The Defence Ministry has asked for an 18.6 percent increase in its budget for 2011-12, from Rs 442 billion to Rs 524 billion. This request is coming at a time when the armed services are under unprecedented fire for not playing their due role in stopping the American intrusion that was the basis of the killing of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad last Monday. The final allocation has yet to be decided, but though the armed services (particularly the Army and the Air Force) are under fire, the Army not just because it has an Air Defence Command, but also because it always heads the ISI and has integrated within it the MI, the Air Force because it also has an Air Defence Command and partially mans the ISI. The ISI also gets its budget from the defence allocation, and has come under international criticism for allowing bin Laden to live in Pakistan for what appears to be several years. This is precisely the goal of the enemies of Pakistan, that there should be reluctance in allowing the defence services to obtain the funding they need. In fact, whatever failures have occurred are probably the result of insufficient funding. Also, this is not the time to allow any weakening of the national defence. To engage in any penalising of the conventional forces for such mistakes is manifestly unfair, and is just plain senseless at this time. The budget increases include an increase for salaries, which presumably means that more personnel are to be inducted. Under the circumstances, the armed services must be allowed what increases are deemed necessary to carry out a successful defence of the motherland, which is why they exist. At the same time, while it is the responsibility of the government to make sure they can carry out this task, it is also responsible to make sure that the money is spent wisely. Under the guise of defence, there must be no money squirrelled away for extravagance, and the armed services must keep in mind not just the fact that they belong to a poor country, but also that these are particularly tight times economically, and thus all are struggling. It would also help if the government was to ensure financial discipline, and refuse to sanction overspending, or even reallocation of funds, through supplementary grants. That means of spending more than actually allocated must be particularly observed in the case of military spending, where it seems that supplementary budgets are overcoming regular ones. The proverb may tell us to hope for the best, but it also tells us to keep our powder dry, and that we must do.