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The good, the not so good and the bad of National security policy of Pakistan

The founding father of Pakistan had laid the foundation of the citizen-centric approach as the raison d'être for Pakistan. The Constitution of Pakistan also provides for the basic rights of the citizens. Then what is new in the recently launched National Security Policy which was not there earlier and why it took more than 70 years for the country to realize that its prime focus should be its citizens?

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January seems to be a jinxed month for Pakistan. The year 2022 started with the Murree tragedy where more than 22 people froze to death inside their vehicles barely a few kilometers away from the Federal Capital, Islamabad. A few days later, National Security Policy 2022 was launched with a citizen-centric approach to national security prioritizing national cohesion and the prosperity of people, while guaranteeing fundamental rights and social justice without discrimination. Ideally, the national purpose of a state or Government should be the security of its citizens from want, hunger and disease with the policy objectives of governance, better service delivery and equality of opportunity.

The Citizen-centric approach also means that the life of Pakistani matters and incidents like Murree would not be repeated. It also presupposes accountability of the state before the masses. Outlining the purpose of the creation of Pakistan, the Quaid-i-Azam in a speech to the officers of the Defence Services on October 11, 1947, said that the establishment of Pakistan was only a “means to an and not an end in itself”. The demand for a separate country was for the poor and needy people who could live an honorable life, free from exploitation. In his presidential address delivered to the annual session of the All India Muslim League, in Delhi on April 24, 1943, he said: “There are millions and millions of our people who hardly get one meal a day. Is this civilization? Is this the aim of Pakistan? Do you visualize that millions have been exploited and cannot get one meal a day? If this is the idea of Pakistan, I would not have it.”

The founding father of Pakistan had laid the foundation of the citizen-centric approach as the raison d’être for Pakistan. The Constitution of Pakistan also provides for the basic rights of the citizens. Then what is new in the recently launched National Security Policy which was not there earlier and why it took more than 70 years for the country to realise that its prime focus should be its citizens.

Read more: Another Cold War at the Gates: A Strategic Calculus for National Security of Pakistan

Balancing the priorities in terms of resource and time allocation

The good: 

The fact that we now have a document that can be further debated and improved upon being organic in character is comforting. The vision and objectives are laudable but much will depend on how the priorities will be maintained in the face of squeezing budgetary space. One may ask, if the “citizen” is the sun around which the whole universe of National Security revolves, then the First Chapter of the NSP should have started with Human Security and development. Apparently, a hierarchy is being maintained within the objectives of NSP with some being declared as vital security interests; a prudent approach would have been the adoption of pillars approach to National Security where equal weightage and importance had to be accorded to all the focus areas. The inextricable link between economic security, human security and defense could only be maintained if the same importance was attached to each in terms of resource and time allocation.

The National Security Policy appears to be born out of the realization of the weak economy, dependence on IMF and other bailout packages and consistent current account deficits, bludgeoning domestic and foreign debt, overstretching of the military machinery and ambitions, poor socio-economic indicators and general sense of alienation among masses who are at the receiving end of poverty, marginalization, absence of rule of law and poor security situation.

The National Security Policy is supposed to be anchored in realism about the constraints that the country is faced with. Such realism provides guidance to the policymakers to steer through tough times ahead. Pakistan appears to be late in its quest to enter the geo-economic world in the real sense of the term. Shift from geopolitics to geoeconomics in the statecraft means that there will be the focus on strengthening the economic foundations for greater power projection capabilities or the use of specific economic instruments to produce favorable geopolitical results. Pakistan’s foreign policy has been heavily focused on geopolitical gains through military and security cooperation with little attention to securing its core economic and development interests.

Resultantly, the geopolitical pursuits didn’t translate into beneficial economic or trade relations and hence little or no economic weight to back up its geopolitical ambitions. The economy suffered heavily due to prolonged engagement of the country in the Cold War, Afghan war and the War on Terror. The security expenditure took precedence over human development and the country slid to the bottom of the list of countries on the HDI performance including Millennium Development Goals.

With the announcement of NSP, apparently, there is a desire to rectify the imbalance with putting Human and Economic Security on the agenda but will this translate into more allocations for education, health, population management or investment in infrastructure and industrial development? The claims are being made to increase the size of the pie but that would require strategic shifts in the way the country trades, attracts investment and develops economic interests in the region through connectivity, cooperation and collaboration. After all, geo-economics also means following the dictates of geography and trading more within the region as per the gravity model of trade and economic integration. Does the question also arise if Pakistan is ready to allow East-West, North-South connectivity for trade, transit and energy, serving as a corridor for the entire region including Russia, Central Asia, China and India?

