Fallacy about Pakistan’s defence budget
The term “hybrid war” connotes the use of conventional military force supported by irregular and cyber warfare tactics. Linear conflicts are defined by a sequential progression of a planned strategy by opposing sides, whereas nonlinear conflict is the simultaneous deployment of multiple, complementary military and non-military warfare tactics. A nonlinear war is fought when a state employs conventional and irregular military forces in conjunction with psychological, economic, political, and cyber assaults. Confusion and disorder ensue when weaponized information exacerbates the perception of insecurity in the populace as political, social and cultural identities are pitted against one another. Detractors of Pakistan including India continue propaganda against Pakistan’s military and raise questions about military spending. Recently, Zee News stated: “Pakistan’s economy is in a shambles but the country is looking for ways to increase its defence budget”.
Pakistan defence forces have always been the prime target of anti-state actors. The principal objectives behind this hybrid war is to weaken Pakistan through a synchronized attack that includes economic warfare, supporting domestic unrest, diplomatic onslaught along with regular and irregular military operations.
Last month, speaking to members of print and electronic media, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that Pakistan cannot afford to make cuts in its defence budget because it was already on the lower side as compared to other states in the region and therefore it should be increased. “Some people have problems about the defence budget and try to make it an issue. However, they don’t know that our defence budget is already lower than that of other states in the region, including India.” he added. There are at least 50 countries (including India, Sri Lanka, Jordan and Liberia) that spend a higher percentage of their GDPs on defence.
Pakistan’s defence forces are the 6th largest in the world; hence criticism is made with some purpose. For the record, the US spends $459,000 per soldier per year; Saudi Arabia $339,000, India $33,000, Turkey $28,000, Egypt $18,000 and Pakistan $10,000. In the 1960s, Pak Army’s budget as a percentage of our national budget had hit a high of 42 percent.
Over the years, Pak Army’s budget as a percentage of our national budget has dropped sharply and it now amounts to 18 percent. In FY 2001-02, sixteen years ago, the allocation for defence amounted to 4.6 percent of GDP. In 2003-04, the defence budget dropped to 3.9 percent of GDP. And for the following 10 years the allocation for defence kept on dropping till it hit a low of 2.3 percent of GDP in 2012-13, as increase in defence budget was not keeping with the rate of inflation.
Budget 2016-17 allocated Rs. 860 billion for ‘Defence Affairs and Services’ which was 2.6 percent of our Rs.33 trillion GDP. At a time when security assistance from the US was dwindling and now almost stopped, Pakistan raised its defence spending for the year 2018-19 by around 18 per cent to Rs. 1.1 tr ($9 billion), whereas India allocated more than $60 bn for 2019. Detractors of Pakistan have been targeting via different methods including defence budget though Pakistan spends a small fraction of 2.6 per cent of the GDP. Total budget for 2018-2019 is Rs. 5932 bn ($350 bn) out of which Rs. 1400 bn have been allocated for Debt-servicing, which is the largest item in the budget. The second largest expenditure is in form of losses of Rs. 1500 bn Public Sector Enterprises (like PIA, the Pakistan Steel Mills, power sector and Pakistan Railways).
The third largest chunk is allocation for the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP). And the fourth largest allocation is for ‘Defence Affairs and Services’ whereby a sum of Rs. 1.1 tr has been allocated to Defence. It means there is a myth that the defence budget takes away the lion’s share of the total budgetary outlay, whereas in Budget 2018-19, allocation for ‘Defence Affairs and Services’ is 18 percent of the total expenditure which means that 82 per cent is spent on administration, development, debt servicing and losses incurred by public sector enterprises.
It is unfortunate that a few members of Parliament who benefitted most by holding positions in higher echelons in the government have been critical of Pakistan military and intelligence agencies. They do not realize that at this point in time when they are rendering sacrifices in fighting the terrorists, criticizing means to demoralize them.
Pseudo-intellectuals, a few self-styled analysts and some unconscionable elements of political parties had been critical of the military perhaps on the assumption that by weakening the military they will become stronger. It is regrettable that a few Pakistanis have become part of the US and Indian organized propaganda campaign against their own country, and play an ignominious role by joining hands with enemies of Pakistan. Former COAS General Raheel Sharif had in one of his speeches rightly said, “Pakistan’s current enemy lives within us and looks like us; in contemporary geopolitics, the battles are no longer between state and non-state actors but are with supra-individuals, those individuals who exploit both the national and international space for their desired objectives.
They have the capacity to manipulate networks, organisations and state institutions to create waves of instability and create discord at the centre of the state institutions.”
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.