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The orphan and stillborn National Security Policy of Pakistan 2022-2026

Pakistan appears to be oblivious to the fast-changing world, happy to be in a perpetual state of instability and confusion. The crisis faced by Pakistan requires statesmanship which has not been shown by any of the major stakeholders, who appear to be on a suicide mission of self-destruction. Neither the government or the opposition, military and civil bureaucracy nor the highest judicial forum can absolve itself of the mess Pakistan finds itself in.

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The world is undergoing tremendous shifts where Ukraine-Russia war has shown that use of force is still the predominant language in international relations in settling difficult questions around sovereignty and choices to be made. As US Grand Security Strategy readjusts its layered design to accommodate or respond to an international system that it painstakingly developed to maintain its stature as the sole superpower and architect of international order, Europe scrambles to deal with the military crisis next door.

While the world is preparing to deal with serious food and energy shortages, Pakistan is engulfed by a crisis of governance where one political instability is followed by another, generally of a bigger magnitude. Instead of converting the crisis into an opportunity by focusing more on agriculture reforms to capture the growing Agri market or seal energy deals like India, Pakistan is stuck with a mortal political battle that is threatening stability and security of the country.

Read more: Pakistan’s National Security Policy: GVS welcomes the debate!

Understanding the matter better

Pakistan appears to be oblivious to the fast-changing world, happy to be in a perpetual state of instability and confusion. The crisis faced by Pakistan requires statesmanship which has not been shown by any of the major stakeholders, who appear to be on a suicide mission of self-destruction. Neither the government or the opposition, military and civil bureaucracy nor the highest judicial forum can absolve itself of the mess Pakistan finds itself in.

National Security Policy 2022-26 was launched with much aplomb and fanfare, with the human security and welfare of Pakistani citizen at its heart. With a shrinking pie, a paradigm shift to economic security was envisaged. Former PM Imran Khan in his message at the launch recognized the symbiotic relationship between economic, human, and traditional security as being imperative for Pakistan’s long-term development. He also emphasized on “domestic stability” and regional peace based on mutual co-existence, regional connectivity, and shared prosperity as essential prerequisites to optimizing national security. He went on to explain that in order to achieve the vast potential of our citizens, it was necessary to promote delivery-based good governance through the strengthening of institutions, rule of law, transparency, accountability, and openness. All these lofty goals were trampled in the next few months with a viciousness unprecedented in the history of Pakistan.

This article is not biased against or for any political party but at the rot that has seeped through the foundation of Pakistan that presents the country with serious national security challenges at all levels. Decades of experimentation at the political, economic and security fronts have undermined the very concept of security and stability that Pakistan ached for. It stands now debt-ridden and poor; the fault-lines deeper, causing serious social unrest; politically explosive and on the brink of economic collapse. The debate goes on the elite capture (a form of corruption where few individuals or classes capture all resources in the detriment to the welfare of the larger population), military bashing, hybrid regime etc but the truth remains that the country cannot sustain more experimentation and business as usual approach.

The national security challenges are far graver than the NSP or its drafters could foresee. Formulators of NSP failed to see that political stability above all else was what Pakistan needs. Unfortunately, democracy is mentioned towards the end of Chapter 2 as: Pakistan requires policy continuity to navigate evolving challenges and turn them into opportunities. The country can ill-afford policy reversals or changing interest in the implementation of agreed major policy directions. Policy continuity should be ensured through democratic processes.

The publicly available NSP version also refers to a detailed NSP document with policy proposals recommending dedicated strategies to create broad consensus on important national security issues that should not be affected by political differences. Since the NSP was approved in March, 2021, the subsequent political instability caused through removal of the very same government that approved the NSP is ironic. Absence of consultative process with the major political parties in formulation of NSP has brought the country to a dangerous political deadlock that was witnessed not only during the ouster of the Federal Government but was also evident in the immaturity exhibited in Punjab.

Read more: What a people centric National Security Policy should look like?

What Pakistan needs now more than anything else is Credibility, Stability and Continuity of democracy which can re-establish the connection between the state and the society. The youth that feels disillusioned and disgruntled needs some anchor, some hope that the country holds a future for them.

Credibility

Relationships feed on credibility, honesty, and consistency”, Scott Borchetta, American entrepreneur

The shift from a non-declared traditional security policy to a human-centric security policy was more in response to certain global challenges than national issues. During to the prolonged reign of terror beginning with the Afghan war (1979-89) and continuing GWAT since 2001, Pakistan’s human and financial losses were dwarfed by its policy of “doublespeak” (1984, George Orwell).  Financial sanctions under FATF were looking Pakistan in the face. Looking through the lens of global Democracy Index, Pakistan is seen more as a security state run through a hybrid regime. The United States and its allies have pulled out of Afghanistan and have turned a friend to a foe. Pakistan would now be at the receiving end of the geopolitical coercive tools of US. These could be executed through the imposition of geo-economics pressures, arm twisting through international financial institutions and suspension of military aid and support. Blaming Pakistan for the Afghan fiasco will come in handy as a scapegoat.

