A National Security Policy at last

An umbrella policy, but will it survive?

Nation-states follow some policy initiatives which define their functioning. While there are many policies, the umbrella term for all policies is covered in national security. National security identifies and defines a state including its people, economy, and other institutions. In other words, national security coherently presents and secures all the interests of a people.  From a superpower like the USA to a small country like the Maldives, almost all countries have coherent national security. As for Pakistan, the office of National Security Policy (NSP) has been there since the late 1960s, but without grace, relevance, or fanfare. For the most part, the Army ruled the country disregarding any security except the traditional one. The civilian regimes didn’t bode well either. As a result, Pakistan has become unstable, dependent, confused, and increasingly ungovernable.

When Sartaj Aziz laid the foundation of the recent NSP back in 2014, due to the civilian-military conflict the matter was put on the back burner. It took almost seven to eight years to make a policy for four years, which in itself is quite laughable, to begin with. Anyhow, with the effort of many stakeholders, the document at hand highlights many areas from traditional security to human security. All in all, the 50-to-60-page document seems a serious attempt to put Pakistan on the trajectory of growth, prosperity, and a citizen-centric policy.

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As a whole, the document is not only brief but also highly readable. Divided into eight parts, the very first section undertakes the whole idea of policy formulation and its necessity as clearly as possible. It somehow aims at presenting the need of the hour in terms of a holistic national security policy to give a roadmap to the direction of the state. The next section presents a detailed realization of “national security’s conceptual elements”—which are six to be precise.

In spite of many issues, the NSP comes at a time in which Pakistan needs to present its coherent narrative to the world and its own public. Putting economics and human welfare at the core of the policy makes many Pakistanis elated, time will tell whether it bears fruits—and to what extent—or not

In this part, a philosophical approach has been taken followed by some bold claims like “economic security is at the core of the NSP”. Each subpart has been further explained, concluding in the “Comprehensive Security Policy” that encompasses almost all types of securities—be it internal, external, traditional, or non-traditional.

Section three takes into account the significance of “national cohesion”. Of course, ideology, cultural cohesion, unity, and stability are the mainstays of overall national unity. Section four aims to give the prospect of economic imperativeness. Trade, education, energy, and technology have been festooned in this part to be the only components to make a difference— rightly so. Section five focuses on “Defense and Territorial Integrity”. The much-needed bilateral nexus between Pakistan and its neighbours seems very crucial although that is not overly presented.

Section six and Section eight are about “Internal Security” and “Human Security” respectively. Understandably the former explains internal threats like terrorism, extremism, or sub-nationalism. A number of ways to cope with these potential threats have been given. As regards the latter, although it deserves many underpinnings, it has come at the end with the theme of population, migration, climate change, and health of individual Pakistanis. Section Seven underlines the need for robust foreign policy in the backdrop of a changing world. Indeed some key issues have been shown with suggestions.

All in all, the NSP is a welcome development despite its inherent contradictions and deliberate complacency. There is no question when a country has a coherent document to carry out policies that too with the blessings of the establishment, there are all reasons to celebrate. That said, many elephants in the room need to be brought out. First is the Kashmir issue. Even the NSP agrees with the commonsense fact that geo-economics can’t be set apart from geopolitics. Needless to say that India makes it very clear, “terror and trade can’t go together”. In other words, to normalize relations, Pakistan either has to forget Kashmir or let things go on this way while India unleashes an ocean of brutalities in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Second, there is nothing concrete about dealing with terror groups like the TTP or the TLP. The uptick in the lynch mob owes much to the appeasement by the state of groups like the TLP.

A serious look at the history of Pakistan makes certain things vividly clear. On the one hand, dictators rubbished the constitution altogether. Starting with Ayub Khan to Musharraf, there had been no dearth of evidence in which Pakistan was run at the whims of a particular personality. On the other hand, the civilians gave us the Constitution, but they used this holy text for their own aggrandizement and power. Successive governments have turned deaf ear to the significance of the Constitution, rule of law, human rights, and minority rights.

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Even today, religious groups don’t mince words in displaying their aversion to the Constitution. The Lal Masjid cleric openly mocked the Constitution without being caught, let alone punished or tried. Worse so, no religious party genuinely believes in democracy—they desire Khilafat to their own chagrin. Excruciatingly, the PTI regime has pandered to the desires of clerics by putting religious content profusely in the controversial Single National Curriculum (SNC). If SNC is the PTI’s legacy then the country has no future, to say the least.

While the NSP seems an earnest attempt to effect change, it may not be successful at the end of the day. In a country like Pakistan, for the success of any big initiative such as the 18th Amendment, all stakeholders have to be on board; otherwise, no sooner the opposition comes in power than the whole policy is thrown into the dustbin. Although Dr. Moed Yusuf claims that the NSP is apolitical, the fact that the opposition had been sidelined seems enough reason to axe this policy.

Furthermore, political instability coupled with Khan’s populism makes the polarization even worse. Democracy is deemed to be an obstacle rather than an opportunity to improve the country. From economy to sovereignty, all indicators show a daunting prospect. In this backdrop, bringing a beautiful theory like the NSP comes as pouring honey in our ears, but nevertheless, its success impinges upon the political environment of the country, which is anything but viable.

In spite of many issues, the NSP comes at a time in which Pakistan needs to present its coherent narrative to the world and its own public. Putting economics and human welfare at the core of the policy makes many Pakistanis elated, time will tell whether it bears fruits—and to what extent—or not.

Nazim Uddin
Nazim Uddin
The writer is a freelance columnist

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