The twenty-first century has transformed the dynamics of security and economics worldwide. Global powers have changed their concentration from traditional security to non-security threats. However, Pakistan has defined its security threats from traditional perspectives since its inception. The national security priorities have not changed over the last seventy-five years.
Pakistan witnessed India as a perpetual enemy and waged wars with India to accomplish its national interests. The country’s spending budget is negligible on social development. On the other hand, India’s defense budget is much more than Pakistan’s total budget. Over the years, the guardians of the state’s territorial and ideological boundaries included Afghanistan on its list of states posing a perpetual threat to the land. Pakistan has always prioritized playing geopolitics while ignoring the increasing level of non-traditional security threats which are for the reasons mentioned.
To begin with, non-traditional security threats can be defined in political and socio-economic terms. Non-traditional security threats comprise a range of human security concerns. They vary from health security, environment security, food security, poverty and economic security, energy security, water security, transnational crimes, migration and movement of people, and security threats posed by non-state actors like terrorists. These are the most imperative security threats mentioned. One can imagine the vulnerability of Pakistan to these not, so new types of security threats learned as non-conventional.
Security threats are not a recent phenomenon
The post-cold war era is considered the beginning of the new era of non-traditional/non-conventional security threats. Conventional borders are meaningless to this invisible type of transnational enemy. As the threat is transnational, so is its response, considering the case of Pakistan. The country lies in the middle of the most minor integrated part of the world where the regional form, like the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), is almost dead. In such a region dealing with transnational threats which require nonmilitary and regional cooperation is hard to swallow.
Likewise, Pakistan lies in the region where almost 40% of the world’s poor people live their lives. World Bank projected that poverty in Pakistan would remain at 39.2 percent in 2021-22. According to WB, 2 million people are living below the poverty line. Considering the ratio, it will be fair to ask what the policy is to eliminate poverty in Pakistan. Indeed, Sehat Card, Rashan card, and LanghrKhana aren’t the answer. The ratio of population ratio is becoming an upsurge; it leads the state to scarcity of resources; it is a common phenomenon that overpopulation is the mother problem.
In the same way, the country is the world’s fifth most populous country. Out of the total population, 29.5% live below the poverty line. However, on the flip side, Pakistani culture encourages women to have large families instead of small ones due to the country’s scarcity of resources. This increasing population is not only a burden on the small number of resources but also endangering the future generation.
Also, looking at water security, according to Pakistan Medical Association, 90% of the population isn’t provided with clean drinking water. Pakistan is facing a severe water crisis. The challenge is not new for the country, but it has been right from when Pakistan came into being. At the end of 1948, India blocked Pakistan’s water, causing a severe wheat crisis in Pakistan. The situation of famine was averted by the financial support of the US and the countries like the UK. Since then, Pakistan hasn’t changed its course to deal with the coming severe water crisis.
We are witnessing vast imprints of extreme ideologies
The overflow of ideologies in Pakistani society is not just affecting the current or future generations but the state’s very existence. We saw attacks on religious minorities and their places of worship. The killing of the Srilankan employee is the continuation of extreme ideology. According to the freedom house, Pakistan’s global freedom score is 37/100, considered a partially free country. The extreme ideologies have defamed Pakistan’s image internationally.
In the same miner, climate change has severely affected Pakistan. The country is ranked among the top 10 most vulnerable countries on the Climate Risk Index. The most recent floods in Pakistan affected over 33 million people. However, the number is increasing with each passing day. President Joe Biden, in his speed at the UNGA 77th session, also spotted the recent floods in Pakistan, claiming that “This is the human cost of climate change, and it is growing, not lessening”. After accessing the situation of flood-hit Pakistan, the UN chief claimed that he has “never seen climate carnage” on such a scale.
Lastly, as for food security, Pakistan will face a severe food crisis if it doesn’t take some proactive measures and timely response. Pakistan produces quality fruits and the country export to the middle east and Europe. Quality mangos and various rice are no more produced in Pakistan. According to Reuters, it is expected that mango production witnessed a decline of 50% this year due to the unavailability of water. The same is the case for rice production. Pakistani rice exports witnessed a 48% decline.
Once surplus in sugar, Pakistan is now importing it. The country’s sugar and sugar confectionery imports were the US $242.88 million in 2021. According to the research conducted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in 2020, estimates that 20%–30% population in Pakistan is already suffering from food insecurity. Economic experts believe that the number can increase in the coming years.
In today’s circumstances, the list of non-conventional security threats is quite frightening for Pakistan. It includes energy security, health security, migration and movement of people, transnational crimes, terrorism, growing population, personal and political security, and overall society’s radical behavior. These non-conventional security threats can be dealt with strict policy implementation.
In a nutshell, Pakistan has not changed its direction from conventional to non-conventional security threats. However, this is high time to witness the change like security and respond accordingly. So, for that reason, Pakistan has to take preventive and proactive measures, timely policy responses, and implementation of existing and new policies.
Policy formulation should be inclusive and make concerned institutes responsible with the element of accountability. It can be responded to regional and multilateral cooperation and coordination among the state. Without a proactive response dealing with non-traditional security issues is nearly impossible. Pakistan needs to make an understanding with countries of South Asia to deal with such security issues by signing Memorandums of Understanding with neighboring countries for apt responses.
Samiullah Safi is an MPhil graduate in International relations from COMSATS University, Islamabad.
Ziyad Alam is pursuing MPhil in International Relations at NUML, Islamabad.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.