The rhetoric and over-exaggeration of the defense budget in Pakistan are often accepted by people, naive. The word that usually goes that 80% of the total GDP of Pakistan’s economy goes to defense-related affairs, especially to the Pakistan army.
The lies and deliberate disinformation about this whole fairy tale have been ignored in the past for far too long. It is time to bust these deceptive myths and present people with facts as truth always prevails over lies. But first, we have to discuss the geopolitics of Pakistan and keep in mind that Pakistan is no ordinary country.
Geopolitics of Pakistan
It is a country that has experienced many phases in its 75 years of young age. Political turmoil, economic crisis, powerful enemies, troubled neighborhood and internal enemies always seeking instability and chaos in the country. There is no doubt that Pakistan with its geo-political location is in fact a security-centric state.
Pakistan’s security challenges are much greater than the resources it possesses but with the immense sacrifices, diligent services and contribution of Pakistan’s armed forces, Pakistan has survived and prevailed in the troublesome days of the past and continues to follow in the right projectile motion with flying colors.
Facts and Figures
Historical accounts indicate that over the years Pakistan’s defense budget’s percentage with respect to the GDP has rather gone down than up. In the 1970’s era, the defense budget was 6.50% and in 2021 it has come down to 2.45%. According to the national budget 2021/20, under the heading of “Defence Services”, Rs 1,370 billion were allocated out of the total budgetary resources of Rs 8,487 billion. According to these official figures, defense-related budgetary resources make up merely 16% of the total GDP of the country and not 80%, which is the disinformation some people perceive as fact.
Out of the 16% defense services allocation, the Pakistan army receives Rs 594 billion which adds up to make up only 7% of the total budgetary resources. These figures indicate and expose the false narrative that the Pakistan army eats up most of the country’s GDP. According to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) of Sweden, Pakistan is at 23rd ranking in the index of top 40 countries having the highest defense expenditure but compared 2020 index Pakistan is one position below than before which shows that Pakistan armed forces have compromised its defense budget allocation to facilitate the government in country’s economic building measures.
Other reports from SIPRI and the International Institute of Strategic Studies show Pakistan’s defense expenditure below many countries including Pakistan’s arch-enemy, India. India’s defense budget is 9 times greater than that of Pakistan. Another study by SIPRI indicates that India’s military expenditure is $76.6 billion which makes it the 3rd highest defense spending country in the world. India’s defense expenditure and military spending should always be compared in the context of Pakistan.
The imbalance of power, resources, defense budget, military equipment and military technology is something that policymakers and military leadership in Pakistan have always been cautious of. Despite such a low defense budget, Pakistan has deterred India on each step. Although Pakistan has the 7th largest military in the world, its expenses are one of the lowest compared to Iran, India, Saudi Arabia and the US. With such economic and security challenges Pakistan proudly stands as the 9th most powerful army in the world. This shows the capability and proficiency of Pakistan’s armed forces.
Now that the myth of 80% has been exposed, let’s discuss the contributions of the Pakistan army in different fields of life to facilitate the government and people of Pakistan in overcoming multiple challenges Pakistan faces. Like most armies of the world, the Pakistan army has directly contributed to nation-building efforts. The Pakistan army has gone beyond its scope and role to fulfill duties when needed. In 2019 Pakistan army relinquished Rs 100 billion from its defense allocation to support the country’s economy. In FY 2020/21 Pakistan army contributed Rs 28 billion to the government as a direct tax.
The Pakistan army has also contributed tremendously during natural disasters such as earthquakes, droughts and pandemics. During an anti-polio campaign in 2014, the Pakistan army deployed 16000 soldiers to facilitate government departments in order to eliminate poliovirus by 2023. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, NCOC was established to deal with the virus in a civil-military joint venture.
Under the direction of COAS COVID-19 testing labs were established in major different military hospitals to cope-up with the virus. Pakistan armed forces also helped police and LEAs in implementing COVID SOPs during peak time of the pandemic. The Pakistan army contributed immensely in medical facilities by deploying thousands of soldiers across the country where civil administration needed a second hand.
Read more: Pakistan army’s contribution in Balochistan
During the locust issue, the Pakistan army actively engaged in assisting civilian authorities by establishing the ‘National Locust Control Center’ (NLCC). Army aviation used one plane and four helicopters for spraying locust-infested fields in order to contain the issue. Moreover almost 10,000 troops were deployed in the field to conduct surveys and execute the spraying process through tractors and car-mounted machines. During the 2017 floods in Karachi, the army helped in rescue and relief operations by providing 188 troops, 21 dewatering pumps and 30 army boats. Again, during the floods in Lahore, 200 troops were utilized with 26 dewatering pumps and 19 boats in rescue operations. In recent 2020 floods in internal Sindh, Punjab and KPK, 40000 soldiers with the help of 100 dewatering pumps and 105 army boats were used to facilitate the government in rescuing 10,000 civilians, furthermore, 50 shelters and 75 medical camps were established during the facilitation process.
In the recent outbreak of wildfire in the pine forest of Sherani, Balochistan, two army helicopters alongside local government authorities helped in the firefighting efforts. Army helicopters dropped water and fire extinguishing chemicals on affected areas in order to contain the fire. The Pakistan army transported all necessary relief and rescue equipment from Lahore to Zhob. Pakistan army medical corps has also shown its remarkable capability and potential during disease outbreaks and droughts in remote areas of the country.
The Pakistan army provided 54 villages in the Pir Koh area with clean drinking water (approximately 350000 liters) on a daily basis. Furthermore, makeshift hospitals and medical camps were established in the area to test and treat locals with diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and malaria. And finally, in order to deal with the heatstroke, on the orders of COAS, 21 heatstroke relief centers were set up in remote desert areas of internal Sindh and 37 in Punjab province.
The contributions of Pakistan are far more than the resources, economy and equipment it possesses. But discipline, organizational ability, potential, skills, transparency and devotion are few of the strengths of Pakistan’s armed forces that make impossible challenges possible to overcome. It should be stated that the propaganda of 80% has been entirely uncovered. It is part of the deep psychological and 5th generation war of narratives. But as said before that the truth will always prevail over lies and deception. In the words of David Foster Wallace, “The truth will set you free, but as until it’s finished with you”.
The writer has a master’s degree in Mass Communication from the National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad who often writes on geopolitics, international developments, and strategic affairs with a special focus on Af-Pak affairs, Asia, and the Middle East. He currently works at Such Tv. He tweets: @THEGUERRILLApk.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.