During the Islamabad Security Dialogue, consultation forum for formulation of NSP, the shift from geo-politics to geo-economics was launched. It was more of an effort to launch a narrative that Pakistan was distancing itself from the past policies of over securitization and joining military alliances and hence would focus on the development of its economy through three-pronged strategy.

At the national level, the military realized that it was no longer sustainable to run geo-political ambitions without focusing on commerce, trade and economy. The country was debt ridden with major part of the budget going into interest repayments. In the absence of US military support for war in Afghanistan and tightening of noose around flow of dollars, a sudden realization came that post the 18th amendment and the 7th NFC award, the country was going for a freefall as it could no longer pay for the defence expenditure, salaries of the government and pensions after interest payments on the accumulated foreign debt. The country was faced with twin deficits. e Balance of Payments and the budget deficit with the holes getting bigger and bigger. The country on the brink of economic collapse and default following Sri Lanka, NSP was adopted not only as a narrative but also as a security compulsion as it was no longer sustainable to continue business as usual.

It is unfortunate that the NSP was developed without consulting many major stakeholders, a hallmark of most Pakistan’s policies. The paradigm shift, the policy envisaged needed consensus of political parties across the board for it to survive collapse of PTI government.  In the absence of the Charter of Economy, NSP could have served as an anchor around which economic policy could have been formulated. Sadly, the economic security chapter remained weak not only in terms of content but also it did not benefit from input of major economists or practitioners of Pakistan.

There was a shift from the traditional source and fountain of national power and national security as determined by military institutions. Credit can be given to the then National Security Advisor, Dr. MoeedYusuffor the shift. The fact that there has been no visible effort to implement NSP undermines his efforts. Despite appreciating significance of political stability, at least on paper, saner voice should have come from him and prevailing upon all those in PTI who eulogized the Policy to exercise restraint when it came to playing politics at the cost of Pakistan’s longstanding relationship with the United States.

It is ironic that core ideals promoted in NSP are being violated by the very same people and political party that approved it. Politics of vengeance and absence of dialogue among political parties has led to the current situation that can rightly be termed as a national security issue where even the institution of military is not spared. The policy mentions the words “Vital National Security Interest” seven times without outlining its contours. Demanding protection of vital and critical, yet obscure interests is like sending the Titanic on a journey without a compass. Pakistan already finds itself in a cul-de-sac because of this lack of clarity. Or, may be political stability, credibility and continuity were not considered vital enough to be protected at any cost.

Read more: Pakistan’s national security policy: The geopolitical dimension

Route to stability

Organs of the state with the mandate and capacity to resolve security, terrorism and extremism challenges must give up their quest for supremacy or survival, infighting and concentrate on fundamental issues.

The political circus in Pakistan has not only tarnished the image of the country but has also seriously affected the investment climate and its credibility of the country as a reliable partner. The crumbling economic edifice is further jolted by repeated political experiments/ engineering by the civil-military and political elites that have caused irreversible damage to the country and ordinary citizens of Pakistan. The judiciary has also played its part since the “doctrine of necessity” to provide necessary cover to extra-constitutional steps. Decades of mismanagement, rent-seeking and elite capture are responsible for the current and most of Pakistan’s predicaments. Every wrong decision was taken deliberately or due to incompetence and has brought Pakistan to the lowest indices of Human Development, Education, Health, debt, transparency, rule of law etc.

Cost of perpetual political instability

Perpetual political instability has created individuals, sectors and businesses that thrive on chaos. Carpetbaggers in the Parliament and in decision-making forums through elite capture managed 1700 billion worth of tax exemptions in 2021 alone.

“Perpetual political instability has created individuals, sectors and businesses that thrive on chaos. Carpetbaggers in the Parliament and in decision-making forums through elite capture managed 1700 billion worth of tax exemptions in 2021 alone. The instability suited the elite who held huge swaths of agricultural land and became partners with the nouveau riche class, beneficiaries of the real estate sectors boom who became ultimate power brokers in Pakistan. Land reforms, agriculture or property tax became a distant dream as a result of their influence. And the convergence of interest.

The data of FBR shows that only 6 billion rupees are paid annually under the head of property tax in 2021 for the whole of Pakistan. According to the International Growth Centre’s Policy Brief on Urban property taxes in Pakistan’s Punjab, October 2020, Pakistan’s real estate market as of 2017 had an asset value of somewhere between $400 and $700 billion. The property tax of 6 billion is nothing but a joke and points towards elite capture of a criminal nature. The entire property tax collected in Punjab or Sindh is not even matching with the tax collected in a single city of India. The Bombay Municipal Committee collected INR 55 billion surpassing the collection target of INR 54 billion which when converted to PKR would be much higher in value. It is just shameful how we as a nation engage into tax evasion.

