The recent announcement of a voluntary cut in the defence budget by Pakistan Army is an unprecedented and a welcome step towards stabilising the national economy after it was left in shambles due to the corrupt and mismanaged practices of the previous governments. It is a pity though that a few political opponents of the PTI , especially the PML-N, are trying to capitalise this extraordinary move for political mileage and categorising it perhaps as compromising the national security or defence of our beloved country. This misguided and false political vendetta at such a trying time — economically and security-wise — for the country is very unfortunate since the military and national security should be the agenda of every Pakistani regardless of their political affiliation. This venom spewed out by politicians, strengthening the enemy’s narrative of a weak Pakistan Army comes at a time when the military is engaged on the north and the eastern borders in conflict and despite the fact that the ISPR has clarified that the cut in the defence budget is not at the cost of safety and security. Rather, the gap will be covered through internal adjustments with major funds allocated for the development of Balochistan and the country’s tribal areas, which have long been neglected.
Instead of appreciating and supporting this action which is a result of the military and the civilian government being on the same page, so-called politicians like Maryam Nawaz have used the same level of sarcasm and political immaturity in maligning the military which she did erstwhile when her father was prime minister. It should not be forgotten that this generation of selected-by-birth heads of political parties who are used to undemocratic practices will never understand how true democracy and a true democratic system work.
It is also worth-mentioning that the reason Pakistan Army is loved by the people across the board is its professionalism and its culture of accountability within its own ranks. The trust the nation puts in them is because they know not a single penny of the public exchequer will be misused nor will the nation’s security ever be compromised. Armies win with strategic leadership, preparedness and most importantly resolve, and Pakistan Army has all three. The Army Chief himself reiterated this fact to his troops, especially in light of aggressive Indian media propaganda that Pakistan Army has gotten weak.
To counter the narrative by self-centered politicians despite assurances that the cut in the budget is not on the defence side, history too can act as a guide. History shows that the number of conflicts or wars starting from the Battle of Badr and later Uhud has proved that military and technological superiority quantitatively may be a highly-unreliable guide to the outcomes of wars. In Indochina (1946-54), Indonesia (1947-49), Algeria, Cyprus, Aden, Morocco, and Tunisia, nationalist forces gained their objectives in armed confrontation with superior powers which possessed an overwhelming superiority in conventional military capacities. There are also examples where the world’s mightiest armies- in areas like Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam lost wars due to their inability to plan strategic interventions, adequate training or the passion and resolve that is required to win wars. Pakistan Army is one of the most professionally-trained armies in the world and has won the biggest war on terror to safeguard the people of Pakistan and its passion to protect the country is matchless.
Such ill-meaning and short-terms tactics against Pakistan Army are being used by the opposition to escape accountability. The two main parties have been collectively avoiding accountability of their ill-gotten assets and reaching joint compromises in the name of the charter of democracy. It is for the first time in the history that they are being made answerable for their acts, and have miserably failed to provide the justification of billions of rupees assets (within and aboard) in the name of their family members including lucrative offshore companies. In their political narratives, both these parties take turns in lambasting the military but for once they should take a cue from what the military has done to contribute to nation-building and self-accountability and should follow suit.
It is pertinent to mention here that voluntary initiative by the military is in line with the PTI’s agenda of austerity in all areas and across all institutions. This can be seen as a contribution to healing and curing the ailing economy left by the former government at the highest level of current account deficit, mismanagement of all macro- and micro-level indicators, record trade deficit and artificial handling the foreign exchange, resulting in the severe rupee devaluation that we see today.
It is also important to recognise the fact that war should never be eulogised but a strong military acting as a strong deterrent to war is necessary. What has truly won the hearts though is that Pakistani Army has decided to redirect substantial funding to Balochistan and the tribal areas — areas that have seen years of conflict due to internal and external reasons and the people and these places needed healing. The healing will come from social and economic uplift and the development of these areas.
For India too, which for some strange reason is celebrating the budget cut, our message should be to look inward and look at the highest unemployment rates in decades and extreme intolerance on the rise inside their own country. Probably they would like to reconsider priorities, since the elections are over now, and start working to remove extreme poverty and inequality in their own country. That might be a better option than warmongering and useless propaganda. To Pakistani politicians, instead of harping what India and others are saying, why not join hands to build Pakistan and win hearts.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2019.