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Friday, April 12, 2024

Why Pakistan needs a ‘Private Army’?

Zeeshan Munir |

The services of private contractors are used around the world. P. W. Singer, author of Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry says, “In geographic terms, it operates in over 50 different countries. It’s operated in every single continent but Antarctica.” According to stats, in the 1990s there used to be 50 military personnel for every 1 contractor, and now the strength ratio is 10 to 1.

According to the Brazilian strategist De Leon Petta, far from meaning a possible weakening of the national state power and its monopoly on violence, these private military company  (PMCs) will actually serve as alternative forms of power application abroad through irregular means, without violating international law, without causing troubles in the domestic or public policy, or too many international repercussions.

Read more: Taliban hybrid war that defeated the USA

According to the US State Department, thousands of private military contractors served and are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, these contractors mostly provide security to high profile personalities or protect sensitive installations such as oil refineries. In Afghanistan, these contractors are quickly replacing US military and are engaged in training the Afghan National Army and police. These contractors are also expected to take a lead role in anti-Taliban/ISIS operations in the war-torn country after the withdrawal of US forces. This has raised fears of increased war crimes since International Humanitarian Law consider private contractors as unlawful combatants since they generally do not respect laws of war and do not carry any military insignia which may help identify their allegiances.

PMCs have been accused of having committed or assisted in various crimes against civilians and detainees, especially during the second Gulf War. The accountability gap of PMCs was revealed in the 2004 incidents at Abu Ghraib detention facility in Iraq, which recorded gross abuse of human rights by CACI – an American-hired PMC. Evidence records that, while the state military officers– found involved in the abuse of detainees by a military investigation– were subjected to court-martial and sentenced to prison, none of the employees of two PMCs implicated in the abuses were charged with any crime. In Sierra Leone, Executive Outcomes carried out air strikes ensuing huge collateral damage.

Despite a dark history and negative connotation associated with them, PMCs are an effective and flexible tool of national power. Countries with weaker conventional militaries especially in Africa and South America hire PMCs for multifaceted objectives. These not only provide security to those who need it but are employed as a show of force. According to various reports, these have also been used to suppress dissent in various third world countries. However, by spending a lesser amount and hiring PMCs, many states have strengthened their security apparatus which otherwise would have required millions of dollars and years to accomplish.

Read more: What is Hybrid Warfare: A detailed analysis

We need them

Pakistan has a standing army of almost 560,000 soldiers and officers in addition to almost a 100,000 reserves. The army is stationed across the length and breadth of the country and is involved in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations. The army is often called to assist civilian administrations especially during natural calamities or to curb civil unrest.

Pak Army is the strongest institution in the country and a major component of national power. It is renowned throughout the world for its professionalism and has been repeatedly deployed as military advisors in the Gulf and elsewhere. It is also one of the largest contributors to the UN peacekeeping missions and served as US ally in the global war on terror.

Pakistan Army has been reformed and overhauled to meet the complex security challenges of the 21st century. From being a conventional force armed and trained to fight its foe to the east in open battle spaces, it has been transformed to fight asymmetrical challenges in addition to conventional threats. The successes of Pakistan Army in Swat and FATA in addition to keeping aggressive enemy designs at bay are a proof of this assertion.

However, unfortunately, Pakistan’s economic growth has stagnated and declined over the past decade. This has made it practically impossible for the military to be rearmed with the state of the art weaponry which has resulted in a conventional disadvantage viz-a-viz its arch-rival. Pakistan’s deterrence capabilities are enough to neutralize any threat from the east but the emerging hybrid threats within the country has overstretched the army.

Read more: Is Pakistan heading towards a civil war?

For example, the army had to raise an entire new division to protect CPEC from asymmetrical threats in Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan. The army was also tasked with training the police and paramilitary forces and providing backup to them whenever necessary. This strained the military’s resources. But it has a pragmatic solution. Private Military Companies.

Many soldiers and officers retire from the army at a young age. These men are forced to move to the private sector which neither suits them nor are they trained for it. By establishing such companies (the current private companies are sub-standard) having international standards, Pakistan can not only provide job opportunities to thousands of men but also relieve pressure on the over-stretched security apparatus of the country.

These trained men can be employed to protect vital infrastructure, trade routes, high profile personalities, train law enforcement agencies in addition to being a strategic reserve in case of a major war. These companies, however, must be strictly regulated and controlled by the state and should not be allowed to operate abroad. By employing local PMCs at a bigger scale, not only revenue can be generated but multiple security challenges can also be met.

Zeeshan Munir is Assistant Editor at Global Village Space. He specializes in International Humanitarian Law. He tweets @zishanmuneer. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.