1 November 2012

We Don’t Seek Benevolence, But Don’t Malign us Either – Part I

By Xeric


Also published @ defence.pk 

Frankly speaking there wasn’t any need for this piece if certain readers had not taken umbrage at my previous blogs. First, where I explained why military-men are not superior to their civilian counterparts, and second when I shared a soldier’s thoughts on Eid.

However, some queries were raised in response to my blogs which were not in good faith. I even went against the grain and commented on my own blog so that misconceptions could be cleared.

I was successful to a certain extent only, and so I have decided to take it up a step further – after all the Army I serve in runs on a ‘hefty’ amount of the readers’ hard earned money.

However, I must clarify that by writing this piece I am in no way trying to present the Army as an infallible institution, nor am I trying to justify the mistakes it might have made in the past.

But then I do reserve the right to speak up against misplaced notions, fabricated figure work and ‘critical criticism.’

I for one have been a staunch believer that no one is superior by virtue of the power he holds, badges he wear or authority he possesses, nor he should be above criticism – the phrase holy-cow doesn’t exist in my dictionary. Nevertheless, I am also quite wary about someone trying to take undue advantage of one’s reticence.

It is said that personal examples are bad, but in order to further quantify the above statement I must tell you that I have never revealed my identity as a Fauji to anybody for the sake of gaining respect, in expectation of favours or to pressurize the other party. Every now and then I travel either by train, air, my personal vehicle, even by public transport while I proceed on leave, and interact with civilians in routine – ofcourse, this experience include the days when Army was genuinely respected.

I have been stopped by traffic police, even fined by them, made to stand in queue while baray log went past, and was even unnecessarily bothered by police while I had an after-dinner walk. All this, but I never have used my rank to influence the situation, why should I? I show my driving license and / or ownership papers when asked for, open up my trunk to allow search and wait for my turn when I am queued. Seriously, I don’t want to belittle myself because of such petty signals – a thing that I feed my under commands on a constant basis.

Having said this, the above ofcourse will only befit if the readers understand that for an individual’s folly, an entire organization or institution cannot be asked to take the blame. What Ayub, Yahya or Musharraf did must not reflect on the loyalty and dedication of remainder of uniforms – one shouldn’t paint the entire Armed Forces with the same brush. If that be case, then every German was a Nazi, all Jews are Zionists, every American an invader, and most important of all, we as Pakistanis are equally responsible for poor governance, corrupt politicians and ever worsening law and order situation.

Another thing that I must highlight before I begin my endeavour is the fact that soldiers are not aliens. Infact they hail from the same villages and cities, were schooled in local institutions as most Pakistanis, and have been brought up in a similar environment.

Moreover, most of the men and officers come from a humble background and thus contrary to the popular belief they lack a default gardan mai sariya (God Complex) attitude, which is so common to South Asian elites. Indeed, they possess the same amount of intellect, patriotism and sense of responsibility as their civilian counterparts do.

Lastly, the military has no system/desire to replace this attitude either – a fact I as a solider can vouch for (just so that you don’t take the wrong idea, I have been a soldier longer than I have been a civilian).

With this premise I shall now try to explain the obvious:

Army-men Receive Housing Units / Plots

Yes they do, but hear me out. They pay every penny for it.

To elaborate further, these can be divided into two broad categories, namely housing units in Army Officers Housing Scheme, and plots through Defence Housing Authority. Today we shall discuss the former.

Army Officers Housing Scheme (AOHS)

Housing is a basic and fundamental human need. Today, there is a virtual housing crisis in the country. Rapid population growth, overcrowding, shortage of supply, aging housing stock, development of slums and Katchi Abadis, and lack of financial resources has further aggravated the situation.

According to 1998 census, the total number of housing units throughout the country was 19.3 million. 67.7% housing was in rural areas and 32.3% in urban areas. The housing backlog, as estimated according to the 1998 census, was 4.3 million units. The additional annual requirement is estimated around 300,000 units, thereby, resulting in a recurring shortfall of 270,000 housing units annually.*

The situation is further compounded as 60% of the Army officers retire before 45 years of age; therefore, besides re-employment their biggest worry is to find a suitable shelter for their families after retirement as throughout their service they have been residing in rented accommodation. Apropos, Armed Forces – like any other organization – developed AOHS to provide its personnel with modern community living at affordable cost for the middle and low income groups, to which most of its employees belong.

AOHS is thus no different than any other housing scheme being managed in Pakistan. AOHS, like Federal Government Employees Housing Scheme, Punjab Government Servants Housing Foundation, Police Foundation Housing Society, Pakistan Housing Authority, WAPDA City, State Life Insurance EmployeesCo-Operative Housing Society etc aims at providing their employees housing units on no-profit, no-loss basis.

Mechanism              

The membership is voluntary. One can join in at any rank, though most memberships start early – the earlier you join, the less you have to pay in the end. A 2nd Lieutenant (2Lt) applies for the membership by depositing a down-payment, which increases for each next rank, amounting to anything between Rs 70,000 to 90,000. Ofcourse, at this stage of service one has to either take assistance from a bank or his/her parents to manage the down-payment. Once a member, the officer will pay monthly instalments until he retires or die during service as under (instalment rates and years of service have deliberately been altered for the obvious reasons):-

Rank
Years to Next Rank
Instalment Rate/Month (Rs)
Amount Deposited
(Yrs x Months x Rate)
Previous Balance
Total
(Rs)
2Lt/Lt to Captain (Capt)
3 – 4
5000
3 x 12 x 5000 = 1,80,000
90,000
2,70,000
Capt to Major (Maj)
6 – 8
8000
6 x 12 x 8000 = 5,76,000
2,70000
8,46,000
Maj to Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col)
7 – 9
15000
7 x 12 x 15000 = 1,26,0000
8,46000
2,10,6000

Thus an officer retiring as a Lt Col had already deposited Rs 2.1 million. However, as the cost of house has yet not been recovered (you don’t get a house for 2.1 million these days), the remainder of the Rs 1.5 – 2.5 million is to be deposited in lump sum from pension benefits and Provident Fund to finally own the house.

Yes, the amount is still less as compared to its commercial value – construction on no-profit, no-loss basis, ‘vertical integration’, and the land was purchased atleast 10-15 years back. We call it good management, long-term planning and a stable market.

No, not a single penny is used from the defence budget.

Now let’s not get all gung-ho over it, as neither the concept nor the practice is alien to Pakistan.

Lastly, if a member embraces Shahadat, his remaining liabilities with respect to AOHS are waived off, which he damn well deserve!


Read the second part here.
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