ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army has taken the rare move of cutting its defense budget for the next financial year as part of swinging public spending cuts in the country.
Military chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, made the announcement while offering prayers with frontline soldiers on Eid day in Pakistani-administered Kashmir near to the Line of Control (LoC).
In a statement issued by the military media wing, ISPR, the Pakistani general said that the voluntary decision would have “no impact on our response potential to all types of threat” or the “quality of life of the soldiers.”
Bajwa added: “The no pay raise decision is also only for the officers and not for the soldiers. We shall manage the shortfall during the FY (fiscal year) by tightening our belt in areas where it doesn’t affect the two aforesaid aspects.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan revealed on Tuesday via Twitter that the cutbacks had been agreed by Pakistan’s Army in line with broader austerity measures.
Khan tweeted that he “appreciated” the military’s “unprecedented” move to reduce defense expenditure despite being faced with “multiple security challenges,” and said his government would spend the savings on merged tribal areas and Balochistan.
Defense analyst and retired Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, told Arab News: “It is a good move and comes at a time when the country is facing a serious financial and economic crisis. It also shows the army’s high command is people-friendly.”
He said the cuts would have little impact on the fighting capabilities of the country’s armed forces because most of the reductions would be in administration.
“ ... the armed forces have demonstrated their sensitivity to the difficult economic conditions the country faces.”
Javed Hassan, Economic analyst
Economic analyst and Imperial College London graduate, Javed Hassan, told Arab News: “In not seeking any increment to their budget, not even that to match inflation, the armed forces have demonstrated their sensitivity to the difficult economic conditions the country faces.”
Hassan said it also showed the military’s understanding that a healthy economy was a critical factor in ensuring national security.
“The armed forces standing together with the government, despite external and internal threats, will strengthen the latter’s resolve to institute necessary economic reforms that have to be undertaken to rejuvenate the economy for long-term sustainable and equitable growth,” Hassan said.
Khan’s adviser and de facto finance chief, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, is next week (June 11) due to announce the budget for the financial year beginning in July.
In a tweet, Shaikh also thanked the leadership of the armed forces for cooperating with government efforts to manage expenditure, reduce the fiscal deficit and achieve economic stability.
“All of us have to play our role in meeting our national goals,” Shaikh said.