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Defense Budget -What is the fuss!

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Each year when budget is announced allocation of defense budget draws unnecessary criticism from certain quarters without knowing its details. It has become fashion to make loose talk on defense budget as a hobby.

Pakistan’s defense budget depends on many factors which need deeper concentration to arrive at an agreeable figure. First priority is to defend our frontiers from any aggressor with sufficient reserves to counter for any eventuality. We have a neighbor who is declared our enemy number one, has built up strong armed forces and is always a threat to our national security.

Therefore we have to have minimum deterrence to thwart or counter his moves against Pakistan. Thirdly we are partners in war on terror therefore defense budget has to cater for this extra burden Pakistan being most affected by terrorism needs special measures and reasonable increase in budget to meet additional needs.

Pakistan is contributing substantially in combating and is engaged in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism campaign within its own borders, and counteract negative spillovers across the border into Afghanistan and India, therefore if there is increase in budget it is fully justified.

It was in the year 2009, when PPP government reversed the long-standing practice of releasing only a single figure for the year’s defense budget and began producing more comprehensive documentation with greater details of military expenditure.

The process of converting economic resources into military power is best captured in a country’s defense budget. Two key themes emerge from analyzing the defense budget of Pakistan. Our allocation is based on Indian defense budget and their war preparations. Secondly to have minimum deterrence. Pakistan is spending generously in its military relative to the size of its economy and national budget. But perceived threats from India require even more investment in the military. Government of Pakistan is fully aware and is doing its best under the circumstances.

Before discussing defense budget 2018-19 we shall have a cursory look at the previous budget. In year 2016-17 Rs 860 billion were allocated towards “Defense Affairs and services” out of total budgetary outlay of Rs 4897 amounting to 17.6% of total outlay. Out of Rs 860 billion 63% is salaries bill, 9% uniform, 18% ration and 10% gas and electricity. Keeping in view the size of the army its share comes to 48%, followed by PAF 21% and Navy gets 11% and defense production around 20%. The propaganda that army consumes bulk of the budget is devoid of truth and is nowhere near reality. In the year 2017-18 total budgetary outlay was Rs 4.75 Trillion and defense allocation was Rs 920.2 billion around 7% increase from last year.

This year the increase has been nominal increase of 10% and allocation is Rs 1.1 trillion which is 3.2% of Rs 34 trillion GDP, whereas it warranted more increase due to hybrid war imposed on Pakistan. What is Hybrid war? Hybrid warfare is a military strategy that employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare with other influencing methods. Aim is to weaken Pakistan army by introducing economic warfare, support domestic unrest, weaken diplomatic front, fake news, and use media as tool and foreign electoral interference.

To combat these evils we certainly need extra ordinary measures and deployment of Special Forces and that means additional burden on national exchequer but to save the country from collapse this is very small sacrifice. People should know that it is always the false propaganda against the defense budget by vested interests to meet their selfish ends. Largest expenditure is on debt servicing.

In the words of renowned economist the accumulated amount of the circular debt almost equates the current year’s defense allocation. And what that means is that if we can somehow mange losses within the power sector the savings will cover one year’s defense allocation. We are the sixth largest defense forces in the world but our expenses per soldier are the lowest i.e. $12000 as compared to India which is $33000 US has the highest $460,000.

No doubt that defense budget should not be on higher side but at the same time you cannot lower your guards. As long as India does not resolve core issue of Kashmir Pakistan has to maintain minimum deterrence. India is continuously building its war machinery spending billions of dollars coupled with regular threats from Indian leaders and their hostile attitude Pakistan has no option except to prepare itself for any eventuality. At present it is 18% of the total budget layout reserved for defense affairs and services whereas 82% are not defense related expenditures.

Those who spread rumors and unnecessarily criticize defense budget are ignorant about the facts and figures. We have to be careful from our enemy but more so from internal enemies who work on foreign agendas without realizing its consequences. Now Nawaz Sharif says that militant organizations are active in this country, he may also answer what steps his government has taken against them. His own party has been patronizing right wing parties.

No one denies the need of peace between the two countries but it has to be on equal terms not by degrading and going for cheap popularity. As long as Pakistan army is there the nation should not worry they shall never let them down and allow anyone to play with the destiny of Pakistan

The writer is a freelance journalist and defence Analyst.