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Army spending

Published Mar 10, 2014 07:40am


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AS signals go, the government would like the country to believe Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s visit to the army’s GHQ in Rawalpindi on Saturday to discuss the next financial year’s defence budget was yet another positive sign that the PML-N is working well with the military.

But Mr Dar’s trip to GHQ could just as well be seen as sending a very different signal: little has really changed in the decades-old way of doing business between the civilians and the army.

Consider that in more developed democracies — and, at least on paper, the practice that is meant to be followed here — budgetary demands of the military are, to begin with, routed through the defence ministry.

But even form is not adhered to as yet, with Mr Dar stepping on the toes of Defence Minister Khwaja Asif — who, it must not be forgotten, was only handed the defence portfolio in a hasty attempt to shield the prime minister from being dragged into the missing-persons issue that the Supreme Court has doggedly been pursuing.

Still, if democratic form is a long way from being adhered to, what about the substance of the military budget? As reported in the media, the army has requested a double-digit increase in the overall military budget and has also drawn up a wish list of purchases to meet unspecified, so-called development needs.

Certainly, militaries need to periodically replace and upgrade hardware and, given the demands of the military on the internal-security front in recent years, the army surely has many legitimate demands on the funding front.

However, the public and the taxpayer can know nothing about that as long as all discussions on budgets and defence acquisitions take place behind closed doors with the only details ever being released involving final decisions on numbers and purchases.

There are two basic facts here that simply cannot be overlooked. One, defence contracts and budgets are gigantic, meaning that even a percentage point up or down is a matter of billions spent or saved.

Two, defence spending — along with debt servicing and government current expenditure — crowds out development spending.

So if billions more are demanded in the name of security, the country should, if it is to progress further along the democratic continuum, be made aware of just what needs are being addressed and whether those security needs are being financed cost effectively.

Whose responsibility is that? If the security establishment has acquired disproportionate space and also disproportionate funding, the only way that space will be wrested back is if the elected civilian leadership demonstrates the resolve to wrest that space back and builds its capacity to do so.

Few things are as important as controlling the purse strings. Mr Dar’s confidence and smiles notwithstanding, it’s not clear if he went to GHQ to negotiate or simply write a cheque.

Comments (14) Closed

Jalaluddin S. Hussain Mar 10, 2014 07:59am

Better, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif clarify the following right on the floor of the National Assembly of Pakistan:


Amjed Jaaved Mar 10, 2014 08:06am

Look at defence budget documents.One line provision for three svcs is a slap on face of whole parliament. No details?Whither defence accountability. PM prlment get lease to rule from Svc not from people. Just sift non-dev expdr from cap expdr and u will be appalled. Vist any army hosp, installation. Civ hosps appaling condition.

Jaihoon Mar 10, 2014 09:48am

God help the banana republic of Pakistan.

Ahmed Shaikh Mar 10, 2014 10:20am

More weapons or more DHAs???

lodhi Mar 10, 2014 12:36pm

Spot on. Rightly said.The government is least bothered about the miseries of a common man. They want to stay in power by appeasing the right quarters.

usman786 Mar 10, 2014 02:05pm

@Ahmed Shaikh: DHA are not built by public money. Infact they donot give plot for free to army persons. Its bcz of civilian buyer who buy these plots to live in a peaceful, secure environment that the prices escalates. Defence procurement of expensive equipment is done by Min of Defence not by army itself. The present increase in defence spending due to our becoming part of US alley must be charged to CSF be it concertine wires, road block and employment of soldiers and insurance of police, FC and army persons for Rs 10 million.

dr zaq Mar 10, 2014 07:47pm

Army is the only institution which holds the country together. Whether it is earthquake, floods or any disaster it is always the security forces who come forward. The militancy within and the enemies outside, if it was not the defense forces Pakistan would have vanished from the map of the world. See the military budget of other countries and Pakistan adversaries their military spending is 4 to 5 times higher than Pakistan. Pakistan's Survival is related to its military strength otherwise it existence will be no more. There are some people who just for the sake of criticism degrade the armed forces. They should be thankful to them that they are breathing in a free and safe environment otherwise would have been the slaves of the ..........

Frankenstine Mar 10, 2014 08:14pm

every country spend on Military.. in fact every big power is increasing their military Budget.. China, India, Japan are examples and these countries are nt at war and we are fighting a war.. the problem is transparency and we lack that in every institution.. Corruption is the root cause.. and there is one more thing as Dollar is increasing so it will have an effect on our Budget

Muriam Mar 10, 2014 10:48pm

Although it's true that the appointment of Defence Minister was a hasty and meaningful decision but Theory and Practice in almost very field are poles apart. The point to be discussed is not with whom our Finance minister made discussion but what was the discussion? The whole world is in war and trying it's best to get weaponized with the the most advanced technology and develop it's arsenal. the need of the hour in this respect is to have a proper check and balance over the progress of military with respect of it's use of finance.

Muriam Mar 10, 2014 11:17pm

@Frankenstine: Corruption is the mother of all social evils.

Agha Ata Mar 10, 2014 11:50pm

Let me tell you a secret. Army officers are trained to convince people, through their personalities, tone of voice (which is hardened through commanding for years) and through the thorough knowledge of the details of the case, PLUS the techniques to use the weakness of the person they are talking to. So, these officers can be intimidating, very convincing, even commanding, and occasionally courteous and polite, ALMOST IRRESISTIBLE TO RESIST.

Leopard63 Mar 11, 2014 02:39am

Perhaps the defence establishment is in competition with the Pentagon to get a bigger and bigger piece of the pie for themselves and keep the status quo alive and well. Once again it is the Punjabi "ruling elite" who are calling the shots without any input from the rest of the country. Is it any wonder that Pakistan lags behind in almost all human development indicators, globally?

Just Someone Mar 11, 2014 05:47pm

Whilst I support the army, I am pretty sure that there must be huge number of expenditures in the military budget that are not of confidential nature. As a beginning these should be made public.

ayaz noor Mar 12, 2014 11:10am

Now it is right time for Army to discuss its share in budget as it is going to launch operation against talbans. we hope that they will utilize their budget in proper way and demand their due share according to their expenditures...