The writer is an
analyst and the
President of all
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has launched the country’s first-ever National Security Policy, which shifts the focus away from the military to a citizen-centric framework and aims to have economic security as its core. Pakistan has been in dire need of a strategy that ensures the protection of its people and guards economic interests. Opposition parties have criticised the government for not including them in the process. A nation’s national security policy (NSP) is a national vade mecum or a grand national strategy that helps draft various sectoral strategies or policies which lead to operational strategies and action plans, to lay out a national vision in pursuit of national interests in line with national values. National traditions and historical practices influence, to a considerable degree, a national security strategy. A nation, for instance, that sets great store by liberal internationalism would be comfortable with a strategy of multilateral security alliances to achieve its security objectives compared to a nation that is used to unilateralism.
The NSP talks about the national security vision, concept and principles for policy implementation, opportunities for national cohesion and policy guidelines are identified. The NSP also dilates upon securing Pakistan’s economic future, identifying challenges and opportunities, defence and territorial integrity, and internal security. Major space is devoted to foreign policy in a changing global framework, and human security. But there is nothing new in reiterating the lofty ideals of Pakistan envisioned as an Islamic welfare state, internationally relevant and aligned with universal principles of justice, equality, and tolerance that ensures fundamental rights and social justice without discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, or belief.
The NSP provides policy guidelines for ensuring defence, deterrence, territorial integrity, space and cyber security. It tasks the military to defend Pakistan’s territorial integrity at all costs and deter any aggression through a full spectrum deterrence including a credible minimum nuclear deterrence, without getting sucked in an arms race. It is good that now a more robust policy framework talks openly about coalescing both conventional and non-conventional means of deterring and fighting aggression. The NSP highlighted the policy objectives include a writ of the state all across; prioritizing of fighting the cited challenges; ensuring rule of law and providing equal opportunities to the citizenry, through an independent, expeditious, and citizen-focused justice system, against the Internal Security challenges like terrorism, violent sub-nationalism, extremism and sectarianism, and organised crimes. The NSP Policy objectives identified are climate-resilient development; promoting sustainable agriculture to ensure availability and affordability of food; and the empowerment and inclusivity of women and transgender.
The NSP on foreign policy emphasizes; projecting Pakistan’s positive reality. It identifies a just and peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute as a vital national security interest; wishes to improve relations with India under the centrality of Kashmir as a core dispute. Kashmir and the nuclear programme must remain centre stage as Pakistan’s core national interests and these must be promoted and protected. It also emphasises promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan; underlines bilateral cooperation with China, welcoming FDI in CPEC-related and other projects; and improving border management, regional peace and intelligence sharing with Iran. The NSP also emphasizes mutual cooperation and economic ties with GCC; fraternal ties with Saudi Arabia augmented by trade, investment, energy, defence, and cultural relationships. That Pakistan commits to the security of harmine and supports a just and equitable two-state solution acceptable to Palestinians under the UN and OIC resolutions. NSP looks for furthering bilateral economic linkages and defence cooperation with Turkey particularly, and West Asia in general.
While shunning camp politics the NSP reiterates Pakistan’s continued cooperation with the US and diversification of relationship beyond the narrow counter-terrorism focus, looking at trade, investment, connectivity, energy, counter-terrorism, security, and intelligence cooperation. Pakistan is committed to further strengthening the Pak-UK relationship to explore new economic and trade initiatives post-Brexit besides counter-terrorism cooperation. Pakistan, recognizing the significance of multilateralisms and international organizations like UN, WB and IMF etc believes in an equitable and standards-based reform of multilateral structures. It remains committed to the ‘efficacy’ of OIC, SAARC, SCO and other forums.
No policy can be successful if the government or state fails to establish the trust of the masses in its institutions and the rule of law.
It has taken the country seven years starting in 2014 to formulate the first NSP in 2021. The new national security vision encompasses seven main areas including national cohesion, governance, economic security, human security, territorial security, internal security, and foreign policy. One finds that the traditional notion of military security forms just one element of this comprehensive construct of national security. It however needs to be understood that the above strategic vision cannot be fructified in implementable subsidiary and information policies by government ministries unless there is an institutionalised system of national security architecture comprising competent parliamentary committees, the fully resourced National Security Council, effective ministries, and a reformed higher defence organisation geared to the needs of future warfare. The power imbalance between political and non-political institutions was a consequence of weak democratic regimes, civil-military dissonance and frequent derailment of democracy. The proclivity to rule by fiat permeated the governance environment, leading towards a culture of personalised decision-making without the benefit of an institutionalised decision-making process.
In the current NSP document, economic security has also been securitised thereby elevating it as a national security priority. The NSP document seeks to underwrite national security through economic security by expanding the national resource pie and its equitable redistribution, targeting the deprived areas and segments of the population. The policy places economic security as the core of comprehensive security because it recognises that only through increasing prosperity of our citizens and the overall national resources, can Pakistan invest more in strengthening human security and traditional security. The five-year-policy document covering a period between 2022-26, is being propped up by the Pakistan government as the first-ever strategy paper of its kind that spells out the country’s national security vision and guidelines for the attainment of those goals. Importantly, it contains an annual review and a review when any new government comes into place to ensure policy continuity and build flexibility on national security issues.
We have seen it in the form of National Internal Security Policy 2014-18, National Action Plan and National Internal Security Policy 2018-23. The NSP should have been adopted unanimously by all political parties after being presented in the Parliament because we have witnessed time and again that whenever any policy has been adopted without due diligence, it has only cost the country as a whole. National security essentially means the protection of the state from all threats, whether real or perceived, for the preservation of national interests. National Cohesion, Economy, Diplomacy, Defense and Traditional Security are principal dimensions to Pakistan’s national security compulsions. No policy can be successful if the government or state fails to establish the trust of the masses in its institutions and the rule of law. It’s a good beginning but its success would depend on how well the subordinate ministries formulate their respective policies out of it. Otherwise, it would be good words only if not followed through.