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Tuesday, July 5, 2022
EditorialRationalising defence spending

Rationalising defence spending

In response to a debate about defence spending, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Babar Iftikhar has clarified that the defence budget allocation for the fiscal year 2022-23, contrary to perception, had decreased after factors such as inflation and rupee depreciation were accounted for, and was now 2.2 per cent of the GDP from 2.8pc last year. Like other states, Pakistan has to allocate a substantial budget to protect its borders from internal and external threats. Pakistan has one of the best armies and its operational capability and services have been acknowledged at the international level. The allocation of a substantial budget is necessary keeping in view the challenges faced by Pakistan, which include a rivalry with neighbouring India as Pakistan had already fought three wars, the threat of militancy in tribal areas and a porous border with Afghanistan that demands 24-hour deployment of troops. Besides budgetary allocations, the Pakistan army has established some profit earning concerns, which are a good source of income like DHA, the largest residential community in Pakistan. It was constitutionalised through an act of parliament in 2013, whereas, Defence Secretary is its chairman and it is managed by Pakistan Army. Other entities managed by the Pakistan army include the Frontier Works Organisation and the Fauji Foundation. Although the Pakistan army has already taken austerity measures keeping in view the current economic circumstances, there is a need to search for other areas where irrational spending can be controlled or minimized through diplomacy and planning.

Pakistan and India’s huge spending on maintaining check-posts in Siachen and Sir Creek, one of the most difficult areas of the world for the sustainability of life, come under the purview of irrational expenditure. Both states need to get engaged in talks and voluntarily leave these check-posts in their respective larger national interest. In order to tackle militancy in Afghanistan, the government needs to convince the Afghan Taliban to exert its influence on different factions of militant elements to withdraw violence. Thirdly, the institution of the army needs to focus on technology-driven defence instead of solely relying on increased manpower. Under the current economic circumstances, Pakistan simply cannot afford a large military expenditure. With nuclear deterrence in place, there is no need for a large army. Alternatively, the government needs to initiate a programme introducing compulsory military training in schools and colleges for Pakistani youth so that trained volunteers could be available in case of any emergency. Being a nuclear state, Pakistan has enough deterrence that it does not need to spend more on conventional weaponry. In this way, the government can divert its saving to the development of the civil sector.

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