The month of September unravels the stories of valor of Pakistan Armed Forces against it’s by-birth adversary, India. It marks another year to the eulogized war, which began when India, a secular and democratic state violated all international laws and attacked Pakistan. With all ears hearing the famous stories of M.M. Alam with the courage to view from top, as he said: “The climb might be tough, but the view from top is priceless.” Not to forget, the gleam in eyes by hearing the name of Air Marshal Malik Nur Khan. Citizens of Pakistan and the diaspora abroad, all are flabbergasted by imagining the eagle virtue operative moves, high above the land by Flight Lieutenant Imtiaz Ahmed Bhatti and Squadron Leader Sarfraz Ahmad Rafique. September marks the month of praise and appreciation for forces defending the nation. Yet, it is merely 3 months before September that the Armed Forces, despite their contributions to the natives, are criticized aggressively for amassing a large sum of budget. The budget controversy is indeed full of myths which veneer the factual realities behind allocation and the actual use of the allotted budget. This shift of opinion reveals the naivety of our masses and how it is exploited by those benefitting from weak defense. It unleashes how naïve minds tend to make our long-lionized defense and naïve one, mostly through fifth generation warfare.
Before trying to clear the sand in the dewy-eyes of subjects, it is better to have an objective outlook of the budget based on authentic facts from Budget 20-21. The total budget framed for Pakistan, for this fiscal year, amid Covid crisis accounts for Rs. 7295 Billion, out of which Rs. 1289 Billion has been allocated for Defense Affairs and Security. Defense Affairs and Security include Pakistan Army which has been allotted 613 Billion (47.6% of total expenses for Defense Affairs and Security), Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Naval Force and Inter Services Public Relations, receiving 274 Billion (21.25%), 140 Billion (11.3%) and 262 Billion (20.33%), respectively. As evident from the above statistics, the entire Defense Affairs and Security award accounts for 17.67% of total national budget. Furthermore, including the sum assigned for pensions of retired military personnel (369 Billion) and the one set aside for armed forces development program (324 Billion), increase the total percentage to 27.16% from 17.67%. These figures nullify the callow, yet popular stance of Army accumulating lion’s share from budget. In fact, Pakistan Armed Forces are the sixth largest army, but its expenses on per soldier and per capita basis are one of the lowest.Pakistan’s shoulders are already burdened by corruption and deficit in tax collection, it is commendable enough that military commercial undertakings are the largest tax payers.
With the aforementioned circumstantial numeric and the circulating allegories, it is dire need to understand where is this defense share utilized for a developing state like Pakistan whose roots are mildew by economic crisis as a result of corruption in all sectors. All main branches of our Armed Forces are protecting the borders of this piece of Earth, Pakistan, whose borders are mainly troubled, stretching from West to East. Pakistan is edged with Afghanistan in the West, a state whose rule is divided amongst foreign countries, its natives and non-state actors. Afghanistan, a bait for foreign expansionist countries in earlier history is lately been exploited by Talibans, NATO/USA and CIA. Although, peace deal with Talibans was formulated and agreed upon between self-proclaimed Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Talibans) and the United State of America, early this year and are currently negotiating in Doha, mainly focusing on Intra Afghan Talks, yet the shadows of Islamic State of Khurasan, an extension of ISIS’ terror mischiefs are there which have already stripped Haqqani Network since its first appearance in 2014 and proclamation of Wilayat Khurasan. Since then, terror factions based in Pakistan, namely: Jundullah, Bajur Faction and Tehrik e Khilafat have sworn fealty to ISIK. While, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Islam and Jamaat-ul-Islam are its operative allies. This allegiance to ISIK is followed by several terror activities in Pakistan/Afghanistan, claimed by ISIK which is based in Afghanistan. Consequently, Pakistan Armed Forces are constantly protecting Pakistan from such infiltrations, not just militarily but through ISPR as well, as ISIK uses cyber tactics to influence young masses.
