Pakistan's Army Chief of Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, walks as he arrives to attend the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad, Pakistan March 23, 2019. Image Credit: Reuters

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Army Chief has said that the voluntary cut in defence budget offered by the military to ease financial woes will not influence their response to any security threat.

Talking about the defence cutbacks in upcoming budget, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa said on Wednesday that “there shall be no impact on our response potential to all types of threat and quality of life of the soldiers.” He also assured the troops that the ‘no pay raise’ decision applied only for officers and not for soldiers, adding that the armed forces would manage the shortfall during the financial year by “tightening our belt”.

He made these remarks on the occasion of Eid as he offered prayers with the troops on the front line. Army’s decision to forego the routine increase in annual defence budget, is not a favour to the nation as “we are one through thick and thin” he added.

Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced military’s decision to slash the defence budget for the next fiscal year 2019-2020 despite “multiple security challenges in line with the government’s austerity measures. He vowed to spend that saved money to fund the development of the merged tribal areas and Balochistan.

Imra, Khan’s adviser on finance and economic affairs Dr Hafeez Shaikh had said that Pakistan’s upcoming budget would be based on austerity. “We are all standing together in it whether civilians or our military,” he said.

Analysts, officials and public have welcomed the army’s decision and termed it a positive gesture. Senior analyst Lt General (Retired) Talat Masood while appreciating Pakistan Army’s voluntary cuts in their defence budget said every department has to play its due role to help the country out of the financial crisis.

Minister for Defence Production Zubaida Jalal remarked that the army’s move would “set an exemplary precedent for development of Balochistan and tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Responding to the criticism to the cutback that comes amid continued tensions with India since February 2019 and escalating situation in Middle East between Iran and United States, army said that the cuts “will not be at the cost of defence and security.” Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Gafour said on Twitter: “We have the capability and capacity to respond. Remember, it’s not budgeting, it’s (the) resolve of force and the nation firmly standing behind its forces.”