The federal government on Monday pledged that it would fund the ongoing operation in North Waziristan amid the military’s insistence on fresh but firm timelines for release of all outstanding disbursements.
The assurances were given by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to Major General Mohammad Tauqeer Ahmad, director general for the army’s budget, who called on him to discuss matters related to the military’s budget.
The meeting comes on the heels of high-level contacts between army chief General Raheel Sharif and the finance minister.
Both Dar and the army chief had met before finalisation of new fiscal year’s budget and had agreed on a framework to meet the military’s pressing financial needs in light of the rapidly changing internal security situation.
According to sources familiar with the development, the DG budget urged the finance minister to follow the framework and ensure timely release of all promised funds.
“The finance minister assured the Director General that adequate resources will be provided for the military operation and facilitation of internally displaced persons”, according to a handout issued by Ministry of Finance.
Sources in the Ministry of Finance said that in June the army had sought Rs22 billion immediate funds to meet the expenses of operation Zarb e Azab.
They added that the ministry had partially met the requirement and asked the military to cover the shortfall from its own resources, which the federal government would pay later on.
On June 15, army launched the long-awaited military campaign to destroy militant safe havens in in North Waziristan. The operation targeted foreign and local terrorists who are hiding in sanctuaries in the tribal region.
According to sources, the DG budget of Pakistan Army pressed the minister to release the funds on account of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) and supplementary budget to meet the overriding expenses of the operation.
They revealed that the issue of outstanding payments to the military on account of CSF disbursements was also discussed during Dar’s meeting with the DG budget.
Subsequently, Dar informed the DG that reimbursements on account of CSF were on track. He further emphasised that all relief measures for IDPs should be combined to make it effective and efficient.
Interestingly, 60% of the total CSF goes to the military. However, officials revealed that the finance ministry was not disbursing the military’s entire CSF share for the past few years.
Instead, it asked the defence ministry to borrow the sum from banks and subsequently the finance ministry promised to return the loan, including interest payments, they added.
The sources said the military requested the finance minister that release of all outstanding payments to the army should be expedited. They added the issue of payments of Al Khalid tanks also came under discussion.
For the current financial year 2014-15, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government has apportioned Rs700 billion for meeting the country’s burgeoning defence needs. The amount is exclusive of the military’s share in CSF, disbursed by the United States and receipts from the United Nations on account of contribution to the UN’s peacekeeping missions.
However, the International Monetary Fund has projected new fiscal year’s stated defence budget at Rs706 billion.
Finance ministry spokesman Rana Assad Amin was not available for comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2014.