Islamabad- In what was a first in the parliamentary history of Pakistan, the Senate Defence Committee organized a detailed briefing for the media on the defence budget and launched the first-ever Media Manual on the defence budget today.
The briefing was given by Air Vice Marshal Arshad Quddus, Additional Secretary Defence, responsible for the budget. The briefing was attended by a larger section of media as well as parliamentarians including Senators Farhatullah Babar, Saeed Ghani, Abdul Haseeb Khan, Sardar Ali Khan and Sughra Imam.
In his remarks at the briefing, Senator Mushahid Hussain said that the Senate Defence Committee was serving as a bridge between the military and the media, so that both were on the same page as far as national security and defence of the country were concerned. He said that Senate Defence Committee believed in openness and transparency and it was in this context that this first-ever medial briefing on the defence budget was organized since the Senate Defence Committee feels that the defence budget is neither “a no-go area” nor a “holy cow,” and the people, press and parliamentarians had the right to know facts in this regard.
Responding to comments regarding the formulation of national security policies, he said that it was necessary for parliament lead with ideas, issues, initiatives and policies, and for this, they must have the competence, capacity, vision and the political will. He said the most important decision regarding defence and national security in the history of Pakistan, namely, going nuclear, was made by civilian leaders, and the nuclear programme, since its inception, was led by a 3-men committee, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, A.G.N. Kazi and Agha Shahi.
Senator Mushahid Hussain said that a number of problems pertaining to harmony between Khaki and Mufti can be removed if there was a full time, dedicated Defence Ministry who would then be the bridge so that he could perform his professional responsibilities better. On the issue of civilian casualties or what is termed as ‘collateral damage,’ Senator Mushahid Hussain said that he raised the issue during his visit to the NATO Headquarters and he was then told that there is a special contingency fund for this, but no government has so far requested for this fund to be utilized for rehabilitation and relief of affected families.
In his comprehensive briefing, which was appreciated by the audience, Air Vice Marshal Quddus briefed the media about various aspects of budget making and the institutions under the Ministry of Defence that were served by this budget. Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the main problem was that the budget was conceived in the context of national security strategy which itself is a product of military rather than the parliament. He added that far effective parliamentary oversight of the defence budget, the parliamentarians must improve its capacity, competence and provide an example of good governance.
Senator Mushahid Hussain praised the contribution of the armed forces and said that the nation including the parliament and armed forces were fully behind their armed forces in their struggle to protect the motherland from internal and external threats and challenges.