Pakistan's war on terror could be affected as the financial reserves of the armed forces are depleting fast because of the on-going counter insurgency operations on the border with Afghanistan, the Defence Secretary Syed Athar Ali has said.
Ali, a retired lieutenant general has told parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that if required funds are not provided to the military, it would be forced to 'reprioritise' its options, possibly affecting Pakistan's cooperation in the war on terror.
He told the lawmakers on Thursday that the financial reserves of the armed forces were depleting fast because of ongoing military operations near or along the western border.
The PAC was discussing the accounts of defence services for 2007-08 at a meeting chaired by Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the leader of opposition in the National Assembly or lower house of parliament.
Ali said the armed forces' personnel were "heavily engaged" in anti-militancy operations in Malakand division and South Waziristan tribal region and these operations required an uninterrupted supply of funds.
"During my recent meeting with US Defence Secretary, I raised the issue of delays in release of money under the Coalition Support Fund, telling him that in the absence of necessary support we won't be able to maintain high level of cooperation," Ali said.
Pakistan's expenses on the war on terror are reimbursed by the US from the Coalition Support Fund. The US reimburses Pakistan’s expenditure on food, clothing, transportation, communications and medical care, helicopter operations and repair and maintenance of equipment.
However, payments over the past few years have been delayed after the US introduced a stringent auditing regime following allegations that Pakistan had diverted funds provided for the war on terror.
Ali said "some funds" were released under the CSF after "a lot of bickering". Answering questions from the parliamentary panel, he said the armed forces had demanded Rs 530 billion for the next fiscal year.
However, the government agreed to provide only Rs 488 billion, forcing the military to dig into development funds and reserves maintained for contingencies and emergencies.
Auditor General Tanvir Ali Agha said it was not possible for the government to meet budgetary estimates proposed by every government department. "Here come in good financial practices. You people have to readjust your priorities according to the funding available," he said.
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, a senior leader of the opposition PML-N, contended that the war on terror has been imposed on Pakistan, "turning everything into a mess."