The coronavirus, which has affected almost the entire mankind, is so far the worst pandemic the world has seen. To deal with such a catastrophic pandemic, it surely demands a collective and coordinated action by the world community. There is a genuine concern that if the virus is not controlled as soon as possible it could lead to the collapse of the global economy besides leaving indelible scars on the lives of the people across the world. The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic that has wreaked havoc all over the world could be even worse than that of the Great Depression. When the developed countries with state-of-the-art health facilities are finding it difficult to arrest the spread of the virus, it really is more worrying for the less developed countries.
Pak economy in shambles
Pakistan will inevitably be impacted by both the global and domestic developments arising from the spread of the virus. The economy was recovering earlier slowly under the umbrella of an IMF programme but the process of growth could be hampered seriously leading to a massive rise in unemployment, poverty, and hunger.
The World Bank in its latest South Asian Economic Focus report has projected that Pakistan’s economy will experience negative GDP growth of 1.3% in 2019-20, followed by only 1% growth in 2020-21. This implies that the GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2019-20 will be a big negative 10%. This is highly likely given the quantum decline expected in exports, private investment and consumption spending by households. According to the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Pakistan has suffered an economic loss of about Rs 11,000 crore in the month of April only due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Pakistan’s fiscal deficit will be significantly worse than projected this fiscal year, with the fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic pushing millions into unemployment and poverty.
No doubt these developments will increase the danger of social unrest as unemployment will peak. Not only do the medical and health facilities need rapid improvements but also simultaneously relief activities and measures for stabilizing the situation should be the need of the hour. In such times, the Pakistan army has a great responsibility in the developing situation particularly with regard to helping the government maintain law and order, and also urging people to follow the precautionary instructions issued by the government. But instead of supporting the national effort to fight against COVID-19, some ravenous elements are trying to capitalize the issue for their narrow ends.
Pak Military demands hike in salary
When countries across the world are battling against the novel coronavirus, Pakistan Army has sought a package of Rs 6,367 crore from the government to increase the salary of Army personnel by 20 per cent. The hike in salary has been demanded in the wake of Pakistani currency’s decline and rising inflation. This is their contribution to the crumbling society-20% increase in the salaries of the personnel of the army, navy and air force amid cost-cutting and austerity measures by the government.
The Pakistan Army has reportedly stated that the salary of soldiers should be hiked as they are finding it difficult to cope with the situation amid price rise. The Army reminded the government of its earlier promise to increase the salaries of officers up to Brigadier rank by 5 per cent and of soldiers by 10 per cent.
The all-powerful Pakistan Army’s demand has come at a time when people of Pakistan are passing through the worst phase but the men in uniform are least concerned with other issues. They have cited that the soldiers are unable to run their house in the current salary, but the truth is that the Army has enough funds to drain money to fire bullets on the Indian border, besides running other businesses in the country.
Pak Army-the money making machine
In the year 2016, a report said that the Army invested more than $100 billion in Pakistan’s private sector business. Its Commercial Wing, Shaheen Foundation, has residential properties worth over $20 billion or Rs 1.5 lakh crore.
The Pakistan Army reportedly runs companies in different sectors including banking, food, retail, superstores, cement, real estate, housing, construction, and private security service to insurance firms. Now, it is toying with the idea to enter into oil business as well. What use are these companies when it cannot help alleviate poverty and unemployment from your own masses?
The irony is that Pakistan has 33,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 700 people have already lost their lives. Prime Minister Imran Khan has also stated that Pakistan’s economy is not in a condition to withstand the current economic pressure due to the COVID-19 lockdown. And yet the military top brass has thought this to be the one stop solution to all of Pakistan’s problems- filling up their own pockets with a pay hike while the rest of the country suffers.
It is hurtful to see that the protectors of the land become the attackers of the people, making the economy hollow from within. The Pakistan Army’s business is not affected by the nation’s defence budget, still, it is crying for the lack of funds. It was very evident from the beginning that all the business ventures of Pakistan Army are not at all useful to the Awam of the country. In fact, thanks to this Coronavirus situation, it is now blatantly clear that the Army never really cared for its people and will be more than willing to trample on their dead bodies if the need be, as they have made clear by demanding for a pay hike amidst such testing times.
19 May 20/Tuesday Written By: Saima Ibrahim