their civilian counterparts are due for full pension at 72 yrs of age. The present system of pension and commutation is a loss both to exchequer and defence personnel retiring at such an early age. The national budget has to bear their expenses for almost 35-40 years. With well trained manpower out in the market at a very young age looking for jobs for which they are untrained, they go through lot of financial hardship at a crucial stage of their life. Since only a few numbers of job are available at that age, it can be a demeaning and frustrating exercise for the individual. An arrangement must cater for (1) The State saving the amount spent on ‘commuted pension’ (2) Make full use of the productivity of personnel on whose training it has spent a considerable amount and (3) save on the training costs. To make use of their abilities and save the cost of commutation, it is proposed that (1) Officers and men (who opt for) completing the service around 35-45 years of age due to no further promotion opportunity be absorbed in the Civil Armed Forces (CAF), Police/Magistracy, Ministry of Law and Education (particularly in difficult areas) up to 60 years of age. While we save lot of money through this synergy for the state, we give guaranteed employment to all officers and other ranks (who opt for this option), up to 60 years of age, as per civil service rules. Can you imagine the qualitative addition when they are absorbed in (a) Pakistan Rangers (b) Pakistan Coast Guards (c) Frontier Constabulary KPK (d) Frontier Corps KPK (e) Frontier Corps Balochistan (f) Airport Security Force (g) Anti-Narcotics Force and (h) Police, where all direct recruitment must stop (j) they can also be inducted as Magistrates and Judges for the lower courts. These retired personnel already have adequate knowledge of administration, military law, security, training, etc. The personnel inducted from the Army still need to be put through specialised short courses/training necessary in each discipline before they can be inducted. (2) If an officer or Jawan wants to go for this option, full pension should be only granted to them after completion of 60 years. (3) Recruits including some officers grade are directly selected by these institutions. There should not be any initial recruitment in any CAF Branch/Force. Excess existing training schools and institutes should be closed and substituted by one central school with its branches in each province for entire CAF, which will result into lot of saving.
Their service tenure for CAF is on the army lines whereas Pay/Pension is lesser than the Army. Leadership for CAF is largely provided by the Army which will now be spared for their own operational duties. In order to ensure better coordination between all segments of CAF and GHQ it will be appropriate to have a separate Headquarters for CAF under the Strategic Force Group for employment while otherwise remaining under the Ministry of Interior. To compensate for local enrolment of young blood in CAF etc, these areas should be given additional quota for enrolment in the Army.
Police is invariably used on political basis by the Government. This allows the police personnel latitude to do what they please. Look at the high-handedness and abusive behaviour, no self-respecting person wants to visit the Thana. Asking a women to go to a Thana to lodge a complaint is asking for trouble. The attitude and performance of the Thana Police affects public the most. The Thana has become a place to avoid instead of being of support to the citizens. Staffing Thana and such personnel will certainly change the Thana Culture. It is necessary to have judicial magistrates on the premises 24 hours. Where do you get mature, expressed magistrates? Army officers going to Police must first undergo minimum 06 Months of training under the existing Police Training institute at Islamabad for a short conversion course.
The Army Jawans must undergo conversion training of 1-2 months in the Police Training Centres or organized under the army. In order to keep full strength of Magistrates/Judges (in the lower Courts) and around the clock in the Thana, posting of retired Army Officers who are law qualified will be a force-multiplier. They could not become Majors without passing the “Capt to Major” Promotion Examination which has “Military Law” as a subject, you have to have practical knowledge of civil law to implement military law. With additional training/law education will certainly deliver better results and ease the congestion in the courts. List of pending cases will reduce and efficiency of the Government will improve.
The advantage for the state is in the (1) savings of huge amount by delaying payment of commutation (a great burden) and remaining pension for about 15 years. This will be a big relief for the country particularly when we need every penny that we can use. (2) Having one Training Centre for all elements of CAF under CAF Headquarters will obviously result into another huge saving for the state. (3) There will be continuous inflow of trained/disciplined/experienced manpower to the CAF at all times. (4) Ex-Armed Forces officers adjusted as Magistrates/Judges/Teacher and the ones working in Police Stations will certainly change the overall prevailing culture which will ultimately help the state. (5) Shortage in the Magistracy/Junior Court Judges can be made up quickly. (6) There is a dearth of school teachers and administrators particularly in the rural areas. NCO’s, JCO’s and officers after necessary courses and training can fill these spots particularly close to their home station.
