ISLAMABAD: With armed forces having almost gone public about how much under-resourced they were, Defence Minister Naveed Qamar said on Tuesday that the government was doing all it could to meet their requirements despite the financial crunch.
“We have been giving them what we could give,” Mr Qamar said while talking to Dawn.
Defence allocations have for the past couple of years been practically on the decline despite 10 per cent annual hike due to the country’s precarious financial situation.
At a briefing for Senate’s defence committee last month, defence ministry officials described how badly the economic crunch had been pinching the armed forces.
Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy have separately conveyed their economic woes to Senate defence committee. A similar sense was conveyed to the media by Navy officers a couple of weeks back during a rare press interaction at the naval headquarters.
While responding to complaints of resource constraints during his visit to naval headquarters earlier in the day, Mr Qamar said the government would provide all possible support to Pakistan Navy. At almost the same time, Senate Defence Committee chairman Senator Mushahid Hussain was assuring parliament’s cooperation to the PAF in overcoming its financial problems.
Though the Army hasn’t been all that vocal on the issue of resource constraint, it is said that it too was finding it difficult to update its equipment.
A senior defence official sharing one instance of the impact of fiscal squeeze told Dawn in a separate background interview that vehicle-borne trainings had to be reduced by almost 65 per cent due to reduced allocations for fuel.
The defence minister agreed that the increment in defence budget did not fully off-set the impact of inflation leading to a reduction in the size of allocation in real terms. But, he insisted that the situation was in no way affecting the operational preparedness of the forces.
“It is tricky to strike a balance between the financial squeeze and the operational needs,” Mr Qamar said.
An amount of Rs545 billion has been allocated for the defence sector during the current fiscal year.
Notwithstanding complaints by the military officials of not being properly resourced, this year’s defence allocation was still seven per cent higher than the total federal development outlay (Public Sector Development Programme) which is Rs360 billion; and even slightly more than the Rs513 billion allocated for all provinces by the federal government.
The traditional secrecy around the defence spending has been one of the reasons for intense criticism of the defence budget.
The PPP government, in line with its manifesto pledge, had started giving greater details of defence allocations, but the information is still considered inadequate by critics who have been demanding complete disclosure.
Mr Qamar said Pakistan was disclosing as much as older democracies were publicly revealing their defence budgets. He said there was clear progress towards bringing transparency to money allocated for the defence sector.
FIXING CIVIL-MILITARY IMBALANCE: Talking about the much discussed civil-military imbalance, the defence minister hoped that the institutions would be able to strike the right balance.
Responding to a question, Mr Qamar said the apparent flux was because all institutions were trying to adjust to the newfound powers and freedom.
His comments came a day ahead of Senate defence body’s planned public hearing on civil-military relations.
He repeated the observation made by Army Chief Gen Kayani that “it was important that every institution stayed within its constitutional jurisdiction and not try to become sole arbiter of national interest or people’s interest”.
He said the constitutional system would work in a manner that would suit everyone.