Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wednesday stated that the cuts to the defence budget offered by the military itself were not a 'favour' to the nation, insisting that "we are one, through thick and thin".
In an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release shared by Director General of ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Twitter, the COAS also clarified that: "Irrespective of the voluntary cut in defence budget [for the] coming financial year (FY), there shall be no impact on our response potential to all types of threat and quality of life of the soldiers."
Gen Bajwa also assured his troops that the 'no pay raise' decision applied only for officers and not for soldiers.
"We shall manage the shortfall [...] by tightening our belt in areas where it doesn't affect the two aforesaid aspects," he said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had revealed last night on Twitter that the military had agreed to slash the defence budget for the next fiscal year in line with broader austerity measures being introduced by the government.
The premier noted that these cuts were agreed to despite "multiple security challenges".
He had stated that the money saved would be diverted to aid the development of the merged tribal areas and Balochistan.
The military's media wing had stated in a later tweet that the cuts "will not be at the cost of of defense and security", and that it was important for the military to participate in the rebuilding of Balochistan and the erstwhile tribal areas.
Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor had further stated that the slashes would be managed "internally" by all three branches of the armed forces taking into account strategic compulsions.
Earlier in February, the government had decided not to make any cuts in the country’s defence budget for the ongoing year.
“The country’s defence budget is already low as compared to other states in the region, and therefore it should be increased,” the then information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, had said.
“We want to increase our defence and security; therefore we need to increase our defence budget and for that purpose we want to generate more revenue,” Chaudhry had added.
Last month, however, the government had announced that all civil and military institutions would contribute to the austerity-oriented federal budget for 2019-20.
"There will be austerity in the coming budget. We will try to keep government expenditures to the minimum possible level," Prime Minister’s Adviser on Finance and Economic Affairs Dr Hafeez Shaikh had said. "God willing we will all stand together on this, whether it is civilian or army [institutions] or the private sector."
Placed in a difficult neighbourhood, it was the most important thing for a sovereign country like Pakistan to protect its people and borders and to give whatever sacrifice was possible, Shaikh had said, adding: "Nevertheless, we are all on the same page whether these are civilians or armed forces that there should be serious, sustained and structured reforms through difficult decisions and all would participate in this effort and you would see this in the new budget".
COAS spends Eid with troops along the LoC
COAS Gen Bajwa spent Eidul Fitr with troops along the Line of Control (LoC). According to a tweet shared by DG ISPR, special prayers for the peace, progress and prosperity of the country were made.
While speaking to the troops, Gen Bajwa said that the "best Eid for a soldier is to have pride for being on duty of defending the motherland even on such festive days away from family".
"Remember, for us, the defenders of Pakistan, our first family is the Pakistani nation, then the ones back home," he said.
DG ISPR criticises Indian media
Later, the DG ISPR criticised the Indian media for "spinning" the news of Pakistani defence budget cuts.
In a post shared on Twitter, he said that "Indian fake media [is] busy spinning on our internal def budgeting choice."
"Don’t forget, we were the same forces with same budget on 27 Feb 19. We [have] the capability & capacity to respond. Remember, it’s not budgeting, it’s resolve of force & the nation firmly standing behind its forces," he added.