The advantages for the individuals is as follows:- (1) A full continuous spell of service of sixty years like Civil Government Servants gives them job security (2) Like civil servants, they will also be free of their main worries by the time they retire. (3) Will not have to run for second job. It is recommended that (1) Officers and men be given the option to leave regular service after 45 years of age however they will get the Pension/Commutation after sixty years of service. A great benefit both for the individual and state. (2) In CAF they will serve up to 60 years of age. (3) Except those who do not want to use the option of continuing service after 45 years of age, all Sepoys/Ncos/Jcos under the policy will automatically be transferred to CAF. (4) CAF Headquarters be set up under the Strategic Force Command structure for employment while remaining under Ministry of Interior for Pay/Pension. Dovetailing all the myriad number of HQs will result into lots of savings. (5) With only one training centre (or one per Province) for all CAF elements, there will be another major saving for the state. (6) Training of Army officers going to Police in Police College Sihala for six months will be very critical (7) Thana Police preferably will do well under the new system if their Chain of Command reports to the Governor instead of the Chief Minister. (8) Competition and internationally approved standards must be put in place during induction process, less CAF. This will need a comprehensive regulatory mechanism.
The moot question is whether our military hierarchy is prepared to take the positive measures necessary to break the logjam and the routine inertia. The military mind is very averse to change normally, those thinking of new ideas are divided. However the quality of the officer corps is for better than a decade or so ago, they are far better educated, better trained – and through various ranks having acquired tremendous combat experience, they seem far more receptive to change. In 1969 I was flying Brig Iqbalur Rahman Shariff, Commander Corps Engineers I Corps in an OH (13)s helicopter (1 Army Aviation Squadron) out of Mangla in a bridging exercise for 1 Armoured Division (then based in Kharian) crossing the Chenab to get access to the “Ravi-Chenab Corridor” where the main battle was likely to be fought, and probably still will be in the future. When some of the armour units were crossing the two bridges one was damaged, the whole column was held up for hours – and this without possible enemy air attacks. During the de-briefing, Lt Cols and above, as a pilot I was the only Captain around other than the ADCs to Comd 1 Corps and the GOC 1 Armoured Division. Before the discussions concluded Lt Gen Attiqur Rahman, then Comd 1 Corps, turned to the three of us and asked “what do you young men think?” I blurted out “Sir, 1 Armoured is on the wrong side of the Chenab!” There was stunned silence while everyone looked at me, when the Corps Commander asked, “and where would you put it?” I answered “Rahwali” After the meeting I was the subject of numerous taunts of “you think you are Rommel or Guderian, etc”. Many decades later, that is where the Armoured Division is rightly located.
On many of the suggestions on which I was subjected to derision initially but were later adopted was on June 1, 1989 in my article, “More Bang for the Buck”, that it would be far more cost effective to replace batmen with manservants paid for by the State. It took years to happen but it did happen and today it is a very successful scheme. Many other recommendations in my articles, some in articles in the Army’s “Green Book” remain un-actioned. While I am not anywhere near being a “Capt Liddell Hart” one can only hope that suggestions made would not give a short shrift but get the benefit at least of analysis for the good of the state.
Absorbing the retired armed forces personnel in the manner suggested is a ‘win – win’ solution for both the individual and the State, it force-multiples the qualitative potential of the institutions. As a net beneficiary of the tremendous work of a good number of retired officers and men, it is with pride that I can say this with some authority. We desperately need to reduce the burden on the national exchequer and enhance the combat effectiveness and efficiency of our institutions across the board (Defence and security analyst Ikram Sehgal acknowledges and thanks his colleagues, Col (Retd) Ashiq Hussain Malik for the initial input, and the review and recommendations thereof by Maj Gen (R) Syed Shakeel Hussain and Brig (R) Kamran Qazi).
—The writer is a defence and security analyst.