‘Halve the defence budget this year’

Protesters demand spending on health, education instead.


Saleha Rauf May 27, 2011

LAHORE:


Activists, professionals and students staged a rally in front of the Punjab assembly building on Thursday, demanding a 50 per cent cut in the defence budget.


The protesters said that expenditure that did not majorly contribute to the stipulated security needs should be diverted towards health, education, and other neglected sectors.

The protesters also called for accountability of the military establishment and the replacement of the ‘national security state’ with a ‘people’s welfare state.’

Sayeda Diep from the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies said that defence budget should be scrutinised and all spending audited by the parliament. “Instead of spending such a huge amount on an ‘inefficient’ military, the government should spend a little more on the poor.” She said after the May 2 Abbotabad operation, it was clear that the armed forces had failed in discharging of their responsibility. She also accused the defence establishment of having double standards and supporting non-state actors.

They also demanded cutting down the perks allowed to the officials of the GHQ.

Dr Ali Nabeel, a history teacher at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, said, “The economic conditions, and our power crisis do not allow us to let the military decide their allocations in the name of national interest,” he said.

Farooq Tariq, spokesman for Labour Party Pakistan also participated in the rally. He said that the military corporate activities such as the Defence Housing Authority and its industrial enterprises must also be made accountable. The process of land allotment to officers, he said, must be rationalised.

“There should be at least 10 per cent increment in social development budget. You will see the difference. The army should stay out of the business especially from the agriculture sector,” he said. Muhammad Ali Jan, of the Worker’s Party Pakistan, demanded an end to what he described as ‘hidden’ subsidies to the military personnel and veterans. He said he had a petition on Facebook called the Army’s Role in Pakistan- A petition by the Pakistani People, and asked people to endorse it to show their support in the matter.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2011.

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