The not so good and the bad of NSP

Being a long-term ally of the United States, Pakistan’s strategic thinking in the area of security is heavily influenced by the former. External forces have always added to the region’s instability. Pakistan’s preoccupation with American wars seriously undermined its ability to view economic or human development as part of its geo-political strengths or adding to the weight of the country to withstand political pressures or economic sanctions. Its long-term dependence on IFI to bail it out of economic hardships didn’t leave much room for independent policy making either.

Now when the National Security Policy of Pakistan talks of geo-economic shift, one wonders if there is correct understanding of the term at the relevant quarters. Edward Luttwak, the famous American historian, researcher of modern geo-economy, terms it as “Politics based on economic competition”. To further clarify the term, one refers to “War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft” by Robert Blackwill and Jennifer Harris. The authors have explored leading geoeconomic instruments such as trade and investment policies, financial and economic sanctions, financial and monetary policy, energy and commodities, aid and cyber as instruments of foreign policy.

Read more: National Security Policy of Pakistan is oxymoronic – Gen. Tariq Khan

They called on the Government of the United States to strategically integrate economic and financial instruments into its foreign policy or risk losing ground as a world power. They also urged the United States to give geo-economic undertakings equal weightage and attention as given to the security cooperation with allies and partners. United States military engagements kept the country busy with wars while China strengthened its geo-economic clout through One Belt, One Road and projection of soft power through its trade and investment projects across Asia, Africa and Europe.

In November 2018, Vice-President, Mike Pence launched an ambitious “Indo Pacific Vision” with new loans, credit mechanisms to encourage “private investment in regional infrastructure assets. The Trans-Pacific Partnership and enhanced cooperation with India are an effort to increase US geo-economic clout in Asia. The placement of India within the geopolitical and geo-economic interests of the United States is very clear through multiple statements and policy documents issued by the Biden’s Administration. Pakistan is no longer relevant to the United States’ geo-economic and geopolitical designs.

The indecisiveness that surrounds CPEC within Pakistan has further aggravated its economic woes. The country remains debt-ridden with weak economic indicators. To present a geo-economic shift in the NSP at this stage is more defensive in nature, requiring urgent measures to strengthen the country from within in terms of economic and human development while at the same time diversifying its trade and economic relations. It is not for the country to decide whether it will join any camp or not, the stage is already set for the great geo-economic game and the sooner Pakistan realizes that, the better.

After successes against militancy and terrorism, Pakistan is again faced with rising incidents of terrorism and extremism since the withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan. The Counter-Terrorism operations vacuum in Afghanistan created by the untimely US exit means strengthening of IS-K and TTP in the region and more attacks on Pakistani soil. The sub nationalist militant organizations have recently exhibited their ability to strike at the target of their choice, exacerbating challenges faced by the law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Unfortunately, the NSP does not accord due to importance to the section on Internal Security by leaving the two major policy documents out- the National Internal Security Policy 2018-23 and National Action Plan. The NISP 2018-23 had for the first time given the concept of citizen-centric approach to security through the 6 R (Reorient, Reimagine, Reconcile, Redistribute, Recognize and Regional) approach. NSP also does not include CPEC security as a priority and fails to address protection of the critical road, air, maritime and economic infrastructure.

The Internal security also fails to address the discriminatory laws and their abuse by certain elements who hold the state hostage. Further, there is no road map to address extremist and proscribed organisations that rebrand themselves with new names/identities to be part of the electoral process. The National Action Plan contained important initiatives that are still valid and must be revived for establishing writ of the state.

Within the Internal Security, a thematic area of Gender Security is included with loaded jargon and the absence of meaningful actions. The reference may be amended in the light of the international emphasis on women, peace and security. In fact, women and youth should be cross-cutting themes across the National Security Policy objectives and actions. Affirmative actions need to be taken for women and girls since they are disproportionately affected by poor economic conditions, poverty, conflict, migration, climate change, water and food shortages, disasters etc.

