Even though his efforts have not yet yielded any positive results, soldier-turned-businessman-turned-political-and-social activist Raja Jahangir Akhtar went on a four-day hunger strike on Saturday against expected increase in military spending.
Akhtar condemned the impact that disproportionate military spending has on Pakistan, calling it the root cause of economic disparity. “The government is left empty handed after debt servicing and military spending, which is estimated at Rs800 billion. This takes a toll on everything— health, education, development, everything.”
The military spending is expected to go up by 10% in the upcoming budget.
Speaking to supporters at his hunger-strike camp near Super Market in F-6, Akhtar expressed sorrow over the Giyari Siachen incident but blamed policymakers for deploying army personnel in the inhospitable region in the first place.
“More people have been killed by weather than bullets at Siachen,” said Akhtar, adding that it was completely insane to station troops at a place that acted as a natural border.
He said the army could cut spending dramatically juts by withdrawing troops from Siachen. “Don’t worry, no one is going to come running across from Siachen,” said the social activist.
Increasing military expenditure has been draining the exchequer for decades, leaving no room for social-sector spending. Hundreds of millions of people face shortages of everything—edibles energy, employment and security.
Akhtar said the people of Pakistan, the fourth-largest importer of heavy military equipment, have lost all hope, resulting in rising levels of frustration, crime and terrorism. “Pakistan is becoming a bad place to live,” he added.
He said that the size of Pakistan’s military was thrice its requirements, and has turned the country into a beggar.
“Pakistan will continue to face turmoil and remain dependent on donors as long as ‘someone’s assumed national security priorities’ keep pushing human security to the backseat,” said Akhtar.
Akhtar’s hunger strike will run till Tuesday, the Global Day of Action against Military Spending. At the end of the strike, he will take out a rally.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2012.
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