–PM Imran lauds military’s decision, says govt will spend money on development of merged tribal districts and Balochistan
–Army chief Gen Bajwa says cut in defence budget ‘not a favour to nation as we are one through thick and thin’
–Says no pay raise decision is only for officers and not for soldiers
ISLAMABAD: In a rare move, the Pakistani military has agreed to cut its hefty budget for the next fiscal year (2019-2020) to help ease the country’s “critical financial situation”, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in a tweet on Tuesday night.
I appreciate Pak Mil’s unprecedented voluntary initiative of stringent cuts in their defence expenditures for next FY bec of our critical financial situation, despite multiple security challenges. My govt will spend this money saved on dev of merged tribal areas & Balochistan.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) June 4, 2019
Pakistan has struck an agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $6 billion bailout package 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.
The IMF has said the primary budget deficit should be trimmed by the equivalent of $5 billion, but the previous governments have not trimmed defence spending in the backdrop of the highly volatile regional security situation.
PM’s Adviser on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on June 11 is due to announce spending plans for the financial year beginning in July.
Under Pakistan’s devolved system, the federal government must hand over more than half its budget to the provinces, and the remainder is mostly eaten up by debt servicing and the defence budget.
Khan late on Tuesday tweeted that he appreciated the military’s “unprecedented voluntary initiative of stringent cuts in their defense expenditures” for 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 insurgency, and Balochistan province, Khan added.
The previous government hiked military spending by 20 percent to 1.1 billion, but the military appears to have overshot that figure amid a flare-up in tensions with arch-foe India.
However, Khan did not say by how much defence spending would be trimmed.
On Tuesday, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Major General Asif Ghafoor said the “voluntary cut” in the defense budget for a year would “not be at the expense of def [defense] & security”.
“We shall (maintain) effective response potential to all threats,” he added on Twitter.
Voluntary cut in def budget for a year will not be at the cost of def & security. We shall maint effective response potential to all threats.Three services will manage impact of the cut through appropriate internal measures. It was imp to participate in dev of tribal areas & Bln.
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) June 4, 2019
‘NOT A FAVOUR TO THE NATION’:
Commenting on the military’s decision to forgo the annual increase in defence budget, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa said on Wednesday that the voluntary cut in defence spending is “not a favour to the nation”.
“Irrespective of the voluntary cut in defence budget in upcoming financial year, there shall be no impact on our response potential to all types of threat and the quality of life of the soldiers,” ISPR quoted him as saying that while speaking to the troops after offering Eidul Fitr prayers.
Gen Bajwa spent Eid with the troops stationed along the Line of Control (LoC). He interacted and exchanged Eid greetings with them.
Special prayers were offered for peace, progress and prosperity of the country on the occasion.
The army chief said the best Eid for a soldier is to take pride in defending the motherland even on such festive days away from his family.
“Remember, for us, the defenders of Pakistan, our first family is the Pakistani nation, then the ones back home,” he said while addressing the servicemen.
Talking about the military’s decision to forgo a routine increase in military budget, he said “this initiative is not a favour to the nation as we are one, through thick and thin.”
Gen Bajwa said “the no pay raise decision is also only for the officers and not for the soldiers”.
“We shall manage the shortfall during the fiscal year by tightening our belt in areas where it doesn’t affect the two aforesaid aspect.”