Read more: Pakistan in 2022, National Security Challenges

The economic security section of NSP is devoid of red lines with respect to monetary and fiscal policies. It doesn’t stipulate benchmarks and indicators below which national security would be compromised. It doesn’t address protecting the drivers of economic growth and reducing vulnerabilities and economic shocks which may affect growth. The policy neither talks about low inflation nor interest rates that provide economic stimulus. Prevention of devaluation of Rupee through a mix of monetary and well- coordinated fiscal policy is missing and so is the management of current account deficit from the economic security section. Partial explanation for absence of reference to such critical policy areas may be lack of consultation with the leading economists and practitioners in the country.

The implementation of NSP- A big question mark!

Coming to the implementation framework envisaged for the NSP, one is reminded of the orphan status of the National Action Plan which is completely out of discourse as a dead document. The problem with NAP remained that it was a one-liner guideline with no detailed implementation plan and hence confusion surrounding the subject. The NSP is not accompanied by any strategy or action plan. The “how” part is completely missing and left to the sweet will of line Ministries and Departments. There is neither resource allocation nor budgeting of the cost of this paradigm shift. The “shall” and “will” intensive design of the NSP without assigning any responsibility to lead agencies, will lose itself in the wilderness of the secretariats. The NSP does not indicate as to which department or Ministry will be responsible for the implementation of any particular agenda of NSP, hence, confusion would ensue if implementation status is demanded by NSD.

Interestingly, the absence of provinces from the NSP finalization would mean that NSP will remain confined to the Federal Government and ICT. The provincial engagement and buy-in for the NSP is absolutely necessary as health, education, population welfare, water, energy, culture are provincial subjects. The NSP is envisioned for a period of five years and it provides for period review under the guidance of the National Security Committee (NSC) which in coordination with the office of National Security Adviser and the National Security Division will review and recommend updates to the policy on a yearly basis. Interestingly, the process for review as indicated will always keep the National Security Policy out of the political domain or from discussion at political forums and the parliament.

Such an approach that denies the role for the political parties to contribute towards the National Security Priorities will always keep the subject controversial and lack commitment once there is a change in Government. The NSD is assigned the role of monitoring the implementation of the NSP while emphasizing that NSD will ensure existing structures for coordination are used optimally. Mindful of the capacity constraints faced by the National Security Division which is severely understaffed, it is hard to imagine NSD acting as a Supra Ministry and determining resource allocation especially when much of the implementation would be at the provincial level. Ideally, the task should be resting with the Planning commission duly supported by the Inter-Provincial Coordination Ministry.

The NSP is silent on the plethora of vision and policy documents in place and particularly makes no mention of the NFC award. If NSP is the blueprint for the economy of Pakistan, then the fiscal and monetary policy sections badly need improvement. There is also need for clarification if further sector-specific policies are required that would fulfill the objectives given in the NSP without which it will have no relevance or possibility of continuity. The paradigm shift that the policy is envisaging needs the consensus of political parties so that the lofty goals and objectives continue regardless of the change in government.

In the absence of the Charter of Economy to be agreed by all the political parties, NSP could have served as a uniting policy if the political parties were consulted during the NSP formulation phase. The opportunity still exists to shun the political differences and get together for Pakistan. Lastly, it is welcome to note that the NSP will contribute to policy evolution by generating intellectual debate on the notion of comprehensive national security but to expect an open political discourse without a consultative process earlier would weaken the cause to put human and economic security at the center of the debate.

Read more: How Russia can play an important role in implementing Pakistan’s National Security Policy?

The absence of political consensus and discussion on the NSP at the right forum such as parliament would deprive it of the legitimacy that could have made its survival beyond the current government possible. Hope that the sense would prevail and the Government would include all the political parties and stakeholders in the process and develop a unified vision for the progress and prosperity of Pakistan.

Summary

The founding father of Pakistan had laid the foundation of the citizen centric approach as the raison d’être for Pakistan. The Constitution of Pakistan also provides for the basic rights of the citizens. Then what is new in the recently launched National Security Policy which was not there earlier and why it took more than 70 years for the country to realise that its prime focus should be its citizens. The paradigm shift that the policy is envisaging needs the consensus of political parties so that the lofty goals and objectives continue regardless of the change in government. In the absence of the Charter of Economy to be agreed by all the political parties, NSP could have served as a uniting policy if the political parties were consulted during the NSP formulation phase. The opportunity still exists to shun the political differences and get together for Pakistan.

 

Written by: Ihsan Ghani and Humaira Zia

Ihsan Ghani is the Former Director General, Intelligence Bureau and National Coordinator of NACTA and Humaira Zia Mufti is the Former Joint Secretary, Interior and Director General of NACTA. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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