In a first, Pakistan’s parliament to debate defence budget (Lead)June 17th, 2008 - 9:21 pm ICT by IANS
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, June 17 (IANS) For the first time in Pakistan’s history, its defence budget will be debated in Parliament. The upper house of the Pakistan parliament will take it up for discussion Wednesday. The Pakistani Rs 296 billion ($4.45 billion) defence budget for 2008-09 — which saw a 7.64 percent increase over the last fiscal — was presented in the Senate Tuesday.
“Tabling the defence budget in the Senate is the first step towards supremacy of the parliament,” Leader of the House senator Raza Rabbani told IANS.
He said the government was expecting a thorough debate on the issue that has been brought before parliament for the first time.
Rabbani said the defence budget will also be discussed in the lower house of parliament.
He said the defence budget had been tabled with all details and there was nothing secret in it. “We want complete transparency in each and every area of governance.”
Rabbani said that all three services, army, air force and navy, have been listed separately in the details.
According to the figures presented in the Senate, the defence ministry has sought Rs.128.69 billion for the army, Rs.71 billion for the air force and Rs.29.13 billion for the navy.
The operating expenses of the army stand at Rs.22.33 billion. Employee-related expenses for the air force stand at Rs.10.70 billion, while operational expenses stand at Rs.16 billion. The defence ministry production wing has sought Rs.60 billion.
The issue of passage of the defence budget without any debate and discussion has always remained controversial.
When finance minister Naveed Qamar presented the federal budget documents in parliament June 11, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani had said: “The government has decided to freeze the allocation for defence in the next national budget as a measure of Pakistan’s tangible display to seek peace with neighbours.”
Gillani said the defence budget would be effectively “reduced in the context of inflation and rupee-dollar parity.”
Without naming India, he said he expected a “reciprocal gesture from our neighbour for the sake of peace and prosperity of the region”.
Gillani added that “the defence ministry and the chief of army staff have fully endorsed the revised format of the defence services budget estimates.”
Pakistan’s total federal budget for 2008-09 stands at Rs.2,384 billion, which includes Rs.296 billion for defence, Rs.147 billion for administrative expenditure, Rs.523 billion for repaying loans and its interests and Rs.550 billion for public sector development programmes.
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