Pakistan continually faces a number of security challenges despite developing a formidable nuclear arsenal that serves as an ideal deterrence to aggressive neighbors. The state’s stability has been called into question by the war on terror, religious extremism, foreign-funded proxy warfare, interprovincial conflicts, and questions over its foreign policy. These ingredients are perceived to be challenges to nuclear deterrence, therefore, require different forms of strategies to counter each such challenges the nation faces.
Pakistan is the world’s fifth-most populous country and the world’s first Islamic nuclear power. The country is diverse in terms of nationalities and cultures, yet it also has a collectively enthusiastic nationalistic spirit among all citizens. The country has the potential to become one of the world’s fastest developing and richest nations due to its abundance of untapped natural resources and strategic geographical location.
Where does the problem lie?
However, the country’s progression toward stabilization has been impeded by an emphasis on security in a hostile neighborhoods as well as entanglement in the decades-long war on terror. Despite the fact that Pakistan has developed a robust nuclear weapon, which is ideal for belligerent environments, the country faces serious concerns on social, religious, political and economic fronts. The major concern of religious extremism that was instilled in the country after 9/11 has remained a matter of concern.
This war on terror has engulfed more than 60 thousand military, paramilitary, and civilian lives according to National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) data. Similarly, increased religious intolerance inside Pakistan has been observed. There are reported incidents in which Muslims (blasphemy-related incidents) and minorities (religious intolerance events) have been targeted to crumble the state from within.
Also, there is no denying the fact that the foreign-funded proxy war by some proxy actors has contributed to the instability of the country. The movements based on ethnolinguistic grounds have been reported to be funded from the outside to wreak the country from the inside. Similar instances of academic nature have been disposed of when the DisinfoLab network was exposed, where the arch-rival, India, has reportedly been involved to circulate fake news against Pakistan.
Pakistan’s success in combating terrorism (on extremism grounds) in and around the country is commendable, and the international community applauds it as well. Due to the terrorist-stricken landscape and foreign-funded terrorism, Pakistan has lost thousands of lives. However, much remains to be done in terms of ensuring security, and developing a comprehensive and objective-based reform and restructuring plan is an unavoidable step towards ensuring a country’s stability.
Massive migration on both sides (newly independent states Pakistan and India) of the newly demarcation of borders during division led in terrible mass killings, with millions of people dying on both sides of the line. This incident, together with a number of other circumstances, resulting in a permanent state of hostility between Pakistan and India. The subject of Kashmir exacerbated tensions, and many wars have been fought over it.
Resolutions have been made over Kashmir by the world’s highest forum, the United Nations, ostensibly, India has not been complying with it or made any effort to address the matter which has made bilateral relations even worse. In 2019, India revoked articles 35A and 370, which uphold Kashmiri’s right to remain autonomous or hold any land and property legally. This unsensible behavior by the Indians has and will further aggravate the relations between Pakistan and India.
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Following WWII, there was a global rush to acquire nuclear capabilities in order to secure a country’s security and survival in a world filled with possible nuclear threats. When India developed a nuclear capability, it pushed Pakistan to get one as well. In fact, Pakistan had no choice but to develop a nuclear weapon in order to defend its border and compete with its archrival. Pakistan developed its nuclear capability in May 1998 and, as a responsible state, continues to strengthen and regulate its defense capabilities and framework accordingly.
The safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal have been questioned numerous times, but the truth remains that Pakistan has developed and continues to improve its nuclear weapons in accordance with international standards. Recent inspections by international organizations have found Pakistan’s security arrangements to be satisfactory. Pakistan is also classified as the most secure country among those carrying nuclear materials by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), with a five-point improvement in its total score from last year’s reports. These achievements were made possible by Pakistan’s efforts to reinforce its rules, which resulted in a 15-point improvement in its security and control procedures.
The way forward
Pakistan was also placed top in the world by the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) Index for October 2021. This achievement speaks volumes about the safety standards that Pakistan is implementing and will continue to follow in accordance with the mission enshrined in the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) and other international organizations’ charters.
Furthermore, the ambiguity that led the West and Pakistan’s immediate neighbors to believe the country was still unstable and conflict-ridden has been resolved for a long time. The initiative in several development sectors, such as health, technology, and human security, is commendable. The evidence of this is the National Security Policy, which prioritizes geoeconomics alongside human security as its top priority.
Initially, it was a game of survival for Pakistan, but it is now enhancing the country’s prosperity and advancement. As long as the two countries (Pakistan and India) live with the longstanding Kashmir issue unresolved, the potential risk of more crises might continue to occur between the South Asian nuclear rivals. The occurrence of an inadvertent missile violating Pakistani airspace, as well as border clashes, may further exacerbate the conflict between Pakistan and India.
Pakistan, as a country, has to take more initiatives in several areas of security, stability, and sustainability to a greater level. Massive hard work in developing policies, as well as implementing policies, would be required to pursue the dreams that our forefathers had dreamt of. Similarly, Pakistan’s foreign policy which entails the core principles of brotherhood, peace propagation and prosperity with neighbors must carry on with zest, only then Pakistan may rise to the level we all expect this country to be.
The writer is working as Research Officer at Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN). He completed his MPhil in Peace and Conflict Studies from National Defence University, Islamabad. The views expressed by the writers do not necessarily represent Global Village Space’s editorial policy.