Pakistan to reduce army size by 50,000

April 28, 2004

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RAWALPINDI, April 27: The Pakistan Army is reducing its numerical strength by about 50,000 men which will cut its 'long tail' and, at the same time, sharpen its teeth in a cost-effective way.

A decision to this effect was taken at the Formation Commanders' conference which continued at the General Headquarters for a second day on Tuesday with President Gen Pervez Musharraf in the chair.

According to an ISPR press release, the sizable savings accruing from a reduction in the troops strength will be directed to enhance the combat efficiency of the army. This reduction in manpower will in no way affect the fighting potential of the army.

Rather it will transform the army into a more potent institution, enhance its response capabilities and result in a fine balance between quality and quantity. The participants of the conference were briefed on a restructuring plan that envisaged the Pakistan Army to be 'lean but lethal' and hard-hitting.

"It will improve the teeth-to-tail ratio, in which tail is being reduced by about 50,000 men to allow sizable savings in funds," the ISPR release said. The president also approved the Pakistan Army's plan to replace use of combat soldiers as batmen of Officers and Junior Commissioned Officers with a new cadre called Non-Combatant Bearers employed on contract.

The change, affirmed by all Formation Commanders participating in the Conference, will take effect in five months' time starting from August 1 this year. By the end of this year, all combat soldiers will revert to their operational duties.

The Formation Commanders were also briefed on the security situation, threat perception, training and operational preparedness, logistics and welfare aspects of the army. While reviewing the threat, the senior commanders dilated upon the Indian doctrine of 'Cold Start' and felt satisfied after going through the response options of the Pakistan Army.

The president and other participants of the conference also witnessed a display of indigenously-produced weapons and equipment and research and development projects.

DPA ADDS: Pakistan currently spends some three billion dollars on its more than half-a-million standing army. Foreign donors have often urged the country to downsize its armed forces to save funds for the crucial social sector development.

But Islamabad justifies this by saying lingering tensions with India, ten times its size, pose a direct security threat to it. Pakistan says its nuclear programme was also meant to offset the Indian superiority in conventional arms.