Pakistan military agrees to 'voluntary' cut in defence expenditure, but reduction in spending may only be optics

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan had last week announced that the country's military, in a rare move, has agreed to cut its budget for a year to help ease the country's financial situation.

Pakistan has struck an agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $6 billion loan but Islamabad is expected to put in place measures to rein in a ballooning fiscal and current account deficits to get access to the funds, Reuters reported.

Khan tweeted that he appreciated the military’s “unprecedented voluntary initiative of stringent cuts in their defense expenditures” for the next financial year because of the country’s “critical financial situation”. This will allow money to be spent on the development of the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, still recovering from more than a decade-long Islamist insurgency, and violence-racked Baluchistan province, he said.

 Pakistan military agrees to voluntary cut in defence expenditure, but reduction in spending may only be optics

File image of Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan. Twitter @ImranKhanPTI

Khan, though, did not say by how much the defence spending would be trimmed. A military spokesman told Reuters that the “voluntary cut” in the defense budget for a year would not be at the expense of security. “We shall (maintain) effective response potential to all threats,” he added.

According to a report in Dawn, although the budget figures for defence will remain static, in reality, it will mean lesser available money for the troops due to the devaluation of the Pakistani Rupee and inflation; and hence, it is being described as a cut in defence expenditure.

As per another article in the newspaper, the country's defence establishment had shared the burden on previous occasions as well, when the country was going through its cycles of austerity. For instance, between 2009 and 2013, when Pakistan was recovering from the global recession, increases in defence allocations are said to have reduced to between 2 percent to 3 percent per year.

However, an article in Tribune states that although the Pakistan government claimed that its defence budget was left unchanged for the next fiscal, official documents showed that there was a 4.5 percent increase in the defence expenditure as compared to last year.

Pakistan has one of the world’s largest armies but its military has been criticised for spending unnecessarily and holding the country back in key areas such as health and education.

The previous Nawaz Sharif government hiked military spending by 20 percent to 1.1 billion, but the Pakistan military appears to have overshot that figure amid a flare-up in tensions with India.

Currently, over 50 percent of the Pakistani government's expenditure is used for meeting military and debt-servicing costs, according to reports. In 2018, Pakistan had ranked 20th in terms of defence spending, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

However, in recent times, Pakistan has seen cuts in military aid from its one-time strong backer, the United States.

Updated Date: Jun 13, 2019 22:57:09 IST