Moving down towards the agitated border with Iran towards the west. Pakistan’s relation across this 959 Km is highly dependent on its tilt towards USA and Saudi Arabia as both are antagonistic towards Iran due to religiously influenced ideological actions. With Qassim Soleimani’s death, his predecessor in rank, Esmail Qaani is more focused on Iran’s regional standing, and so, this might infuriate the Sunni militant groups in Baluchistan, their ethnic and theological ties with those living in Sistan and as a consequence, increase Iran’s recruitment of Shiite Pakistanis in Quds Force. Furthermore, cross-border illegal travel and smuggling which aids terrorist and narcotic traffickers are also noteworthy, for both. Kalbushan Jadhav’s entrance in Pakistan via Iran is an unforgettable event. Keeping in mind the mentioned state of affairs, militaries of both states have agreed to work in collaboration in recently agreed Joint Rapid Action Force. Pakistan Army is actively utilizing both mass and material to fence its borders with Iran and Afghanistan to encounter these challenges and specially Iran-based terror activities in Pakistan, mainly due to sectarian divisions and India’s outnumbered presence in Chahbahar. Not to forget the rising economic ambitions of both states considering the strategic ports of Gwadar and Chahbahar. Mentioning the rift in development between Gwadar and its neighbor Chahbahar, Pakistan Naval Force is rendering its services to ensure maritime security against illicit, anti-Pakistan activities in exclusive economic zone of Pakistan. This marine security provides secure ground for CPEC, and Belt and Road Initiative, adding to worth of Pakistan’s ports in Karachi and Gwadar.
Travelling from West, passing by Arabian Sea, Eastern border of Pakistan is joined by its foe, since the dawn saw Pakistan, as a state, India. Sharing an ill at ease border of 3323 km, both have encountered 3 wars as well as a confrontation at Kargil. Pakistan’s defense is mainly India-centric due to their by-birth antagonism. Since the very beginning, India’s plans to devolve Pakistan as a state, doomed miserably. For that reason, India has tried by hook or crook to de-stabilize Pakistan in all walks. To counter such sabotaging attempts by India, strong defense system with deterrence at all fronts is need, since more than 70 years. The repeated escalation in conflict levels, mainly because of India’s RSS shadowed, expansionist ideology which is not only having clashes with Pakistan, but with China also. The recent mounting oppugnant events specially after Pulwama Attack when both were at odds to this extent that India infiltrated in to Pakistan’s airspace and apprehensions about war between two nuclear state was clouding over the region. This was followed by another peak in long-standing Kashmir conflict when India revoked Article 370 and 35A. Constant ceasefire violations across Line of Control by India is a day to day matter, now. India’s soaring extremism compels Pakistan to work through realist perspective of balance of power. The focal component of a state’s power lies in its military, and so to counter India, a country doubles the size than Pakistan, in all three perspectives of land, population and military might. Pakistan needs to maintain the status quo and remain vigilant with her arms to face any threat to sovereignty.
Broaching the subject of sovereignty and Pakistan Armed Forces role in getting grips with external threats, Pakistan Forces have contributed well enough, in sorting internal matters, as well. Not just Pakistan’s armed men securing the borders, but are simultaneously maintaining safe haven for citizens. As an aftermath of 9/11 and following rise in global terrorism under the flag of Islam, Pakistan saw several insurgent groups and terrorist organizations surfacing on its land who had fled from Afghanistan where USA in alliance with Pakistan was busy in their eradication. It is for this reason that military presence was called in Federally Administered Tribal Areas for several years and is still on-going in the post 9/11 times. The majoroperation which is still underway is Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, which is a continuation of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. This military operation involves all three-armed forces and follows the National Action Plan with Broad Spectrum Security. Moreover, it is Pakistan military that takes part in rescue operations during any calamity. Reviewing the recent catastrophes which have struck Pakistan’s face, we see evident role of Pakistan army as it is one of the major stakeholders of NDMA. Not only, has armed forces served in curtailing virus spread, but it has actively participated in recent urban flooding in Karachi and elsewhere.
Conclusively, while knowing the facts from budget and having an eloquent overview of contributions made by armed forces, it is time to revisit the debate of either to have a secured state or to cut amount down from our security and utilize it in economic progress. Well, in my opinion, there should be balance in the two power components of state: latent that is economic and the actual which is military might, but keeping aforementioned position of Pakistan, with troubles at home and abroad there should be a certain level of tilt towards the actual power. How rightly has it been said by Adam Smith, who is a classical economist: “The first duty of a state is to protect its society from injustices and violence of the other society/societies as it moves towards civilization. What good could be achieved from economy if the state fails to protect its sovereignty? But, considering the dire need to come out from this swamp of economic crisis, military budget can be indirectly used to aid economic developments. Such is seen in Pakistan; Pakistan Navy is providing assistance in maritime exclusive economic zone’s security for exploration of natural resources and economic trade through marine ports. Pakistan saw decline in foreign investments during years of terrorism and instability, hence, for economic progress the first pre-requisite is well-maintained security and stabilization, which is being ensured by our Armed Forces, not just in the years of full-scale wars, but at all fronts and at all times.