National Security Policy of Pakistan: Critical Roadmap for the Future

Author Name: Maham S. Gillani       18 Jan 2022     Government & Politics

Pakistan’s National Security Adviser (NSA) to the Prime Minister, Dr Moeed Yusuf, unveiled the country’s first ever National Security Policy (NSP) in the last month of 2021. It has been approved by the Federal Cabinet and is being lauded as a ‘citizen centric’ policy underpinned by economic security. The policy is yet to be made public but reportedly covers all aspects of traditional as well as non-traditional security, inter-alia, health security, political security, environmental security, cyber security and military security etc. The national security policy will be a living document insofar as it will continue to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of time.

It has taken seven years, from 2014, to formulate the first NSP. The policy formulation process gained traction under Moeed Yusuf, the current NSA, in 2019 and after three years of an arduous consultative process involving all stakeholders and institutions, a consensus document was prepared. A consensus draft is a huge milestone in a country where it is difficult to bring all the government departments and institutions on board. NSP is a welcome first step towards a comprehensive and inclusive approach to national security.

The NSA rightly pointed out that the success of NSP lies in its implementation. In the absence of a sound implementation mechanism the assiduous exercise of formulating NSP would be rendered futile. A case in point is the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) which was established with great enthusiasm in 2013 to develop a coordinated mechanism with the provinces to implement the National Action Plan (NAP). Lacking any vision, foresight, capacity, and the required human resource, NACTA largely remained unsuccessful in implementing NAP. The military was compelled to step in to take charge of the process to fill the void created by inefficiency and lackadaisical performance of NACTA. Therefore, it needs to be made sure that National Security Policy of Pakistan does not meet the same fate as NAP.

The policy requires proper debate in the Parliament to ensure its longevity and sustainability. The draft should be tabled in both houses and shared with all parliamentarians for the purpose of debate and comprehensive discussion. While endorsement from the legislators is not necessary, the policy certainly needs their feedback to be truly effective. It could also be adopted through a resolution in the Parliament at some point to make sure that the NSP is not left to decay with change in political dispensation in the future.

NSP is a step in the right direction in a bid to reconstruct the national security roadmap of Pakistan. For economic security—which is the cornerstone of NSP—it is sine qua non to go beyond what has been the traditional national security approach of Pakistan.

There should be a special focus on transforming the Pakistani society into an inclusive, diverse, tolerant, and pluralistic fraternity. Pakistani society is swiftly drifting into extremism. Tolerance is rapidly diminishing, and by the same token, shrinking the space for dissenting voices. It has also meant rising incidents of violence against minorities, manifesting in events of mob violence and public lynching. Such 18th Century phenomena taints Pakistan’s international image—further dampening prospects of international investment in the country—and make it look like a regressive society, contrary to what Pakistan would like to project.

Another important aspect that the policy must address is of regional trade and connectivity, including trade with India. Since economic security is the hallmark of NSP, it needs to be comprehensively reviewed whether Pakistan will benefit from establishing trade ties with India. The possibility of establishing trade ties with India can only be explored if India reverses its illegal action of August 5, 2019—which led to abrogation of Kashmir’s special status in the Indian constitution. While ideally trade should not be held hostage to politics, it needs to be remembered that economic ties invariably have political dimensions, and the two do not exist in isolation.

Other tough decisions would have to be made as well to break free from traditional policy choices that have bedeviled Pakistan’s progress. Geostrategic changes in the Middle East are creating new alignments compelling Pakistan to relook at her policy towards the region, including engagement with important states such as Israel.

The NSP has come at a critical juncture when the country is beset with multiple national security issues. It is hoped that it treads an unconventional path and introduces structural reforms targeting deep-rooted problems imperiling Pakistan’s society, economy and polity.

A futuristic NSP, with economic security at its core, in tandem with a strong implementation mechanism has the potential to transform Pakistan into a modern, progressive, and knowledge-driven economy and society.

Maham S. Gillani is a researcher at Centre for Aerospace & Security Studies (CASS), Islamabad, Pakistan. She can be reached at cass.thinkers@gmail.com

Image Source:  Pakistan Today ( 2022, Jan 11), "PM Khan to unveil country’s first-ever National Security Policy on Friday." https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2022/01/11/pm-khan-to-unveil-countrys-first-ever-national-security-policy-on-friday/

 

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