View: The dilemma of Pakistan’s National Security Policy

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Pakistan’s external security policy has been a matter of concern all the time. Recently our western neighbour came out with a so-called National Security Policy which is a matter of debate among the circles of defence enthusiasts. The current government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi and his Boston-educated NSA Moeed Yousuf tried to project it as a historical achievement. They claimed the National Security Policy was people-centric, and a milestone in achieving economic goals, but at the same time conveniently and probably intentionally overlooked some very important factors which are an integral part of Pakistan. This has made this policy nothing more than an eyewash.

For the first 30 years after their independence, their security policy was India-centric, resulting in three major wars in 1948, 1965 and 1971 respectively. In the late eighties, not only did anti-India sentiments increase manifold, but was also badly influenced by the jihadi mindset of General Zia-ul-Haq who made religious extremist elements an integral part of the country’s National Security Policy. Till date, year after year, these religious radicals are tightening their grip over the military elites, and a reversal now seems impossible. Recent events like the takeover of Afghanistan by Pakistan-sponsored Taliban, and recognition of terror and ultra-radical groups like Tehreek-E-Labbaik (TLP) and Tehreek-E-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have further deepened the roots of radicals in the national security setup of Pakistan. Owing to their influence in Pakistan’s government and its military, it is highly possible in the future that these ultra-radicalised generals of the Pakistan Army may sponsor events that could lead to another war with India. Hence Indian concerns about this policy are genuine.

The National Security of Pakistan is governed by three major elements: Pakistan’s military, radical forces including non-state actors, and external support of the US for over six decades and China in the current context. Politicians and governments do not feature in it at all. They adopt the most convenient way to survive keeping a balance with radicals and the military. While it aggressively talks of a sort of insecurity from its eastern neighbour (India), it becomes silent and double headed in the case of internal security and terror threats. On December 26, 2021, Pakistan claimed to have rolled out its first ever National Security Policy. But it is a million-dollar question as to how this bankrupt country will be able to sustain an economy-driven National Security Policy. While Yousuf has prepared good paperwork, its practical execution and adaptability to the current scenario remain a major concern. There are factors which have a direct impact on the current National Security Policy of Pakistan but were either not considered – or poorly considered. Let’s discuss a few of them.

1. Water: The second most important factor for Pakistan’s National Security Policy will be water. Pakistan is going through a severe water crisis, and since most of the rivers supplying water to the country originate from India, things become furthermore difficult. Pakistan’s exploding population, overexploitation of water by Punjab province (of Pakistan), orthodox methods of agriculture, dependence on water intensive crops and a poor planning on part of the government has made things burst. Moreover, Pakistan’s reluctance and its unnecessary claims over the Indus Water Treaty is making the atmosphere further sour. There is a high possibility that water might become the reason for another war between India and Pakistan.

2. Economic Situation: External debt up to 120% of GDP, Circular Debt topping by 250% in the last five years, fiscal deficit at an all-time high and inflation in double digits have ruined the economy of Pakistan. Today no international agency is ready to even provide loans to them, leaving apart grants. A sizeable amount of Pakistan’s economy is controlled by a dirty syndicate of corrupt politicians, influential business houses and generals of Pakistan Army who are busy siphoning off their country’s money abroad. A National Security Policy needs money to be invested on security needs where Pakistan is failing totally. While the new Security policy boasts of economic security and making the country rich, it is silent about from where they are going to get the desired money for these monetary reforms.

3. Global alliances: As brought out earlier, Pakistan, at present, is at a crucial junction on the global platform where no country is standing by its side. The 70 year long friendship with Uncle Sam has turned sour while the European Union, especially France, is at loggerheads due to the active support of Pakistan government to Islamist radicals like Tehreek-E-Labbaik (TLP).. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), where Pakistan used to call shots a decade ago, does not entertain its proposals anymore. and China is standing by its side only because of commercial reasons. Once those interests are achieved or die down, China’s interest will be lost in Pakistan too. Under such a critical situation, Pakistan needs to make friends first. Academically, Yousuf did a good job but practically it is bound to fail. Its National Security Policy should have been revolving around the global diaspora, which it failed to do.

4. Internal terror threats and role of radicals: If we make list of the top 1000 global terrorists, the highest number will be from Pakistan. Top terror groups like Al-Qaeda, Islamic State and Taliban were born in Pakistan. Ever since General Zia’s regime, Pakistan evolved into a state where radicals ruled the power corridors and terrorism was considered a state policy. It resulted in the creation of a parallel governance, where terrorists were thriving under the banner of radical organisations who had the active support of Pakistan government. This trend not only continued, but also increased several times in later years, and has today emerged as the single biggest threat to our western neighbour. Terrorism emanating from Pakistan has global implications, and hence their national security policy depends majorly upon this factor.

5. Role of military: Pakistan lost all wars it fought with India, but its military was so powerful that they either blamed the defeat on others, or deleted those chapters of history from their books. They portray 1948 & 1965 as a victory, and shamelessly forget the East Pakistan chapter where over 93000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered in 1971. They hanged Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, killed his daughter Benazir Bhutto and prosecuted many others who did not fall in line. Their generals always maintained an upper hand over the government. The country has been ruled by military generals nearly half the time since it got separated from India, and technically it is the military which holds the key to power in Pakistan. The military not only call shots only in the power corridors of Pakistan, but also controls its economy. Nearly all major public sector undertakings, government projects and other organisations are headed by retired Pakistan Army officers. Fauji foundation and its associate companies, which are basically ventures run by retired generals, have over 40% stake in the country’s GDP. Over the last seven decades, Pakistan’s generals have ensured that their comfort and well being is placed above all. No one has the courage to incorporate this factor in Pakistan’s National Security Policy and hence the current policy will just be an eyewash.

6. The “C” factor: The way China has overtaken the entire Pakistan and its economy, the “C” factor can not be ignored. It is evident over the last so many years that China’s friendship has proved costly for any country. It always had its own economic interests on top, and made any country where it enters, its slave. There are examples like Laos, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Cambodia, Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela and several African countries. Pakistan will be no exception since the payback time for its China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) loans is starting now. In view of the Chinese expansionary tactics, Pakistan is left with no option but to surrender itself to China. This factor which is recognised by global experts is conveniently forgotten in their security policy by Yousuf.

Analysing all these factors and their smart exclusion from Pakistan’s National Security Policy proves only one thing. Year after year, Pakistan’s military and its stooges have been successful in fooling their population which is struggling to make their ends meet. In the name of Islam and Kashmir, they have created an atmosphere in which no one has the courage to oppose them while the country inches towards becoming a slave to China.



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