Civil society groups from around Islamabad staged a protest demonstration in Super Market F-6 against disproportionately high military spending on Tuesday — the Global Day of Action against Military Spending.
Addressing the gathering by the roadside, social activist Raja Jahangir Akhtar said that the purchase of expensive defence equipment is further increasing foreign debt, which has passed $65 billion, adding that Pakistan is the fourth largest importer of heavy fighting equipment.
He said that this unproductive consumption of already limited public resources could have been put to better use for human development. “Additionally, we do not see the public’s sense of security being enhanced in any way.”
He then listed some more statistics and pointed out that Pakistan’s military is the sixth largest in the world, while in terms of defence spending it is 15th out of 189 countries.
Akhtar said that the annual defence budget, on paper, is Rs500 billion, but in reality it is closer to Rs800 billion, adding that Pakistan spends nearly $1 billion a year on purchasing imported armaments.
He said a large number of children are deprived of schooling and those who do get to school receive poor quality education, leading them to either dropout or graduate with no real skills, all because of the national addiction to military strength.
He said that the country needs to immediately correct the course and reset national priorities, adding that defence expenditure must fall below one per cent of GDP for the sake of the country’s survival.
“We may continue to exist, but only as the lowest of the lowly — as a society that has nothing useful and valuable to offer to the rest of humanity, as menial workers for the rest of the world, as a country that can be bullied by others at will, and as a society composed of anarchy and chaos,” said Raja.
Other than Akhtar, social activists Farzana Bari, Dr Hassan Nasir, Ayub Malik, Alia Amirali, and Aasim Sajjad also addressed the gathering.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2012.