Uncertainty defines every facet of life and policy in Pakistan, except in one sphere; an annual increase in the Defence Budget. It has been increased to Rs.700.2 billion for the 2014-15 fiscal year, compared with Rs 627.2 billion allocated in the outgoing fiscal year; an increase of Rs 73 billion. It should not be forgotten that while this is the official budget, it receives still more. Military pensions, the Coalition Support Fund, and other miscellaneous allocations out of the civilian budget brings the grand total up to Rs. 1113 billion, which is 28.2 percent of the country’s total budget.

Many quarters of the population resent the fact that the military always gets the lion’s share of the budget. Maybe if the army had been willing to take a pay cut, we could have funded a dam or two; helping the agriculture sector while combating the devastating menace of annual flooding. For a poor country with an ailing economy, we have a disproportionately high defence budget.

Military officials contend that our budget is the lowest in the region and it is necessary for us to secure ourselves. Let’s take the first argument. Our region consists of two economic giants; India and China. While our budget is US$5.7 billion, theirs are 37 billion and 115 billion respectively. Using theirs to justify ours is fallacy, considering their economic strength. Secondly it reveals that we cannot ever win an arms race with them. Even indulging in it will be disastrous; we simply cannot afford comparable warfare capability. Our objective must be to keep our technology updated, and our side of the fence clean. The next argument – security. During the past decade, despite high military spending, our greatest threat has been militancy. Buying long range ballistic missiles, or air superiority fighters like the F-16, does little to combat the lone militant firing away from remote mountains. Our spending must be smart, not simply more. The Senate Defence Committee Chairman lauded greater transparency regarding defence spending. Ours is a volatile country that needs a strong military no doubt, but we must focus on the right kind of strength to win wars, hearts and minds.