Is Pakistani Army adopting ISIS’s business strategy?

This article was also published on SatyaVijayi.

Pakistan Army, known for its business ambitions, has very recently ventured into the Oil industry. The news was uproariously mocked by many, but the fact is–there are dark secrets which lurk behind such avarice. This is Pakistan Army’s way of transmogrifying itself into a self-sustaining entity, by venturing into new ways of self-financing, just like the terrorist organization ISIS.

Crude to Crime: Parallels between Pakistan Army and ISIS

Unlike its predecessor Al-Qaeda, ISIS is an evolved monster, which has a better understanding of raw Darwinism and its principles. Ergo, ISIS’s battles are fought not just on the battlefields but also at the oilfields. The terrorist organization has, through the years, kept itself afloat by trafficking priceless antiquities, gold and oil, and by taking a cut from every sale. This business strategy has now been adopted by Pakistan Army.

ISIS has mainly 3 source of income:-

  1. Crude oil
  2. Hawala
  3. Investments

If one were to ruminate, Pakistan Army has been following the footsteps of ISIS , by overtly indulging in the above mentioned sources of income.

Pakistan’s allies have not been very kind to it since past few years; GCC’s(Gulf cooperation council) bonhomie with India, Trump admonishing Pakistan, and curtailing the funds pumped into the country by the former, has taken its toll on Pakistan’s frail economy. And understandably on its defence budget. Foreseeing such circumstances, Pakistan’s military had begun investing in private businesses long ago, and at present the army’s total stake in private businesses in Pakistan is more than $100 billion.  There are at-least 50 commercial entities run by Pakistan army, and the list includes sugar mills and meat shops too.

Iraq fell to ISIS because it could not keep a tab of the thriving informal economy which existed within the country, and this was successfully exploited by ISIS. Hawala, an informal value transfer system, an oft adopted practise in the middle-eastern countries, is ISIS’s escape route when stifled for funds. Interestingly the same is true for Pakistani Army.

Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), has put its nail to the grindstone to mint money out of its every venture. The illegal hawala pipeline assists ISI funnel close to  Rs 40,000 crore between the Gulf countries and Kerala alone, according to Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and the Kerala police’s estimate. If the figures were to be extrapolated to include the other states in the country, then hawala money which makes in and out of India with ease, can be anywhere close to Rs 100,000 crores.

Just to assist one a perceive how sinister these innocuous transactions by inimical entities can be, let us compare it with Mumbai Terror attacks that rocked the Indian financial capital on November 26th, 2008. Back then, Rs 1.15 crore was spent by LeT (Lashkar-E-Tayiba), an ISI backed terror organization, for executing tasks; Rs 17 lakhs for weapons and about Rs 30 lakhs for reconnoiter conducted by David Headley. Now imagine the scale of destruction that can be caused by a behemoth amount of 1000’s of crores.

Adding to India’s woes is the fact that the secret trail of fake Indian currency notes (FICN) also leads to Pakistan. A report by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) released in 2009, had cited that there ‘re two high security printing presses run by ISI, in Karachi’s Malir Cantonment as the source of the FICN.

Quick bucks through Drugs

Despite losing swathe of its territory, ISIS has managed to earn vast sums of money. During the peak of its territorial control in 2015, ISIS had accrued nearly $6 billion, making it the wealthiest terrorist group in the history. It has a knack to make money through criminal activities like drug smuggling. But ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency, crossed this terra-firma way before ISIS did.

Since 1960’s, families living close to India-Pakistan border have indulged in the surreptitious business of drug smuggling. Large consignments of drugs are smuggled through tunnels running across the border, while smaller consignment are thrown across the border railings. The myriads of such consignments make it to India through Punjab, J&K and Nepal border. Indian defence forces are now finding it hard to put a picket fence around this menace as the narcotic plague engulfs youth in Punjab.

Terrorist organisations in J&K, and maoists in the hinterland are hand in glove with ISI in carrying out this lucrative cross-border drug business. Ostensibly, this business alone fetches ISI close to $280 billion.  Sizable chunk of these consignments which reach India belong to a drug lord by the name Kaalu, who is provided security by Pakistan’s Army. This is not surprising, as not so long ago Osama Bin Laden too was provided shelter by the same army.

A chart representing Pakistan Army’s income per year through various sources

Even as Captain Amrinder Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab, is striving hard to prune the monstrous business run by ISI, it is said that the present stock of drugs in Punjab will last for about next 10 years. Whilst our forces have been able to whittle down the narcotics business of ISI, the biggest hurdle in getting the perps behind the bars is the fact that Indian law doesn’t correlate narcotics with terrorism. Ergo it still remains one of the most lucrative way of generating funds for Pakistan Army.

Pakistan Army has very meticulously buttressed its financial holdings with a diversified funding portfolio, and the list now includes oil trade. Ideally this news should have been received with trepidation, instead Pakistan Army’s latest endeavour was mocked at, as this venture was mistaken as a mere additional source of income for the Generals to indulge in opulence.

Whilst the paraphernalia of oil business is being worked out by others, the Indian populace should know that ISIS made close to $3 million per day through the oil trade alone. Now one can imagine what an Army with inextricable links with terrorism can do with such colossal amount of money.

Lao Tzu had said—“There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent.

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