What is the reality of Pakistan’s defense budget?

There are many myths that surround the defense budget. This is the reality

Pakistan’s defense budget has long been a subject of significant scrutiny and speculation. Amid widespread misconceptions and debates, it is crucial to separate fact from fiction regarding the allocation and impact of defense spending. Contrary to the popular belief that 70-80% of the national budget is consumed by military expenditure, the reality is far different. 

As we delve into the details, it becomes clear that Pakistan’s defense spending is both modest and strategically managed. For the fiscal year 2023-24, the defense budget was initially set at 12.47% of the total Rs 14.46 trillion budget. For the fiscal year 2024-25, the defense budget constitutes 11.23% of the total budget. With the overall budget set at Rs 18.877 trillion, the allocation for defense stands at Rs 2,122 billion, with a share of 87.77% earmarked for non-military expenditures. 

To put this in perspective, India’s defense budget for the same period is an overwhelming $75 billion, which is almost 10 times higher than Pakistan’s defense budget of $7.59 billion.

Due to the perception of an ever-increasing defense budget, data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows a steady decline in Pakistan’s defense spending since the 1990s. For fiscal year 2024-25, defense allocation is just 1.7% of GDP, reflecting a disciplined approach to military expenditure. This is set against a backdrop of global military spending reaching $2,443 billion in 2023, marking a 6.8% increase from 2022, the steepest rise since 2009. Leading this surge are the United States, China, and Russia, with India being the fourth largest military spender globally at $83.6 billion. 

According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2023-24, defense spending as a percentage of GDP has decreased since 2020. It shows that defense spending was 2.6 percent of GDP in 2020, but decreased to 2.4 percent in 2021, 2.1 percent in 2022, 1.7 percent in 2023, and has been kept consistent at 1.7 percent in 2024. For 2025, defense spending has been retained at 1.7 percent of GDP, indicating no change in the share allocated to the military.

It is important to mention here that the defense budget is not exclusively spent on the Pakistan Army. It is distributed among the three branches of the armed forces. For the fiscal year 2024-25, the budget distribution is as follows: 47.50% for the Pakistan Army, 21.30% for the Pakistan Air Force, 10.80% for the Pakistan Navy, and 20.30% for inter-services organizations. Notably, this allocation has remained fairly consistent since 2019. 

Furthermore, the total defense budget for 2024-25 stands at PKR 2,122 billion, with allocations as follows: PKR 815 billion for employee-related expenses, PKR 513 billion for operating expenses, PKR 548 billion for procurement of arms and ammunition (both domestic and imports), and PKR 245 billion for civil works.

Furthermore, Pakistan’s per-soldier expenditure averages USD 13,400. In comparison, India’s per-soldier expenditure is USD 42,000, Saudi Arabia’s is USD 371,000, Iran’s is USD 23,000, and the United States is USD 392,000. It is important to consider that these countries have significantly larger economies than Pakistan. 

It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan’s rival, India, spent $75 billion on its defense. Likewise, Saudi Arabia spends $55 billion, China $293 billion, and Iran $24 billion. In comparison, Pakistan spends only $7.59 billion. Additionally, Pakistan’s defense expenditure is 22 percent less than the global average. Over the last six years, Pakistan’s defense budget has decreased from $10.2 billion to $6.3 billion in dollar terms, while India’s has increased by 35 percent over the same period. 

Despite the decline in the defense budget, the combat capability of Pakistan’s military has not been affected. According to the Global Firepower Index, Pakistan’s military ranks among the top 10 of the world’s most powerful armies, even though it ranks 23rd in defense expenditure. The substantial reduction in Pakistan’s defense budget is alarming but despite this, Pakistan’s armed forces are demonstrating their full potential with limited resources. All propaganda and speculations about a huge defense budget are baseless. The Pakistan Army is tackling all internal and external threats. Undoubtedly, our armed forces are providing the best and most professional defense services to the country at nominal expenses.

The defense budget of Pakistan is a complex subject with numerous myths and realities. While the budget allocation may seem substantial, it is balanced across various branches and necessities, ensuring the military’s effectiveness without overwhelming the national budget. It is well known that the country’s defense budget is dependent on the country’s geo-strategic environment. Pakistan’s current security environment faces challenges on the western and eastern fronts, as well as domestic terrorism. Given the security environment, the defense budget allocated for 2024-25 appears to be appropriate and consistent. 

The Pakistan Armed Forces exemplify the optimum utilization of taxpayers’ money, consistently delivering exceptional results within the confines of allocated resources. Despite operating within relatively modest budgets, they have demonstrated remarkable efficiency and effectiveness in fulfilling their defense and security responsibilities. This prudent management of funds ensures that every rupee is maximized, showcasing their commitment to excellence and national security. The armed forces’ ability to achieve substantial outcomes with limited financial resources stands as a testament to their strategic planning, resourcefulness, and unwavering dedication to serving the nation.

Maria Mansab
Maria Mansab
The writer is a scholar of international affairs

6 COMMENTS

  1. Have you included retired personnell pensions?
    And interest on defence procurement foteign loans?
    And unaccounted for military agencies funds?

  2. Who better to dissect the intricacies of defense budgets than someone with a deep expertise in gender studies and feminist foreign policy? It’s like asking a Chef to critique nuclear reactor designs.

  3. For a change let’s stop comparing ourselves to other countries. Analyse the budget allocations to the Armed forces including those expenses hidden away under civilian expenses.

  4. Profit usually explains way more than just the documented & media projected realities. While the metrics quoted by the writer in this opinion article seems quite realistic, there’s a much deep & undocumented side of realities which needs to be shown to the masses. The writer should’ve mentioned the other ways Army uses to mint money. Army’s budgets don’t include the pensions given to retired soldiers/sepoys. They take these pensions from non-military allocated budget, which further dents the money to be spent on civilian health & Infrastructure. They also grasp huge amounts of Govt. land in the name of welfare of soldiers. Army does thousands of businesses to upheld their luxurious lifestyles. Their housing societies, landgrabs from farmers, occupation of almost all pre partition Mahels, subsidies granted on automobile purchases are also not mentioned. While this is a opinionated article, Profit should curate one more covering all the documented/undocumented sides of Army’s revenue, also covering all perks and subsidies given to them on state’s exchequer.

  5. It is quite comprehensive description of our Defense budget. We have not heard a single sentence on our defense expenditure during budget debate in National Assembly or Senate.

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