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GHQ to Islamabad

Published in The Nation
by M. Ashgar Khan

The shifting of the Army’s General Headquarters from Rawalpindi to Islamabad has been planned for some time and was given a fresh impetus during 2007. We have not been told what the total financial burden of this move will be but the cost of land alone at the prevalent rates in Islamabad is about Rs 100,000 to Rs 120,000 per sq yard.

The army would, of course, not be required to pay this amount for the land to the CDA but the CDA could earn this amount if they were to sell this land to civilians for residential or commercial purposes. The expenditure involved is believed to be more than the total Defence Budget of Pakistan for the current year and many times more than the education budget of the country. In a country where millions do not get a square meal a day, where we are woefully short of schools and medical facilities and where even clean drinking water is not available for the ordinary citizen, to spend such a large amount on moving an existing facility a few miles cannot be justified.

In 1965, the Air Headquarters was in Peshawar and we were operating with bare essentials from barracks built at least half a century earlier. We were at a distance of over a hundred miles from the government in Rawalpindi and this did not hamper the PAF from carrying out its mission. Naval Headquarters was in Karachi and this did not in any way hamper their operations either. In fact this was a blessing in disguise as it did not have people who knew little about air operations breathing down the PAF’s neck. In my view the move of Air Headquarters from Peshawar to Islamabad and of Naval Headquarters from Karachi to Islamabad involving heavy expenditure were totally unnecessary and a burden on the limited national resources. All this is part of a trend that has developed over the years, of wasteful expenditure and high living of our military and civilian rulers.

By today’s standards, the conditions in which our military and civilian officer functioned for the first few years of Pakistan would be called primitive and even until the 70’s offices had only the essentials in furniture and facilities. Essential requirements were provided but luxuries and unnecessary frills were not to be seen. In the thirty years since, the style of living of some of our civil and military officers of senior ranks resembles that of business tycoons. The offices of some general officers and senior bureaucrats which should have a Spartan look, often resemble the drawing rooms of successful businessmen. This is also true of most of our civilian rulers who seem to have forgotten that they are the representatives of a poor country, the majority of whose people are living a life of poverty and squalor.

It would, I think, be too much to expect the military and our civilian rulers to give up the style of living they have become accustomed to. Is it however too much to ask that the Army should give up the move of GHQ to Islamabad which is a burden on the poor taxpayer of Pakistan and will add to his misery and problems. It is unlikely that this will be properly discussed in the budget session of the National Assembly or that the planned expenditure on this project will be disclosed even to the elected representatives of the people. The budget session of the National Assembly without a full discussion of the Defence Budget will therefore remain the farce that it has always been.
The writer is ex-air marshal


11 Comments

  • MALIK AMAN |

    don’t u think GHQ should be in the capital and by the way our gov spends a lot more than this on some other things as compare to the army

  • Mutant |

    Shifting will add no benefit.
    At present time we need money for building dams (who bothers),food,education,health etc etc.
    Army is already getting alot of support from America by fighting their ‘War On Terror’.They don’t need any support from CDA.

  • Immi bhai |

    Well its only natural to move a government’s institution’s headquarter to the capital, just like all the other departments. The army was supposed to have GHQ in islamabad since the planning of Islamabad but for one reason or the other it has been delayed forever. Anyways national exchequer does not lose money as only land has to be alloted to this most important pillar/institution of our country.

  • dr razahaider |

    Berree dair kerdee mehrbaan aatay aatay.

    The problem here in Pakistan is, in order to qualify as writer or a weighty commentator you got to be a previous high profile dignitary, a bureaucrat politician or a controversial person who has in some way or the other compromised the nation or utilized his nuisance in one way or other creating a mess for the country.

    Such previous appointments of commentator not only create his new profile like a new born whereas on the other hand it lifts the image as well when his speech or comments are floated on air with reference to the issue, tagging him as most innocent whereas exercising the only option that issue with reference to the comment is illegitimate as one of the previous office holder has tagged it an irrelevant move.

    Although I have resigned my commission from military recently but during my colorful service I have the life time opportunities to serve in and with high profile appointments reaching up to the highest office of the country as president and chief of the arm forces and many such peaks appointments at general officers level .this exposure was not limited to the extent of just attachment but to the responsibilities that curtails the floating of ideas.

