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April 20, 2012
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Development and Defence

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April 20, 2012

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We all know just what our country needs. It needs good governance, development and progress for its people, more concern on the part of the state for their welfare and a greater say for them in their own future. Many also know why this task has proven so difficult. Given the manner in which our budgetary pie is sliced up, it has proven impossible to find enough money to meet the needs of the people, with the largest chunks going to defence, debt servicing and administration. Much of what’s left then falls prey to corruption and mis-governance which have by now become firmly institutionalised in our country. The unexpected comments made by Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at Skardu Airport, after visiting the site of the Gayari tragedy at Siachen, offer a glimmer of hope for the future. General Kayani becomes the first army chief in our history to talk so pragmatically and positively on cutting expenditures on defence and using them instead to uplift the people. For this he deserves praise and admiration. We can only wish there were more people in powerful places willing to think in the same fashion. Perhaps General Kayani’s example will persuade them to do so.
Kayani’s words on defence spending, development and the need for peace with India may open up new possibilities that we had not imagined possible before and we must hope that they will be followed up on by the government. Plans should be put in place to make a reduction in defence possible. We also hope that such plans, if made, will be seen in the same spirit as is reflected in COAS Kayani’s statement and will not meet hostile resistance from the institution he heads. What should then follow are realistic and credible schemes for development. Both these steps demand a rethinking of regional ties and of internal policy. The many issues involved in such a process need to be discussed in depth. General Kayani has said just what we needed to hear. He has also made it clear he favours a

demilitarisation of the frozen reaches of Siachen. This issue, brought up before with India, could be used as the starting point for talks that might help us move towards closer ties with our neighbour to the East, making it easy for us to spend less on defence and more on development.

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