THERE has been considerable criticism of how the Pakistani establishment spends far too much on weapons and not enough on the social sector. Unesco's recently released Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2011 confirms this lack of balance in funds' allocation. It says Pakistan spends over seven times more on arms than on primary education. This is a matter of grave concern considering the fact that with 7.3 million children, this country has amongst the highest out-of-school populations in the world. The report claims that just one-fifth of military spending would be sufficient to finance universal primary education, while it also says that by cutting military expenditure by 10 per cent, over three-and-a-half million children could receive primary education.These figures need to be put in perspective. Pakistan currently faces a violent internal insurgency which needs to be tackled. It would be simplistic to assume that if all guns were turned into ploughshares peace and harmony would reign in the country. But be that as it may, defence spending needs to be rationalised so that spending on social sectors such as education and health is not sacrificed. The conflict has already exacted a heavy toll, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas. Hundreds of schools have been destroyed — and continue to be targeted by militants — while thousands of children have been displaced. Thus the state's priority should be rehabilitation of the school system. The establishment should realise that investing in the population's socio-economic uplift can perhaps bring greater dividends for security than buying bombs and guns. As the Unesco report suggests, “investing in education, with attendant benefits for employment and social inclusion, would do a great deal to enha- nce Pakistan's long-term national security”.
A young, rapidly increasing, illiterate and unemployed population is not a healthy sign. While it is correct that some young people are drawn to militancy for ideological reasons, it is fair to assume that if many of these youths are given the chance, they would choose to pursue an education that could equip them with the skills to earn a respectable living rather than picking up a Kalashnikov or strapping on a suicide jacket.