    The point here to liquidate my previous appointment and its relative exposure is to counter the element of writers profile with the context that because of intense exposure to multiple general officers and their families and my immediate terms in relation has exposed me to same setup and thoughts that writer himself can not deny .

    This exposure is in addition to my originating exposure from bureaucratic cum political environment that roots trough my father profile, which mostly resides at portfolio of constitutional appointments of highest executives in democratic domains.

    AMC MESS Abbott bad is one of the best located place and immediately opposite the said premises is a beautiful house cum palace, being in possession of the said so called righteous writer, being awarded for his services .

    If you had a chance to visit, you would love to have such a place in your life .However its just one that I am interested.

    Now if I revert to the topic and its theme to malign and comparatively assess the issue of shifting of GHQ, to Islamabad with quantitative assessment with reference to the allocated budget ,I would simply tagged the comments as insanely given statement with complete unfamiliarity with the ground realities .

    Under the umbrella of state and its concerned issues integrity and sovereignty, defense of the country is the foremost application.

    Strategies with relation to issues as perceived by military are the domain and premises of the ministry of defense.

    State has the prerogative to seal, prohibit by virtue of constitution to utilize any thing that it require essential as far as strategic point of defense is concerned.

    If I keep a bird eye view other than the strategical necessity, I would definitely reach a conclusion by mapping the present location of GHQ and its affiliated directorates, that present location has severely disrupt the restricted domain of the GHQ, which on one hand is a security risk, whereas on the other hand is excessively bothering the surrounding population at large. Under no means present location can be staged as feasible as present threats in relation to current affairs is a continuous threat to the restricted important premises.

  • nazia |

    This GHQ is replica of buildings that are being constructed in baghdad Iraq.One can also say that its US design cantonment some way bomb and missle pfoof where US personals would perfrom their national duties in safe and sound ways.Another new modern cantonment in heart of capital is a symbol of army supramcy in system of governance and it is already producing disasterous effoct on the stability of Pakistan.We are taking our country towards military state rather than welfare state.results are obvoius that in one side majority of population are depriving of basic civic facilites like power,health food,and water in another side we are recieving F16,modern weapons and luxurious cantonment.

  • Awab Alwi loves Immi |

    @nazia.

    Care to backup your claims? As far as I know it will have normal administrative buildings and it is not in 'heart' of capital. It is quite further away from it. Anyways cantonments are much much less luxurious than private housing societies, the difference is that cantonments are organized and disciplined which you take as 'luxurious'.

  • nazia |

    Awab
    private housing facilites are made from black money or private money but cantonments are made from tax payers’ money .This money is come from the blood of those people who are honestly giving tax to the govt.If you have time go and see the houses of generals, brigadeers, their clubs,golf courses and you would find that difference.Why dont other repectable professions of Pakistan like teachers and policemen are not enjoying such life styles as present in cantonment.Compare the hosuing schemes of govt officers, policemen and teachers and answer would be clear to you.Others professions are working since the creation of Pakistan but the history of only 38 days in war has converted our homeland as military state rather than welfare state

  • Awab Alwi loves Immi bhai |

    @nazia

    If other institutions of Pakistan are unable to organize themselves and arrange proper housing facilities for their serving personnel then it is their own disorganization, mismanagement and corruption which is to blame. Armed forces cantonments are used to house serving soldiers/officers as long as they are required to put their life on the line for the country. Most of the houses are more than 50 years old and without even proper heating/cooling. Just because the institution of the armed forces organizes and maintains the houses with the proper level of maintenance does not mean they are ‘luxurious’ in any sort of way. After the soldier or officer retires, he/she is not housed in the cantonment any longer. This is the universal case around the world when it comes to cantonments.
    The private houses of Army officers after retirement are paid for throughout their life by installments from their meagre salaries throughout their careers. Also their houses are no more (or equally) lavish than retired government officers of similar grades from e.g. Customs, Revenue or other departments.

  • arafat |

    ASLAM O ALAIKUM.

    i need medcal information ….

    i laving in paris ….i go back to pakistan …

    i need a life… my age 21 YEARS

    my father is working arme of ghq …..