Pakistan’s agriculture tax collection figures are the lowest in the world where only 1% of farmers own 22% of agriculture farmland. Annually, agriculture sector contributes more than PKR 11.5 trillion to the GDP, yet the agriculture income tax was less than Rs. 3 Billion in 2021. FBR collected PKR 1.7 trillion from rest of the GDP with manufacturing and services sector leading as the biggest contributors. Going by that standard, the agriculture should have contributed a minimum of Rs 575 billion.

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

The reason why agriculture income could never be taxed is well explained by looking at the list of those represented in the national and provincial assemblies. This elite capture has seriously undermined efforts of the FBR and provincial revenue bodies to enhance collection and resolve budgetary issues faced by the Government. This low revenue collection translates into bigger budget deficits, lower PSDP allocations and heavy domestic and foreign borrowing to meet government expenditure.

The reality is that Pakistan cannot keep on borrowing to subsidize consumption. Rs. 400 billion were given as fuel subsidy. The PTI government took the circular debt of Rs. 1.14 trillion (9.5 billion in 2018) to Rs 2.5 trillion ($14 billion). The same is projected to cross Rs. 4 trillion by 2025. The circular debt in the gas sector has increased from Rs 350 billion in 2018 to Rs. 650 billion in 2022. According to research carried out by Engineer Arshad Abbassi, the un-accounted for gas losses cross $4 billion per annum. In normal functioning political system, this issue could have been resolved by dedicating $500 million only and closing this UFG loss once and for all with minor maintenance costs. In the absence of such political stability and consequent stable government, such decisions could have been taken with long term implications for country. For example, Pakistan would not have needed IMF only if the house was managed better.

If defence expenditure is to be met through foreign borrowing is not a security issue, what else would be? What great time to present a budget and negotiate with IMF when pension liability has grown to Rs. 1.1 trillion, defence budget Rs. 1.3 trillion, the operational cost of government Rs. 400 billion!The cherry on the cake, the man responsible for approval of NSPis threatening to take the country to the civil war or “Atomic Bombed”. Those who brought him to power are neither taking responsibility for bringing Pakistan to this shameful and disgraceful situation nor are repenting the acts.

Since every democratic government faced political violence and chaos, fear of blatant or engineered removals from power, each was faced with adopting short-term popular solutions at the cost of long-term interests of the country. Pakistan lost 1.5% of GDP due to terrorism. Imagine the losses due to the political instability and inconsistent policies of successive governments. Water resources depleted; dams not built; energy crisis beyond control; defence supported through foreign borrowing; social fabric gone to mention a few. The people of Cholistanare dying due to lack of water and Iran is helping us extinguish our forest fires threatening trees as old as 1500 years.

Baluchistan’s youth is feeling frustrated, disenfranchised, disillusioned with the state of Pakistan but our response is limited to “forced disappearances”. The resource rich province that lies at the heart of CPEC, feels marginalized for it has remained outside the development agenda and priorities of the governments be it military or civilian.

While India brought its economic and foreign policy together in the 90s and reaping benefits from its economic statecraft, Pakistan remained divided, attempting to find security in the archaic concepts of military alliances and war economy. As the war in Afghanistan ended and the rent ceased to oil Pakistan’s economy, the establishment continued with the same tactics of political manipulation as if nothing has changed. To their chagrin, this time around, the treasury was actually empty.

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

The media too has jumped onto the bandwagon and is adding fuel to the fire by playing one political party against the other in a live circus undermining government decision making capability.

How to put the horse before the cart?

We must put our house in order as the world around us is changing and changing very fast. We cannot afford to remain in perpetual state of instability and confusion. The crisis faced by Pakistan requires statesmanship which has not been shown by any so far, be it the political leadership in power or out of power, the military and the bureaucracy.

A higher responsibility falls on the shoulders of the Civil Services of Pakistan which must provide leadership during uncertain and chaotic times. The bureaucracy must occupy its rightful place and stand up for the rights of the people of Pakistan and their aspirations else, history will never forgive them for not providing leadership at a time when the nation needed it the most.

It is no longer a secret that the same page mantra that was repeated ad nauseum had two parties: the PTI and the establishment. Now that the marriage of convenience is over, sanity must prevail. It is not even known as to why that marriage happened in the first place, for neither the corruption was clamped, nor the economy improved. The real motives for the marriage will become apparent sooner or later but meanwhile, recognizing the responsibility, the military has to learn the lesson that Pakistan needs stability before security. As it is political stability that Pakistan needs that most that would give it not only security but also credibility and possibly break the begging bowl.

Read more: The biggest challenge to National Security Policy

Regarding the way forward for the National Security Policy, 2022-26, it is suggested that the current Government show better handling of subject and engage all stakeholders in developing a consensus on broad aspects of the NSP and the shifts it envisaged.

 

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 (GVS News).

 

 

 

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