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Unexplained, unrestrained expenses and bloated budget: Analysing Pakistan’s defence spending

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There was a minor flutter when the first reports came of the Pakistan army chief announcing the “voluntary decision to forego even the routine increase in annual defence budget”. On cue, Prime Minister Imran Khan called this an “unprecedented voluntary initiative of stringent cuts in their defence expenditures for the next FY because of our critical financial situation…” But this ‘initiative’ was forced on Pakistan not just by the ‘critical financial situation’, but by the IMF which conditioned its bailout on Pakistan cutting the ‘primary deficit’ but without tinkering too much with the development programmes or social welfare schemes. Equally importantly, it is far from ‘stringent’.

Budget limit

For now, this ‘freeze’ on the defence budget is for the next financial year. While in nominal terms, the PKR 1.15 trillion defence budget is virtually the same as the revised defence spending of PKR 1.14 trillion in the outgoing financial year, it amounts to around an 11-13 per cent cut (accounting for inflation in 2019-20), provided the defence expenditure isn’t jacked up during the year, something that routinely happens. The Pakistan military is however confident that this ‘freeze’ in defence allocations will not affect its operational preparedness to ‘respond’ to any offensive action by India.

True, even if it is genuine, a freeze in the budget for one year will not significantly pare down Pakistan's defence capabilities. Only if the Pakistan........

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