Pak hikes defence budget by 7 percent, allocates funds for CPEC projects

Islamabad [Pakistan], May 26: Pakistan on Friday proposed to increase its defence budget to Rs. 920 billion, a hike of seven percent, during the government's federal budget announcement. Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar presented the fifth budget of incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government with an estimated outlay of Rs 4.75 trillion.

"The defence budget allocation for 2017-18 has been increased to Rs. 920 billion," the Express tribune quoted Dar as saying. Apart from that, Rs180 billion have been allocated for China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) related projects, even as the tensions with India have been increasing over the same.

Pakistan's National Assembly also proposed 31 new projects, including a new international airport, 200-bed hospital, 200MW power generation plant and a desalination plant in Gwadar port.

The Nawaz Sharif-led government has also allocated Rs. 45.6 billion for projects in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), Gilgit-Baltistan and FATA area. India considers PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan a part of its territory. The finance minister said that the salaries of army officers have also been increased by 10 percent in addition to a 'special allowance' of over 10 percent on their income.

"Pensions of federal government employees and army personnel will be increased by 10 percent," Dar said.

Dar claimed that Pakistan would be one of the largest economies by 2020. "Just four years ago, this extraordinary turnaround would have seemed impossible," Dawn quoted Dar as saying.

"International observers are cognisant of Pakistan's successes, and Standard and Poor's, Moody's and Fitch have raised their ratings for the country," Dar claimed.

The proposed hike in defence budget comes in the wake of escalating tensions with India over ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) and the arrest of alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav.

Last year, Islamabad recorded a 5.28 percent GDP growth and the volume of its economy crossed USD 300 billion.

Source: ANI