Today, 08 September, is Pakistan Navy Day. After decades of being in service, why is Pakistan Navy, today finding itself in a fix?
Pakistan Navy has acquired two and is getting two more frigate type warships from China. They are also acquiring smaller war ships called corvettes (not the car) from Türkiye, two offshore patrol vessels from Netherlands and eight submarines from China. It is a Navy that has done good planning to ensure enough ships and submarines are available to take on a particularly hostile and acrimonious neighbour.
There is a slight modification that is required in the last statement above. The neighbour has, as per open-source information, never been the aggressor but only responded in kind when attacked. Also, the Navy that is spending billions of dollars on buying new ships and submarines is from a nation whose Army Chief and the Prime Minister are running, from country to country, looking for financial handouts. The fact that an Army Chief is involved in raising funds in a supposedly democratic country is a story for another day. This is the hard reality of Pakistan Navy and Pakistan!
The Pakistan Navy has created a façade of acrimony with India and her Navy to justify its existence. Right from inception, the Pakistan Navy has tried to and succeeded on most occasions to dream, manage and live beyond the means of its country.
To illustrate, each frigate that Pakistan is buying from its closest ally, China, costs close to USD 320 million. Four ships cost about USD 1.3 Billion. Each Hangor Class submarine costs approximately USD 500 million, eight of them costing a whopping USD 5 Bn. The cost of each corvette from Turkey is approximately USD 250 million, two of them costing USD 500 million. The total cost of these ‘vanity buys’ to maintain the façade is about seven to eight billion US Dollars. This in a country with dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
The Foreign Exchange Reserves of Pakistan for the years 1998 to 2022 have averaged USD 16-17 Billion. Foreign Exchange Reserves are crucial for any country as the government can use them to support their nation’s currency and as a corollary the economy. So imagine a country facing financial hardships has a Navy that is shopping for ships and submarines in countries as diverse as China to Netherlands with close to 10% of its total foreign exchange reserves annually. Buying ships means delegations that visit regularly to undertake inspections, using the same depleting foreign exchange reserves!
However, whoever knows the Pakistan Navy would hardly be surprised. This is an organisation that has been pulled up by a court of law for undertaking real estate ventures. In fact, the court, the Islamabad High Court in this case, came down rather heavily on the Pakistan Navy for abusing its powers to usurp and illegally occupying public lands. Which professional Navy in the world would run behind profits and loss and balancing credits/ debits/ liabilities?
This is born out of a skewed sense of entitlement, over the normal Pakistan citizen, sowed and harvested by General Ayub who commenced the tradition of awarding land to service officers, many of whom disposed of the same for tidy sums to well-heeled civilians. This is the reality of the Pakistan Navy, a Navy detached from reality.
It is, therefore, rather surprising that common Pakistanis are still being patient with this blatant abuse of power/ sense of entitlement by Pakistan Navy. It is only a matter of time before their patience is exhausted and they force the Navy to get back to reality.
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