Pakistan troop reduction is not a peace overture

If you were to read the headlines in the international press, you can end up believing that Pakistan has reduced 50,000 troops due to the recent thaw in relations with India.

The reality is that the 50,000 men scheduled to lose their jobs are orderlies, batmen, domestic servants and other unarmed numbers who constitute the ‘tail’ of the army. The resulting savings will be used to enhance the army’s ‘teeth’, ie its fighting forces.

This is yet another shrewd move by Musharraf – besides scoring brownie points with the headline press, he would also be able to address concerns by aid donors on their repeated concerns about the size of the army; not to mention the pressure it will exert on India to reciprocate. But this is window dressing – given that the army is now stretched on both the western and eastern borders, reducing active troop levels would have been foolish. And General Musharraf is no fool.

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Bearers for the military: For the Pakistani public though, one category of domestic servants being replaced by another category does little to improve the profile of an institution, which owes a long list of explanations for its past, present and perhaps planned future conduct. It’s time for the Pakistani military to turn a new leaf, as it must to establish a fresh set of parameters for establishing a fresh relationship with Pakistani society.[Farhan Bokhari/The News-Jang]

Soldiers & Rupees: What the international community, and the financial institutions that are underwriting Pakistan’s military spending, should seriously seek is greater transparency in defence budgets, at least to the levels that have existed in India for decades. India should also seek this as part of bilateral confidence building measures.[Indian Express]


Pakistan on Thursday asked India to follow suit and consider reducing its troops to improve the regional situation.

“It was Pakistan’s decision to reduce the army by 50,000 soldiers, but the idea of reducing troops can be discussed with New Delhi if India agrees on a mutual agreement in this regard,” Pakistan Army spokesman Maj Gen Shaukat Sultan told a private TV channel. [Daily Times]

That’s a strange request from Gen Shaukat, as his own boss, Gen Musharraf was quoted as saying confidence-building measures are useless if there’s no resolution of Kashmir.