Islamabad, May 11: The plan to hike Pakistan’s defence budget to Rs.495 billion would ‘inflame public sentiment’ following the failure of the armed forces to intercept four US helicopters that raided Osama bin Laden’s house deep inside the country, a daily said Wednesday.
An editorial in the Daily Times said that the government plans to give the military an increase of 11.7 percent by allocating Rs.495 billion for the defence budget in 2011-12, up from Rs.443 billion in the outgoing year.
At a time ‘when the professionalism and competence of Pakistan’s armed forces are being questioned following their failure to intercept four US copters that raided the compound where Osama bin Laden was hiding, this hike would further inflame public sentiment’, it said.
Osama was shot dead May 2 by heavily armed US commandos who swooped into Abbottabad on board four stealth helicopters and stormed the Al Qaeda leader’s hideout.
‘Pakistan’s only current threat is terrorism, which the army has failed to tackle so far, despite support from Washington,’ the editorial added.
Noting that there has been a sharp rise in terrorist incidents throughout the country in the past 10 years, the editorial said: ‘The perception is gaining strength that a major part of the national budget is taken away by the military at the cost of millions going without health, education and a decent life, with no real performance to show.’
‘Why has the military failed to initiate an operation in North Waziristan when there are credible reports that the Haqqani network, affiliated with Al Qaeda, is firmly ensconced in that area?,’ it asked.
The editorial also pointed out that defence is the only sector that has seen a ‘consistent beefing up of budgets over the decades while all other sectors, especially development, have been squeezed’.
Criticising the defence budgetary allocation, it said that each year, ‘there is a single line description of military expenditure with no breakdown in the national budget. No one can question the appropriateness of the budget or verify whether the allocated funds were spent for the purpose they were asked for’.
‘It is time parliament asserted itself and asked for the details of the defence budget. If this cannot be done in open house, then it must be tackled in the relevant select committee to promote a culture of parliamentary oversight. This lack of oversight reflects the dominance of the military over civilian governments. It is time this trend is reversed,’ the editorial added.