Despite struggling economy Pakistan spending more on its defence forces


by Farooq Ganderbali
Pakistan’s struggling economy, which is on the brink of collapse has not prevented the country’s leadership from spending more on its defence forces. To put it simply, Pakistan’s debt is soaring, the Current Account Deficit is widening, reserves are dangerously low, and the currency has been devalued four times in just eight months. But despite that about a third of the nation’s income goes to buy new arms and to maintain a huge army. The ‘Naya’ Pakistan of Prime Minister Imran Khan continues with illusions of fighting terror.
Pakistan’s state-run news channel PTV ran “Begging” dateline instead of “Beijing” on screen during the live broadcast of Khan’s speech in China and became a target of trolling by netizens. Last year, Pakistan was added to the Global Financial Action Task Force’s “grey” list of countries to watch for terror financing. This came after US President Donald Trump announced he’d be cutting US aid to Pakistan in the form of military expenditure in January, after accusing it of funding terror groups that attack Afghanistan. If Pakistan is placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s blacklist, the sanctions against it would be more serious, further impacting its ability to borrow in the short-term.
Spurred by the possibility of being black listed by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, (FATF), Pakistan is detaining terrorist leaders and is taking over their offices with a lot of fanfare; it is also freezing bank accounts of terror groups. India dubs this all as a stunt to creating the illusion of fighting terror to fool the Americans and the world alike. But the international audience appear to be impressed with the “promises of “Naya” (new) Pakistan on uprooting terror.
Undeniably an element of urgency is visible in the Pakistani action against Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) of Maulana Masood Azhar. It is a sequel to India’s airstrike at a JeM terror camp at Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on 26 February. And the global condemnation of JeM’s terrorist attack at Pulwama in Kashmir on 14 February.
Well, Pakistan has been claiming that no harm was caused to the JeM camp by the Indian airstrike. This could be Pakistan’s way of inviting India to show more ‘dare’. That does not support the self-proclaimed ‘peaceful’ intentions of the land of the pure, as Pakistan styles itself. In the battle of perception about what happened at Balakot, Pakistan might have succeeded in creating doubts about the Indian airstrike fully achieving its aim of annihilating the JeM terror camp. But India will draw more than a mere consolation from the fact that the IAF airstrike faced no criticism at all from Pakistan’s friends and patrons. Even the ‘iron brother’, China, did not speak against the airstrike. What is more, Beijing has since (in a white paper titled “The Fight against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang”) termed the 28/11 Mumbai mayhem perpetrated by Muridke (Lahore) -based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) of dreaded Hafeez Saeed as one of the most notorious terrorist attacks.