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ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Friday proposed a roughly 16 per cent increase in the defence budget as Pakistan continues to face internal and external security challenges, reported Pakistani news portal The Express Tribune.

The budget document shows that defence outlay for 2023-24 would be Rs1,804 billion compared to the revised defence spending of Rs 1,591 billion earmarked for the outgoing fiscal year.

Observers believe 15.7 per cent increase is justified given a record inflation and devaluation of rupee against the dollar in the last year.

A close look at the budget details reveal that the Rs 1,804 billion figure does not include Rs563 billion allocated for pensions of retired military personnel and Rs 280 billion for the armed forces development programme and other essential expenditures and Rs 58 billion for UN peacekeeping missions.

According to the budget document 2023-24, out of Rs1,804 billion, Rs 705 billion have been allocated for employees related expenses, Rs 442 billion for operating expenses, Rs 461 billion for local purchases and import of arms and ammunition and Rs195 billion for civil works.

Interestingly, all three services—the army, navy and air force—were given an equal increase in the budget, although the army takes the major share given its size and the role.

Pakistan’s defence spending is now 1.7 per cent of its GDP, showing a decline compared to last year. The defence spending in 2022-23 was around 2 per cent of the country’s GDP, the size of which has grown due to the rebasing of the economy.

On an average Pakistan spends $13,400 per soldier, India $42,000, Saudi Arabia $371,000, Iran $23,000 while the United States allocates $392,000 per soldier annually. The difference, however, between Pakistan and other countries is that the size of their economies is far bigger than Pakistan.

Defence spending has always been the subject of discussions with some seeking greater transparency and open debate about the military’s budget.

In recent years, the government provides more details about the defence budget. However, there has never been open debate within the parliament on the subject. Observers believe that the increase in the defence budget is justified given the impending external and internal security challenges.

Despite the US troops withdrawal from neighbouring Afghanistan, Pakistan still deploys thousands of troops along the western border as well as in the erstwhile tribal areas to deal with the threat of terrorism.

Similarly, the tensions between Pakistan and India still persist, although restoration of ceasefire has brought some respite.

(With Inputs From Pakistani Media)