LAHORE - All Pakistan Muslim League Chief Pervez Musharraf has said that reduction in size of the armed forces will not be beneficial keeping in view the security threats to the country.

Addressing a meeting of the ex-servicemen through video-link from London on Sunday, he maintained that only 17 percent budget was allocated for the defence. According to him, only a strong defence apparatus could guarantee the peace, criticising those who were talking about reducing the size of the defence services in the name of its exaggerated budgetary allocations.

He dispelled the impression that the armed forces were getting the prime chunk of the national budget. Musharraf claimed that the last national budget size was Rs3,770 billion while only Rs570 billion were allocated for the defence.

He held that the defence budget had not been increased for the last three years. Prominent among those present in the meeting included Lt-Gen (r) Tanvir Hussain Naqvi, Lt-Gen (r) Sajjad Akram, Admiral (r) Karim Ullah and former Finance Minister Dr Salman Shah besides Mushharaf’s close aide Maj-Gen (r) Rashid Qureshi.

Talking to the media on this occasion, former Federal Finance Minister Dr Salman Shah said that energy crisis could be overcome by building new dams. He said the PPP should take build Kalabagh Dam and for a lifetime credit over the project, it could rename the project as Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Dam.

Salman gave statistics of energy generation through various sources and maintained that there was huge disparity in the cost of energy generation through various means like Neelum-Jhelum costs Rs1.70 per unit; Thar Coal Rs10; Solar Wind Rs12-13; Thermal Rs12-20 and Turkish RPPs Rs30-40.

He claimed that Musharraf cabinet had approved construction of five dams including Kalabagh Dam in 2006 but ministers from Sindh conveyed him that they could not go back to their constituencies due to the decision.

He added that they asked Musharraf to put on hold the project till the next polls in the country.

Commenting over the Nato supply issue, he said that Pakistan should handle the issue carefully and make no haste while handling the delicate matter, as the future of Afghanistan is linked with Pakistan. He held that the Americans want Pakistan to take on Haqqani Network and eliminate local Taliban and added, “We lack capability to do it in terms of our economic capacity.”

He censured Pakistan’s allies for asking Islamabad to do more and said that they should extend trade relaxations to their ally for the economic boost.

He said that friends of Pakistan mostly part of the Nato should extend more trade facilities instead of aid to Islamabad.

Talking about the upcoming budget, he said that the budget would be $42 billion including $9 billion for the military. Salman said that if he was given the charge of the office of the finance minister, he would dispose of all liabilities including white elephant institutions and industrial units, besides cutting the defence budget.