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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 April, 2005, 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK
Pakistan military runs 55 firms
Pakistani soldier
Pakistan's army does more than fight
Pakistan's government has said the country's powerful armed forces run a total of 55 businesses.

Defence Minister Rao Sikander Iqbal was responding to a question in the Senate tabled by the opposition Pakistan People's Party.

The army's commercial ventures ranged from small bakeries to huge industrial establishments, the minister said.

Pakistani politicians are deeply critical of the armed forces' steadily increasing business interests.

Pension funds

Mr Iqbal said most of the businesses were controlled by three trusts working under the armed forces.

These trusts include the Fauji Foundation (managed by the army), the Shaheen Foundation (managed by the air force) and the Bahria Foundation (managed by the navy).

Mr Iqbal told the Senate in a written reply that these businesses included fertilizer and sugar factories.

The army also has business interests in the energy and banking sectors, and in leasing, insurance, travel, pharmacies, gas stations, security and textiles, among others.

The army says it needs these businesses to generate pension funds and to start welfare schemes for hundreds of thousands of retired soldiers and officers.


But PPP senator Farhatullah Babar, who had tabled the question, told BBC news: "It is only an excuse for them to keep expanding their commercial interests."

Opposition parties in Pakistan have repeatedly alleged that the armed forces' commercial interests are taking a toll on their professional commitments and capabilities.

Government officials are legally bound to answer questions tabled in the parliament.

The BBC's Aamer Ahmed Khan in Karachi says this has become the opposition's preferred tactic to draw public attention to the army's commercial interests.

Last week, the defence ministry had to provide the parliament with details of the land acquired by the army for setting up housing colonies.

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